Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

Birthday Wishes August 19, 2010

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Yesterday was my oldest son’s 16th birthday. Eek! And Yay! And Wow! All at the same time…

Hard to believe we are here already. This feels like a big one. From the maternal perspective, I really feel the awareness of his growing into a young man, up and away. I couldn’t help myself from spending quite a bit of time reflecting and reminiscing on his life (and subsequently, mine) these last sixteen years and thinking about the future ahead of him. There’s definitely a bittersweet aspect to it all, as I am filled with a myriad of emotional reactions to his growing up and moving forward.

No one fully warns you when you start thinking about having kids what a roller-coaster of emotion you are about to embark on. It is a truly profound experience. The “wanting” I have felt as a mother for their happiness, for their safety, for their lives and experiences to be filled with all the good and beautiful things in the world and none of the pain and suffering is stronger than almost anything else I have ever experienced. And when you couple that with the awareness of how little control you actually have over the whole business, that experience can be quite staggering. There are many times along the way when as an honest person I have thought to myself, “My God, what was I thinking!” And yet there has never been anything so amazing and beautiful, either.

So as he (and I) pass through this touchstone, and he is learning how he wants to position himself in this life, I too am learning (slowly but surely) how to adjust my role to allow for his growth, to be there to guide and limit, support and encourage, to keep loving and loosen my grasp all at the same time. It’s not easy, in fact I have never done anything this difficult in my life, but it is worth it. The scrapes that I tend to, may be more metaphorical than physical these days, the healing and growth more internal than external, but as I try to ease back and let him make his way, I know that he is an incredible person and I look forward to seeing not only all that he is, but all that he will become. Happy Birthday Sweet Boy, mommy loves you!

 

And I did it all by myself, well sort of… May 27, 2010

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I like being independent. There is a sense of accomplishment and pride that I get when I complete a task on my own without the need for assistance by others. As a homeowner and single mom, there certainly are plenty of opportunities to flex these muscles. But there are also countless tasks that feel just a little bit over my head, or beyond my physical ability to complete without asking for help. Each season, there is some task that requires the assistance of outside help. Often at a cost, there are reminders throughout the year that I just can’t do it all; autumn means giant piles of leaves that need to be carted away to the dump, winter means having my driveway plowed or risk injuring my back, spring means clean-up, mulch and gutter cleaning, and summer is the time when I have to find someone to install the window air conditioning units. This one is particularly tricky since it not exactly something that I can “hire” someone for – unlike the other tasks which are usually resolved with a check to a landscaper.

Back a few weeks ago, when my basement flooded and I had a dumpster in my driveway for the clean-up effort I took advantage of the opportunity and had two of the oldest and heaviest ac units disposed of, which of course left me needing to buy two more. Yesterday, my son and I, motivated by the 90 degree temperatures, bought two units to replace them, and for the first time ever, we installed them on our own. It was great! I may still have two older models to go in – but I have decided both of my sons and I can attempt to tackle them together this year. It’s very exciting stuff, at least for me it is, and yes, I do realize that accomplishing this task with the assistance of my son/s does not mean total independence, but it’ close enough in my book.  So this season, we can actually get the units in and out of the windows when we need them without having to wait for weeks to have a friend do it for us. Woo hoo, I say!

And as good as it feels to take care of things on my own, I am also aware that in many ways sometimes the best way you can take care of yourself, is to ask for the assistance of others. Sure I suppose we can create a world of complete independence (figuratively speaking of course, given that total self-reliance in modern society would also require total hermetic isolation) but why would you want to? The sense of accomplishment you get when you do something on your own is a wonderful thing, but we are for the most part inter-dependent creatures that grow and evolve in connection with those around us. That connection does not have to mean dependence, but occasionally asking for help is necessary and even is beneficial. It is my belief that it takes a great amount of strength to ask for help and to realize that we each have our skills and abilities. Bringing others into our lives whose strengths complement our own is a beautiful and intelligent thing.

I think that to live a life at our fullest potential involves both our independence and our reliance on others, knowing when you need help and when you don’t is the key. Flexing those independence muscles is a good thing, and allowing yourself to depend on others is as well. It’s standing at the poles that cause the system to wobble, but finding the balance that works for you, is the key to a smooth ride.

