It has been a fuck of a week…..my daughter and I are struggling….which is the subject of the blog that I was going to post today. Instead…..last night I was shopping with same girl….it was stressful…She hates me in only the way a 15 year old girl can. YaY!!!
So while I am working on relationship building …I am also waiting for said banshee while she tries on clothes. I decide to look at FB. And, my heart hits the floor, the bile rises in my throat and the tears sting my eyes. I am filled with an unbelievable sadness that I still cannot shake. The oldest son of some friends has died. Memorial in 3 days. What the fuck. What the fuck. These are two of the best people I know. They live ordinary lives…married as high school sweethearts. Had 3 boys….active in Church and community. A success story. I met them in their heiring years. They had already had one son. My X was a musician. He was in a band. 4 guys. 4 couples. 8 kids. We were close. For a few years we did everything together….camp, gig, practice, summer, boat, pools. The singer and his wife had 3 boys. It is their son that is gone. A sweet boy who learned to swim in my pool. A sweet kid who rebelled. (Can you really rebel if one or both of your parents are musicians? Question for another blog.)
First, one couple moved out of town. The band fractured. Then 2 couples split….me being one. We struggled to raise our kids and keep our immediate relationships intact all while working, etc. We drifted because of loyalties and differences…there were no fights or thick lines drawn in the sand…..our lives changed, our interactions changed. But, we remained FB friends. I had enjoyed watching the boys grow up even after we all went in different directions. I remembered she had posted a pic from a ball game a few days before…..bad pic because of the lighting…but a happy pic of she and her husband. I noticed she had taken a photo of all boys in front of their house and had posted that. I loved it..so nice to see those boys all big.
And, now. One of them was gone. I was bereft. Now I know what that word feels like. So unbelievably sad. So ridiculous. I cry for a boy I have not seen in 10 years. But, whose family I still loved.
He died in a horribly tragic and accidental way. Poor choices. Who makes all the right choices, anyway? And…when I was 22? Let’s just say my mom cried a lot; I had a large amount of fun; and…I am lucky that I lived through it. (Just look back at “I had goals and a plan”) I am also lucky there were no cell phones then. Finding out how he died, made me a little sadder…but, it didn’t really matter. A big-hearted, smiling boy was gone. His parents and brothers left with a gaping hole in their lives. Apparently, the last several years, he had been the “troubled” kid. The one whose choices made his parents nuts and made them question their parenting. I know the feeling…..I feel inadequate almost daily. Usually about 5 minutes after I feel like maybe I have finally gotten the hang of this parenting thing……
Parenting is difficult. Every parent is different. Every child is different. Nobody knows what they are doing. We are all trying to do better than our parents did. And….what works for one, won’t work for the other. My daughter does everything she can to stay out of trouble. Her brother…..let’s just say he should have been born a Libra the way he weighs and plays the scales. I am also single parenting. They have a dad….but, we didn’t get divorced because we agree on things. We couldn’t even agree to disagree. We do have similar parenting beliefs….but, our delivery and execution……completely different. So….I am winging a lot of this. I have read a million parenting books and blogs. I have asked advice from every parent I know. And, still. I feel like an amateur.
The Memorial was beautiful. And, sad. Heartbreaking, inspiring, and affirming. They were honest (without details) about his life and their relationship with their son. Both parents spoke (I told you they are an amazing couple). Dad spoke of his struggles with his son’s high energy (think 200 monkeys and everyone of them has a drum kit) but, very affectionate son. The one who smiled even when his choices were met with less than understanding by his parents. Dad confessed that in the last week….he had really examined his son and their relationship. He said he wished he had done this before he lost this beautiful boy. Because now looking back, he sees that his son was not driven by defiance or anger. He was driven by love. Love for everybody. Even the ones others have written off. Love for his friends. Love for those in need.
Mom….well…mom said that she learned more about being a Christian in the last several days. A lesson she learned from the son she can no longer hug. He loved everyone. Always. If you were down, he would lift you. His best friend told a story about how he had been arrested for DUI. Hated himself. It was the denouement of a series of bad choices and he had backed away recently from a lot of his friendships. Sitting in jail, when he couldn’t reach a parent…he reached out to his friend. First, this beautiful boy that is gone,…offered this advice….”punch the cop in the face and escape out of there…” which made me laugh as this is the same 10 year old boy I used to know. After he had made his friend smile….he told him not the best idea and then proceeded to make this broken young man feel better about his situation, his life, and his future. That is a gift….a very special gift.
