Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Circle of Life... From the Second Half!!

The Circle of Life... I've always loved the idea of this concept. I love developmental or cyclical things; seasons, rebirth, growth, death, etc. I find great comfort in the majesty of it, the order of it and the connectedness it displays; I like knowing that I am a part of something that grand. Studying how the parts are interconnected and interdependent is just fascinating to me.... Until I realized that, at 45 years old now, I am FIRMLY on the second half of that circle! GAH!

HOW can this be? I see that I have children that are adults... but there must be some mistake, right? THEY can age... but I still feel about 27 years old in my own mind! Even my sister challenged me a few months ago when I said that my second son was turning eighteen... "Are you sure? That can't be right!" Uh.... yeah.

I realized the other day, on my birthday actually, that I am no longer the young mom with young kids (I still have 'younger kids' - but not YOUNG kids). I am now one of those veteran moms the 'young moms' look at, wonder how we've done it and question how they, too, can do it... and they have no idea of my story!!

So...I suppose I need to reluctantly admit that one benefit of being on the second half of that circle is the beautiful opportunity to pass on some of my life's experiences, wisdom, hope and strength to someone else who is walking a similar path. That happened to me recently, and it warmed my heart. Other than to our immediate family, we don't often get the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life, or stand on the watchtower and shout encouragement - so I wanted to share it.

About a year ago, a lovely young woman in our church came to me and had some questions about homeschooling. She knew I had homeschooled all four of my children and had recently decided she, too, wanted to venture into the crazy abyss of a homeschool lifestyle! She was, naturally, questioning her sanity and a bit trepidacious at the prospect of it all and wanted to talk to someone about it. (Here's where part of the disconnect happened for me, because I realize NOW that she saw me as a veteran, experienced mom here but I still saw myself as a struggling mom trying to muddle through it, too!).

I wondered to myself, 'What do I say that would help her as she explores into the fray?' and I thought to myself, 'I will simply tell her what I wish someone might have said to me when I was taking that leap of faith and walking off the ledge!' She came over and I gave her a ton of my supplies that I wasn't using anymore since my kids were in school. We talked for about 2 hours, and I probably overwhelmed her with the amount of suggestions, ideas and organizational tips (my inner ManagerMom was in bliss!). I'm not sure of all I said, but do remember boiling it down to this, "There will be days you will cry and wonder what you were thinking. You will feel like you can't do one more day of this, you'll feel like you're failing and you will think you've lost your mind... and it will be okay! Just know that on those days, it's just a bad day. It will end and you will get up the next day and things will be different, maybe even better and you will carry on and enjoy your time with your child. Just take it one day at at time and embrace it all."

A couple of months ago, she sent a message to me on Facebook, thanking me for the encouragement and information and indicated that it made a big difference in her confidence to take on such a task and that she was loving it, enjoying the new journey with her daughter and she was grateful for the support I'd offered. It made me feel very good!! I was glad that I had helped in some way. A few months passed by, and we were at a social function the other day. She again reiterated how much of a difference that meeting made for her, emboldening her resolve to strike out and try something new. Again, I was flattered...

But here's what she said that made me realize that I am that 'older mom' to whom she was looking for guidance, support and encouragement. She said, "I am SO glad you told me that there would be days when I would cry and feel like I was failing, days when I'd want to give up... but it was normal to feel that way sometimes. When I feel like that, I think to myself, 'Shannan said I'd feel this way, and if she could do this with her four kids, I can do this with my one. I just can't tell you how much it has helped me, and what an inspiration you have been to me.' I almost teared up... knowing that my simple words describing my own experience made such a difference to her. Until this moment, I hadn't really experienced this before... the gift of feeling the expressed gratitude of someone else as they relished in their success and knowing that I played a part in providing some hope and faith for them along the way.

The funny thing about circles is that the beginning and ending are rather elusive... and as such, we are often unsure about where we are on that cyclical journey. Sometimes, we have touchpoints, or markers, that delineate our place along that pathway. This was such a marker for me. I realized in that one moment... that I was no longer the young, struggling mom looking outward/forward, anxiously seeking or searching for my own vision and understanding. I was the mom offering that inspiration and reassurance... and I didn't even realize it. And although I like to complain that I'm shocked that I'm actually a 45 year old mom... I was truly, surprisingly comfortable in my place, in my part, and grateful that someone out there thought I was 'that mom' to whom they could reach out to for assistance as they sought their own vision, their own path, their own journey.

