Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Parenting (some navel gazing and thinking that no one asked me about)

"Just wait, it gets worse. Enjoy it now."

If you're a parent, you've heard that about whatever stage of life your kid is in, and it's crap, really.

My theory on parenting difficulty is this: the average never changes but the variance does. Picture parenting difficulty as a graph over time. In my experience (as a parent and as the kid to some parents), it looks like this:

Babies are hard, but predictably and managably so. They're the marathons of parenting. Every single second there's something going on that requires your parenting decision making, but mostly those decisions are not terribly difficult. "Should I feed my child again? Should I change the diaper? Should I keep mosquitoes and bees and spiders off of my kid?" Yes. Yes you should.  And if your kid is upset or things seem difficult, parents of babies are given a lot of sympathy (and annoying free advice, but that's going to be a constant).

As the kids get older, the difficulty starts to vary. Sometimes they're super easy ("Look, he's been coloring for an hour! Look, she's totally happy just doing her Legos!) and the rewards are higher, but when they aren't easy, it's also a bigger deal with more judgment (tantrums at the store, running into the street, hitting and biting other kids, etc.)

As you move through elementary school and into high school, the variance just gets more extreme. Easy days or weeks are just magical but the hard stuff gets uglier and more intense, too. Failing classes, life-changing decisions with friends and loves and substance abuse, car crashes and milestone accomplishments. Parents and kids are judged based on these extremes and frequencies.  And parents of college and adult kids see the biggest possible challenges spaced out between (hopefully) longer periods of smooth sailing.

And as the kids get older, these challenges become harder to answer with confidence. What should be done about those failing grades? How much should we interfere with consequences of bad decisions like failing a test or losing a job or getting a ticket? How much should we help with arguments between friends, and if we do help, what is the right thing to even suggest? Questions about life, love, friendships, career goals... let's be honest, we're still trying to figure this stuff out for ourselves! When dealing with things like "Should I ignore this bully or confront them?" it's easy to see why we mourn for the days of the obvious: "Don't hit your sister."

But I think it's unfair to call it harder. It's different. Parenting Maryna is definitely different in its challenges, risks, highs, and lows than the current stages of parenting Katie or Jorge or Auggie.  They all come down to the same main issue, though, across time: "How much do I let go and let them figure this out; and how much do I try to fix it for them?" Whether it's a baby fussing to sleep or a 5th grader worrying about a last minute project or a teenager balancing too many responsibilities and some risky choices or an adult child losing a job, the difficulty of wanting to help while raising an individual is a constant balancing act.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Picked Auggie up from his playdate Saturday:
Me: I hope you had fun!  Were you on your best Auggie-behavior?
Augs: Mmm..I was good enough.

Cleaning out some yard debris:
Augs: I think this is from the Canola Tree.
(he meant Magnolia)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Licensed Driver!

We officially have a third licensed driver in our house!  Maryna passed her road test on Tuesday!

This was her second try.  Two weeks ago she had a test appointment here in 'Cuse and she failed before she even finished half of the test.  It was a stressful ugly day that happened to also be Rob's 40th birthday.

In the end, I'm glad she failed, though.  As I wrote in a note to her later that week, we learn more about a person (including ourselves) by how we handle a setback than we can ever learn from a list of that person's successes. Here's what I saw that day and shared with her:

First, she was willing to try. That alone is a huge accomplishment. For months and years she has been hesistant to try new things, try hard things, or just try at all. These days, she's not as afraid of failure and she sees the joy of success enough to know it will be worth it. She also knows she's safe, and that failure isn't the end of any story.

Second, she not only tried, but she was hopeful. She was optimistic. She didn't go in with a fatalistic attitude ("shoot me and get it over with")...she had confidence that it might work out. Daring to get your hopes up is a risky platform to stand on; the fall is much harder. She hoped anyway, and that's awesome.

Third, she was resilient. She took that hit and faced it: she cried, she got angry, she curled up in her bed for awhile...but when I told her a few hours later that we had a new appointment booked for the next available test that I could find anywhere in western or central NY (in a tiny town over 200 miles away since the next one in our neighborhood or anywhere near it was 3 months away..) she squared her shoulders and lifted her chin and said thank you. She didn't get washed down the drain with this set-back.

Fourth, she trusted us enough to let us help her through her disappointment. She let me see her sadness and hurt. She let me rub her back and cluck over her tears. We yelled and shook our fists at the ceiling for awhile together about how rude the examiner guy had been for no reason.  She let her team rally around her and she accepted that support.

