Creating connections with Adoption Choices families

Posts tagged ‘teenagers’

Being Right

I like to be right.  I like it a lot.  When K was younger (and I knew things), that wasn’t a problem.  She had questions and I had answers.  It worked for us.

Now… not so much.  I still have answers but she’s not all that interested in hearing them.  Worse than that, K now has answers, maybe all the answers.   She also has feedback for me, lots of feedback.

K is taking a class on dogs so she has a lot of suggestions on how I can improve my dog ownership skills.  None of the suggestions involve her taking a more active role in the feeding, caring, or walking of said dog but rather how I can use her knowledge of canine behavior in my active role in dog feeding, caring, and walking.

K is also taking a class on natural resources and the environment.  She’s quite a theoretical expert on saving resources.  As I write this, she is probably thinking great thoughts about such things while having left a trail of lights on in all the rooms she’s visited today.

But it was the cell phone cord that really tested me.  On Monday, at around 5:45 am, she inhaled deeply and said “Mom, can I ask you something?”  For the uninitiated, the deep inhale meant that she was trying her hardest to be patient with me.  The “can I ask you something” was her attempt at politeness.  Without waiting for a reply, she pointed at my cell phone charger which was  plugged in with no phone connected to it.  “Can you please take your cell phone plug out of the wall when it’s done charging?  It wastes electricity if you don’t.”  Seriously?    I’m wasting electricity?  Because 5:45 am on a Monday is not my best time and because I’m the mother and I’m always right, we got into an argument over who leaves their phone charger in more often.  She went off to school and I was left staring at the plug thinking once again “that was not my best mothering moment.”

Tuesday, I walked by the kitchen plug and there was K’s charger still in the wall even though both K and her phone had left for school much earlier.  “See, I was right,” I said to myself, “She leaves her charger plugged in much more than I do.” Yesterday, there was her charger in the wall.  I thought about taking a picture for proof I was right but I remembered this incredible and short Ted Talk, 3 things I learned while my plane crashed, by Ric Elias.  Ric was on the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in 2009. Snippets from his 5 minute talk rattle around my brain and come to the forefront sometimes when I need them.    One of the lessons he shares is “I regretted the time I wasted, in things that did not matter, with people that did.”  I put my phone down and unplugged K’s charger.

“I no longer try to be right; I choose to be happy” is another quote from Ric’s talk.  This morning I noticed the charger just before K left for school.  I pointed it out to her and suggested that we both try and be better about unplugging it.  “Oh my gosh Mom, I’m so sorry.”  “No problem, let’s both just try to remember.  Have a great day.”  “You too Mom.”

“I no longer try to be right; I choose to be happy.”  I will make an effort to remember that every day.  It will be my New Year’s resolution.  Just sayin’, most of the time? I am right.

Looking for Sea Glass

It’s the perfect beach day.   Not too hot.  Not too cool.  Just the right amount of breeze.  Chair strategically placed.  Toes in the water.  Book open.  Total relaxation.

“Mom, want to go for a walk with me?”  I close the book and move the chair back up under the umbrella.  Of course I want to go for a walk.  If a teenager asks you to go for a walk, you go.

Off we go in search of sea glass.  You have to really concentrate to find sea glass on our beach so there’s not a lot of talking.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m happy to be walking with my girl.  I’m even happier that she’s happy to be walking with me.

Some days, all we find are rocks.  You think you’ve spied a piece of sea glass but it turns out to be a light white rock or a smooth shell.  On this particular day, we do well.  10 pieces in all – clear ones, green ones and a dark brown one.  We head back to the umbrella, chatting a little bit on our way.

It occurs to me that parenting a teenager is like looking for sea glass.  There are days that are all rock.  Rolling eyes, silence, sarcasm.  But there are the sea glass days.  The smile, the laugh, the genuine interest in what you have to say.

M and I are lucky or at least lucky so far.  We find a lot of sea glass in our girl.  K and M point out cars to each other.  They share a similar taste in movies.  K and I have started going to exercise classes together.  I know!  We go to Zumba together and I don’t embarrass her.  After our first class, she actually said “you did pretty good, Mom.”  And I want extra credit because I responded with an enthusiastic thank you rather than correcting her grammar.

