They used to just drive me to distraction

Perfection Pending

 This post is part of a parenting Blog Hop hosted by Perfection Pending.

Over the years my kids have fallen out of swings, trees, down steep slopes, over fences, off their bikes and from horses. They have banged their heads, suffered greenstick fractures and sported the cuts and bruises inevitable when allowed to run and climb and play in the parks, fields and woodland around our home.

Of course I worried about them, schooled them on avoiding risk, taking care, on not playing alone, not straying too far from home. I recognised that they needed to learn for themselves but tried to ensure that they did so in as safe an environment as was practical whilst granting them the freedom to explore, stretch themselves and grow. Looking back on their childhood experiences, that they survived is as much down to luck as judgement. The potential for accidents is everywhere, including in the home.

To all you young moms out there, frantically trying to stop your kids eating dirt, banging their heads when they fall, running in front of traffic, falling in a river or pond; I have been there and I empathise. The world can seem so full of danger when you are responsible for a little person intent on learning for themselves, who seems to consider mom to be nothing more than a spoilsport when she says no.

Do you look at me with my teenage kids and dream about how much easier it must get when a full nights sleep is to be expected and those little people can go to and from school on their own? It does get easier, but the potential dangers just seem to get worse. Oh my.

My children have always wanted to drive. Be it push alongs, pedal cars or go-karts, if it had wheels they wanted to ride. Add a motor and they were in heaven.

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Yesterday my daughter had her first driving lesson in a much bigger car. A ton of metal that she claims to have driven at up to 50mph. Apparently her driving instructor only had to use the dual controls twice. No casualties were reported.

I knew that this day was approaching, and that this would be the start of a process that I will have to cope with for some years to come. Elder son, happily driving with his sister in the picture above, turns seventeen next year; younger son just a couple of years later. In a few weeks time, when she has learned the basics, I am going to have to let my daughter drive my car, with me in the passenger seat, in order to allow her to practice her newly learned skills. This must be the ultimate teenagers revenge; I will not have the benefit of an instructor’s dual controls.

I guess that, as with any other milestone, I will simply get used to it. The first time my daughter used a local bus by herself, the first time she took a train to the city, the first time she made a complicated journey that required multiple changes, I was worrying every step of the way, whereas now I barely give it a thought. I know that she will benefit from learning to drive a car, but oh my is it a challenge to let her loose on those dangerous roads.

I wouldn’t want to go back to the sleepless nights, the constant vigilance and the inexplicable tantrums of their early childhood, but it can be a challenge to let go of those little hands that I held tight and safe for so long. In the end it is a matter of trust, of hoping that my children have absorbed enough of the lessons taught to act carefully and sensibly whatever temptations are put in their way.

It seems that we never stop parenting our children, we must just learn to do so in a more quiet and unobtrusive way. If teenagers suspect what we are up to, that there is a risk that we might interfere in their chaotic lives? Believe me, those tantrums can return…

 

How to embarrass your teenager

I am taking part in Perfection Pending‘s weekly Blog Hop

Perfection Pending

I had two important tasks that needed to be accomplished yesterday. Number one, get passport photographs for each family member. Number two, buy new trainers for elder son. Not too tricky you would think, no great challenges involved. A quick trip into town, two places to visit and home. If only things could be as simple as they sound.

First off we all had to get out of the house together. Cooking up a big breakfast seemed like the easiest way to coax those sleepy teenagers from their beds on what is usually a lazy Sunday morning. Cups of tea were delivered as wake up calls and warnings given that food was being prepared. Somehow, by the time we were fed, dressed and the debris cleared away, midday was approaching. How does that happen?

Getting toddlers out of the house always seemed like a major accomplishment. All those socks, shoes, coats and toilet visits had to be sorted; juice, snacks, changes of clothes and toys packed in the large bag I dreamed of being able to one day leave the house without. It should be easier when they are old enough to get themselves ready, yes?

I have long since dumped the bag, but somehow it still seems to take forever to get more than one child out the door at the same time. I suspect that the distraction of computers and social networks may have something to do with this. That and their ability to tune out the sound of my voice.

Eventually however we piled into the car and drove into town. Concerned about wasting his valuable time, Grumpy in the back was asking how long this was going to take and if it was really necessary. I pointed out that I needed his head and his feet so yes, his presence was necessary. He did not appreciate my comments.

There are three photo booths in the town shopping centre. The first was out of order, the second did not produce passport quality prints, the third was rejecting around 90% of the coins it was offered. Having got this far I was not going to turn back. We fed coin after coin into the irritating machine, even going back to the car to fetch the change we keep there to pay for parking to see if those coins would be more acceptable. Slowly we managed to coax the uncooperative device into submission.

It is possible that we may have got away with the delay and frustration had not my elder son’s worst nightmare then occurred. Standing in the mall, trying desperately to get the blasted booth to just take the damn photographs, two of his friends walked by and recognised him, in a public place with his mother. I could see that he wished the floor could just open up and swallow him whole.

As I collected the last of the prints (which incidentally make us all look like convicts) my son strode off towards the sports shop. Hurrying after him I was stopped in my tracks as he swung around and demanded to know if I needed anything from this shop. I knew from his look what he wanted; I was banished to wait in the car lest I be spotted once more in his presence.

Letting go of our kids as they grow up can be a challenge for any parent. It would seem that shaking off those pesky parental units can be as much of a challenge for certain teens. They need us for the roof over their head and the food that they can never get enough of. What they really want though is for us to acquire invisibility should we ever be required to inhabit the same space as they outside the home.

