Enjoying the Journey

When I fill up my car with gas, the electronic display looks like this…

IMG_5923-2

When I filled up the gas tank on the car for the very first time a couple of years ago, I glanced at the display and read the word “empty” as “enjoy”. I thought to myself, “Oh how nice, the car is basically telling me to have a good day.” Then I glanced at the display again, and realized my error…empty, not enjoy. To this day, every single time I fill up the tank, I think about that little error and laugh at myself. Today when I filled up the gas tank, I thought about the shift in perspective just one little word can bring about.

Empty vs Enjoy.

210 miles to Empty means how far I can drive or how many days I can make the tank of gas last. The full tank will slowly trickle toward empty as I drive the kids to day camp, therapy appointments, ninjitsu classes, aerial classes, and coding classes. It will also take me to and from work, and to a variety of errands. My son’s anxiety levels are usually pretty high when we are in the car, so while we are using up the gas in the thank this week, I will also probably be diffusing his anxiety levels. The car is also where my daughter has been hitting me with her most burning tween questions, so I will likely find myself having to answer a question I am not necessarily prepared to be hearing. As the week progresses, the gas tank will slowly become empty as we live the day-to-day of our lives.

210 miles to Enjoy means making memories when the miles are shared with my kids, and savoring the rare moments of solitude when the miles are solo. The tank is full at the beginning of the last full week of Summer break. It is a week where my kids get a final chance to pack in fun and friends without the added responsibilities of school and homework. That tank of gas will take my son to the coding class that we have recently discovered and that he adores, it will also take my daughter to and from the aerial studio where she finds absolute joy. As the gas gauge gets lower, I will travel to and from a job that I love, and find a few minutes each day of rare time alone. The car will get us safely to my son’s therapy appointments, so he can continue to figure out how to exist in a world that he often finds overwhelming. It will also provide a safe haven for my daughter to ask her most burning questions when we are the only occupants of the vehicle..something about the combination of not having to look me in the eyes, but still having me to herself is working for her little brain and heart right now. As the week progresses, that tank of gas will give us opportunities to enjoy the day-to-day of our lives.

And by the time the gas tank needs to be filled again, we will probably be well into the final long weekend of Summer, enjoying time with family and friends.

So…210 miles to Empty, or 210 miles to Enjoy?

I’m going to choose Enjoy…

design-11

Trust and Life Preservers

life-preserver (3)

Summer break is slowly rolling to a close. We’re not at the end yet (11 days to go if I were to count!), but we’re close enough that new backpacks, shoes and some clothes are ready and waiting for the first day back.

It’s been a long summer. My son has been with me most of the time – including being at work with me – while my daughter has made a circuit of local day camps. There was very little rest for me, but my daughter has had an amazing summer and my son is in a much calmer state of mind now than he was back in June. The combination of being given the space to step back from the world along with good medication levels and cognitive behavioral therapy has taken the edge off for him. There has been progress that we really could not even imagine back in June. So I know without doubt that it was worth it to keep him close all summer.

But school will start, and he is anxious. School will start, and we are nervous. School will start and I won’t be able to keep him close all day. It’s time to trust the accommodation plan we put in place with the school and trust my son to recognize when he needs to access those accommodations. I am hopeful that we have paved  the way for him to find his place in the day-to-day life of the school, but I am struggling with the trusting that will happen.

In the midst of that internal struggle this week, I came across an article that articulates our parenting philosophy in a very thoughtful and thorough way. The article commends a style of parenting that the author refers to as Lifeguard Parenting. The author describes the parent I try to be to both of my kids at all times, saying “a lifeguard parent stands by, encouraging their child to take risks and only jumps in when the child is in over her head and calling for help.”

There is no doubt that my son was in over his head at the end of the last school year. He needed us to jump in and save him. We have spent this summer providing our son with all the tools he needs to be successful at school and in the world. We gave him an opportunity to rest, heal, and grow stronger. We surrounded him with a life-preserver of love and support. We did what needed doing, and that included keeping him close all summer. But now he’s having more good days than bad days. Now it’s time for me to be the encouraging voice from the side, and give him the opportunity to find his own voice. It’s time for me to step back and be watchful, but not to interfere unless my son calls for help. It’s time for me to trust both my son and the school. It’s time…

 

 

 

Life Lessons from Anne of Green Gables

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday morning and noticed that a friend from college had posted about Netflix airing a new original series based on the Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery. I “liked” the post, and thought about how it was probably time to begin sharing one of my childhood literary obsessions with my own daughter.

Later in the day, I was scrolling Facebook again and noticed that several women had commented on the original post about the new Netflix series….and all of those women were friends from college. At this point, I added my own thoughts to the comments – including the question “What is it about Anne and Wells women?”

