Tag Archives: empty-nest

What Advent Means to Me

'You left just as you were becoming interesting!'

‘You left just as you were becoming interesting!’ —Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

 

Advent is the season in which people celebrate the birth of Jesus. But when I see the manger scenes, I can’t help feeling melancholy. Because while everyone counts down the days until the Christ child arrives, I’m saddened at the thought of my child going away, just after Christmas.

Of course, William is not a child. He’s wiser and more well-grounded than men twice his age. He can just as easily converse about philosophy as he can about Star Wars. Sometimes the topics become intermingled.

He has been counting down the days until the next chapter of his life begins. A chapter that doesn’t include Mom knocking on his door in the morning or coaxing him to Crossfit.

But his new chapter will lead him from our home in Germany to Guatemala and finally to Canada. It will be full of adventure and happiness. And that’s what I want most for him–to follow his own path.

He’s ready.

And despite the sadness, I am too.

I still can’t believe that nearly 18 years ago, the nurses at the hospital handed ME (a whimsical 23 year-old who’d never changed a diaper in her life) this little red-headed baby.

It was terrifying.

He was dependent on me.

Totally.

Completely.

100 percent.

It is a frightening sort of power you hold in your hands, bleary-eyed while everyone else sleeps, and your world shrinks to two. There is no one else who matters at 3am. Just the warm little person, who’s not happy apart from you.

Then they grow.

As a parent, your job is to slowly train them to be less dependent on you. Give them more responsibility. Give them freedom (when it’s earned). Build trust. Mutual respect.

Be surprised by their individuality.

Take credit for things you had no part in–but you’re still insanely proud of.

Raise them to be one of your very best friends.

That raspy little voice that woke you so many times in the middle of the night is clear in your memory, but you sometimes have trouble connecting it to the young man laughing beside you at the dinner table.

But there is a time for a new chapter.

William and I have each been working hard to write new narratives for our lives; and neither of us knows what twists and turns are in store.

We’ve been through so much together. So many burpees and push-ups and toes to bar. So many emotionally exhausting times. So many moments where he helped me pick up, sort and organize the pieces of my life.

Somehow, in the midst of this year’s turmoil, I became dependent upon him. And so he began the gentle process of giving ME my independence. He steadied me, until I found my balance.

There’s a line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Professor Henry Jones tells his son: “You left just as you were becoming interesting!”

William has always been an interesting guy, but as a young adult, the conversations are richer. And it’s hard on a mom.

It’s hard because he’s become my friend–even though that was the goal all along.

To set him free.

To watch him live his life to the fullest.

To re-shape my own, with his picture on the wall and an empty hook where he hung his hat for a while.

13 days remaining to Toughen Up, Buttercup. 

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Parenting with Chocolate

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away… and yes, I am pregnant in this picture!

I ate chocolate.

It wasn’t dark, paleo-friendly chocolate either.

It was a big, square Ritter bar with nuts.

I ate two of them.

Not the little squares that you break off the grid–but ALL the little squares.

Two bars’ worth.

After I ate them, I thought: “Wow! That’s weird. Why did I eat those?”

Considering the mountain marathon I have coming up in September, I’ve been pretty good about my diet. I eat lean meats and veggies. No sugar, no gluten (as always), no nuts, eggs, fruits or grains. I ‘cheat’ on Friday with my gluten-free pizza and a glass of red wine, while the kids and I watch a movie; and Pancake Morning (or lately, Crepe Morning) on Sunday. IF I have chocolate, it usually coincides with Movie night. But TWO bars?! This was a first.

Why? I wondered. Why?

I can’t just eat chocolate and enjoy it–no, I have to psychoanalyze it.

I think it started with my eldest son saying he was buying a one-way ticket to Guatemala.

I’ve been preparing myself for his launch for a while, and honestly, I’ve been happy for him. But it’s just that talk about airline prices made the event a little too real.

But I know how it is when you’re waiting for life to start. While I LOVED raising my kids in Alaska, I always had this feeling that life had not quite begun for me. That while I WAS involved in the toughest, most important job on earth (which ironically included mind-numbing bouts of Dora the Explorer), there was always this sense that there was something else out there that would light the fire in my soul. For some women, child-rearing is that spark–and they are good at it. They have their babies, they adopt, they homeschool, and I truly respect them for how well they do this.

But no matter how much I enjoyed it, and no matter how good I was at it–it wasn’t quite me. Not quite.

It’s the same with teaching.

I love interaction with the students.

I love being there when the ‘light bulb’ clicks on.

I love being helpful.

But it’s still not quite me.

The one thing that does ‘light the fire’ is writing. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy. In fact, sometimes I hate writing. I’ll sit down to the computer, stare at the blank screen and think, ‘What the hell am I going to write?’

But if I stop over-thinking, the words will come. And before I know it, I have something to say.

When I was writing my fiction manuscript, I would read a new chapter to the kids every morning at breakfast–and even though it was course and unrefined, they loved listening to the adventures of the main character. We were transported from those dark winter days, sitting by the sunshine-lamp at the breakfast table, to another world where animals could talk and girls could fly.

While I can (and do) write non-fiction, fiction is my passion, my true love, and hopefully the words I craft can help people along the way. I am a firm believer that even fiction can make lives better. I mean, why do we have such a love for Cinderella stories or happy endings?

It’s because fiction gives us a sense of the good things in life. That life CAN and SHOULD be lived to the fullest.

It’s hard work though. Cinderella did get stuck with all the dirty chores and emotional abuse before things turned around for her. And while we can’t always expect a Fairy Godmother, we can work hard towards our dreams.

Why go through life without dreams?

And so…with the words one-way ticket and Guatemala in my mind… I prayed that I would have the strength to let my son go.

It didn’t take long.

After two bars of chocolate and a little crying, I felt genuinely happy for him.

Because I know how it is to feel stuck. To feel like your real life hasn’t started. And our time on earth is very limited. It should never be wasted.

Marathon running, CrossFit, writing–these things are part of me. They shape who I am as a person. Parenting is also just one part of my life–not the whole of it. Because if my only job is to be a parent, then I lose myself. And it makes launching children into the world nearly impossible.

I want them to live their lives and strive for their dreams.

That’s my job.

I just have to let go.

Of the kids, as they become independent.

And of the chocolate.

Because it doesn’t really help after all.