My son has reached the stage where he believes that he knows a great deal more about what matters than I. There is no doubt that he is quicker at maths, more knowledgeable about the intricacies of science, more in tune with the latest happenings amongst his peers. When he talks to me I can appear foolish because the things that interest him do not always tally with my own areas of expertise.

If I knew that he wished to talk about the development of a new jet powered engine, the orbital capabilities of a certain type of rocket, the possibilities unleashed by over clocking a computer processor, then perhaps I could look into these topics and pick up enough knowledge to at least nod in the right places during our conversations. He has no interest in the matters that engross me; we are both drawn to enquire but about different subjects.

I remember not so long ago I was the font of all his knowledge. If I could not answer the question then we investigated together. It must be hugely disappointing to discover that a parent is not as bright as once thought. I wonder how long it will be before he understands that my abilities lie elsewhere but can be just as interesting and challenging as his.

My son is capable of showing patience when I cannot keep up. He explains and modifies his explanations that I may gain an understanding of the subject that is so fascinating to him. This is, of course, in the privacy of our home.

I suspect it will be quite some time before I do not embarrass him in front of his friends just by being there. Until that time I will do my best to quash the hurt I feel when he rejects me, and remember that we all have a lifetime of learning ahead. He may not know everything as he sometimes appears to think, but then neither do I.

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Letting go

The sun made an appearance yesterday. It took a while to warm everything up after an unseasonably cold week, but by the afternoon it was feeling quite pleasant outside. After a lazy morning spent escaping into the world of my book I was ready to go out and enjoy some fresh air. We decided to cycle up the hill for a walk around some local gardens that open to the public at this time of year. A gentle stroll in beautiful surroundings sounded ideal for the sunny afternoon.

My son complained that I cycle too slowly. I am well aware that my fitness is not what it was this time last year. I have put on weight and find it harder to push myself physically. There always seem to be reasons to take it easy: joints that ache, muscles hurting, tiredness from lack of sleep. Perhaps I am being too kind to myself. If I am to enjoy the long cycle rides that I accomplished regularly throughout last summer then I will need to put more effort into my workouts at the gym.

The gardens were lovely; well worth a visit. Masses of flowering rhododendron bushes with carpets of bluebells make for a colourful show. We wound our way through the undulating paths and marvelled at the colours and scents. My son was as taken with the massive oak trees towering above as with the flowering bushes. These were proper trees with a history, not just planted to be felled for wood after a few years growth.

We found a seat with a view over the countryside beyond the gardens and enjoyed the coffee we had brought in our flask. We vied with each other to invent bad puns, playing with words as is our habit. Wandering slowly back to our bikes we discussed a return visit if the weather holds; I will be surprised if we manage this. There never seems to be enough time or good weather to get out and about as we would wish.

The downhill ride home was not fast enough for my son. He wants to experience the excitement of speed, impatient with my restraint. It seems that I am now always aware of the potential for accident and injury; wary of risk and adventure. I see bumps and bruises, broken bones and lacerated skin where he sees an attempt to escape limitations, to feel freedom and exhilaration, to fly.

Letting go of our children happens gradually yet the realisation that they are moving on can be a challenge. My daughter is away camping with friends this weekend. She is preparing for a big summer trip, a chance for her to demonstrate her ability to act independently. My son is also fighting for more independence but does not show the same day to day sense as his sister. He rails at my demands yet shows little initiative. I wonder if I make it too easy for him; would he rise to the occasion if given no other choice?

As parents we try to treat our children equally and fairly, yet they are individuals with differing requirements and abilities. They are so sensitive to favouritism it can be hard to offer the experiences from which they will benefit the most. More and more I find that the best days out are those spent with each child alone. It is not just that they can each have my undivided attention, but also that the day can be tailored to their interests. Enjoyable family times that used to be the norm are now few and far between.

The dynamic of the family changes when one child is away. We missed my daughter at dinner last night; her banter with her brothers ensures that conversation is amusing and flows. My boys interests are harder to share; I do not keep up with the latest in car engineering or computing. It is left to my husband to answer their questions despite his normal reserve.

My son wants to spend time in my company, for which I am grateful, but cannot mask his impatience at my unwillingness to grasp at life as he does. He cannot see that I have been there, done that and moved on. He cannot understand that my excitement and anticipation have waned. I cannot explain why this has happened; I have lost my desire for adventure.

It used to be that my appetite for advancement was insatiable. I sought out new experiences, new places, with focus and determination. Now I feel no need to push and dig and fling myself forward; I want to enjoy the here and now rather than what is to come. I am not trying to stand still, to hold life back. I am willing to learn and to stretch my mind, it is the focus of my interest that has changed. I can no longer summon the energy to follow others with eagerness; I wish to make my own path.

Today I have awoken to another sunny day, one that is forecast to be warmer. My husband and younger son were up and out early, cycling to our local pool for a morning swim together. Perhaps I will manage some time in my garden with my hens before preparing a big dinner for when my daughter returns.

I need to allow my children to move on, and to establish a life for myself that does not revolve so closely around them. It will be quite a few years before they no longer need me but the balance is shifting. I learn as much from them these days as they do from me. In so many areas of their lives they are leaving me behind and I must let them go.

For now though, the we are at the start of a week long holiday. With no work and no school we have the freedom to go up and out as we please. Perhaps we will indulge in a few days away, plan a mini adventure. I must make the most of this time with my children. This now time is precious, whatever the future may hold.

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