Of course it’s not all magic.  I was recently making homemade cookies for K to take to a sleepover.   I didn’t really have time, but the girls like them so I made the time.  K walked in and asked me what was wrong.  “Nothing.  I’m just thinking”, I replied.  My darling daughter’s reaction? “No offense, Mom, but when you look like that you’re either thinking or you’re irritated about something.  And usually?  It’s the second one.”  Yeah, that was a rock.  The first clue was the “no offense” lead in.  Always a warning to duck.sea glass

So we take it one step at a time.  I relish the times we spend working on puzzles together.  Or when she says, “Hey Mom, want to go to a movie?” And did I mention the Zumba class?

Yeah, I’ll pick up that sea glass wherever and whenever I can find it.

What’s Your Super Power?

We’ve been on a super hero kick lately.  We’ve watched The Avengers, all three Iron Mans, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk.  They are the intersection in the Venn diagram of our movie tastes – enough action for K and M without being too scary or gross or stupid for me.  We also watched “The End of the World” together but I absolutely took one for the team there.

The great thing about a super hero is movie is not just watching it but dissecting it afterwards. For the record, K’s favorite character is Thor because he’s a god and M’s favorite is Hulk.  My favorite is Iron Man.  K maintains that Iron Man doesn’t count because his power is the suit but I vigorously disagree.  Besides, who doesn’t love Robert Downey, Jr.?

These discussions remind me of the endless conversations K and I had about super powers when she was little. Whenever she and I were in the car together, she’d pipe up from the back seat, “Mom, if you could have any super power, what would it be?”  I’d come up with something – super fast speed or x-ray vision and then K would talk for the duration of the ride about what her power would be and how she would use it.  She didn’t require any more input so I’d listen to the radio and she would talk and talk.  Then on our return trip, she’d ask the question again, I’d give an answer and off she’d go.  I guess K wanted to be really ready in case she ever got the opportunity to choose one.

We don’t talk about super powers in the car any more.  There are too many texts for K to answer for that but I’ve been thinking about them lately.  As the mother of a teenager, which super power would I choose?  In no particular order, I’d think the following would come in handy.

Teleportation – K goes to a high school that’s 45 minutes from our house.  She’s made friends with kids that live an hour or so away from us.  They are great kids and I’m really glad K has them in her life, but the two round trips today will take more than 4 hours out of my day.  Teleportation would definitely increase my efficiency and improve my gas mileage.

Listening – Note this power is not super human hearing; it is the ability to super listen.  Being able to listen to what a teenager is really saying would be super indeed.  For example, “Wanna watch TV?” might mean “I don’t really have anything to say to you but I’m okay being near you and isn’t that enough?”

Wisdom – This would grant me the power to know when to say something and when to keep my mouth shut.  To know when I’m setting realistic expectations and when I’m being too hard.  To know where to set the bar so that K accomplishes all that she can without making her feel good is never good enough.

Compassion – I’d like the power to remember how hard being a teenager can be.  It was hard in the dark ages when I was 15 and it’s exponentially harder today.  To remember that an awesome kid who for some reason can’t remember to put a dirty towel in the hamper is still an awesome kid.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

What We Can’t Fix

K and I had a recent conversation about homework that ended with me saying something like “You’re an awesome kid and I know that.  But you need to remember actions have consequences and you’re at an age where some of those consequences will be things I just can’t fix.”

K gave me a hug and walked away.  Out of nowhere, I remembered an incident with her bike when she was about four years old.  I was following behind her as she rode around our block.  It’s a safe neighborhood, all side streets, but on one stretch the drivers go pretty fast.  We were on that stretch headed toward the stop sign.  I knew she would stop but like always, I called ahead “stop at the stop sign!”  I watched in horror as she never slowed down and went right through it.  I started running and caught up to her on the other side.

 “Get off the bike”

“Mom, I tried to stop”

“Get off the bike”

“I tried to stop but I was going too fast”

“If you’re going too fast to stop, you are going too fast.  Get. Off. That. Bike.  Now.  Do you understand what could have happened to you?  Do you understand if someone hit you with their car, you could be so hurt, I couldn’t fix it?  Do you understand?”

