Category Archives: Inspired Transitioning

Whole Mama’s Wisdom

One of my dearest friends, Amy, came to me via the same path many friends have–my daughters. She is smart, witty, a touch acerbic, challenging, outspoken, honest and enjoys a good glass of wine as much as I do. She is 6 years my junior, the mother of six, a bit germ-a-phobic and a terrific writer. We are similar in enough ways to cement a deep bond, and different enough to chafe the other into an occasional rash, if not real growth.

Almost 6 years ago, our oldest daughters met while waiting in line for the 7th grade to begin. Roughly 6 weeks later, I met Amy at the birthday party she hosted for her oldest, Emily. In the last (almost) half-dozen years, we have supported each other through it all: deaths, moves, hormone changes, teenage dramas, job losses, etc. And, we have celebrated each other’s successes. (Did I mention she’s been published in the Wall Street Journal, writes for World Magazine and a personal blog, http://www.wholemama.com , and is finishing a book?) In best friends’ fashion, together we cry, we rejoice, we support, we laugh (a lot), and we learn from each other. (I probably learn more from her than she from me, but sshhhhh–I might end up chafing. 🙂 )

This past weekend she passed through not one, but two, of the most significant transitions any mother can pass through; Emily married and left the nest. Now, before you do the math and cry foul about “too young to marry,” hear me out. Better yet, hear the mother-of-the-bride out.  I did and I was humbled by the love and grace she offered her daughter during this transition, a transition no less emotional for her than it was for her daughter.

In the last year, Amy and I had talked about the budding, and increasingly serious, relationship forming between Emily and the boy she had met through church. He is a good man, the kind she had hoped her daughter would one day find. We had talked about the likelihood they would eventually marry. What we hadn’t talked about was a wedding occurring only weeks after Emily’s high school graduation. Nonetheless, in the last two months, there was a proposal, an acceptance and, with a fast approaching departure date for the Air National Guard’s basic training, a wedding.

I wondered how Amy could do it; how could she allow her first-born to marry so quickly, so young? Didn’t she know the statistics? Didn’t she worry? Silly questions to pose to any mother, really. Of course she worries; she’s a mother. And yes, she knows the statistics. But, more importantly than statistics, she knows her child.

Was the timing ideal? Who knows? What Amy did know, and generously shared with me, is that she had the choice of rebuking her daughter’s choice and permanently damaging their relationship, or coming along side Emily as she made a life decision in the way she always has, as mentor, cheerleader, and counselor. Amy and Emily have been blessed with a beautifully close mother-daughter relationship. It has been nurtured in no small part by Amy’s willingness to give her daughter ample room to spread her wings, celebrating with her in success and offering a soft place to land in times of disappointment. She offered no less upon the news of a her daughter’s engagement.

Although I was a decade older than Emily when I married, my parents doubted my choice. They often struggled when their children made choices different from theirs. (Somewhere around my 12th anniversary, my father conceded that I may have gotten it right.) Though my father walked me down the aisle and he stood with my mother when asked “Who gives this woman to this man?” I still remember the hurt I felt knowing they did not fully support me that day. Even though I knew their concern was rooted in love, shadows of that pain lingered for several years.

As a parent, I now better understand their desire to protect their child from the potential pain of bad choices. However, as I once told my mother, if I make mistakes, they are my knees to skin. In the last 4 weeks I stood in awe as Amy released her first from the nest and into marriage. Regardless of personal concerns, and barring moral conflict, here was a mother supporting her daughter, valuing relationship over opinion, transitioning gracefully as her first left the nest. Might there be skinned knees along the way? There might be–but I have no doubts her mama will be there to help Emily through those days, too.

Thank you, Amy, for sharing so openly, for being the example of grace and love in a time of transition. May I remember your example when mine step out into the world.

On her way to the chapel, Amy shared some thoughts about early marriage and “completed books.”  Click on the links below to glean more wisdom from a Whole Mama.

http://online.worldmag.com/2011/07/21/is-early-marriage-doomed/

http://www.wholemama.com/2011/07/the-book-cest-finis/comment-page-1/#comment-15243

Hush–don’t speak. Just listen.

A couple of years ago I began doing something I hadn’t done since, well honestly, the toddler years; I began reading  parenting books. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Gone are the books about diapers, bottles and tantrums. My shelves now bulge with volumes dedicated to the varied methods of parenting teens, the years when tantrums are relabeled as “rebellion.” Some books have become fire-starter, while others have offered me solid, practical wisdom . I would include my latest read, Please, Stop the Rollercoaster! How Parents of Teens Can Smooth Out the Ride, by Sue Blaney, in the latter category.

I am still working through the pages, highlighter and pencil in hand. However, in Chapter 3, “Improving Communication,” I was so touched by the poem, “Please Don’t Say Anything, Just Listen,”  I shared it with my kids and asked for their opinions. Both really liked it, saying it reflected how they have often felt. The poem gave me insight. Their responses gave me pause.

“Hush–don’t speak. Just listen,” I was reminded. It’s the first rule of the “speaker-listener” technique of communication. It’s what I stress to my kids when helping them resolve arguments. Still, I can tend to jump in when approached by someone with a dilemma. I see the problem. I think I have the answers. I like to help. I want to help. Really, I want to fix–especially where my children are concerned. However, my children are not broken. They do not need to be “fixed,” nor do they need their feelings dismissed when I charge in with a solution. When they come to me, they are maturely seeking  counsel,  and I cannot give wise counsel if I have not truly heard them. If I want them to listen to me, I must first listen to them. Afterall, don’t we all just want to be heard–not fixed or dismissed?

Please Don’t Say Anything,
Just Listen

Listen
When I ask you to listen to me,
And you start giving me advice
You have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me,
And you begin to tell me why I
shouldn’t feel that way,
You are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me,
And you feel you have to do
something to solve my problems,
You have failed me, strange
as that may seem.
Listen: All that I ask is that you listen,
Not talk or do–just hear me.
When you do something for me
That I need to do for myself,
You contribute to my fear
and to my feelings of inadequacy.
But when you accept as simple fact
That I do what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
Then I can quit trying to
convince you
And go about the business
Of understanding what’s behind
my feelings.
So please listen and just hear me.

And if you want to talk,
Wait a minute for your turn–
and I’ll listen to you.
                      — Anonymous

 
Now, when one of my girls approaches with a problem, I ask, “Are you looking for guidance or do you just need a sounding board?” Or, at least I try to. When I do, it does help. Communication with teens is tricky business. It is often charged with emotions leading me to jump in. I offer unsolicited advice, but I am learning they will share significantly more the longer my mouth is closed and my ears are open. And for that, I am thankful.

As I glean more from the pages of Blaney’s book, it will probably appear in my ramblings here. However, if you would like to peruse the pages on your own, you can visit her website at: http://pleasestoptherollercoaster.com/blog/

 
 
 

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