I’ve really felt a shift in parenting in recent months. I’m no longer the parent of young kids. I don’t do crafts, plan elaborate activities for a rainy afternoon, or take my kids to see children’s plays. I don’t go on popsicle walks or puddle walks or to story time at the library. I don’t pick up legos and doll clothes at night. My kids don’t need to hold my hand and sometimes they even go on adventures without me.
I am the parent of older kids. We go to the library and each wander our own way until we come together to show each other our selections. We go out to eat more often. We go on dunes hikes and long bike rides. I stay up late at night waiting for everyone to get home.
It’s different. Not bad mind you, just different. Part of me misses all the little kid action but more of me is enjoying all the new adventures I can now do with my kids.
For Mother’s Day we went on a short trail walk and out to lunch in a nearby Lake Michigan beach town. At lunch there was a table next to us with a younger family – three little kids. It made me smile to watch them all clamor for mom’s attention – both because those days are golden and because they are so tiring. I smiled because I was sitting at my table with a beer and older kids who can cut their own food and don’t need to announce something to me every 30 seconds. It’s a good phase of parenting for sure. Still… I knew that mom was going to have kids crawl into her lap later that day and ask to read a book. And I miss that.
So after lunch when we walked down to the beach and this immediately happened…. well, it made my heart happy to see that my older kids are still kids at heart. (even if they don’t ask me to read aloud to them anymore)
I’m having one of those weeks as a parent that aren’t so fun. We had to have a hard conversation with one of the kids about commitment and effort. We all walked away feeling a little beat up afterwards. (Though I’m sure said child feels like the parents did not feel bad at all… I probably would have felt that way were the roles reversed.)
The lingering after affects involve a bad attitude, curt responses and some definite snark. One of those snarky comments surprised me and made me think “THAT’S what was taken away from our conversation???” THAT wasn’t the intent. And as a communicator I can’t get that out of my head – I must not have communicated clearly enough. (Or we acknowledge that I was communicating with a teen and that’s a whole different animal.)
And then I got to thinking…. what are the things that stayed with me from past constructive criticisms?
There’s always going to be a filter when people are trying to tell us how to do something better. It’s hard to take criticism. The times that I’ve been able to do so with grace have been good learning experiences. The other times (the many other times), still make me angry. Sometimes angry at myself. The ability to learn from criticism and make positive changes is a hard lesson to learn and like many of life’s hard lessons, it often has to come from a parent first.
But that doesn’t make it any fun for any of us. I need a drink…
My oldest is a junior in high school and we’ve encouraged her to be proactive about her college search. We’ve taken all the kids to college campuses whenever we’re nearby for “unofficial” visits. We think that the more colleges you see, the easier it will be to know when you’ve found the right place for you. After all, college is a place where you will grow both academically and mentally. It is the place where you will start to forge your own path and create your own identity – all of that is an important part of the college experience. That’s why I think it’s important to find a place where you can comfortably explore and grow.
Two years ago my daughter was all about going to college far, far away (oh the words that my teenage self uttered came back to haunt me many times). But when faced with the realities of paying for college, she came to realize that staying in-state is best. We are lucky to live in a state with many good, world-renowned universities – and it’s hard to beat paying in-state tuition for that kind of education.
Over the past year she and I have started going on college visits. I want her to have plenty of time to explore, re-visit and learn what colleges have to offer her. But last week was a first. Last week, we visited my alma mater: Indiana University.
My 17 year old self did not want to go to IU – to an in-state school with so many others from my high school. (and my 17 year old daughter has those exact same feelings) However, once I saw the campus I knew that it would be okay. It’s a beautiful place. Big and sprawling. Filled with thousands of people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. Meadows, creeks, bridges and arboretums are all a part of daily life walking to class. As are hearing different languages and meeting new people. A school as big as IU is not for everyone, but it was a great place for me to take my first steps into adulthood.
