Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Remember, It's The Little Things

This past weekend I had the opportunity to do a little shopping with my daughter.  Since teachers get paid on the last school day of each month, we did a bit more shopping than we probably should have!  But, for us, these precious moments that we get when it is just the two of us with no other influences, goals, or agendas provide opportunities to get to know each other a little better.  For me, it's a chance to look at her in a different light:  a young woman.  I love just walking around a mall with her doing what women all over the country do on a lazy Saturday.  I get to take a step back (figuratively, of course) and observe from a different viewpoint.  On these rare occasions the only "mom" role I have to fill is at the register when we're done.  Even then she more often than not steps up and offers to cover her own purchases.  The "mom" in me, though, rarely can let her do that.  Those times when she has to fend for herself, when neither her father nor I am around, will come all too soon.  For now, I'll gladly buy the occasional pair of shoes or jeans.  While the shopping is fun, it's the conversation I'm there for.  I'm forever amazed by her outlook and opinions.  I have to admit that there are times when I hold my breath - afraid of what she is going to say.  While what she says isn't always what I want to hear, I can tell that she has put thought into her opinions and is generally just using me as a sounding board.  I don't know how successful I am, but I do try to restrain any emotionally charged reaction I may have and just listen not only to what she is saying, but her reasoning behind it. 

I hope that for her, these days out serve a similar purpose.  I hope she is getting a chance to get to know me on a different level.  As I have grown older I have come to know my own mother less as a parent and more as a person.  I hope that my daughter is getting to do the same.  I know that for her the going must be tough.  It is a whole new frontier for her.  I can tell that sometimes in our conversations she is filtering what she is saying through the, "I must remember this is my MOM!" filter.  That's okay.  For her, as for me, that will probably never really go away.  But, I hope that she is gaining a better understanding of who I am other than her mother. 

This past Saturday we enjoyed a unique experience.  She has finished her first semester of college away from home (quite successfully I'm happy to report), and has returned to campus after a nice long Christmas break.  First semester of college is such a time of excitement and adjustment.  Second semester is when reality sets in...that this is really what life is going to be for a few years.  She had been back in Tuscaloosa for a little over a week and was meeting her dad in Birmingham on Saturday to go to a concert.  I went along for the ride...not the concert.  She met us at our friend Brian's on Friday night to spend a little time with her parents.  During our little shopping trip on Saturday, I got to talk to her about something that has really been on my mind lately.  She has a new person in her life who has really swept her off her feet.  On the surface he seems a bit too good to be true.  After having met him, though, it is good to be able to say that he seems just as good a person - in person -- as he does on the computer.  She had told us quite a bit about him, so her dad and I were anxious to get to actually sit down and talk with him.  He seems to be completely taken with her and she with him.  This young man really seems to have his life planned out and is working very hard on building his future.  He has a close relationship with his family and values those things that we have always taught her were the important things in life.  This past Saturday morning seemed like a good time to talk to her about not losing sight of her own goals. 

If our daughter should ultimately end up with this young man, I don't believe her father or I would have anything to complain about.  He treats her with the respect we have always taught her to believe she deserves.  What I tried to express to her was to be very careful not to allow herself to get carried away to the point where she loses sight of what she wants for herself.  Too often I have seen young women adjust their dreams to fit those of the special person in their lives.  I told her that in order for a relationship to work, and work really well, each person has to have something to offer the other.  That when one person is living out his or her dream and the other is along for the ride after having put his or her own dreams on hold, generally what occurs in the long run is resentment.  Also, this young man has the means to offer her all the things she wants, and can do so when he chooses.  He works very hard and has learned the value of hard work.  As a result, he can enjoy the benefits of that hard work.  He has scheduled trips to Tuscaloosa to see her as well as providing for her to go out to visit with him and his family.  The type of life he leads as a result of his hard work, is the kind of life that can really sweep a girl off her feet.  It would me!  The point of my conversation with her was to focus on the little things.  I reminded her of the crystal heart that sits in the office of my bedroom.  If you just looked at it you wouldn't see anything special in it.  It isn't very large, nor is it very impressive looking.  It is, however, one of the most precious gifts my husband has ever given me.  With that small gift my husband expressed his feelings for and commitment to me for the very first time.  I have probably told her that story a hundred times over the course of her life, but I think she really sees the value of that story for the first time.  Maybe she understood.  I hope so.  I'm not so sure I was very eloquent in my conversation with her.  I wasn't even really sure what I was trying to say.  I think that in some strange way, though, she understood.  Again, I hope so. 

