Tag Archives: homeschooling

Even the GPS gets it wrong sometimes…

Royalty free image courtesy of Microsoft Office.

Halllloooo—anyone out there? Was this place been left abandoned? For how long? How did that happen? Seems the tornado whirlwind I just emerged from left a layer of dust on the keyboard and cobwebs have settled into the corners. I suppose it’s time to start rebuilding, which really means it’s time to face the music and get back to work on myself as a woman and this transitioning period of my life.

I’ve learned and relearned that living in hiding  denial has never worked well for me. After all, it’s not really living, is it? However, it is a lesson I’ve (apparently) needed to learn and relearn as I’ve just finished another session of remedial coursework–and I didn’t even know I had signed up for the class until I was almost at the final a couple of weeks ago. Let me explain…

As I’ve shared before, I began this blog to help me (and perhaps others) through the transition to the empty nest years. My approach to this blog and this transition has been primarily focused on preparation with reflection. I thought if I anticipated what I was likely going to feel and prepared myself, my relationship and my children for it, I’d be ahead of the game and would be able to ease into the empty nest years with “minimal tears and maximum joy.”

Then came my first-born daughter’s graduation from high school last month.

As I entered into the month of April, life got busy, crazy busy, as I wrote about in my last entry before disappearing from the blog-o-sphere. Like a car taking a turn too fast, I spun out of control and into the “land of distraction”. This is my favorite destination when I don’t want to face the feelings welling up inside. It offers a double edge sword: on one hand, I get super productive and finish lots of projects around the house, leaving me feeling pretty darn good about myself, and on the other hand, I don’t take time to address what I am really feeling and typically retreat from the people (like family and friends) and things (like writing) I love so that I’m not “accidentally” lulled into facing reality. I can play make-believe while painting walls, planting seeds, purging books, and denying the melancholy that swells as I sort through 18 years of photos for a graduation slide show. “Projecting” is my master disguise; I look like I’m handling everything well on the surface, but I’m paddling like crazy just trying to keep my head above water and the emotions buried deep. It’s not so easy to play “make believe” when I slow down and spend time with my journal, a close friend, this blog, or the reflection in the mirror.

Truthfully, I really did think I was handling the steps toward C’s graduation with ease.  Until I wasn’t. Tensions swirled and then dissipated, only to reemerge. Projects were checked off the list, more were added, and days passed in a blur. And though I was excited to celebrate this rite of passage for both my daughter and myself, I kept my head down and my hands busy so I wouldn’t have to think about what it really meant to graduate my first and the uncomfortable feelings that were swirling just below the surface.

In the big scheme of life, one might say it’s not such a big deal, particularly because my daughter has elected to stay at home next year and attend the local community college. (A choice she made last summer when she returned from Mongolia, and one I think is wise for her.) Perhaps, I over-reacted to the entire graduation “thing.” Perhaps.

Or, perhaps, being the control-freak that I am, I was surprised by the sadness I felt as I flipped through 18 years of photos. I thought I had gotten so far off track. All my planning and anticipating and blogging, and here I was swallowing tears and more than one bag of chips. My fingers traced images of C’s small figure as she played “ballerina” or counseled her little sister. I laughed over the memories caught on film, and sadness filled my heart with the knowledge that it all did pass by too fast. We had been warned. Perhaps, I had said this is no time for the “would have, should have, could have’s” so often, I really thought I could ignore the voices that whispered regrets in the darkness. As I opened box after box of photos, I saw smiles I hadn’t really seen when I snapped the photos, and the transformation of a little girl to a beautiful woman. And, when I finally sat down and allowed myself to feel while I looked at the photos, I saw something else…

I saw the changes in myself over the years. No, not just hairstyles, clothing styles, or weight. I was brought back to the days of young motherhood, when I was so scared. Among the snapshots of family vacations, there were photos of everyday mermaid parties, zoo visits, and craft parties. Stuffed in the boxes were tickets to the theater and others for train rides.  I saw not opportunities lost, but opportunities created and taken. When I allowed myself to look at the photos that captured my daughter’s first 18 years, I didn’t focus on the deepening wrinkles on my face or my graying hair, I focused on the memories that created a close family, reminding me I have done more right than wrong as a mother.

I’ll admit, I cried more than a few buckets of tears in the last month. Some have been tears of sorrow, but most have been tears of joy. About 2 months ago, as C and I drove home from a yoga class together, I pointed out how we are in similar places in life. She cocked her head in confusion and I explained that we are both standing before a blank chalkboard; we’re at launching points, the start of new chapters where new beginnings await us. There aren’t many times in life that slate is clean, so it’s best to start writing your own story before someone else decides to write it for you. Recently, my own words echoed in the quietness of the morning, and I rejoined the world of the living. I will continue to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned and relearned in the last month. I imagine many will appear in this blog as I set my eyes on the road ahead. I thought I had gotten off track, lost in sorrow, but I hadn’t; it was merely a necessary detour. Even the GPS gets it wrong sometimes.

And with that, I turn my focus to helping her transition to college life, her younger sister prepare for her high school sophomore year, and myself, for my next chapter. After all, I just graduated 50% of my students–gotta do something with that extra free time.