I attended Wells College in Aurora, NY.  At the time I was a student, it was a women’s liberal arts college. (The college became co-ed in 2005.) It was a time, and place, and an experience that shaped me into the woman I am today. It was a magical place and time, (I graduated one year before the first Harry Potter book was published, but in the years since I have been known to describe the college as resembling Hogwarts), where personal growth was encouraged, community was fostered, laughter and tears were shared in equal parts, and grace was lived out loud.

So what is it about Anne and Wells women? If I took a poll of my friends who graduated from Wells, I’d venture a guess that the vast majority of them would say they did read the Anne books as young girls, or at least watched the movies sitting in a dorm room.  Anne Shirley is fearless, unpredictable, intelligent and compassionate. She isn’t perfect. She’s real. She’s somebody I could both relate to as a young girl, and also aspire to be like. The women I went to college with came from a wide range of backgrounds, and we have all gone on to an even wider range of “adult lives”, but there is something at our very core that unites us. It’s a spirit that lies at the center of each of our beings. I recently was back on campus for my 20th reunion, and wrote about that spirit as being Joyful Confidence. Anne Shirley personifies joyful confidence. Wells women personify joyful confidence. That’s what it is about Anne and Wells women. That and the fact that Anne Shirley understood, “Young men are all very well in their place, but it doesn’t do to drag them into everything, does it?” (L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables)

Once I had followed that thought thread to the end, I picked up the next thread. What lessons did I learn from Anne Shirley,  and the other characters in those book, that I want my daughter to learn and own as she is teetering in the space between childhood and adolescence? There are so many life lessons in these books, but these are the ones I want most to pass along to my daughter.

Be yourself and speak your mind, but always be open to people and experiences that may shape you or change your opinion. “I do know my own mind. The trouble is, my mind changes and then I have to get acquainted with it all over again.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

When you live life with confidence, people will often be influenced by what you think and what you do. Use that influence for good…be a change maker and live with compassion. “We ought always to try to influence others for good.”  ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Life won’t always be easy and you won’t always win, but never be afraid to try. If you learn from your mistakes, you will always come out a stronger person. “Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.”  ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Find your people. Build community. “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

No matter how bad things seem, know that there is always tomorrow. Each day brings a new opportunity to be your best self and shape the world for yourself and others. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

It IS nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it. It is also nice to think about how much fun it will be to share Anne Shirley and her friends with my daughter,  and discover what life lessons she is able to pull from the works of L. M. Montgomery.

3456

Once Upon A Time…

growing_upOnce upon a time, there was a 10 month old baby boy who took his first assisted steps up and down the aisle of a church during Vacation Bible School week. The hands he held were those of a sweet little girl who would grow up to be one of his favorite baby sitters, as his mother was busy teaching music to the other children.

Once upon a time, there was a not quite 3 year old boy, who splashed in the water left over from VBS games along side the other toddlers of the church and left a permanent dent in his forehead when he collided with a pew.

Once upon a time there was a not quite 4 year old boy who finally got to be with the “big kids” during VBS. He decided he was “too hot” during a music performance for family, and started to strip naked in front of everybody. All while his mother looked on helplessly since she was in the midst of directing the musical efforts of all the other children.

Once upon a time, there was a preschooler, who grew to become a young elementary aged boy. This was a boy who loved VBS and looked forward to the week every year. This was a boy who excitedly waited for the day his parents would add the latest round of VBS music to his iPod.

Once upon a time there was a 9 year old boy, who still loved VBS, but no longer loved being around people. He spent all day every day begging his mother to let him leave, but his mother was in charge and so he was “stuck”.

And now there is no more once upon a time.

Now we are in the here and now. Now there is an almost 11 year old, teetering between childhood and adolescence. Now we are in our current reality, where so many safe places, and loved activities have been stolen and buried under the weight of anxiety, panic & depression. Now we are halfway through a summer where that boy has only been able to attend one week of day camp, because the world is still more than the can handle most days. And now we are halfway through VBS week.

We’re halfway through VBS week, and my son has been there as a helper every day. Three days in and he’s doing great. He’s not the best helper ever, but he’s doing the best he can and the adult he is helping understands his situation and is doing everything she can to help him have a successful week. He is doing such a good job of avoiding the large crowds of kids and adults at the opening and closing times, that one adult I spoke to today didn’t even realize he’d been there all week. But he’s there, and he’s enjoying being there.

I am confident that as recently as two weeks ago, he would not have been managing as well as he is this week. With every day that passes, I am beginning to see that the current combination of medications may actually be doing the job they are supposed to be doing. The hard edges are softer and the things that trigger him are fewer. I have seen glimpses of joy, and laughter, and peace in my boy this week. I have seen glimpses of that that boy who once loved VBS more than any kid I have ever met.

Once upon a time there was a boy who grew up in a church, and loved everything and everybody inside that building. Once upon another time, the darkness of anxiety, panic, and depression made that church and it’s people feel unsafe to that boy. Once upon another time, with the help of his family, that boy fought back and reclaimed the joy the church once gave him. I know we’re not anywhere close to a happily ever after, but seeing my son smile again as I work through VBS has been an amazing blessing.