She and I are at a very strange, unfamiliar, strangely difficult stage in our lives.  I'm trying to gracefully let go.  She is trying to step out on her own without cutting all ties with home.  It is a delicate balance for the both of us.  I knew that when we decided to make our home here; that there was very little possibility that our daughter would return to Kinston to make her life.  That's okay.  It really is.  When the time comes, I"m sure I'll feel as if some part of me has been torn away.  I won't be alone in that feeling.  Her father will feel the same.  But we also won't be alone.  Millions of parents have gone through what we are facing and survived.  Many have even survived it without ruining their relationships with their children.  Hopefully I can find the grace to do so, too.  It is rather surreal to sit and listen to her tell us what her plans for spring break are without telling her that she forgot to ask us.  But isn't this what we've been teaching her...preparing her to do?  We can't spend the first eighteen, almost nineteen, years of her life insisting she learn to stand on her own and then refuse to allow her to do so when the time comes.  My difficulty in letting her go shouldn't affect her actually doing so. 

So, what do I really want her to know?  Stand tall.  Be strong.  Take a deep breath and step out on faith.  While you are finding your way, we are here to help.  Once you do, you'll know we will do all we can to help you be happy in the life you have chosen.  Believe in yourself.  Follow your heart but remember to listen to that little voice in your head.  If you can achieve that balance you will find all you have ever hoped for.  No matter where you roam or the paths you choose to get there, you will always be loved.  You will never be more than a phone call - or a short plane ride away.  Should you ever need us, we will put our lives on hold to be with you.  When things get tough and you need to know that we are on your side, just close your eyes and listen to the calls of "Gidget" from the sidelines.  We'll always be on your side, cheering you on.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Here We Go Again

Well, it's back to the same ole same ole at the Shaw household.  The week I went back to school after the holidays John and I welcomed a friend of Erin's as a house guest for a few days.  TJ was with us for five days and I have to say I really enjoyed his visit.  It is nice to know that there are people out there who are still raising gentlemen.  I had living proof visiting my home.  The weather wasn't actually conducive for sightseeing so Erin had to entertain him here.  It was kind of funny to him, I think, to watch us sitting around shivering.  He's from a part of the country where there isn't a run on the IGA every time there is a hard freeze warning!  On the Monday after he arrived we actually had a "snow" day.  Even though snow wasn't predicted as far south as we are, conditions were still a bit cagey.  On Tuesday I convinced Erin to take him and head off to the beach.  Although the weather outside was gray and relatively miserable, all reports were that they had a good time.  His visit ended when Erin left with him to take him to the airport for his flight home.  Afterwards she headed back to Tuscaloosa for her second semester.

I went back to work on Tuesday believing my life would return to its normal routine, or at least what passes for normal now that Erin isn't home.  Somehow when I got home that afternoon it wasn't like what I thought it would be.  John and I were sitting together watching TV but something just wasn't right.  I finally was able to put my finger on it.  My house was eerily quiet.  No footsteps upstairs.  No laughter as she Skyped with a friend.  No quick step down the stairs or an "I won't be late!" as she heads out the door.  No one told me I would have to go through this again when she went back to school.  I thought once I had become accustomed to her absence I would be okay.  I am okay, really.  It's just that after several weeks having Erin at home I had let myself fall back into "Mom Mode."  I really like that mode.  It's almost like running on automatic. 

