I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’m in California…for a week, visiting with several of our GOTR councils here as well as exploring some potential corporate partner relationships.
I awoke yesterday, in my hotel room, opened up my laptop and began my daily “check in” when the story about Takeimi Rao drifted across my computer screen. Takeimi was fourteen years old, hosting a sleepover at her house, and along with three of her friends, experimented with vodka-spiked soda. Her mother found her dead the following morning.
I am the mother to two teenagers. This is any mother’s nightmare of a story. You are home, your daughter has a sleep over, you are fast asleep while they are watching TV, they are having fun and you awaken next morning to have lost a child.
I don’t want to be morbid…a downer…but the truth is parenting is a little like Russian roulette. We do the best we can, instill in our children the values we hope will guide them through adolescence and into a fulfilled adult life, but we can’t be absolutely sure that anywhere along the way, even the smallest of diversions might lead to the most tragic of results.
I was just 36 when I had my son, 38 when I had my daughter. I remember the peace I felt when holding them in my arms, the exchange of love I felt with each of them as I nursed them, the long nights of their crying and my being sleep-deprived, the joys of their first steps, their first words, their first everythings.
Hank is now fifteen and Helen is twelve and I have to admit, this is hard work. For all of us. They are taking many of their firsts without my being present much less my being even aware of them. We are all extremely open with one another, but to suggest that they share everything with me would be both naive and the sign of personal boundary issues. They have got to lean into their own lives, their own stories, their own paths, their own decisions and the consequences that go along with those.
It is scary sometimes…both for them AND me. The tug of back and forth…their wanting to be independent but afraid to be; my desire for them to be self-sufficient, but then having a fear of letting them go. It’s not easy, my friends. Not easy at all.
I am keenly aware, however, of the influence that my work life-heck MY life- has had on those of my children. I do my daily best to live into a set of core values to which I have given quite a bit of thought. (Most, interestingly, have been prompted by my work with Girls on the Run. What a gift!) Some include parenting with an open heart, standing up for myself and others, living a life of gratitude, serving as a resource to my children, and showing compassion for all living creatures (including myself).
So much of what I see revealing itself in the actions of my children isn’t necessarily the actions themselves, but the intention behind their actions…the seeds have been planted and while they may make decisions that seem irrational to me, I feel an immense amount of joy as I observe the manner in which they handle the outcomes…the learning, the inward-seeking and the wisdom they gain with each mistake.
They are forgiving of themselves, open to self-examination and have this uncanny ability to look within when tackling issues that, when I was young, I would have sought in outward gratification and approval from others.
Parenting is challenging, because, at least for me, it requires intention…a mindful approach which includes living out a list of important values…values to which I have given a tremendous amount of thought and consideration. They don’t just happen by accident.
And then I am stopped, frozen in my tracks, when I hear of the heart-wrenching story of our fourteen year old sister, Takeimi…experimenting with alcohol, for the first time more than likely…unaware of its power. One decision that lead to the most tragic of consequences.
There but for the grace of something greater than myself, go I. It’s all just so confusing, uplifting, painful, joyful, scary, loving, open, vulnerable and real.
Parenthood. We do the best we can and hold on.
How do you manage the ups and down of parenthood? What philosophical underpinnings do you hold tightly to…to make it through those trying days? What are some of the values you implement to be the best parent you can be? (or best aunt, uncle, big sister, big brother?)