God blessed us with an awesome long weekend visiting our youngest at college. The flights were smooth, the family time precious, and the weather…warm and sunny!
“Give thanks with a grateful heart.” Henry Smith
God blessed us with an awesome long weekend visiting our youngest at college. The flights were smooth, the family time precious, and the weather…warm and sunny!
“Give thanks with a grateful heart.” Henry Smith
A couple of months ago, I saw the post below and I thought it was quite true. In recent days, I’ve been pondering just which “generation” the image is talking about. Sure, teens are featured here and we usually refer to them and young adults when talking about excessive phone use. But recently, I watched a senior citizen use social media with the addiction of a 15-year old.
I was sitting at a NHL game, which was a real privilege to be enjoying the game with my son and husband. Our son had surprised us with tickets the day he arrived home for spring break.
Seated directly in front of me, one row down was a grey haired man with a few friends. He was wearing a hockey jersey, so I assumed he must be a devout hockey fan who would really be into the game like the rest of us.
Instead of watching the game, he watched his cell phone…placing it in and out of his jeans pocket no less than 30 times during the course of the 3-hour game (or at least it’s my best guess). At first, I thought it was great that he must be giving friends game updates, or maybe texting with his grandkids(?) about the game. Perhaps it was because he actually bothered to put the phone back into his jeans pocket every. single. time. after using it for a minute that I was really distracted when the puck was on our end of the ice. Arena seats are tight after all, and you can’t help but notice each other’s business. The dude’s shoulders nearly touched my knees.
Every time my eyes followed the puck back down our way, the guy’s fingers were perusing Snapchat and Instagram. Sending Snaps. Liking posts. Again and again and again. The speed of his fingers scrolling…the dexterity…really quite impressive! I couldn’t tell you what was being snapped or sent or liked. I wasn’t looking for the details. I just noticed a blur of constant motion involving the phone.
Of course there was plenty of time that I was engrossed in the game or chatting with my son and wasn’t stalking the guy’s phone use. But when the continuous shifting of his body to put the phone back away did distract me, the above image of teens documenting their happenings came to mind more than once.
I did a quick internet search of technology and phone use for adults 65 and over. This not-so-official research focused upon “the best cell phones for seniors” and “best apps for older people”. I think the youngins writing the articles need to start hanging out with us 50yr olds and definitely the 65 and over crowd before writing their next post. The half-century and over demographic is using many of the same apps and cell phones as the millennials.
I caught a few minutes of a news segment recently where a 73-year old grandmother asked her daughter-in-law how she could stay more connected to her grandchildren who were now in their teens. The daughter-in-law told her to text daily and get on social media. The woman was crazy about her grandkids and was happy to go upgrade her phone to accommodate her new apps.
I’m the first in a conversation to promote “old school” things like real books with touchable pages. I’m all about sitting together and playing actual games, not connecting on game apps via my phone. But, for those of us who’ve been around this planet awhile, we can’t deny that there has been a tectonic shift requiring some form of technology in virtually every aspect of human existence. We might initially balk at the changes and vow to “disconnect”, but even the most die-hard anti-technology people I know have joyfully embraced digital cameras and tossed film. They’ve also been forced to purchase ovens and washing machines with all-digital headboards. Even if we avoid constant technology in our personal life, working almost anywhere demands software proficiency.
The next time I’m tempted to give a bad rap to the young adults whose phones might as well be an additional limb, I’ll no doubt think of the hockey guy and remind myself that no demographic is completely excluded from our virtual attachment.
Photo is found in multiple locations online so photo credit goes to the Internet at large. Click image for one of the many locations.
Nearly three months ago, I walked through the brisk November air into the sliding glass doors of the airport, traveled up the escalator and stood outside security, waiting for my youngest to get off the plane. It was two days before Thanksgiving and my hands had not been on my baby girl in 88 days. It was the longest separation ever, me feeling impossibly emotional, despite that we speak, text and facetime every day. It’s just not the same as hugging and being in the same house.
With each new wave of people rounding the corner through the glass hallway, my heart leapt and my eyes grew wet.
I missed her something awful. I see my older two because their universities are within driving distance, but it was too long since I had seen my youngest.