She got off the bike and the tears started to fill her eyes.  “Mom, do you still love me?” Tears ran down my face as I held her.  I took a deep breath and said, “Of course I love you.  If you don’t remember anything else I’ve ever told you, remember this.  There is NOTHING that you could do, there is no mistake you could make that would EVER make me stop loving you. “

I wonder if kids realize that as parents our sole purpose isn’t to critique their lives by wielding a huge red Sharpie marker.  We don’t want our interactions with them to be those of the Grand Editor, circling this error and crossing out this one.  We are trying to give them the knowledge to make the right choice – to buckle that seat belt, skip that party, turn down that drink, avoid that boy, call for a ride instead of getting in that car – because the consequence of the wrong choice can’t be undone.

I guess the best we can do is to use the fine point marker or even a pen when possible.  And a reminder that there is no choice, regardless of consequence, that could ever make us stop loving them.  I told that once to the girl with the light-up sneakers riding a little pink bike with training wheels.  I better tell her again.  That, at least, is something I can fix.

The Ladybug Sandbox

It all started with the red ladybug sandbox.

K was 2 and I decided she needed a sandbox.  The ladybug was the perfect size – not too big, not too small – and K loved it.  She loved it before we even put sand in it.  She filled it with the little plant id tags from my garden, stepped in and started filling her bucket with plant tags.  I loved it because for the first time since K could move, I could sit.

We started going to playgrounds.  There was the sunny playground with the great train.  There was the wooden playground with the dog statue.  There was the Veres Street playground at Mom and Dad’s house.  We loved them all.  K enjoyed the climbing structures more than the swings but she always made time for the sandbox.  We packed a snack, sometimes lunch and stayed for hours.  The leaving was never fun but honestly leaving anywhere at that point in K’s life was a challenge.  And really, who wants to willingly leave a playground?

We decided to expand the offerings at home.  I did the research and declared that we needed to go with one of the more expensive choices because they marketed themselves as “splinter-free.”  What can I say?  I was a relatively new mom at the time.  I believed it was in my power to keep K’s life splinter-free not realizing that the required mulch underneath the play space would provide more than its share of splinters.  We started with a sandbox and climbing area and would ultimately add a swing set.  I can’t begin to count the hours we spent visiting playgrounds or using the masterpiece in the backyard.

But somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention, the swings in the backyard weren’t really for swinging anymore.  K and her friend G would sit on them and chat for hours but they didn’t swing.  They had gotten too big to go down the slide or climb in the fort.  But they loved to sit on the swings and talk out of earshot of the adults.  Visits to public playgrounds had stopped a while before.  We were too busy with other things.

The backyard playground began to show its age.  The ladybug sandbox was more pink than red and the lid hadn’t been opened in ages.  The mulch had been ground into the dirt and lost its battle with the weeds.  The girls realized there was just as much privacy in K’s bedroom and the swings stayed empty.

A neighbor’s granddaughter was having twins.  The baby’s arrival would make five children.  Could they use a swing set?  The neighbor came and looked at ours and thought this family would enjoy it.  Kids could climb on it and swing on it again.  We were thrilled they wanted to take it.  Yet,  I’m glad I was away the day they came to take it down.  You see, it was just yesterday that my girl was three and we sat on the steps and watched the men put it up.

K and I drove by the wooden playground the other day.  Or I should say the place where the wooden playground was.  The powers that be decided it was too old or too unsafe so it was taken down.  It was replaced with a much smaller, rubber/plastic kind of structure.  “I can’t believe they changed it, Mom.  That was a great playground.  Do you remember how we used to go there?”

Yes, K.  Yes.  I remember.

California Dreamin’

We’ve booked the flights and make the hotel reservations.  We’re off to California in February.  No, it’s not another trip to Napa for M and me, although that does sound delightful.  This time, the three of us will be heading to San Diego.

We’ll be staying in the same hotel from our last visit, the trip when K was born.  We’ll be doing a lot of the things we did the last time – Sea World, San Diego Zoo, the beach – and yes, we realize now those things are way more appropriate for a 14 year old than a newborn.    What can I say?  We were 3000 miles away from family and friends.  We did the best we could, and we all survived.  I consider that a success.

K isn’t sure if she wants to see the hospital, but as with most everything on this trip, it’s her call.  Honestly, I’m not sure I want to see it either.  Yes, I clearly remember walking out of that hospital with the world’s greatest gift.  Yet I can never forget the girl, not much older than my K is now, who walked out with nothing.  But, if K wants to go, we go.  This is her trip, not mine.

