Saturday, May 12, 2012

Because: A love letter to my children

When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts.  A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.  ~Sophia Loren

Because: A Love Letter to My Children

In the past year, my children, now in their late teens, began very seriously understanding their future potential. As their mother, I had always seen the gifts that lay deep inside them as individuals. I also saw the incredible strength they have together, as siblings so close in age. The joke in our household as always been: they are twins, just born two years apart. They each possess a powerful work ethic, an amazing sense of purpose  and a fully defined view of self. They also are endowed gifts that are the opposite of one another.  I respect their individuality. I love them fiercely. I am a Mama Wolf, and they are my cubs. I would do anything to protect them, to encourage them and to help them achieve their dreams. 

And yet, both children, at different times, have expressed a regret that I didn't "push" them more. As my son and daughter ventured out into the world without me, they saw the credentials that other kids have to be at the top of their 'pools'. My daughter wishes that I had not encouraged her to sail, swim, and work each summer. She has expressed a regret that she didn't, like so many kids, go to SAT camp the whole time. She now feels that she'd have gladly given up our Spring vacations to take AP exam cram session courses.

My son, however, feels he did just fine in school and is content with that piece of his life. He wishes, however, that I hadn't encouraged him to golf in the summers, and play soccer and baseball each Fall and Spring. He wishes that I'd enrolled him in intensive skating clinics and that he'd been tutored so that he could have spent as many waking moments as possible on the ice. He wishes that he hadn't wasted so much time with other activities...wondering where he'd be now in his hockey career if he'd had no other distractions.

My daughter is a wonderful student. My son is a fantastic hockey player. Perhaps they aren't exactly where they had envisioned themselves at this point. My daughter isn't yet the youngest woman to ever receive the Nobel Prize for Biology. My son hasn't yet been drafted to play Center for the Boston Bruins. They are working towards their goals, and I honor their ambitions. 

Therefore: this note is to them, my Sun and Moon.

Because I love you, I not only let you have mud fights, I brought out the hose. I let you get as dirty as you possibly could and never once worried about bringing dirt into the house.

Because I love you, I let you stage dramatic battles between G.I. Joe and Barbie, even if it meant finding tiny pieces of plastic ammunition for months afterwards.

Because I love you, I let you bring a bunny into the house without my consent...and promptly fell in love with her because you did.

Because I love you, my heart broke the first time yours did. I cried with you, both on the inside and on the out. I kept a prayer in my heart that you would continue to fall in love, and love would find you right back.

Because I love you, I cheered loudly at sporting events, even when I had no clue what was going on, or who was winning.

Because I love you, I let you wear your pajamas inside out the night before snow was predicted and then danced along with you when our district was announced for a snow day.

Because I love you, I snuggled with you and watched The Lion King (over and over) with you like on rainy days.

Because I love you, I let you just be who built forts, who made sand castles, had sleepovers, roasted marshmallows. I wanted you to be kids who'd learn to water ski in summer and snow ski in winter. I let you camp in the back yard, build a tree house with your Daddy and made you picnic lunches to eat 'in the great outdoors'. 

Because I love you, I've encouraged you. I've subtly pushed you out of your comfort zones. You may not have noticed, but I love you enough to just helpfully spread your wings ever so slightly. And when it was time for you to fly? You just didn't realize your wings hadn't always been opened a bit...making the transition to fly that much smoother. 

Because I love you, I am not just encouraging you to continue on your journey. I'm encouraging you to soar.

Because I love you, I am confident that you gained strength from just being normal, happy, laughing, playing kids. And, now I'm confident that  you will be amazing adults. 

In fact, you are already are. And I love you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What do you do?

"Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?  "~ Memorable quote from the movie, "Speed"

I have to admit that I'm a sucker for action movies, at least for some of the time. As much as I enjoy a period piece (usually starring Kate Winslet or Keira Knightly) or a romantic comedy, there is something about the adrenaline that comes from imagining yourself right alongside Bruce Willis in "Die Hard". You wonder if all of the the pieces in the puzzle will come together to make for a perfect heist and a clean getaway. You envision the perfect blend of cool, sexy, brilliant and quick mindedness to be with James Bond. In an everyday life of bill paying, parenting, housework, home maintenance and other mundane chores, being in a completely impossible situation, so outside the norm of driving kids to school, gives you the freedom to wonder how you would make the best decision possible, in the most extraordinary series of events, and all would  be well in the end.

There's a great line in the movie, "Speed", in which the insane, resentful former cop, Dennis Hopper, is trying to extort money from the LAPD. In an unbelievable (or believable only in Hollywood) series of events, Keanu Reeves, plays the brash young cop willing to jump aboard a hijacked bus, filled with both hostages and explosives, in order to save the day. Save the day he does, of course, being 'our hero'. And yet, I couldn't help but wonder at Dennis Hopper's pop quizzes to the 'pup' of a newbie detective. He put Keanu Reeves' character into the position of making instantaneous decisions that impact not only his own life, but the lives of others.

When it comes to real life, it's awfully hard to make a decision on the spot for most people. I think that I can relate to the snap decisions of Hollywood's glorious heroes because I'm a snap decision maker myself. I'm a "go with my gut" instinct kind of decision maker. I rarely weigh options. I never make pro and con lists. I think about my choices for a nanosecond and I make up my mind. I rarely regret the decisions I've made...even if I have to acknowledge that the ramifications led to a learning experience. I recently read that more than 80% of American adults have a great deal of trouble making choices. These decisions can range from large ones (such as a potential spouse or the purchase of a home) or small ones (such as what to serve for dinner). I was flabbergasted by this statistic, and yet, I can appreciate that decision making is challenging. No one wants to make a mistake, and therefore, is stymied from moving forward. Any choice, this piece went onto say, is potentially wrong, and thus, decisions are put off indefinitely. 

Both of my children had very big decisions to make this year, regarding their futures. I was on pins and needles for them both. I was desperate to know what their choices would be. They, on the other hand, were rationally, calmly and logically proceeding to eliminate what wasn't going to be a good fit, and factor in what would be the best option for their respective futures. I was wanting them to dive into the deep end of a choice, head first. Why? Because that's how I've always done it. I have learned something very important from my young adult children: waiting isn't the worst thing in the world...waiting can help a person solidify her rationale in making a decision or investigate his alternatives thoroughly before committing. I respect this process more than I can say. I just get itchy, living with the unknown...perhaps that's why I find it so easy to relate to the snap decision action heroes: they don't have to mull over colleges or cities. They just throw themselves into the action.

The past month has been a time of growth for all of us. I have learned to appreciate a more measured, analytical decision making process. I still am the impulsive one in the family, and probably always will be. But, I can appreciate a judicious deliberation now too. And yet, at the next fork in the road in my children's lives, I'm scared I'll turn into a virtual Dennis Hopper once again, and over the walkie-talkie, ask, "Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do? What do you do?". 

I'll just try very hard not to use explosives.