A girl in a ponytail wearing a college backpack turned the corner and my heart leapt again – then fell – when I realized it still wasn’t her.
A little boy ran past the security guard and toward his grandma’s waiting embrace next to me. I silently prayed, Oh Lord, when grandchildren arrive someday, please let my children and their children all live near us…preferably next door ;~).
Washing bedsheets, putting turkey-themed socks on their dressers and cooking family-favorite foods…the days of anticipation finally ended. The second she turned the corner she waved through the glass and hastened her steps toward me. I vowed not to cry but she threw herself into my arms which quickly circled her slim athletic frame, and I couldn’t speak. Tears flooded my face and I squeezed her tightly. I kissed her cheeks and her eyes smiled at me, her words bringing more tears. “I missed you so much Mama…”
Last year my older daughter spent her junior year in a bustling – thankfully also a safe and very nice – area of New York City. For breaks and long weekends, I waited to pick her up at train stations and airports. As I stood watching the various people disembark from their transportation, I reflected on how I have never been on planes as frequently as the kids have been. Much of the going away is very, very good for them. They have been forced to handle situations that without a doubt, my husband or I would have taken care of swiftly for them if they lived at home. Heck, most of the experiences would not have occurred at all had they stayed home and commuted to college (as I did throughout my entire college career). Some of the situations were unpleasant, but life was an excellent teacher. Their greatest lessons and growth occurred outside of the classroom.
During the kids’ breaks, the full nest is a joy (and of course, sometimes annoying), and now that my twins are seniors, the holiday breaks remind me that these are adults, despite my continued reference to them as my “baby ducks”.
At 4am the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the painful alarm rang, announcing the required departure back to the airport.
Thankfully, I only waited 15 days until my youngest was about to again ‘round the corner and I stood outside security, not feeling nearly as emotional as when I waited 88 days. This time, all three of them would be home over a month.
The day before, I had cleaned their bathroom and put up the Christmas shower curtain. As the rag hung in my hand and the smell of cleanser filled the air, I reminded myself that secure, confident kids grow up and start doing their own thing. I’ve been told we are supposed to feel accomplished and proud of ourselves when we reach this point. I am proud of them and they are accomplished, but I have never felt more un-accomplished.
While raising children, there are a million little accomplishments…interesting middles with satisfactory endings. Planning birthday parties or end of season sports gatherings…watching them eat meals together and sharing stories at the table…going to the rinks and fields…weekend outings. Completing a book together when they are young or watching them deliver a speech when they are older (that you sat through 20 times before they gave it)…each gave me tremendous joy and satisfaction. I felt accomplished.
In between their physical coming and going in and out of the nest, I have increased volunteering, have plenty of girlfriend time, bible studies and winter walks with my husband. We now have “TV shows” and I’m actually finishing books cover to cover ;). I’ll admit that quieter hasn’t been terrible. It’s all truly blessed and I am thankful. But adding more new things or extra time spent on old things do not replace an entire lifestyle.
An acquaintance of mine looks at me with a mix of complete confusion and sympathy as I reference the heart-upset of the coming and going during the college years. Two years ago, she told me she was counting the days – literally had a countdown like you do at Christmas – counting the days until her youngest would join the oldest at college and get out of the house. I thought she would feel differently when the house was actually empty, but she does not.
Those of my friends who prioritized their careers while raising their children are faring much better with their emptying nests. Although I’ve always been an adjunct professor, it’s vastly smaller than the 50-hour work weeks while climbing to VP, where the bulk of their life’s energy built an entire existence outside of their households.
It’s only been a little over a year with all three away at universities so I keep saying I’m running a little late to the party of parents who are celebrating their emptying nests. Perhaps I’ll revisit this topic again in June after my twins move home after graduation. I may not be feeling nearly as nostalgic (wink).
The truth is, throughout the “coming and going” over four years, they’ve grown and changed, and so have we. Parents must learn to navigate the “babies” we raised who are now almost full “grown-ups”. Even when they move back home, for however long that will last, “family life” will not be as it was. Just as the school years were different from the toddler years, and high school different from middle school, the dynamic will change yet again. Not worse or better, just a new chapter in this ever-updating book of life.