I have been thinking a lot lately about how we treat others. About our expectations for them. And what we do when they do not meet our expectations. When these people are our children….what the fuck are we doing? We are raising people. Unique, individual people. Why are we trying to make them live up to a list of expectations we created? And, I am not even sure why we created them. Neither of my kids is the soccer-playing, A student, voted “most likely to succeed” who is going to light the world on fire. Neither of my kids is following anybody anywhere. They are blazing their own trails. Breaking a mold…climbing out of a box. And, you know what? Most of my friend’s kids and most of my friends……went the way we wanted…not the way our parents wanted. We will all spark fire in our own way. And…just for drill…neither their dad nor I was “perfect student” described above.
I have been “fighting” with my son over some poor grades for 2 years. A few weeks ago, I decided to just stop fighting with the boy. No more grounding, taking things away, giving things back, bribing, yelling, crying, blah blah blah. I sat him down and told him….your choices are your own. Your life is yours to live. I wanted him to get good grades because he is capable; because he needs them to get into a good college….which I have decided is the path to happiness and greatness. But, those were things I wanted. If he didn’t want them….his choice. I am here to help. Help with homework, help with teachers, hire tutors. Whatever he needs, I will do. In the meantime, I took a different inventory. Here is a sweet and good hearted boy. One who has empathy in spades (usually on his own…sometimes a situation will need to be pointed out). He is delightful and funny and makes me laugh in ways other people have not. He has brought me so much joy just seeing the world through his eyes. He walks to school @ ½ mile. And, for the last 2 years has gotten himself up and ready for school and to school on time. Never being late. Even in the rain. And, never has he complained about having to do this. When the girl and I have a disagreement…he comforts me by telling me she is crazy and I am normal. He also tells me she treats everyone this way….even though girl tells me I am the difficult one. He is kind to our animals and helps me out a lot. He occasionally gets in trouble in school….but, it is stupid stuff (being on his cell phone, talking during class). He is never in trouble for bullying or bad behavior. Two things I wouldn’t tolerate.
So….letting go was and is difficult for me. Am I doing the right thing? Am I a bad parent? How will this work out? By “letting go” am I giving my kids the message that they can continue to make poor choices? I don’t know. And, according to my dad….you don’t know if you have done a good job as a parent until your kids are about 30. HAHAHA. That is no consolation. Sometimes, I think Dad should have been a comedian….but, I digress.
Incidentally, one of my “dates” to the memorial was a woman I have known for @ 10 years. We have girls the same age. She is a teacher and a pastor’s wife. I have asked her for parenting advice. (it was the first time the boy got in trouble in 2nd grade. Before school even started;) Her husband is leading this service and has known this family for the same 10 years. We discovered this connection this week. I asked her how her daughter was doing. She told me her daughter took alcohol to school and got drunk in first period last month. I laughed. I laughed because here we all are…trying to put our people in our boxes. You must do this, be this, get these grades, etc. And, really….nobody fits in a box. I told her that the couple on the stage were talking to us.
A lot of things came together for me during the service. What if we just loved? Loved our friends, our children, our families, and everyone we come in contact with. We do not have to agree. We do not have to have toxic people in our lives. But, maybe if we loved more and expected less and flattened the boxes…maybe things could be different. Maybe if we let people be themselves and accepted them for who they are, maybe life would be a little sweeter. Tragedy will still happen….but, maybe it won’t also be tinged with regret.
I am not saying “hands off” and “be their friend”. I am just saying…..let us just support them and assist them and guide them in making their own way. Offer advice, experience, lecture…whatever. But, when that is ignored….let it go. Their choices will have consequences. They will suffer the consequences. And…maybe as I change my entire life…maybe I ought to change my parenting ways. What I am doing is clearly not having my desired outcome. I will also say…”letting go” has brought me some peace. Since I did….I have only almost yelled once. I asked myself…”is this him not meeting my expectations” or is this a “horrible” choice? It may not be my choice….but, who says I have any of the right answers?
The loss of this child will be my motivation/reminder to love my people. To help my people. To accept my people. To guide my people (let my people go….). To let go of my expectations. I will miss you, but you will not be forgotten.