I have shared the video I made for C on my TM Facebook page (which I humbly admit has been equally neglected for the last 6+ weeks) with the hopes that you might be willing to open your own box of photos/memories and look not for opportunities lost, but memories created, and, in the event you don’t find what you’re hoping for, the freedom to give yourself a blank slate to start anew today.

It’s not about me. (Wednesday’s Wisdom)

As a mom, I often make the common mistake of assuming that every choice my child makes is either a positive or negative reflection of me. As a homeschooling mom, it’s been easy to get caught up in the idea that I am in not only control on my child’s future, I’m 100% responsible for it. Another mistake. I’m not. And, regardless of how rational my thinking may be (at times), I have to remind myself of this, regularly. This morning was no different.

This morning, I sat down with my soon-to-be high school graduate for a one-on-one. We have long used one-on-one’s to review best practices and successes, identify areas for improvement and set semester goals. (Yep, you can take the girl out of the corporate world, but she didn’t leave everything behind.)  It’s a useful tool for both my girls and myself because I often find areas that I can improve as a mother and a teacher while discussing the areas I feel they need to work on to prepare for college and “the real world.” As was usually the case with my employees, some one-on-ones are easier than others, but this morning’s was not one of them, for either of us.

As I sat with C, we reviewed her progress. She was ahead in some subjects and had slipped behind schedule in others. I took a deep breath. We talked about her volunteer commitments, her free-time, her self-discipline and reviewed goals for her second semester. We talked about her transition to college and her preparations. There have been decisions she has been procrastinating on and some she has simply ignored. I took another deep breath. Then, we talked about responsibility, choices, and fear.

I believe every child really wants to please their parents. I also believe every child is afraid they’ll disappoint their parents, even if they don’t show it.  And, every child wants to do “it” their own way, even when they don’t know which way that is. Mine is no different. She has been paralyzed by fear. Fear of disappointing me. Fear of failure. Fear of making a bad choice. She is my “pleaser”, in addition to being my highly imaginative, easily distracted, generous, literature-loving, political, bouncy ball. She likes to lead, but can become frustrated by the expectations that come with leading. She likes to give and help, but likes to “unplug” and be left alone. She has a gift for writing, is curious about anatomy and forensic science, likes art and old myths, and is a strong advocate for justice. And, as of this writing, she has considered no fewer than 2,134 different careers, but has yet to commit to one. OK, I exaggerate, though it’s certainly felt that way on some days, for me and for her.

There are times I’ve wanted to scream “Just make a decision!”, but I’ve held my tongue because I believe there is value in squirming. If children are handed every answer or are never given the opportunity to make mistakes, they won’t be prepared to fly when the time comes. They’ll never know they have the skills to soar if they’ve never had to rely on their own abilities. My daughter squirmed this morning. As her teacher, I praised her for the work she was doing well, and I was candid about the areas she needed to improve. As her mother, I pushed her to make the academic decisions she had been procrastinating on. I was prepared to give her a deadline, but I didn’t need to. All she needed to hear was that I was proud of her, regardless of which college or major she chose. She had been afraid of disappointing me. She thought she knew what she wanted to do but felt lost in the dark woods of insecurity and uncertainty. She was afraid she was supposed to “know it all;” what she wanted to do with her life and how to get there. I reminded her that she’s only 17 and that there are plenty older than 47 still trying to figure that out. A college choice, however, I could help with. I pointed her to some online tools, reminded her that I am here to support her, and that her choice is not about me. It’s her future.

She got to work, used the tools offered and made a decision. There is work yet to be done, and I will help her, if she asks. This is an important part of her journey in discovering who she is and what she wants her life to look like beyond my nest. In the next several months and years, she’ll be taking critical steps, her first steps in her own transition, away from me and my skirt hem towards her adult world. And I have no doubts, she’ll soar!

I often compare making life choices to selecting dinner from a Chinese menu. There are pages and pages of delectable choices and sorting through 20 different chicken choices alone can seem daunting, let alone the beef, pork, duck, vegetarian, and fish offerings. The choices are often overwhelming and paralyzing. And still, a choice has to be made if food is to be delivered and you don’t want to be kicked out for loitering. Life is no different. Sometimes, we all need a little help narrowing down the choices, but no one likes to be told which choice is “best for us” or the “right one” based on someone else’s taste buds. Therein lies the greatest challenge in parenting: staying out of the way as our children decide the choices that are right for them and their lives. I’ve squirmed often watching my children make choices that I don’t agree with. It’s been one of my toughest parenting dilemmas, but I’ve grown along the way. I have learned that making choices empowers a child, and empowered children become adults that can take care of themselves. I’ve also learned that a choice different from my choice doesn’t make it wrong; it makes it theirs. This morning, I watched C squirm as she sifted through the choices presented to her and she made her decisions. I watched the relief wash across her face when she learned she wouldn’t disappoint me by making a choice that made her happy. My girls both have to choose the paths that are right for them, and I need to allow them that freedom if we are to make this transition smoothly. After all, their choices shouldn’t be about me.

Do you struggle staying out of your child’s way as he/she makes “life decisions”?