Be Reasonable!

I came to parenting the way most of us do – knowing nothing and trying to learn everything.- Mayim Balik

The teen years. You just start to feel like you’re settling into this parenting thing, and then all the rules change. Overnight, it becomes a balancing act of keeping your kids safe while still allowing them enough independence to learn, grow and become fully-functioning adults.

Sometimes it feels like things are moving a mile a minute, and you wish life would just slow down. But that’s not how it works… for them, or for you. This is when your children get a crash course in the dynamics of relationships, and what it takes to maintain (or destroy) them.

I think that’s why a lot of parents agonize over “dating policies” for their children. For good or ill, we know that the romantic entanglements of youth provide lessons they’ll carry over into adulthood, and we want so desperately to provide the right guidance.

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Fail Safe

“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.” –Indira Gandhi

I’ve been thinking lately about the nature of failure and forgiveness.

The thing is, I can be selfish.  It’s not intentional, but I have introvert tendencies, and when I get overwhelmed or exhausted, I withdraw my energies… and my powers of observation seem to tank right along with them. (To be honest, they’re pretty weak to begin with.  I’m not very sensitive and tend to miss both verbal and nonverbal cues that other people seem to pick up easily.)

A couple of years ago, I got very sick with a mystery illness that absolutely flattened me for the better part of 6 months. The doctors had all sorts of gloomy predictions for what might be happening, and the stress of dealing with those ideas, along with the endless testing and overall feeling of crappiness led me to pull back on the time I devoted to making sure I stayed connected in my friendships.

I took it one step further, however, and here’s where the selfishness really kicked in: I was so focused on my own issues that I failed to see that someone I loved dearly was really struggling- and what she was going through brought a much deeper pain than any physical issue I was having. Wrapped up in my own problems, I was totally oblivious…until one day, my fog suddenly lifted, and I thought… “Wait. We haven’t really talked about anything of consequence in months. And that’s not normal.”

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Safe Harbor

Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words. – George Eliot

How does a friendship start? Do you remember meeting the people who are now your closest friends? I almost always do, because those people play such a vital role in my life.

I met my oldest friend on the school playground, in third grade. She approached me because her mother had advised her to “look for someone who’s alone” to make new friends. I was indeed alone- very alone, in fact, since I’d just moved cross-country, didn’t know a soul, and was facing long, solitary days ahead. We’ve lived thousands of miles apart for many more years than we were ever close together, but even when I’ve been lonely, this lifelong friendship has meant I’ve never been alone. (Undying thanks for that super-timely advice, friend’s mom.)

I connected with another friend due to her son’s thoughtful act; he spoke to my son, a stranger, at the park (Is there a playground theme happening here?), providing words of encouragement that made him feel better in a moment of sadness. When my son told me what had happened, I had to express my appreciation for his kindness- and that conversation served as the beginning of one of my most precious friendships.

I could go on- I find there’s something memorable about how all my close friendships began. (Sometimes, it’s not the first meeting, but a moment when a casual acquaintance clicked over into true friendship.)

What sets these two particular friendships apart is that I have the benefit of being able to actually look at a history of communications with both of them, and it’s very telling.

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Meant to Mentor

“People are like chains, the closer they are, the stronger they become.”  – Federico Chini, The Sea Of Forgotten Memories

It’s hard to believe, but I realized this week that I’ve now known one of my dearest friends for a full decade. We met in an entirely different stage of life- ten years ago, we were both homeschooling our children, and we got together frequently on their behalf. (If you choose to homeschool young children, the bylaws do require this, because the number one, wide-eyed query you must always be prepared to answer is “But how will you socialize the children?”)

It’s a little bittersweet, but I find that I’m really enjoying the fact that we’ve now moved into a phase that allows us to connect just for us. Oh, sure, sometimes we’ll invite the kids along to hang out if they’d like, but many (most) times now, we don’t. They’re high school and college age, and they can do that for themselves.

Last week, during one of these visits, we were talking about the concept of mentoring, and I mentioned I’d done some reading on the topic and recalled some imagery about holding hands across generations. “The premise”, I assured her, “was really neat. Something about having two hands, one to reach forward to the generations ahead of you, and one to reach back to those coming behind. I’ll find the quote and send it to you.”

Well, I’m a liar. I’ve now been scouring the internet for a week, looking for mention of this concept… and can find no trace of it. I’ve discovered suggestions of the idea in a few different places, but I am beginning to suspect that I’ve absorbed several things and then created a mashup of the concepts in my own head. It does sound like something I’d do.

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