Tuesday, February 19, 2013

teach your children well and let the rest go.

recently wingman made a decision that disappointed the husband and me. mainly because it was our own goals and ideas for him that seemed to be tossed aside. he was fine and more than happy with his decision, relieved. we were not. so much.

the thing is, wingman is naturally good at a LOT of things. way more than me, way more than anyone in this house. he has a beautiful singing voice, he's a talented artist, he's got a gift for the piano, he's a really good baseball player. he is smart. i mean, i'm not even bragging. oh he's not a prodigy or some kind of artistic genius, he's just good at a lot. and yet, well...he doesn't want to pursue *any* of it. not with classes or lessons or teams.

and frankly, at 12, he's past the age where i can *make* him. not that i forced him before, but there was a natural progression of music lessons and art lessons and baseball as part of home school curriculum and just participating in something outside of the house.

the reason why i was disappointed really boiled down to convenience. this is something he just always did. was good at. was a natural built in out of the house experience. a chance to mix with peers. etc. etc. etc. and having moved to a new place where there isn't a lot going on for home schooled kids his age (we should have moved to where the 'real' hippies live. wealthy 'hippies' don't home school.) this was going to be a no brainer for me. his mama. looking for anything to supplement our home schooling and glad for this.

only, wingman doesn't want to do it. he's over it. he's done.

and much to my chagrin, i had to accept that.

i spent two days being very disappointed even as he was smiling and relieved.

and besides the built in convenience of this out of the house activity DASHED, i couldn't quite figure out why it peeved me so much. this decision of his.

and then i figured it out.


i had this real fear that my sweet talented intelligent boy wasn't going to do...anything. with his life. that he lacked the motivation to pursue his interests and talents. that he lacked drive. ambition. and let's face it, that he would end up living in someones basement (probably ours) with marginal employment and not enough sun. and be perfectly happy doing so.


mine. because he's home schooled i have no one to blame these things on as they get older. i mean i don't generally look at things to place fault, but let's face it...if my home schooled kid ends up living in a basement with not enough sun and hobbies that involve only the computer then i'm screwed in the reputation department. (wouldn't be the first time. but still.)

i fretted and worried. every walk i took with the husband was a verbal tirade of how i must have failed him! why doesn't he want to do *anything*? he's so talented, the little snot! blah blah blah.

we were walking home from the library and i turned to the husband and screeched

"what if he ends up like one of those guys! you know the type. they live in a basement. they barely have a job. they come to family gatherings, hang out awhile, and that's like their ONLY source of social interaction. i just know he'll live in that basement with a bunch of dogs and his video games and BE COMPLETELY HAPPY! WHAT IF THAT HAPPENS!?!"

and then i heard a little voice.

'what. if.'

i didn't hear it on that walk or even that day. i heard it later. just...'what if.'

i have always said the only thing i truly want for my children is that they be happy. i don't mean 'happy' like OH MY GOD LOOK AT THAT RAINBOW I'M SO HAPPY! because i get that that can be it's own 'thing.' unattainable to some. unreliable. i myself cannot claim the title of happy. what a loaded word. i am content, though. i love my life. so i guess i just mean happy as in content. pleased. living a life that gives them peace and joy. a life they like. all those things that blend to make up this word 'happy'. even though there's got to be a better less loaded word for that feeling.

that's all i've wanted for them. so...what if. what if wingman doesn't do a thing with all that he is gifted with. what if he doesn't want to pursue higher education or higher study (which really is an option in this house, but an option the boys know is a good one for their future.) what if he's content to work a job and just be in the world. come to family gatherings and just be. what if he isn't the kid with the long list of accomplishments i can pull out and pass around when i'm feeling vulnerable in a social situation.

what if he goes on to have a life that DOES NOT cause people to say 'you must be so proud' and mistakenly credit me with all that he's become. because he's my son. because i home schooled him.

not that i'm that mama, but we all have that deep inside. that thing about our kids. 

what if.

what if he's just wingman.

and i realized oh my god. of course. of course this would be okay. because wingman is sweet and funny and charming and snarky. he's a joy to be around and likes to cook. he's compassionate and kind to animals. he feels the injustice of the world on such a personal level. and he is incorruptible. UN-bribable (i know. i've tried.) he's truly his own person on such a level that i don't comprehend it.

so he's living in a basement with a bunch of dogs. and completely happy doing so. my point, exactly? i'm worried about...what, exactly?


plus. he's 12. he's not done. what he is today, eschewing all that is possible for him in pursuing his gifts and talents in favor of just kicking about, is what he is today. it's not what he will always be. it's easy to look at our kids and see their whole entire lives. OH MY GOD i can see the basement! i can smell the dogs! when really it's just one day...a week...a month...it's just a bit of time. this time. right now.

i would do well to remember all of this. that i have been and am teaching him well. that has to count for something. and that my idea or his father's idea or the world's idea of 'success' is ridiculous when applied to an individual person.

it's so easy to tell our growing children what they should do. and how what they are choosing not to do will negatively impact them. to give them all the WHYS without exploring all of the what ifs.

when wingman got to make that decision, all on his own, he knew it was a disappointment. he knew we wanted him to do it. he knew we left it up to him. and he made the decision. and was finally relieved for the first time in days.

