Taking a Sabbatical from Nagging

Today, I have declared, I’m taking a sabbatical from nagging. Even as I write those words, I wonder, “Can I do it?” Is nagging built into my mom genes? Is it a habit that I have carried over from my own childhood?

Here’s a reflection I wrote this morning after a not-so-delightful encounter with my young adult daughter yesterday evening.

“Smart-mouthed young woman,

Sometimes I’d like to wipe the smirk off your face,

To tell you that there are reasons you can’t possibly understand,

until you’ve lived a few more decades,

for why your mother nags you, as you put it, every single day of your life.

This mother-daughter relationship is

complicated, tenuous.

At times we are in sync

and I feel content

as you, my child-woman, show maturity beyond your years.

Then I grow angry (furious might be a better word)

as you tell me

how I ought to relate to your dad

and how things should be in a relationship.

 You try living with a man for 30+ years,

I want to say.

You learn to love him despite all his quirks

and remember that he loves you in spite of all your imperfections.

You have children, try to raise them

to be decent human beings

who care for others as well as themselves.

You try to model, every day of your life,

patience, kindness, compassion, loyalty, hard work, peace, balance, faith, gentleness, love for others, self-care, integrity …

It’s exhausting.

But some of these things you won’t know until you have a few years

of living under your belt.

Sometimes I think maybe I should just give up,

but something or Someone tells me

I need to try…

just one more day…

to extend grace to others, to you, despite the words you say that hurt my feelings.

Yes, I have feelings too.

I know you know that.

Sometimes when I’m tired, the ugly ones spill out

and I wound you or others with my words.

I’m sorry. Forgive me.

Yet at the same time, I want to take you by the shoulders,

shake some sense into you,Image and say,

Wake up!

Do you not know that you are not the center of the universe?

And neither am I.

What’s a mom to do?

I wish I knew the answer to that million-dollar question.

On Sharing a Car with My Son

Daniel, our 25-year-old son, and I have been sharing a car for several months since he totaled his 1993 (or was it 1994?) Maxima at the end of September 2011. This is the third time in three years that we have been forced by circumstances to share a car for a while. The other two times we helped him find another car.

This time, our young man is on his own. We figured he would learn some valuable life lessons by saving for a car and that maybe, just maybe,  he might drive a bit more carefully if he knew what it took to save his own money and to find a car.

One of the unexpected pleasures that has resulted from this time of waiting is watching Daniel grow up. Before he took a part-time job at Barnes & Noble Vanderbilt in December, he was in the habit of sleeping most of the day. I teased him (sometimes impatiently) that he took sleeping to the level of an Olympic sport.

I wondered whether he could make it out of bed, night owl that he is, in time to get to work by 8:30 a.m. at first and now 8:00. Some mornings I heard his alarm go off repeatedly but there were no signs of life afterward. I’d knock on his door and say, “Daniel, are you awake?” His reply was usually something like, “Working on it.” I’d say, “Last call” and head downstairs to finish getting ready.

For a while this was our pattern, and I felt somewhat guilty for “enabling” him to by prodding him awake like a child in the morning.  But we (he, his dad, and I) wanted him to succeed at this job, because Papa John’s, his other employer, had drastically reduced his hours since his September accident, which removed him from being able to drive and deliver. He was getting about 10 hours a week inside the store, compared with around 30 hours a week before his accident.

Somewhere along the way he began to take responsibility for his own waking up. In recent weeks he has stayed home on nights before he has to be at work at 8:00 a.m. We had suggested that many times previously, but he had to come to his own conclusion that he couldn’t enjoy the night life with his friends until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and expect to wake up at 7:00 ready to function at work for 7.5 to 8 hours.

Much of parenting a young adult (and I never thought when I was in my earlier years of child raising that I would still be parenting at this stage) involves shifting from the authority figure to a consultant/coach. It’s hard sometimes watching young adults make mistakes as they strike out on their own, but it’s a necessary stage in their development. They need the freedom to fail and not be rescued by well-intentioned parents; that only hinders the process of becoming a responsible adult.

Sometimes they come up with wonderful solutions to problems, and the parent gets educated about creative ways to respond to challenges. Maturity is a two-steps-forward, one-step-backward process, and it’s sort of messy. Come to think of it, that is also true of life in general. One of my aunt’s sayings comes to mind: “You have to learn to roll with the punches.” (Ouch, those punches sometimes hurt.)

One serendipity that has resulted from these months of sharing a car is getting to know Daniel better. He has a quirky sense of humor, and you have to be quick to catch it.  I am beginning to appreciate his unique slant on life. This is the son whom I described in his younger years as an “old soul.” When he was 9 and we were talking about moving to another house, he said, “I want a place with a creek and a hillside where I can go sit and watch the sun set.” That sounded pretty good to me.

