Wednesday, June 1, 2016

10 Things I am Learning the Hard Way: A Letter to my Teenaged Children

My dear teenaged children,

Sometimes I parent from a place of fear. I snap at you or threaten you with the most dire potential outcomes of your risk-taking endeavors. I'm terrified that you'll face the same hardships I did at your age - or worse. I'm terrified of losing you; of seeing your beautiful faces harden and grow distant. Sometimes, in struggling against my fears, I am not the parent I wish I was, and I know that my apologies don't cut it. Maybe they make it worse. In my heart I know the best I can do is to lead by example, because my advice is the last thing you want. But the remnant of my teenaged self needs me to pass on the things I'm learning the hard way, just so they don't go un-said. Just so I don't feel so helpless at watching you grow up and learn your own life's lessons the hard way.

I am still learning mine. I guess I'll never stop, and ten years down the road I may look back at these and laugh at my ignorance. But here they are, anyway - a snapshot of the things I have learned or am trying to learn at forty years old. May you live well, and may these things come to you more easily than they did to me.

Always adventure. Adventure is what life is made of. Without straying from the path, we'll never make discoveries; never feed our minds and souls and bodies and civilization. I forget all the time that I love adventuring - and then I find myself running wildly into the waves with all my clothes on, and realize I feel free again. Remember all those times we were ridiculous together? I love being ridiculous. And little adventures are important, too. Adventure can be as simple as grabbing a new fruit from a grocery store or laughing hysterically with a dear friend when it's way too late at night. These little adventures keep me going from day to day, but then I still need to feel abandon, which is why I call out our most adventurous friends and family for late-night silliness or school-skipping skating extravaganzas. Always have some of those friends - the friends who will say 'yes!' - and try to be one of those friends, too.

Trust - but not blindly. You want to be one of those people who says 'yes!', but you want to know where your limits are, too, so you don't become the person who leads everyone else into danger. This goes for trusting yourself as well as others. I have both a very easy time believing people, and a very hard time trusting them. This may come from that nasty feeling of having my trust broken so very many times. It sucks to feel like you've been had! But you have to get back up and keep trusting anyway. Because as soon as you don't trust, you can't trust anything. And then the world becomes a very scary place.

Forgive. You will be had. You will be hurt more than you can imagine. And whether you can find fault in yourself, someone else, or circumstances, you have to let it go. Blame is a sickening torture that will hurt you more than it will help. I have spent years of my life blaming people for the things they've done to me, and feeling hurt again and again and again. Some people naturally carry on as if nothing had happened. I'm not good at just shrugging things off and walking away, so I have trained myself to look at everyone from a compassionate perspective. Whether I understand it or not, there is always a deep-seeded reason for whatever has happened. It's not my fault and it's not theirs. It just is. The pain might still be there, but the blame doesn't have to be. And when you find yourself truly at fault - even for blaming others? Forgive yourself too.

Remember that you are loved and appreciated. It's easy to say that I will always love you. And you've heard it so often it probably sounds like background noise. I also know I didn't believe it when my mother told me the same thing. I thought, "yeah - but if you knew how bad I really am, you wouldn't love me anymore...". That was before I had children. Your Nana was right. She also told me that she never understood how much her mother loved her until the day she had me - and the enormity of the love surprised her. I don't know how to make you understand this. I wish I had understood it earlier myself, but it took my having my own children to even begin to grasp how big love really is. So I'll be patient. It's OK if you don't know how much I love you. I want you to go out and be independent, and I will give you a shove sometimes to get you going, but even if you don't feel it in your heart, please remember that in your parents you have a small army at your back, and ready to welcome you home to our embrace in a heartbeat - no matter what.

And you are still your own best friend. I accept that I will never know you as well as you know yourself. And you will - as I continue to do - seek all your life long to find people who truly see you and love you and put up with your beautiful uniquenesses. But none of them will ever know the exact moment that you need a hug. You have to go out and get that yourself. I will continue to try very hard to be there when you need me, but in the same way that a baby learns to self-comfort, you will learn to calm your own fears in the night, to pep-talk yourself before a performance or interview or date, and to look in the mirror and say 'it's going to be all right'. We'll still be the army at your back, but it's you out there on the front lines of your life.

Be you. And don't ever look back. Don't waste energy on relationships with people who make you feel worthless. You really will be OK without them. You come from a long line of people who keep struggling to be the person other people want us to be. Stop. OK? Just stop. It hasn't gotten me anywhere good. And you've seen the fallout in me, because this is something I still struggle with. I hate to say 'do what I say, not what I do' - I know that's not helpful, and you'll follow my actions more than my words, whether you want to or not. But I'm still working on this one. I've let go of friends and family because I couldn't be the person they wanted me to be, and it is still very painful. I can only hope that in seeing me struggle to make these changes, the journey is a little easier for you. You are both stunningly amazing just the way you are, and the way you will become. Please be that person. I am discovering people in my life who truly love me the way I am - and I know you will too.

Go outside. When all of the above are just way too heavy, get the hell out of there!! You don't have to struggle all the time! Remember those times I took you by the hand and just dragged you out into the woods? There are times when that is the only solution, and I don't regret it one bit, even though sometimes you screamed at me when I did it. Go take your own best-friend-self by the hand and take you outside. Sit under a tree, climb a tree, jump in the mud or the sand or the soggy old leaves or the ocean and just listen to the sound of the world. Feel the moss and the bark and the leaves and stones. Taste the air with all of your senses and just be there. Sometimes I take my camera with me, just so I feel like I'm being productive. Ha. Sometimes you have to trick yourself into being outside, but it's worth it. Just go.

Be patient. You never know what you are missing, while running by. I'm still terrible at this, so I set up systems to slow myself down. Sometimes I take other people with me outside, so that I have to wait for them, and in the process discover new things, and peace. I'm terribly impatient with other people. As you know, it takes your Pappa days, weeks, or years to answer questions or make decisions, and I've lost a lot of good times by constantly looking forward to what was ahead; egging and nagging him on instead of just loving where we were in the moment. You have both taught me a lot about patience, just by being my beloved children, and unfortunately, I think I am passing some impatience on to you. Hopefully I will learn patience better before you're grown.

Create. I don't care how you get creative, but do it. Whether you sing, dance, cook, fold carpets into origami or pancakes into drinking cups, expand your mind by playing with it. Creativity has saved my life more often than I really want to tell you.

Love. Thank goodness you are both proficient at this skill. Please ensure you don't lose it. Love can be frightening, and challenging, and just plain painful. Love can tear you to shreds. But if it couldn't, it wouldn't be worth it. Don't ever become afraid to love - everybody and everything. Even the people you would like to blame. Because love really is the answer to everything. Love will lead us through all of the other things I've just talked about. Love will hold us together when we're falling apart. It's life. It's God or religion or salvation, or whatever you want to call it. It's the one-dimensional strings that hold us all together, bound to each other and every other tangible and intangible thing in the universe. You, my beautiful children - in all the good times and the bad times we've known - you taught me that. Thank you.

Love, Mama.


1 comment:

  1. I am the most fortunate person. I am the mother of children who understand love. Thank you my darling.


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