Like I said, I love the concept of the Circle of Life, the associations within it...and I'm really okay with the fact that I'm on the second half looking back with satisfaction at my first half. It's a good place to be!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Confessions from a Life of Imperfection: The UN-perfect Mormon Mom!

Fall is such a busy, busy time... kids get back into school and we have to acclimate to the new schedules again, the days get shorter and I begin to feel like I don't have quite as much time each day! However, with that... I also begin to feel the instinctual urge to get cozy - wait for the weather to cool (even in SoCal... it EVENTUALLY cools down!) and hunker on down in front of the fire with a cup of tea and my kids. It's important for me to have these quiet times with myself or my kids, because sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by life and these opportunities help me to 'reboot'.

This Fall was a learning experience for me AGAIN (I'm having A LOT of those lately). I'm not one of those Mormon Mom Bloggers who is going to tell you that my life is so amazingly perfect that I just can't hold in the gratitude, or that my children get such great grades, or that I've found the PERFECT gift for their teacher and that I have completed three house decorating projects this week (which were just snappy easy and super-duper cute) and four craft projects with my kids (which, of course, they just adored and will put in their sentimental safekeeping box)... Nope... That ain't me. If you're looking for that kind of a BlogMom... keep looking.

Here's what you'll get here: I'm real. I screw up sometimes and hit a home run other times. I forget things, sometimes even important things for work or my kids. They struggle in school and with our household management skills. (For instance, my almost 11 year old child seems to have a profound aversion to placing clothing INSIDE the drawers of his dresser! He must just be very efficient-minded after all my ManagerMom tricks and techniques, and feels that clothes are more easily accessible if they are just thrown upon the floor :)!! It's an ongoing battle, but I willingly don my warrior-wear each week I am with them.)

I don't have kids that are on the State Debate Team, All State Soccer or in accelerated classes. Both my children who are at home struggle with learning disabilities. We aren't looking at AP classes or even college at this point. We are dealing with life skills, social skills, personal management, self-esteem, kindness and respect for each other.

We don't have Family Home Evening every week, we don't read our scriptures when we're super tired (uhhhmmmm... we go to bed!), and sometimes (gasp!)...we miss Youth Night activities. My daughter is 15 1/2 and we are NOT working on her second Personal Progress award - in fact, it's not likely she'll obtain even one. My ex-husband is the driving force behind the scouting movement in our family and I couldn't tell you if my 11 yo is close to completing his Webelos rank badges or not.

And my second son who is off to college? Yeah... I only get the phone calls when he actually needs something. Though, I do count myself lucky that he will, in fact, ANSWER my calls to him and although he's monosyllabic in his responses... he will respond and have a quasi-discussion. He's not posting on FB how much he loves me or misses us, or how grateful he is for the years of selfless sacrifice I spent homeschooling him or supporting him in his hobbies and achievements. But even though he almost grunts during our conversations... he did tell me he loved me today.

What I can tell you, however, is this: I am learning to let go of those things as markers of my success as a parent. What matters to me as a parent are three things I heard many years ago for goals in parenting: 1)that my child is mostly happy, 2)that my child progresses, and 3) that they know they are loved. Those are my goals. THAT, I can toward those goals.

So given that, I work on teaching my children to be kind and respectful to each other and it doesn't always work out that way. I teach them to be kind to me, and it doesn't always work out. I teach them that life doesn't always go according to plan, but you gotta adapt and make the best of it. I teach them to keep trying and work hard, be open to new experiences and to find gratitude in the small things that surround them. I teach them that they aren't entitled to good things, but how we can find good things around us on any day. I say "I love you" every day, sometimes many times in a day. I hug them whenever I can. I smile at them whenever I can. I encourage them in all that they are doing and I strive to recognize the good things they do each day. I tell them how proud of them I am for WHO they are, not WHAT they do.

And while we won't likely be seeing my kids up on stage getting some award for overachievement where my friends and family might say, "You must be so proud of all that hard work!"... I will see my kids living their lives, hopefully enjoying those lives and will think to myself... "I am so proud of who they ARE!"

So there you have it... real life, real struggles and real joy. Stay tuned for more updates from a Life of Imperfection...