"It's hard. It's so darned hard. It's so crazy hard...this life we stumble through". I was tossing and turning late last night trying to put decisions, hopes, and dreams into muddy perspective. My mind resembled that of concrete highway lanes twisting and bending with some thoughts exiting, others thoughts merging, and still more streaking over three lanes of highway nonsensically plunging into last minute decision making.
Would I prefer to go back then to the difficulty and stress of raising little ones again as opposed to the difficulty and stress of raising teens?
Didn't I lament the sleepless nights, the skinned knees, the clutter of toys, and the constant "no's" and "absolutely nots"? Patience was always elusive for me and never around when I reached for it, like a balloon that you grasp but know that as your fingers brush against the thin wispy string, it was too late to hold on...and it floated lazily up into the sky.
I look to the right. I look to the left. The examples that I wish for in life to give me guidance, or help, or reassurance are not there. So, like so many others making it through this life, I stumble on, seeking wisdom, love, acceptance, and grace wherever I can find it.
Why am I tossing and turning late at night? Why do the bevy of thoughts leave me swinging from intense happiness to intense fear...from intense satisfaction to intense yearning. I have so much to say, so many thoughts to work through, so many emotions to unleash that I could fill the pages of this blog "thyme" with dish after dish of food that symbolizes my onslaught of creative energy, nervous energy, and enthusiastic energy.
Whereas the morals and values we work to instill in our children are seeded when they are young little tots and the teachings center around helping others, being kind to others, and showing respect for others...the real tough teaching I think begins now...the teen years.
This is the tough stuff. This is the time of parenting that leaves both parent and child open to vulnerability, pain, but also intense love, compassion, and nurturing. Sometimes that range can exist all in the span of one tiny day...from morning 'til night.
Mannerly discussions, heated debates, thought provoking queries, and perplexing exchanges dominate our family time at the supper table. Politics. Religion. Global Affairs. Science. History...interplay within our household conversations whether it be forming an opinion about a commercial on T.V. or remarking on an act by a stranger at the grocery store. As parents, all of a sudden it seems like we are supposed to have all the answers to the perplexing problems of the world.
Do I have answers? I had answers about how to tie shoes, how to skip rope, and why to say please and thank you.
Now, I grapple with the weight of the level of questions being asked. I grapple with the example that I am setting on ages that are 10 times more impressionable than at younger ages. I grapple with the fact that I am so flawed and inconsistent that I must consistently face responsibility for this flub or that blunder.
Wait...since when again did I become an adult? Is there an "opt out" button that I can press?
Being parents of little ones feels like an entirely different definition than being parents of the big kids. I often wish I could be the one seeking answers to the very questions that are being posed with feverish frequency and deliberation to us as parents.
Many families lay down belief systems for their children. From young ages, they are assured and instructed in the right way of thinking on this issue and that issue in a range of passed down teachings that are traditional, historical, and unshakable. We have taken an entirely different path with our kids. We tell them we hold no answers, it's o.k. to seek answers, and many times we live with unknowns and misunderstandings.
Watching the shell of innocence that protects young children from the horrors of this world crack its exterior of protection and reveal so much of what most parents work so hard to screen, protect, and shield in youth is an experience of being a parent that is draining at times and so fulfilling at others.
I love the questions and debates going on in our house.
I fear the questions and debates going on in our house.
I toss and turn at night because of the questions and debates going on in our house.
We ranged in discussions this week from the terror inflicted on the early colonial town of Salem, Massachusetts during the "witch trials" to the absolute exhausting quest to understand the boundaries, if any, to our rights concerning freedom of speech in this country. Good stuff. Good debates. But, oh so draining at the same time.
Sometimes, my kids ask why should they entertain programs or opinions that fly in the face of their own personal beliefs and opinions? I tell them that no one should have absolute beliefs and opinions shaped and solidified at their ages. I tell them that an entire lifetime of listening, watching, and examining life is the only way to understand the mysteries of why things happen the way they do, why people behave the way they do, and why events transpire the way they do.
It is so challenging as parents to resist lining up neat little answers to issues ranging from politics to social and economic issues. It is so tempting to make their lives easier by defining their beliefs for them and giving them patent answers to pass along with scripted words.
The true challenge for me is to sit back, shelve my own opinions high up on the top shelf, and let these young minds exercise their newly acquired teenage freedom of speech that is bulging with new ideas that are ready to be tested against this world.
Free speech. The press. Public school systems. Government gridlock. Gay rights. Abortion restrictions. Gun Control. Natural resource management. International sactions.
What happened to "Teletubbies" and "Doris the Explorer"? I was really good at that sort of lineup. I swear it was just yesterday I was pulling my hair out with concern over whether or not my child should be quicker at math flash cards or is ready to cross the street by himself.
Most days, it isn't the "what" of what I am saying in our more mature conversations but the "how" of what I am saying as I struggle to walk that fine line between parent, teacher, and friend to my kids.
Tone. Darned tone. That is what is keeping me up late at night tossing and turning. These conversations about weighty matters of the world, love, and life need tones of maturity and respect.
If conversations get too heated, I just want to stomp around and call it quits...declare it "bedtime" or say "you're grounded" ... something that lets me squirm out of the adult realm of respectful behavior and hide away in an emotional filled angst.
But, those days are gone. Poof, I tell you. That is how it feels. One day "Teletubbies", the next...Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" or Ken Burns' "The Holocaust".
Exhausting. Thrilling. Unnerving. Fantastic.
These emotions range from morning til night sometimes. I am learning at the same pace as my kids right now. Growing up doesn't only happen for the teens in the family but those teens push us as parents to move from our own immature beings into ones better equipped for this adult world.
Who would have thought the most growth we have done would happen during the teen years of our own kids' teen years? Crazy, but true. Because it's future relationships that are on the line. The future of "us" as a family is on the line if we as parents don't grow up at the pace of our kids.
I want to continue cooking meals like this "Savory Tomato Cobbler with Cheddar Biscuits" and have my family come around, sort out their thoughts about the world, query their observations of events, shout out their passions about happenings...
All while tucking into meals that embody love, understanding, and tolerance of who they are as budding individuals in this crazy, wonderful world where kids are sometimes much more mature than their silly childlike parents.
I've got to get some sleep tonight. Or better yet, maybe I should get a box of those little "teddy grahams", hunt through the channels until I land on "Franklin" or "Magic School Bus". Oh, remember "Magic School Bus....