 

Parenthood’s Secret Societies April 13, 2010

I am now officially the mother of two teenage sons! Yesterday my youngest turned 13, and there is no denying it now, not that I would necessarily try. I now have the slightest glimmer into the secret society for parents of teens. I remember feeling similarly when my children were little. I had taken my son to the mall to do a little shopping, and we had his stroller with us. I had previously been able to move freely through the mall traveling among the various floors by escalator and stairs but now I was in need of an elevator. When a salesperson directed me to the back corner of one of the department stores to the elevator there I came face-to-face with a legion of parents with strollers waiting for their ride. I remember thinking I had unofficially been inducted into the “secret society of stroller moms” that previously I had not known existed. There is a similar sense – being a parent of teens – though this time instead of a hidden elevator or a secret handshake – there is a nod, eye-rolling and sigh – as we recognize each other as part of the club. As if to say, “Yeah, me too, good luck with that!”

This is a challenging age, there is no denying that. As they get older, and begin to individuate our once pleasant children can become oppositional in their independence as they strive to make their own decisions and begin the transition into adulthood. It is amazing to observe and it is not without quite a bit of pride and wonder that I am able to watch my sons become the young men that they are, but the process can be difficult as I now have to confront my own issues with letting them go and easing up on their constraints. After all, I am not looking to raise to dependent individuals who are unable to make decisions on their own or who aim to live eternity under the roof of their mother. This is what it’s all about – isn’t it? Letting them go, watching them grow and develop and become happy, self-confident, fully functioning contributors to society – is the basic framework for what our goal is as parents(though I really could flesh that out quite a bit more, I believe you get the idea). That doesn’t make it easy however and yet I do not think any of us are best served by focusing on the difficulties.

So though I may be a member of the secret society, I choose to endeavor to do my best to focus on the positive aspects of this phase of their lives. Sure there will be plenty of sighing and eye-rolling – but there will also be many smiles and beams of pride. People love to unite around their shared misery – I choose to enjoy the wonder of seeing these two young men emerge into the world.  In Appreciative Inquiry they call this “Fanning” (see: Jacqueline Bascobert Kelm, Appreciative Living; The Principles of Appreciative Inquiry in Personal Life, 2005) it is a simple method of positive reinforcement, focusing on and encouraging the behaviors you want rather than on trying to eradicate those you do not. I think we all might do better with that approach. So the next time someone ask me how old my kids are, the answer is “I have two teenage sons – and it’s great!”

 

Keeping the Peace, Choosing your Battles (aka – Prioritizing – Part 1) January 7, 2010

You know, I think one of the most useful bits of parenting wisdom I ever received is “choose your battles”. When you have kids you realize pretty darn quickly that this is an ever-evolving, ever-revolving series of considerations and compromises. It starts pretty early and apparently it never ends. According to Erik Erikson the “Father of Developmental Psychology”, human development can be broken down into eight developmental stages – each stage provides its own set of challenges which need to be successfully negotiated before moving on to the next stage. In the toddler years – the challenge is “Will: Autonomy –versus- Shame and Self-Doubt”. So as parents – our challenge is to support them in developing their autonomy while still setting what we deem to be the proper limits and guidelines based on our beliefs and sense of safety for their welfare. But “it ain’t as easy as it sounds”.
At the early stages it may be about a decision to let them take a few more slides at the playground to avoid a tantrum. As they get older it could be about what snacks they eat and when, how much time they get on the computer or game system, how late they can stay out or how long they can grow their hair. Each decision requires us to consider how serious we are about the various outcomes. Various factors weigh in – maybe you are too tired to say “no” and deal with the consequences, maybe you aren’t that invested in the particular issue at hand, maybe you want to let them make the decision on their own and trust that they will choose wisely and deal with the outcomes of their choice.
At all stages of their lives you need to assess the situation – “is this one I am willing to put up a fight for, deal with the fall-out from or simply let go”? How you answer the daily challenges is effected by so many factors, and in a lot of ways it breaks down to the simple endless need to prioritize, analyze and weigh the possible outcomes. Being a parent is a constant balancing act between holding on and letting go – how we think about it, the importance of our actions/decisions requires constant consideration, a lot of energy, a sense of our own values and continued presence. But if we engaged in a battle when we should have given in, or vice versa, the good news is, if we are lucky, we will likely get another million opportunities to rethink our previous strategy. Woohoo!