Finally, (fifth), she set it aside for her dad's birthday. I had told her when we got home that I knew she was angry and upset and that she was totally allowed and expected to be mad and sad. But..that we were also still planning on going out to dinner as a family in about 3 hours so I'd like her to find a way to join us. By the time our dinner plans started, she had showered and perked up and (while understandably a little subdued and tired) she smiled, helped me sneak the waiter a birthday dessert surprise, and played along with the dinner conversation.  Awesome.

So while she was sad and upset, I was super proud of the kid I brought to that test two weeks ago, and I was even more proud of the young woman I saw handling the setback of a failure.

Yesterday we drove 3.5 hours to a tiny rural town in SW New York. We drove around that tiny one-stoplight-town for 2 hours learning the hidden streets, parks, and elementary schools. We laid on a park bench in the warm sun and I prayed over her while I combed through her hair with my fingers and just breathed with her. She aced her test and I got the incredible joy of being the first person she told: face beaming, grinning, arms up in victory. She drove off for a victory lap, and when she picked me up a few minutes later we both screamed for joy and hugged and cheered and high-fived and stomped our feet and drummed on the dash. We sang--loudly and badly--to every song we heard on the radio for the 3.5 hour drive home. We were a team and we were proud of her success just as we shared her setback: together.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SO I remember how to do it in 5 years...

I taught Maryna to parallel park yestereday in anticipation of her road test sometime this week or next. Maybe she's just a fast learner, but she had it nearly perfect from her 2nd try onward. If it helps anyone else, here's what worked for us:

1. Read this before hand (f-bomb warning in the last paragraph or so)…. Have it open on your phone or print it out. Also watch the long-ish video in the comments here.  And watch this.

2. Go to a mostly empty parking lot and pull through into a space so you are facing out. "Parallel park" into the open space to your back right, imaginging that there's a car to your right.

I had Maryna read ME the step by step directions while I did the first parking. We talked about where those 45* marks to the front left and rear right would be as well as the middle of the windshield and rear window.  For me in the driver's seat, it meant whatever I saw directly over the side mirror (front right) or whatever was in the back passenger mini-window.  FInd a reference point. (Bringing a small post-it note to mark those spots on the windows would have helped a lot!!!)

You're going to do that first step (crank and reverse) until that thing that was 45* to your front left or back right is right in the middle of the front or back window.  You are now at 45 degrees. DONE.  Then back up to clear, then crank the other way and back up until you're in the spot.

3. After she "taught" me, we switched spots and she did a few in the empty parking lot, working our way zig-zagging down a row of parking spaces.

4. Then we went to a parking lot with a few cars and practiced pulling up next to a parked car and then parallel parking into the space behind it, following these directions.  This let her practice getting that ideal starting spot: parallel to (not wonky), and about 3 feet away (not too close, not to far) with th back of the cars lined up.

5. Then we hit the streets and parked behind a few cars**. 

6. Eventuallly we found some spaces to try that had just one open place between two parked cars.

**We'd watched a video where the instructor pointed out that a road tests will almost never ask you to park in a single space between two cars...usually just behind one with at least 2 spaces clear behind it, so it was a good place to start our practice.

That was it. In about 90 minutes of practice, she nailed it consistently. Of the 20 or so times we practiced following those steps, she only had 1 that was a total wonky job b/c she started out too close to the reference car and 2 times (both early on) where she was a little far away from the curb but we could easily see that it was because she started out too far away from the reference car. Once she got the approach perfected, she got it right every single time. WAY easier than either of us had anticipated. I hope this is helpful to anyone else teaching their kid!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Bragging on a kid day:

One of the best best things about the vacation last week (Luquillo, PR) was spending a few hours alone doing a "walk-and-talk" with each kid. The grocery with one, the beach with another... it was un-interrupted time connecting with the kids and Rob that is just so hard to carve out at home.

Katie is my "first" (despite no longer being my oldest) and is the kid I have the most intuitive understanding for. In some ways this is bad--I tend to assume I know what she's thinking or feeling and when I'm wrong that's a mess! But most of the time I can just tell what's going on with her and what she needs in return.

She's incredibly strong in her convictions, brave and curious in her questions, kind and generous and compassionate with everyone she meets, clever but easily frustrated and discouraged when it's hard or less than perfect until she manages to push through, and always anxious and worried about something. And a voracious reader and craft-dabbler.

(In other words, she's all the good things I try to be and all the things I try to overcome in myself).

Friday, February 10, 2017

Random Aug-isms

"Mom, what date is today?"...
**some counting to self after he gets the answer**
"Hey mom?  Do you want to know what my countdown is for...?"
Sure, buddy.
"..  It's none of your business."

Mom? Can I snuggle with you in your bed? ...
Mom? Can I get on top of the covers? It's too warm.
Mom? Can you take your arm off of me? It's too heavy.
Mom? Can you get this arm out from under me? It's distracting.
Mom? Can you just...move a little further away from me...?