Spending time with Erin over the holidays was wonderful.  She's happier than I have seen her in a long, long time.  She walked as if a world of worry had been lifted off her shoulders.  She has made it through her first semester living away from home and came through with flying colors.  I couldn't be more proud of her.  I think that all our lives will be in a constant state of transition over the next few years.  New people will come and go out of Erin's life and each will bring something new.  From this newest addition I believe she has come to have a better sense of her self worth.  She is being treated with respect; as if she matters.  He listens when she talks and laughs at the same things she finds funny.  He can barely keep his eyes off her and she hangs on his every word.  He treats her the way John and I have always told her she deserves to be treated.  Now she sees the difference.  I don't know how this relationship of hers will develop, but I believe that regardless of the end result this is good for her.  She hasn't lost sight of her own dreams but I believe she is beginning to wonder how those dreams may develop.  She's beginning to believe she can have it all.  I believe she can, too.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I've been putting it off...

I just finished Erin's high school scrapbook.  I know, I know.  She's been out of high school since last May.  I hate scrapbooking.  For me it is a torturous exercise in cutesy page design that is about as much fun as a root canal.  It also takes me longer than the average root canal to do just one page.  I started this particular scrapbook for Erin when she was in the seventh grade.  The idea was good; the execution - not so much.  At the end of her seventh grade year I took the very first Monday of my summer, dragged out my stuff, and commenced to design pages.  Two days later I finished a two-page spread of the highlights of her school year.  Why is this so hard?  I have friends that could have done an entire high school career for a child in the length of time it took me to do just one grade!  I tried to follow the tenants of a good scrap booker:  the best pages are those which tell a story.  I'm afraid the story that mine tells is that I do not have an eye for this sort of thing.  Erin seems to like it, though, and she's the only one that truly counts.

So why the sudden urge to finish this one?  Well, we have a house guest coming in on Thursday.  Erin told me that she thought it would be nice if I could finish it.  What could I say?  I had no real, good excuse.  I started on Sunday.  Today is Tuesday.  In the end I had a stack of pictures I thought I just had to include and no more pages left.  I do need to give myself a little credit.  For her senior year I didn't just do the two-page spread.  I did one page with a senior portrait, two for volleyball, two for softball, one for awards day, one for graduation, two for her senior trip to Disney World, and two more pages for snapshots.  Looking back, for me that's not too bad!  That's one, two, . . .eleven pages in three nights!  Woo hoo!  Maybe this  scrapbooking thing isn't so bad!  Did I really just say that?  Just goes to show just how tired I am.  Tomorrow I'll clean up the mess and pull my house back together for our house guest.  Besides, the appreciation on Erin's face when she sits and looks at her books makes it all worthwhile.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Beginning...

Happy New Year, Everyone!  Today is a day for resolutions, football games, and naps on the couch.  So, how did we spend our day?  Yup.  Watching football and taking naps.  No resolutions for me this year.  I see no reason to set myself up year after year with all the normal resolutions:  lose weight, don't work such long hours, be a better housekeeper, etc.  Either I will or I won't and making a resolution today won't change the results. 

So, reflecting on the past year what do I see?  I think it is a year best put behind us.  Erin graduated from high school, got her first job, moved away, and started college all within the space of 3 months.  That's a bit too much change for me in such a short time.  Not that all those changes weren't good ones.  Erin's move to Tuscaloosa has been a good one for her.  John and I have spent the better part of her life helping her to expand her horizons so she would be comfortable away from us and self-sufficient when the time came.  That's what good parents do, isn't it?  So how come now that she is away from us, taking good care of herself, and doing well does it make me a little sad?  Maybe because she doesn't really need me anymore.  She patronizes me occasionally and lets me mother her, but she really is quite an independent young woman.  I guess I should just be glad she let's us take what part we do.  She is so much happier now than she has been in the months before she went to college.  That makes me happy, too.  I see more life in her eyes now than I have in a long time.  That's a good thing.  High school is hard when your mom teaches where you go to school.

So what's in store for us this next year?  Only good things, I hope.  Erin is starting her second semester and will continue to build her life in Tuscaloosa.  John and I will continue to do what we do here.  In the meantime our lives will march on.  Stuff will happen.  We'll deal with it . . . together.  I can't really say that I hope things get better.  They are pretty good the way they are right now.  My family is happy and healthy.  We have jobs and we can pay our bills.  In this day and age that is saying lots more than so many people can.  We are blessed.  May you be blessed in this new year as well.