as parents our job eventually becomes that of supporter rather than scheduler and herder. our job that was so hands on before requires now more than a bit of sitting on those same hands. our job of verbalizing the musts and redirecting the 'bad' decisions gives way to learning how to slowly close the mouth when it flies open, and instead quickly open the ears. and the heart. and THE FAITH. the skills we had for babies and toddlers and kids are different than those we must hone as parents of adolescents and teenagers and young adults.

do i like this? no. will i do it? yes. will wingman end up in that basement? maybe. will that be okay?


will i still worry? OH HELL YEAH.  i will worry about him for all my life. because he's my baby. and that's okay. but i'm going to worry with faith. and the knowledge that he got a great start and will be able to figure the rest out as he goes. and that eventually, one day, wither he goeth, i will not go.

and that's the hardest part. and the most necessary.


Monday, February 18, 2013

in memory of a friend.

bill and i went to high school together. but it wasn't until our 20th reunion that we became friends.

the night before the reunion there was a backyard party hosted by our mutual friend, fern. that's where i bumped into him. literally. i turned around and bill took a red solo cup to the well dressed wrist. i was embarrassed and shooting my apologies a mile a minute, he was chuckling and nonchalant about it. while mopping up we got to talking. and hands down had one of the better conversations i'd had not only that weekend, but in some time.

i'm a stay at home mom. i home school. the minute people hear this *i* can hear their eyeballs fighting to not roll back in their heads. i am patronized at best. sometimes people struggle for even the slightest kind thing to say.  like when you hear someone sincerely profess their love of dressing cats. mostly the conversation gets changed and the room scanned for an out.

not bill. he seemed genuinely interested. he asked me questions and listened to the answers. i was impressed not only because i was well aware of his vast intellect and genius, but that he was so damned sincere. we were chatting away so much that a half an hour passed before i knew it. and in my typical subdued style i whacked him on the shoulder and said

'OH MY GOD! i like you SO MUCH!'

(to his credit he didn't run away screaming. he just chuckled.)

then i said

'how come we didn't know each other in high school?!'

to which he replied in a very matter of fact way

'umm, we had classes together every single year.'

oh. right.

along with being a klutz and a brute, there's my memory; not so good.

anyway the rest of the weekend i ended up spending more time with bill and other friends. and found in bill a kind, funny, and hilarious new friend. funny on purpose, and sometimes funny like the straight man to chaos. and i won't go into detail in order to protect those who are way more than old enough to know better, but it is fair to say some of the best times i spent that weekend included bill in the mix. and it is also fair to say they were totally judd apatow worthy moments. seriously. it's always those quiet genius types you have to watch out for.

i saw bill again the next year at a mutual friend's wedding in portland. he met my kids and my husband. he told me he was charmed by my kids. and he and my husband were like two geeks in a pod bound for verbal destinations unknown and not understood by me. or anyone else at the table. but boy, they seemed to be basking in whatever the hell they were talking about. 

and that's where my point and remembrance comes in, i guess. about bill. whom, admittedly, i didn't know well. but see, watching him talk with my husband and watching him talk with my kids and with anyone and with me, what struck me most about him and what drew me to him was his presence. i know people always use that phrase 'in the moment.' but i have to say, i saw that on bill's face. that cold rainy portland afternoon...the talk in the backyard...other times catching a glimpse over a long weekend surrounded by the people who for better or worse shaped a good deal of who you became. or in more than a lot of cases tried to shed.

the thing about bill is that he listened. he heard. and he responded. and he was genuinely interested and intelligent enough to get to whatever level you were at. higher (rarely, i'm sure) or lower or in between, it didn't matter. he could and would get there. he was curious and willing and open. and this may not seem like much to some, but to the person being listened to it might as well as be a superpower. he wasn't checking his watch, his device, or scanning the room above your head. he was there. right there, his head slightly cocked and gently pitched forward, his eyes on yours while you blathered on about whatever. it was if all bill had right in the moment you were with him was time. for you. and what you had to say. this is so simple and so rare as to be totally and completely remarkable. and memorable.

i have two boys. and i would be more than proud to know that they grew up to be so present with others. that they might use whatever intelligence and curiosity they possess to be able to apply that anywhere. and to anyone.

the rest of my friendship with bill was one of the ubiquitous facebook kind, some messages, some e-mails, etc. and while i didn't know bill well, i considered him a friend. and looked forward to another time we'd get to hang out. maybe another reunion, another wedding. perhaps, unfortunately, a funeral. places people in our time of life and our kind of friendship might meet up.

so when i heard bill had passed i was shocked, and genuinely sad. all my little family was. i told the boys and they said 'oh no! i liked him so much!' now bear in mind, this was a man they met along with so many other people one rainy afternoon three years ago. they were 9 and 13 at the time. and they remembered him. they didn't ask 'who?' they remembered exactly who. and that's something right there. that's bill.

and in this life i find that it's rare to meet someone like bill. unexpected. like a gift. and what a wonderful gift he was to those who knew him.

i am going to miss bill. so i can only imagine how those he knew well must feel. those he was closest to; family, dear friends, loved ones. those who he loved and cared for and who loved and cared for him back. 

it is to those people bill was closest to i send my deepest condolences. and i am so very very sorry for their incredible loss.