While I stand in the airport this afternoon to pick up the baby duck for spring break, I’ll be thinking about these comings and goings. Reminding myself that it does get easier, and as they evolve, so must I.
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I read this quote recently and thought of my kids who are all really good at “play”, even though they are now in their early 20’s. They are all playing college sports. The girls still play Just Dance together when they are home and dance until sweat drips down their beautiful faces. My son (gently) swings a golf club in the house and wanders around with a hockey stick in his hand! He is always trying to get guys together to throw a ball or play ice hockey when he’s home.
Over the holidays, when I was with my own kids, other 20-somethings and little ones, I played. I’m good at play when my kids are home on breaks. I sing (really poorly-pretending I’m an opera singer!), play cards, board games, play in the snow, visit the indoor golf range, dance with them and engage in other fun activities.
When my kids are away, I do not play. (Nice rhyme, huh? :)) It’s been hard to play the same when they are not around.
Why? Well, the first thing I could come up with is that we tend to be utterly ourselves in the presence of those we live with. We goof off with our bed-head hair and laugh without the ever-present self-consciousness we possess outside of the house. I am most comfortable with them. They are also fun people, so it’s easier to have fun when people are fun.
I had invited a few women over for an evening visit recently and I suggested we play a game. To my joy, they agreed and we ended up laughing and having a good time. After that, I had over some friends and we did a girls movie night. I realized that I need to start generating some “play” on my own since these kids of mine are spending less and less time in the nest.
Some adults are great at play, while others not so much. Many set aside time for weekly game night, poker night, couples night out or whatever. I just haven’t figured out my space yet. I’m better with the empty nest in recent months, but I’m still figuring out a few things, including my play time :).
One lesson I’ve learned is that half of “play” is getting it right in my mind. If “this” isn’t done, then I have no business playing. Wrong mindset. The chores, to-do lists, obligations…they never end. I have also learned to relax more with others, permitting myself to have real fun – absent kids. Play must be prioritized and not thought of as a luxury.
Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, reminds us that play “takes us out of a sense of time and place”. Source. As an adult, I tend to watch “time” more than necessary.
How often do we see kids jump out of the pool, run up to the house and ask, “Is it time to finish my chores? Should I get out of the pool to vacuum? Organize the basement?”
Kids are often unaware of time because they are enjoying themselves. Part of restructuring my life as a Mama whose nest is a little quieter these days includes giving myself permission to lose track of time…
As long as Moses held up his hands, Israel prevailed; but when he lowered them, Amalek prevailed. When Moses’ hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on each side, so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his army with the sword.…
Just like Moses, I was in the battle. Moses wasn’t on the battlefield, but he was having a profound effect on the outcome. I wasn’t in the high school, the hospital or the locker rooms, but my loved ones were and I was on a prayer mission.
Moses’ hands were in the air praying to ensure Joshua’s victory; and whether my hands were in the air praying in the car, or I was on my knees, or at church, or at the kitchen table, I had determined throughout my parenting years that I would be a prayer-warrior. And, I was. But my urgency and the amount of time spent in prayer really revved up during my kids’ later teen years. It wasn’t all about them, it was the onslaught of circumstances on top of parenting teens…
During the battle, I studied my Bible in a new way, went down on my knees more, read and prayed fervently. I spent countless minutes on the floor of my son’s room…aside my daughter’s bed while they were at school… One day kneeling on my son’s floor, completely perplexed as to why God was not answering my prayers how I wanted them answered, I lifted a photo frame off my son’s bed stand and whipped that sucker clear across the room. There is still a sharp, deep cut in the body of the NHL fathead on his wall. On that particular day, I was really angry which is rare for me. Looking back, I was just hurt that God was either saying “no” or “not yet” but either way, the more time passed, the less chance there would be for what I was praying about.
To make up for less-than childhoods of our own, my husband and I were doing way more than normal parents. We set out parenting with more enthusiasm than Dory and Olaf combined. And, we never lost steam. He is a man in non-stop motion. You will not see him reading the paper nor does he leave projects unfinished. I am just as productive on the home front, endlessly working on something to make the nest more comfortable while working outside the home part time. I invested time in my own friendships, invested in my kids and all the other kids they brought into the nest over many years, I handled group gatherings and hosted every holiday at my house.