We almost went last year but then the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in Orlando and that took precedence over San Diego.  That decision sums up the place adoption holds in our lives now.  K determines its frequency and importance and we respond accordingly.  We’re a long way from the days when I obsessed over how to respond to people who told me K looked like me.  Should I respond immediately that K was adopted?  Should I wait til I get to know them better?  Is a simple “thank you” appropriate?

Adoption is the way K joined our family.  Although we are forever thankful for that, it does not define us.  We will visit her birthplace and we will remember those terrified thirty-somethings who had waited forever and then become parents overnight.  We will remember waking up in the hotel each morning relieved we had kept K alive for one more day.  We will remember the flight back home with a two-week old.  And we will remember how we become the awesome family that we are.

For Good

 “I’ve heard it said
that people come into our lives for a reason
bringing something we must learn.
For Good from Wicked

 It’s been another great summer.

There is, of course, the food.  We love the return each year of the summer seafood extravaganza of lobsters, steamers and oysters.  It’s probably odd how proud I am of the fact that my girl loves oysters, but I am.  There is the bounty from my garden, tomatoes, basil and cucumbers, bursting from what has to be the scrappiest looking garden in MA.

We love the visits to the beach house from family and friends.  Fun in the waves, rock collecting, hanging on the porch, and more food.

And K had a blast at Circus Smirkus camp.  She calls it a place where “everyone can just be themselves.”  So glad we found that oasis for her in VT.  We also got to enjoy K’s performance in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”  Kudos to the folks at the Performing Arts Center in Framingham for pulling together such a quality performance in only three weeks!

But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be K’s and my visit to NYC to see “Wicked.”   We decided several years ago to take a trip by ourselves each summer.  The first trips were to amusement parks but after last summer’s trip to see “The Lion King”, we’ve changed our focus to an annual excursion to Broadway.  I love the alone time with her focused entirely on fun.  We take the train, have dinner, spend a night, and get some shopping in but the highlight is the show.  Some of you may recall that K and I sing “Defying Gravity”  from time to time so we were especially looking forward to this year’s performance and hearing “our song.”

And Elphaba rocked it.  Nailed it.  Killed it.  Feel free to fill in the amazing phrase of your choice.  Watching the actress raise up on her broomstick while belting out that song was truly awesome.  But it was a song near the end of the show that really got me.  I had heard “For Good” before and recognized the beautiful song.  But hearing Elphaba and Glinda sing it while on a date with my beautiful daughter gave the words special meaning.

“And we are led
to those who help us most to grow
if we let them
and we help them in return.

 Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
because I knew you”

I honestly don’t know who I’d be today without you K.  It’s not just that I’m someone’s mother, and there certainly was a time when being anyone’s mother was far from certain.  I am who I am because I’m your mother and being your mother is the greatest joy of my life.

And yes, we got the “Wicked” soundtrack.  And yes, we still sing “Defying Gravity”, but “For Good” makes a great duet too.  I try not to read too much into the fact that I have the Wicked Witch part.

 Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
changed for the better
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good.

Down is Optional. Up is Mandatory.

I’ve just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon with my sisters.   For part of the time, my younger sister, L, and I hiked to the bottom down a strenuous 7.5 mile trail.  After two nights in the Phantom Ranch bunk house, we hiked back up a 10 mile trail.  Our companions on the hike were two experienced guides and three other hikers.  The guides were incredible — knowledgeable, funny, and all-around great guys, exactly what you’d hope for in this situation.  The surprises were our other travelers – an 82 year old man, his 70-something wife, and their 64 year old friend.

If I had seen these three at the rim of the Canyon, I’d never have looked twice.  I would have assumed they were with some bus tour, checking out the Canyon from the top while waiting to eat the Early Bird Special.  Instead, I had the pleasure of their company for three days and had the opportunity to learn their stories.  I learned the 64 year old has been everywhere.  Every time an opportunity comes along, she seizes it with both hands.  Her 70-something friend is an avid tennis player.  The 82 year old enjoys mountain biking and his IT job.  Oh, and I should mention that last year he hiked to the bottom and back in the same day!

