The uncertainty of weather and teenagers

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Uncertainty is a fundamental characteristic of weather and teenagers.

This morning is sunny, dry, and windless. The clouds are playing hooky from the watery blue sky and the birds are singing. My weather app tells me that it is exactly 63 degrees Fahrenheit. With a touch of the screen I also know: the humidity is low, at 65 percent and the wind is moving at eight miles per hour, or what I might feel on my face when leisurely pedaling a bicycle. The forecast for today is wonderful: there is zero chance of rain and later this afternoon the temperature will rise to a balmy 81.

Unfortunately, there’s no app to predict the moods of teenagers.

The weather is fluid and ever changing, much like my son. Not only do I see physical changes in my 12-year-old, but emotional and social changes, too. In other words, my son can be soooo moody.

He’s sad one minute, happy the next. He’s angry with me – something I said, and storms off. Later, he returns, says that he’s sorry. His emotional disturbances are like the waxing and waning of the moon; the ebb and flow of the tide. I fear that I’m ill-prepared for the wave of moods that lie ahead. At times I’m stunned trying to figure out what to say to my son that won’t drive him further away. Other times, I wait for my 4’9″ hurricane to weaken to a “Category 1.” Eventually, the storm blows over and everyone is happy again.

Like a blustery day, my son’s anger and sadness makes me feel uncomfortable.

When he was a baby there was a night or two (probably more than I can remember) that he cried and cried, despite every comfort I gave him. I wanted to make him feel better and couldn’t. There was no escape from the endless colicky, croupy nights. Eventually, however, those nights became fewer and I relied less on Dr. Spock and whiskey (for me, not the baby!). As James grew, other unpredictable things took the place of one discomfort after another: ear infections, pinkeye, bronchitis, Fifth disease, scrapes, sprains, worry, embarrassment, and more. Sickness, injury, hardship, and mood swings are the unpredictable encounters of growing up.

How long does the moody climate of teenagers last?

I had an “Aha!” moment after reading a line by author Katrina Kenison in her book The Gift of An Ordinary Day.  “Adolescence is a mutinous confusing time when everyone’s trying to get off the boat.”  As a mom, I know I’m going to feel discomfort, stuck, and unhappy with my teenager and want to leap out of the boat. I won’t know how long the ride will last, but I have two choices: Resist or lean into uncertainty.

I’m beginning to understand that if I resist change, I only invite more tears and frustration. But if I lean in and let uncertainty flow through me, I just might be able to navigate the weather and my son.

“The future is no more uncertain than the present.” – Walt Whitman

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How to let go of your attachments

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Can you let go of your attachments? Can you let go of the emotional dependence you place on your identity, things, or people? It’s not easy.

Here’s a little exercise I picked up from Awakened Mind: One-Minute Wake Up Calls to a Bold and Mindful Life hat helps when I find myself too wrapped up in some thing, or someone. Watching my son’s soccer game last night helped put my attachment to a situation in perspective. His team was getting crushed and I was squirming in my seat. There was chaos on the field; another goal scored. The team was going to lose. So what?  So what if they were losing?  I’m not a player on the team. Let go, I thought. Let go of my attachment to losing.

I made a fist with my right hand and in it I put that thought, that attachment to winning a losing game. I inhaled deeply. When I exhaled, I opened my fist and let go of my attachment. I felt much better and could enjoy the rest of the game by being aware and present. An observer on the sidelines, in the right place, with the right people at the right time. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The same thing happens with my writing. I pour my heart and soul into my work, and then I choke on the details. I worry about mistakes, urgency, and deadlines. But I’m focusing on the wrong things. I realize that I need to let go, have a little faith in myself, and be present.

The next time you’r faced with anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, or anything depleting your emotional reserves, try this little ritual to rid yourself of your attachments.

1) Think of every little worry, fear, or frustration that weighs you down, or that’s burdensome to you at this moment. It could be the mulch pile in your driveway, or your son heading to college in six weeks, or hurtful words someone said to you.

2) Make a fist with your hand and place all of your thoughts into it.

3) Breathe in. Breathe out.

4) Open your palm and symbolically let it all go.

Feel better? How do you let go of your attachments?

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I wouldn’t be a mom without my kid

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Kids are curious creatures; they have a way of looking at life without a filter.

“When I grow up I want to be a stay-at-home-Dad,” said a young boy as I walked by his driveway with my dog Beck. I stopped and waited for the rest of the story as Beck sniffed my neighbor’s mailbox, lifted his leg, and peed.

“I’m going to sit at home and watch football all day,” the boy continued.

“And take care of the kids, right?” I asked. The little boy shook his head, no. And then he ran away to play.

Maybe this kid is on to something

What about a stay at home mom who doesn’t have to take care of the kids and can watch TV all day? Or is that called lack of ambition? I’m happy to report that my husband and I “divide and conquer” when it comes to taking care of our son. We share things like helping with homework, driving to endless soccer practices, making meals, and more. So taking care of our kid is something we want to do.

I’m not a stay at home mom

But I did stay at home with James for his first five years. And I learned that playing the role of mom is hard, regardless of whether you’re a stay at home mom, dad or neither. Our society tends to create a hostile environment in which women are made to feel inadequate for being unable to live up to an unrealistic image of the uber-mom. I’m proud of my 12 years experience under the watchful eye of my curious child – warts and all.

Mirror, mirror

Somehow our kids become reflections of ourselves, which can be a hard pill to swallow. It’s all in how we look at it. There’s not a single enlightening moment in raising kids, but a series of discovery moments – from the decision to have a child, to waddling through nausea, to training the dog to stay out of the crib, to breastfeeding, to the end of a good night’s sleep, and to watching baby grow. How we react to these changes, situations, and other life-events shapes our kids.

As moms, we worry about our kids growth patterns, sleep habits, and whether or not we can truly mask the taste of flaxseed in a chocolate chip cookie for your pre-schooler (you can’t). Often we’re at odds with ourselves, questioning our competence, confidence, and composure. Many moms I’ve interviewed constantly battle the little noises in their heads that say: Am I good enough? Am I doing the right things? Am I spoiling my kid? Am I learning from my mistakes? Have I become (dun, dun, DUN) my mom?! Fear, resistance, and distraction all play a role. I’m comforted in knowing that other moms (and dads, too) are riding a crazy train of exasperation, fear, frustration, confusion, illness, and silliness. At the very least, it makes me feel a little less self-conscious.

Kids are good for you

Kids say the funniest things. They ask questions, poke at the inner and outer workings of things, solve problems independently, and share their frustrations with people who don’t interject or ask too many questions. The latter takes a lot of self-restraint on my part. Over the years, I’ve listened and taken notes on some of the things kids say. Looking back, I’m glad I’ve been able to capture a few of them. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from kids. Happy Mother’s Day!

“I had a rough day.”

“My favorite part of school is recess.”

“I try to always wear black.”

“My teacher thinks we’re the best class she’s had. She doesn’t like 7th graders. They talk back too much.”

“Sometimes it’s big and sometimes it’s small.”

“I’m the right tilt.”

“I missed you in my sleep.”

“I don’t have an off button.”

“I like the smell of sweet dog breath.”

“I burped an idea.”

“Nonfiction makes you smart.”

“I don’t have a tail. I’m a primate.”

“I love you Mommy.”

What are your favorite quotes from kids?

Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook.