Sometimes you have to stop being afraid. Afraid of what other people will think, what other people will say. Life is for joy and risk and love and all-out-in-your-face enthusiasm. And letting go of fear is a huge step. Fear of loving, fear of laughing, fear of being authentic.
I’ve been afraid of posting this blog post for months…I wrote it last year during Laurie Foley’s class, Blog More/Stress Less. It’s a short little thing, and one of my first tries, but I wrote it with joy and giggles, and it’s all true.
So…fear of it being to personal, too intimate…who cares! I’ve been absolutely silly! And anyway, I think you will all think it’s lovely.
I’m dedicating this to my beautiful, strong-as-a-rock, rock-star husband! He is my perfect-for-me spouse that I intend to spend at least another 23 years with as his wife.
Let’s start somewhere in the middle of the original post…
Even so – we were both a little worried about what our life would be like as empty nesters this past fall…our son is such a huge part of our life and our joy.
I can tell you emphatically, it’s been fun, scary, surprising – and we see a delightful future.
One of our ‘delights’ has evolved over the last couple of months…We seem to have more time in the morning, and there is no one else in the house but us…so Tim frequently would ask if I wanted to shower with him. Well, of COURSE not! “Our shower is smaaalllll, I need to shave my leggggs, I like the water hottttter”…I would whine all the reasons this would not work.
But then one day I said ok. This was not about sex (shower is Waaaayyyy Too Smallllll)…this was about physically connecting.
Hmmmm….that was nice!
Maybe I would do that again. It did set a nice tone to the day, making a sweet connection, and having your back washed is quite a luxury!
Then I saw where it would really come in handy.
I was trying to entice my husband to exercise more to reduce his cholesterol. It was tough to get him going, but he was trying. One day he asked if I wanted to take a shower with him, and I got the brilliant idea to say ‘no exercise, no shower!’ He was ON the stairclimber. Ha Ha!!! The bait! I found the bait…
So now, many mornings of the week, he will be on his stair climber and I’ll be on the elliptical, and then we’ll take a shower and start our day. The surprise is that I’m the one who is running to the elliptical on the days he gets started early so that I’ll be finished in time to get in the shower with him! We raise our oxytocin levels, we laugh, sometimes talk business, sometimes it’s just a ‘quickie’ shower because of schedules…but a lovely start to the day…making a lovely connection stronger.
And besides, he gives great back…. 😉
Caring for family…
Friend in trouble…
Client in need…
Child wants help with homework…
Another Mom can’t do carpool…
There we are, the “I’ll-be-there-for-you” women…super-hero giver, offering comfort, advice, support, food…no matter what we are in the middle of, no matter if we, ourselves, are in need….no matter what.
Does this describe you?
You believe it’s better to give than to receive.
You feel great satisfaction in being selfless.
You like to show your love by giving to others.
You get secret comfort from being in control.
You think people will like you.
You have a hard time asking for what you need…for what you want.
This has certainly has been me. For most of my life.
Consider this…by receiving, you give much
A year ago I had a physical injury – and it brought me to a standstill…enforced stillness. I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t clean the house, I could not bend my knee…difficulty walking, difficulty standing for long periods, difficulty sleeping without pain unless I was very still. Some days, I couldn’t even drive. I couldn’t do all the things I had planned to help my son prepare for his move to college – his freshman year!
I could barely tolerate the mere thought of letting my family do everything that I normally do.
But they were eager. EAGER to be able to give to me in the way I always gave to them. EAGER to be able to take care of me for a change – to show, in a different than the usual way, their love for me – their ability to care for and nurture and support me, physically and emotionally.
And that’s when it became crystal clear…
One of the biggest gifts I could give them, and myself, was to let them do this and accept it graciously and with much love. When I received from them the kind of caring that I am usually the master of, it let them see a side of themselves they liked. It showed them they are capable of nurturing and supporting in the most basic, physical sense, and it added to their power-base of human-ness. And it helped me heal in a profound way…many ways.
My ability, reluctantly at first, to receive turned into a gift of love and caring – without any action on my part – for both myself and my family.
The ability to receive can be one of the most loving gifts you can give. I’m not perfect at it yet. Far from. But it’s getting easier.
Try it, with sensitivity that it’s a new way of being for you, and it may take a little while for you and those who love you to get comfortable with it.
Now…about being able to ask…working on that! 😉
Grab the Kleenex.
When my new friend, Audrey Wilson Andrysick (Audrey Wilson Coaching) sent a few of us mom’s this poem, I started tearing up at the first 3 words. Lin Eleoff calls this the sappy gene.
Again, for the second year, my son is off to college today. This time it’s a little different from the first year in that I know I will be fine (the person I was most worried about the first year, lol!), he will be fine (and he was – more than fine), and that my husband and I will continue on our path of rediscovering the depth of our own relationship – just the two of us again, after so many years of the 3 of us. But it’s also different because he is moving into his own place with friends…off campus…rent, utility bills, grocery shopping…the next steps to really rocking his own life – adult baby steps.
For all of you who are seeing your children off to Day Care for the first time, Pre-school, Kindergarten, First Grade, High School (you get the picture), enjoy the following poem and remember to enjoy every first – it all goes by very quickly, and soon you will be wondering where the years went.
And for all of you who are seeing your kids off to adult-hood, enjoy and give thanks that you’ve done such a good (enough) job to enable this beautiful transition.
(This poem was originally written by Mary W. Abel and posted in Dear Abby)
Don’t forget the Kleenex.
“Hold fast the summer. It is the beauty of the day and all it contains.
The laughter and work and finally the sleep. The quiet.
Oh September, do not put your weight upon my mind.
For I know he will be going.
This son of mine who is now a man — he must go.
Time will lace my thoughts with joyous years.
The walls will echo his “Hello.” His caring will be around each corner.
His tears will be tucked into our memory book.
Life calls him beyond our reach — to different walls.
New faces, shiny halls, shy smiles, many places.
Greater learning — he must go.
But wait, before he leaves, be sure he knows you love him.
Hide the lump in your throat as you hug him.
He will soon be home again — but he will be different.
The little boy will have disappeared.
How I wished I could take September and shake it, for it came too soon
I must look to the beauty of each new day, and silently give thanks.”
I pick up my son up from college this week to bring him home for the summer…can’t wait for him to be home for 3 months! We have missed him and have managed to see him several times during his first year away.
I made it through the first year of empty-nest…Better than I had hoped.
I realize I have a new normal – one where our son is not living under our roof – which I think is great progress in such a short time.
But a funny thing happened during the year to help me along. I had a true revelation right after the holidays.
I wanted a better way than texts and phone calls to stay in touch with my son. A subtle way. So, even though I didn’t know if he would play, I challenged him to a ‘Words With Friends’ (iPhone app) competition scrabble game. A few days went by with no response, and I thought “Nah, he’s too busy; he doesn’t want to play; he’s distancing himself; he’s separating…it’s ok…(sigh).”
Then…a hit!! And he accepted. The game began.
It was a great game – one of my best. (I’m getting a little better at it :)). You can chat on WWF, and I tentatively sent him a short ‘good one!’ after he scored a bunch of points, and he responded.
Then I created a high-point word, and he chatted that he was still going to beat me…ah, ha!!! The competition was on! After I created a particularly good 54 point word, he chatted back ‘uh, maybe I won’t win!’
It was great fun.
Sometimes days would go by before he’d play his turn. Sometimes at least 1 WHOLE day would go by before before I’d play mine, lol! I’d get his word late at night, sometimes in the morning…sometimes in the middle of the night (we are in the same time-zone so that told me a lot about when he went to bed!). So even if we hadn’t skyped or texted for days, it was so nice to be ‘in touch.’ And though I ‘know’ he’s ok, this is just a little bit of confirmation that he is there. It was fun way of knowing he’s fine and giving him TONS of space.
I didn’t even think about missing him.
I wasn’t playing with my son…not my son! I was playing with ‘golfer72’ – my son’s WWF id is ‘golferking72’ – slight error on my part! Who was I playing with? Good lord…
Wait…I had created my own reality all this time…MY OWN REALITY!!!
From thinking he didn’t want to play, all the way to having a great game with him…in my own mind! It was a beautiful thing. It was funny. I laughed…my husband laughed…my son laughed. And it was SHOCKING. THE best example I can give anyone about how we create our own truth, our own reality, our own life. I know this to my core now.
And yes, my son truly was ok the whole time. And now I know it even if we aren’t playing WWF’s!
By the way, golfer72 asked for a rematch. I declined 😉 .
My dear friend, Lin Eleoff, aka The Worst Mother, drew the following picture for me in honor of my newsletter launch – her rendition of the blog post you just read. I think she caught it perfectly. I love her. And she’s freakin’ brilliantly hilarious. Don’t miss her weekly wisdom at www.theworstmother.com. Thank you, Lin! xoxo
One more thing!
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We dropped our son off at CalPoly yesterday. Ok, let’s reword that…We did NOT drop him off – we moved him in. Started around 9:30, left at 4…not quite a drop off!
We had read we should just drop him off, unpack, let him sort out his room. Instead, I asked our son what he would like. “Do you want us to help unpack?” “Do you want me to put your clothes away?” and “I really want to make your bed for you, is that ok?”