I don’t know yet if it will be the same for my oldest, though she did indeed fall in love – even though she wasn’t expecting to, in fact was resisting the thought. As I watched her walk around campus on the very same paths that I walked so many years ago, I had the weirdest sensations. I remembered so many of my thoughts and feelings of that age and knew that I never, ever considered what it would feel like to lead my daughter around that campus. To look around and see how she fits in and how many opportunities are surrounding her. To sit down at Nick’s and have a beer while we talked about what she wants to do next. (Well I had a beer, she had a lemonade.) My college looks a whole lot different through these eyes.
Lately I’ve felt like I’ve crossed into a new parenting phase. My youngest will leave elementary school this year and I very much feel as though I’m officially the parent of older kids now. I’ve left the fun, busy, exploring days of parenting young children behind. I’m entering the fun, busy, awe-striking days of helping my kids find their paths. It’s pretty cool.
I’ve been missing free writing each morning. I’ve never been very good at keeping a paper and pencil journal but I was pretty good about writing here for years. I had a few people read along with me – which is fun – so now, after ignoring this blog for months (and months) I think I’ll try to get back to writing each day.
I owe my kids some birthday posts so I’ll try to get to those soon. I might also start posting some recipes again because I’ve found myself using my blog in the kitchen when I need to remember a favorite meal or two. It’s easier to find recipes on here than in my messy recipe binders! In the meantime I’m going to try and write at least a few times a week. Just like before, I’ll be writing whatever comes to mind – running, ranting, raising kids…
Another blog that I enjoy (Runninghood) is also trying to get back in the writing habit and she is focusing many of her posts on gratitude and intentions. I have often written about small moments of gratitude but I don’t think I’ve written about intentions. Not large scale intentions – just intentions for my day. I really like the idea of starting my day focusing on good things and clear intentions:
This morning I am grateful for…
- Blue skies and warm sunshine (they rarely feel as good as they do after a long cold winter)
- A day with plans to see a friend
My intention for the day: to act with focus. I’m taking two days off this week for college visits with my oldest and the to-do lists each day this week have been mighty ones. I need to stay focused and productive so I can really enjoy the next two days and a busy weekend after that.
I’ve trained for and run two marathons. I completely understand the focus and hard work it takes to get to that finish line. I know all to well how all-consuming 26.2 miles can be for months at a time. And I wholeheartedly believe that reading articles and hooking up with other marathoners can be a HUGE support system during training. HUGE.
But when did all the running blogs become marathon blogs?
Why did people stop talking about running just for the joy and strength of running? What ever happened to running WITHOUT a training plan? Where are the runners who are out there logging miles, getting stronger, putting their all into the miles but not racking up 16, 18, 20 mile runs?
How about the half marathoners? The no-way-in-hell-ever-gonna-run-a-race-with-marathon-in-the-title runners? The runners who are signing up for the occasional 5k or 10k just for fun? The don’t need to race, just want to run runners?
I’m not necessarily talking about the individual’s blog who is currently training for a marathon. That person’s blog is likely about more than marathons and just dominated by the topic for a few months. I get that. It’s good. I’m talking about the blogs that have become running publications (because that’s what they are – online publications with huge readership). And suddenly these publications are raising the marathon up to such heights that the rest of us (or just me) are left behind.
It’s certainly inspiring to read about a person lacing up and making the marathon go from a dream to reality. But I’m at a point where it would be inspiring to hear from someone who just likes running and isn’t slogging through a training plan. Someone who shares the joy of a trail run or the conversation they had when they took a walk break (gasp). I’d love it if my blog feed stopped having the word marathon in 50% of the titles.
Maybe I’m just being grouchy and I need to unfollow a few blogs. But I feel a little like the lonely voice in an echoing room… Hello?? I like to run too! Sometimes I train for longer races but sometimes I like to walk and swim and ride my bike. It would be nice to find something that talks about the casual exerciser who sometimes trains for big races but always wants to be healthy.