We began our hike out at 4:30 am in the pitch dark.  By 8:30, the thermometer read 115 degrees.  For much of the trek, the 82 year old was in the lead.  For the last three miles, he walked with a broken shoe – the glue holding the sole to the rest of the shoe failed in the heat.  I assure you the hike was tough enough with intact boots, I can’t imagine doing that last stretch in a broken one.  But our elderly friend didn’t utter a single word of complaint and kept moving forward.  When we reached the rim at 2:15, we all hugged each other tight, overjoyed at our accomplishment and our pride in each other.

L and I said our goodbyes to the group.  The man told us we were “kick a** hikers and good girls.” I told him he was an inspiration.

We walked away and I began to contemplate how powerful an experience this trip had been.  I am proud of rising to the physical challenge of it all but also learned so much else in those three days.  As K begins high school in the fall, I’m hoping I can impart at least some of this knowledge to her.

Some things can be summed up by the classics – “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is one.  “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” (especially in 115 degrees!) is another.

But there were new lessons:

“Down is optional.  Up is mandatory” – from a sign about a half mile down the Bright Angel trail warning would-be hikers of the challenges that lie ahead.   K is reaching the age where I can’t fix her mistakes for her.  She needs to learn that if she goes down a path she’s got to be able to handle the consequences.

“Reclaimed waste water, do not drink” – from a sign over a toilet at the top of Bright Angel trail.   You’d think a sign like this one wouldn’t be necessary but our guides assured us if there was a warning about something, it was because people had actually done it.  I’d like K to realize that people, smart people, can do really stupid things so it’s important to stop and think before following along.

“Hiking the Canyon is like eating an elephant.  You take it one bite at a time” – said by one of our guides as we trudged to the top.  I hope that K also learns the pride of taking on a challenge so big that you can only accomplish it by taking one bite at a time.

“The typical profile of someone bitten by a rattlesnake here at Grand Canyon is male 18 to 25 and there’s usually alcohol involved” said by a Park Ranger.  I think that one speaks for itself, K.

Lastly, I want her to know that even though she may think her mom can be embarrassing and boring, there’s a 82 year old superstar out in Arizona who knows that her mom is a kick a** hiker and a good girl.  And her mom is proud to be both.

Defying Gravity

Thirteen is better than three.  I know I’m in the minority here but I’m sorry, it’s true.

While trying to weather K’s three year old tantrums, I was terrified of thirteen.  The nastiness, the sullenness.  If I thought three was hard, how could I possibly survive thirteen?

We’re nine months in at this point and we’re doing okay.  Don’t get me wrong.  As my dad used to say, “It’s not all steak and ice cream.”  K has been known to roll an eye or two.  On more than one occasion, I have been accused of ruining her life.  There have been several homework incidents that have ended with stomping up the stairs to her room.  I have been known to channel my mom’s voice with an incredulous response of “who do you think you are?” to said stomping.  Yeah, it’s not any more effective now than it was when my mom was saying it.

And, there’s certainly stuff I miss about three.  How her face would light up like the brightest star when I picked her up at pre-school.  How she would run to me squealing “Mama!” whenever I returned, no matter how long I’d been gone.  How this whirling dervish of a child could sit forever snuggled next to me while I read to her.

But… I like thirteen better.  I realized this a few weekends ago.  K and I were heading home from a performance of The Nutcracker and the Glee version of “Defying Gravity” came on the radio.  She suggested we sing the duet.  She’d sing Rachel’s part and I could have Kurt’s.  Inside, I thought “Seriously?  You’re asking me to sing with you?” but my reply was “Sure!”  So there we were, driving down the Mass Pike belting out the tune at the top of our lungs.

“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game”

I stumbled on a few of the verses.  I didn’t go near that high F at the end.  But, we sounded okay.

Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!

“Again?” she asked.  “Absolutely!” I replied.

I’m through accepting limits
cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!

Now, any time we’re alone in the car for any distance, we sing Defying Gravity.  I don’t think we’re ready for a spot on any of the singing reality shows but we think we sound great.  I’m sure there’ll come a time when I’ll suggest it and K will roll her eyes and that will be the end.  But for now, we may be pulling apart but we still have a way to find our way back.

I’d sooner buy Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!”

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