Once he and his roommate figured out the layout of the room, getting creative because of, yes, the lack of electrical outlets, we got busy ‘setting him up.’
The 3 of us unpacked, put things away, organized drawers, decided where lamps went, took out snacks, stored things under the bed. His dad helped him set up the computer.
And I made the bed…made it as comfy as possible with a mattress topper (oh, those ugly navy blue vinyl mattresses), fluffy mattress pad, new cotton knit sheets, soft comforter.
Making his bed was important to me, above and beyond the rest – it had to do with his comfort, and how well he would sleep (which makes me laugh knowing he will probably be up all night and only getting very few hours of sleep…but those hours will be comfortable and warm and cozy – like home!)
And as I wandered the dorm, passed other rooms, talked to other parents, watched his roommate’s mom, I noticed making the bed seemed to be an important task to every other mom on the floor.
Important to bring an intimate ‘piece’ of home for our boys, trying to replicate a bit of the place where we had read to them, sang to them, stroked their hair, cuddled them, often gently waking them up to get ready for school as they got older, and even recently, where we still had some of the best conversations at the end of the day, or the middle of the night when we got up to go to the bathroom and noticed their light still on in their rooms.
It was the best day. Six hours went by quickly. We were done. It was time to go. Our son asked us to close his dorm room door so we could have some privacy.
He hugged us both so tightly and told us how much he will miss us. How different this will be. How excited he was about being there. How nice his room looked. How comfy the bed looked :). And how he liked being sandwiched between 2 floors of all girls 🙂 ! He said how much he loved us. He got tears in his eyes. We all did.
But I did not get the ugly face (I did that yesterday in the privacy of our own home, telling him how excited I was for him, how big a piece of my heart he has, and how I will miss him.)
He put drops in his eyes, and he walked us to our car for one last hug – “this feels like it happened all of a sudden,” he said.
Yes. Suddenly after 18 years. Then here he is, a man, on his own, excited (and maybe a teeny bit nervous.)
With much love and pride, we watched him go back across the street and up the stairs. We looked at each other, smiled, sighed, and left the CalPoly campus.
3 hour-drive, on to the next chapter, talking with each other almost the whole way, and not at all totally about our son. Got Chipotle takeout and came home…to a slightly emptier space.
Now what? I’m not totally sure.
But I do, with certainty, know that we are all ok.
Next weekend we will be making the trip, car loaded, to take our son to college. We are so excited for him. The university is fabulous, the campus, the town, the curriculum. He is very ready and able to truly begin his life as a man on his own terms…ROCK it on his own terms, free and accountable to himself.
And I will miss, SO much, this child of mine that I love more than I ever thought possible.
We are a strong family unit of 3. We’ve all always had a solid, close connection – from his birth, really, when for a few scary days, I got so sick that we briefly questioned if I was going to make it – to be able to actually get to know my son – to be able to parent with my husband. But I did – slowly – get well. And we were so grateful…and our family of 3 was our bedrock.
We moved cross-country, from North Carolina to San Jose, when our son turned 5 and had just started kindergarten. That kind of adventure will create an even stronger bond as you move away from family, friends, and familiarity to continue building your life in a brand new place. We’ve been blessed to find many wonderful friends and adopted families in our west-coast life.
I will be overjoyed to see him go build his adult life. Our relationship will be forever changed – and I know this is a good thing, as it was destined, as it should be.
But a piece of me will be devastated not to be able to interact, on a daily basis, with this man-child of ours that we not only love, but like and respect.
Tim and I feel we received such a gift on this joyous ride we’ve had as parents for these many years. And – sorry to those of you who have heard me say this MANY times 🙂 – it has been the best ride of my life!
Because there is actually a piece of me looking forward to the change. I am looking forward to more time to focus on my blossoming career. I’m looking forward to a new sense of freedom from coordinating everyone’s schedules, plans, meals, or nagging about chores, or worrying that he’s not getting enough sleep when I see the light under his door at 3am!
My husband and I will be more focused on us and our relationship, getting to know again that couple that became parents. We will again go down a new, but faintly familiar, path as a couple living alone together – that in itself can be a scary thought, too, let me tell you! .
So while I am savoring every moment of this week together (a week that is looming seemingly short of days), I am also looking forward to what our future will become. And hopefully, as time goes on, our family unit will remain a strong grounding base, there for each other and any expansion as our son plays out his own cycle of life – as we watch him make his mark and build his own ‘family’ units with friends, spouse, children…
And that’s the true beauty and mystery of this adventure of life, the adventure of parenting.