We didn’t move until his senior year of high school. Our backyard does slope downward, so I guess he has his hill. There is no creek really close to our property, but there is one in the neighborhood. I don’t think he’s spent a lot of time at home contemplating, but what do I know? Our children lead secret lives away from their parents. They are really gifts from God, and I’ve grown to treasure them more and more the older they get.

Sometimes I hear them repeating things John and I have said to them. It’s a little disconcerting sometimes to have your own words tossed back at you in a manner you didn’t intend when you said them. 😀 But we all are still learning at this stage of our journey. May it ever be so.

Rainy Saturday

Today’s rain has put me in a reflective mood, and I thought it was probably time to update my blog, since I haven’t blogged all summer. I have decided not to be a slave to my blog but to post when I feel like it.

But anyway, I was just thinking about this summer and how different the mood in our house has been since last summer. Last summer we were dealing with a major depression in our family, a newly independent college student home for the summer (and conflict abounded), a new job for me, and all the usual stuff that comes with family members being together in small quarters when we hadn’t been around each other for a while.

This summer I am happy to report that John has been busy gardening and working occasionally for a friend who owns a pool service, as well as doing a plumbing job or two. Julie has been working at Jenni’s Splendid Ice Cream, a new shop in East Nashville, and she’s enjoyed socializing with friends. Daniel’s still “slinging pizzas,” as he describes his job at Papa John’s. He’s had sleep difficulties for the past several months and is trying to deal with that.

I’m glad Julie’s been home this summer, and I’m even happier that she has matured and we (John & I) are in a much better place emotionally than we were last year at this time. That’s not to say we haven’t argued…but I’ve decided that conflict is just a part of family life. Sometimes we yell, often we disagree, but in the end we love and forgive each other and try to get on with life despite our little issues.

I’m feeling a little more at home in marketing after a little over a year. For a while I felt like I had moved to a foreign country. I’ve decided it just takes time to adjust to the rhythm of a new job and new personalities (much more extraverted, for the most part, than my former department). Have been working on an online bookstore project for months, and we are about at the end of that (thank goodness). I have nearly lost my mind at times over this, as we discovered the further we progressed in the project that our customer service and online bookstore provider made us some promises that they really couldn’t keep. They didn’t have the infrastructure ready to handle our HTML and other components of the bookstore, but we didn’t learn that until we got too far down the pike to backtrack.

Yesterday I felt like throwing things when I was at work because our content management system for the bookstore was running very slow, and tasks that should have taken just a few minutes wound up consuming hours. I finally threw in the towel about 4:00 p.m. and said, “I’ve done all I can do” (after consulting with our IT dept. to be sure nothing was wrong with my computer, and also trying to access the bookstore content from another computer). My compatriot in this bookstore project said hers was functioning a little slow, but she managed to get work done. Aaargh. I hate technology sometimes.

Today I found myself griping before breakfast at my husband and then I thought, “Wait. It’s not fair to take out my frustrations on him.” I pressed Reset in my brain and attempted to start over. The anxiety level decreased, and thankfully we wound up laughing about my ill humor.

Our family has been through some tough times financially and otherwise, but every now and then we get some signs of hope. One came last Friday when John & I went to the Frist Center for Visual Arts and I won 2 free round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines. YES! We haven’t been able to afford a vacation, so this was a godsend.

Our other sign of hope has been our bountiful garden this summer. We have been blessed with just the right soil, just the right amount of sunlight, a little ingenuity on John’s part (well, okay, a whole lot), and enough rain or stored rain water to keep the garden green and growing. We have had summer squash, butternut squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers in abundance. We are starting to get cantaloupes and watermelons. Sunflowers have shot up along the edge of the garden, and the sight of them has cheered me immensely, even when their heads start drooping. John has worked hard on the garden and approached it scientifically, inserting his own creativity along the way. He hung some CDs around the edge of the garden to keep birds away. Then he put plastic milk jugs around some of our cantaloupes, weighing them down and protecting the cantaloupes from a raccoon or some other varmint that has enjoyed a couple of ripe cantaloupes.

One of the best things about having this plentiful garden is that it has allowed us to share our bounty with neighbors, colleagues, and other friends. I think it’s very important to share with others, even when you’re having financial struggles…maybe then it’s even more important than ever because it reminds you how much indeed we are blessed.

So I’m feeling grateful for a rainy Saturday, for the buttload of housework I need to do today and for the fact that I feel energetic enough to launch into it and do it (there have been times I couldn’t say that). Life is good. Laughter is good. Love is good. It’s all good…and all part of the journey.