Then, things started breaking down at a rapid-fire pace. I had small appliances given to me at my bridal shower that lasted 20 years. In the last five years, the replacements I purchased have broke down every other year. Then the oven stopped working. The fridge wasn’t cold anymore. And on it went. Between expensive kids sports and household nonsense, we were bleeding money.
Finances were tight on top of practices, games (traveling overnight for those games), driving, shopping, holidays, cooking, cleaning, talking, teaching, instructing, negotiating with teenagers in the kitchen and adults on committees, appointments, friends with diseases, extended family insanity, being lied to…
I felt like Moses. My arms were growing weak and the battles were still raging around me. My friend of 18-years was dying of cancer before my eyes and it was ripping my heart out. I was helping with her treatment visits, rotating time at her house and trying to support her daughter. My parents were embroiled in a disturbing family situation that had just come to light by a close relative. It was all-consuming and truly gut-wrenching. Despite the mountain of unpleasant circumstances, I was still mentally and physically operating at 110% as Mom, wife, worker, homemaker, holiday-maker, volunteer… just as I always had. Remaining silently overwhelmed by profound sadness and drama, I expended even more energy keeping the majority of my struggles from my children. Even though they were in their late teens, I still functioned as if they were ten. The details my extended family produced were simply not something I wanted in my kids’ heads. But, I could have exposed them more to the realities of death and dying.
One day I just got tired. All the prayer in the world didn’t seem to be making any difference at all and I eventually crashed.
I could not pray my way out of the haze draping over me. Like Moses, my arms that had held it all up for so many years were exhausted. So, I reached out just a little, looking for an Aaron and Hur. I was quickly reminded that many others had it much worse and, at minimum, they all have their own challenges. This knowledge does not deter everyone from asking for help anyway, but my type A, first-born self could not impose on anyone other than my closest friend. My dearest sister-in-Christ was the one who listened to a few of my sad tales (absent the gory details) and she agreed to be my Aaron. We still pray for each other regularly. But, I simply could not tell her all of the extended family depravity, nor could I tell anyone else about it. My own husband shrunk back, cutting me off as I shared only a sliver of what I had learned.
Everyone knows about Moses – even people who do not read the Bible or attend church or temple. They can talk about him floating in a basket, the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. Not many can name his parents Amram and Jocabed. His parents no doubt, went through some stuff. His poor Mom had to eventually surrender him to Pharoah’s daughter. When they could no longer control their own situation, they reached out for help, even to the extent of having the enemy of their people raise their precious boy.
Moses’ parents’ life was not easy and neither was his. Life is life. There is good and bad and if I merely accept what is, and cease searching for reasons “why” that do not exist, I’ll fare much better. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon suggests eating, drinking and enjoying your work while you can. I had to start “enjoying” and stop thinking and analyzing and trying to figure out people because I discovered “nothing new under the sun”. There were painfully few real answers for all the sadness and stupidity. I was making myself crazy trying to understand circumstances, human behaviors and how God could bear to continue watching it all.
I had set out as a young wife and mama with the wrong mindset that if I worked diligently, life would be fairly close to perfect (try not to laugh). But the outside creeps into the nest, even when you’re really diligent. People get sick. Others make horrible choices. I internalized others’ decisions and heartache as if they were my own. I took on responsibilities that were not mine to take on. People were happy to pile their stuff on to me. It was unhealthy.
As I eventually emerged from that difficult time, I tried to see the lessons in the madness, where God may have been in the midst of some really unfortunate happenings. I refused to stay in defeat but it was not easy to overcome.
It’s hard to let go of being the go-to person because you feel you’re letting them down. And, it’s really hard to speak up to – and stand back from – crazy people, even those you may share bloodlines with. In my case, I thought I was being a good Christian by supporting others without boundaries. When you begin to draw necessary boundaries for the toxic folks, they do not like the new person distancing themselves. They want the “yes” “nice” girl back immediately. But distance and creating borders are required in order to preserve your own sanity and to have any personal semblance of happiness on this side of heaven. It also frees up mental space and physical time for enjoying the humans who truly care about you and yours.
My fellow Moses whose arms are tired, find yourself an Aaron and Hur to walk this nutty life alongside you, and enjoy yourself as long as you can.