One of my favorite things about having a college daughter are the drives back and forth in the car when she comes home for the holidays.
I revel in our time together and how the transition from a mother daughter relationship to a mother-friend relationship is so pleasing and enjoyable to me. One of the aspects of homeschooling that I struggled with was balancing the role of teacher with the role of mother.
I absolutely love that my role of teacher has greatly dissipated and my role of mother is foremost at this point.
When arranging their every school subject from math to science and literature to history, the role can be swallowed up with tedious organizational activities, curriculum maintenance, and deadline management. There is the "good cop-bad-cop" scenario and many times I felt like my only role was too often "bad-cop". Deadlines, consequences, and feedback are the non glamorous sides of wearing both the teacher hat and the parent hat.
|Lovely Winter Rainy Days|
But, what I didn't expect was the recent feedback from my daughter. She tells us often how much she appreciates all of the "good cop-bad cop" lessons at this point in her college years. She advises us not to let up on her brother...to keep pushing and prodding him to be accountable and diligent with his deadlines for schoolwork. She sees that the benefits will be down the road and all of the hard work will pay off...hopefully with stable jobs and well adjusted happy adults someday!
The area of schooling my own children that I most enjoy are the many many daily conversations that are non stop around here. When you are discussing the church's influence on Renaissance art, the reasons behind the Civil War, or the technological advances we all enjoy today but that came about through a global world war during the 1940's, the ways to relate and converse with teens is made easier because there are so many school related topics ready made for family discussions.
|Winter Walks with Mom|
I thrive on these lively discussions. Talking, chatting, and discussing issues could be considered a favorite pastime of mine. I constantly remark to the kids that I never gave 2 minutes thought to many of these discussion topics when I was their ages. I had little awareness of the political scene in our state much less of global events happening around the world that directly affected our country.
I remember an incident when I was 18 years old. I was with a ballet company in France. I had met a very attractive frenchman and he was driving me around Nice to show off his gorgeous city. We passed a billboard with a photo of France's president on it. Much to this guy's surprise, I had no idea of who the man was on the billboard. I was so embarrassed at the time. I realized at that moment the expanse of my ignorance about not only world leaders but many leaders in the U.S. as well.
So now that I've given myself a pat on the back, this story takes a twist. Whereas, I am under the assumption that we are having in depth nurturing bonding conversations, my kids, on the other hand, have a different idea of what constitutes good conversation.
Recently, I was reminded of the importance of just being "Mom" to my kids...and putting the teacher hat on the shelf for awhile. When I think I am clipping along, all "i's" dotted and "t's" crossed...I get one of my wake up calls that there is always room for change, shifts, and realizations.
|Nest Spotting in trees and Deer Spotting in Woods|
My son has been trying to get more physically active. Well, I should say...his parents are trying to get said son more physically active.
Instead of playing tennis or going to the gym, he has been joining Chester and me on some of my long walks. I've been trying to encourage him to pick up jogging or perhaps think of biking on his own to get additional exercise. I don't want him to rely on my exercise schedule but to develop his own plan for being physically fit. Also, I naturally figured a teen would rather do most anything instead of go walking with his "mother".
|Roasted Head of Garlic to Smear of Toasted Bread|
I was rather taken aback by his response when I kept urging him to get out on his own. He told me that he really enjoyed these walks we take together because that was the only time that we really talked. Really talked? What?? We talk all day long. We discuss why paper towels can absorb so well. We discuss political discourse and the explosion of blogs influencing our country. We discuss whether or not this entry should be a debit or credit in the accounting ledger.
For goodness sakes...we talk and talk and talk...and...
|Texas countryside drives to college|
It took me only seconds, though, to realize just what he meant. On our walks together, he chats on and on about the details of his video games, the descriptions of the characters, the ever-evolving strategy quests, his accomplishments or failures in the games, his free-reading manga books, his burgeoning tastes in music...basically ANYTHING but school-related topics.
It never fails to stop me in my tracks when I have one of these moments as a parent. Often my check-list of what I consider the to-do's of good parenting have little to do with the true meaning of parenting from my kids' point of view.
As I am enjoying our political banter about events surrounding Chris Christie's looming news scenario in New Jersey or Utah's back and forth court decisions regarding gay marriage rights, the bonding as a family is occurring on one level...but there are other levels that are just as important, if not more so...
What is the saying? "It is the little things in life... or "Stop and smell the roses more often." I am still learning that as a parent. We'll never have this parenting role mastered but the journey along the way is always challenging, rewarding, and surprising at every turn.
As much as I enjoy feeding my family delicious meals around our long narrow pine kitchen table, that we have hauled from one kitchen to another across the U.S., I have found a new way to have different levels of connections that mean more to their lives at times.
Long meandering drives back and forth to college are something I entirely look forward to these days. I sit back behind the wheel, watch the cows, goats, birds, and changing scenery go by, and work really hard to ...listen.
I am, inherently, not a good listener. I have thoughts, ideas, and advice at the ready constantly. I usually prefer to discuss what interests me rather that what might be of importance to the company I am with at the moment.
But I often find myself walking away with so many questions and reflections that have no answers. Why didn't I ask about their interest in this?? Or, why didn't I listen to their experience with that??
I realize it's because I rattled on about all of my self- interested topics and didn't stop, pause, breathe...and listen.
I do just that on my country drives. Listen, I mean. I manage to steer myself on all manner of back country roads that are completely void of cars and people. Only silence and the sounds of nature accompany me on my return trips from the college drop off. I can relax...empty my mind of thoughts...and just practice listening to what is around me.
There are only lazy scenes of cows munching grass, deer frolicking in the back fields and birds flitting from one tree to another.
If I just turn off the sound of my voice...there is so much to hear.
There is so much to hear.