It all comes back to .. (finishing some thoughts)

“Sometimes the best thing you can do as a parent, is keep your mouth shut.  My mother just listened .. and let me talk.  What a gift that was.” – Diane Keaton this morning, on the Today Show

……………….

What are the most important lessons your mother taught you?

……………….

I have seen the topic quite a bit recently in the news .. especially as we approach Mother’s Day.  I’ve been asked that particular question by friends recently as well.  And, it is a question I have been pondering myself, always have, but more and more as I work to navigate the ever changing waters that are motherhood.

Especially through divorce.

I have been trying to write for the past week, without much success, about some of the challenges facing us at the moment.

Much of it is relatively small in the grand scheme of things ..

 .. like making sure we’re out the door each morning in time to get to school on time.  Or .. navigating the increasing mood swings she’s having as she heads toward her tween years.  (This will be fun to write about).  Responding – or not to the occasional tantrum (of which we have not had one since that dreadful first night of spring break).  Listening to her constant push for a later bedtime as she gets older and balancing that with her need to get enough sleep.  Listening to her ask for anything that means more responsibility.  Yet struggling with how some of the most basic things she needs to do and is reminded of, she can’t somehow seem to get done.  Her being upset with me as I ask her to leave the cats alone and instead focus on her homework.  Not allowing any talking back and providing appropriate consequences when she does.  Keeping track of my jewelry, clothes or shoes ..as she can now fit into most of them… stuff like that.

I realized only this morning, just how similar a size we now are .. when I grabbed her rainboots to run out to the car.

And they fit.

As she grows and things are changing rapidly, some of these conversations and reflections will be easy and somewhat fun to write about.  And for her to have to reflect upon.

The problem is ..

There are bigger issues and conversations happening behind the scenes right now that are tough.  And are very big picture.  And that should stay behind the scenes, for now.

Especially because, we all know, that even in marriage parents don’t see eye to eye.

So what do you do, what is best to do, when it comes to divorce.  And your child’s future.  When you have two separate homes.  And two very strong, well meaning opinions that can’t quite merge.

…………….

Going back to the original question above, one many seem to be asking in their lives at this particular moment:

I believe the best advice I ever got from my own mother .. that I am relying on to get me through some of the smaller challenges of the day to day and of raising a child .. never came through actual words.

It came through her smile.  And her laughter.  Her ability to do both in the face of chaos.  And as Diane Keaton so eloquently stated this morning about her own mother, it was my mom’s ability to listen and respond in a way that, even if it was unintentional at the time, would ultimately help me take responsibility for my own actions and grow.

I’m not sure laughter and a smile are going to help on some of what is before us ..

I’m hoping there will be occasions however, where it won’t hurt either.  And in the meantime, I look forward to always working on my listening skills.

 

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First of (hopefully not) many to come?

It is a peaceful morning at the Cowboy’s ranch.

The sun is shining.  There is a slight breeze blowing.  No tv or music playing.

It is just quiet.

My daughter and I a few minutes ago, sat down to the coffee, bacon and waffles the Cowboy made for us before leaving for an appointment.

We had slept in, rolling in early this morning after a much later departure than I had hoped for last night.

………….

This is the start to our spring break this year ..

Well, I wish this were the start.  I like this start better.  We are instead going this morning, with .. the ‘do-over’ I wrote about a few posts ago.

…………

“Mom, can I have a hug,” my daughter asks as we were still lying in bed this morning.

She’s lying on her side, looking at me with one eye.  The other eye is buried in her pillow.  We are mirroring each other in that respect.

I give her a hug.  “I love you, honey..” I say.

The hug rounds out one of the first big fights we have ever had.

Well, actually, that she had with me last night as we were trying to get the car packed and actually get out of town.  I had a long time on the drive here last night to think about what set it all off.  And, we’ve talked about it since.  But ..

This was truly the first, and quite honestly, impressive (not in a good way) rant I’ve seen from her.

Normally we might have some pouting.  Some name calling.  Some assertiveness and being bossy.  She hasn’t been terrible about that.  She’s usually a pretty great kid and under control.  But this was a no good knock down drag out throw every nasty name in the book and do what I can to hurt mom kind of fight.  That was before the threats to throw yogurt all over the car (I almost doubled over laughing about the thought of that one as she threatened while I put gas in the car), dump my coffee (gasp! she knows my weak spot) and pinch me as hard as she could.

The “I don’t love you anymore I just want my dad the rest of my life and I wish you were never born,” kind of fight.

And it all started with me simply asking her to clean the cats litter boxes before we left.

“I tried,” she fussed at me, as I went to pour in more fresh litter and discovered there was still a lot to be cleaned.

I went to look for the scooper.

It was hiding in a corner, freshly snapped in two.

“Child (insert name)?” I ask .. “How did the scoop get broken?  Did that just happen?”

“No.  And .. It just broke,” she replied.

“It didn’t ‘just break‘ honey, what happened?  We have others coming to care for the cats and now the scoop is broke?” I say, increasingly frustrated at this point.  Frustrated my child (my fault at this point) isn’t better at handling a few simple chores.  And that we’re not already on the road.

“Why are you being so mean to me,” she asks.

I try and take stock of how I’m talking to her .. thinking, uh oh, did I push her too far?  Am I that frustrated trying to get out the door I’m taking it out on her?  Or, is it that I’m holding her accountable for one of two relatively simple tasks she’d rather not do, that’s has her so upset.  But it’s too late.  She’s in a full fledged rage, screaming bloody murder as she scoops the last of the clumps out of the litter box with half a scoop saying she doesn’t want to go with me now, and just wants her dad.  I keep doing what I’m doing, trying to stay focused and let her have this moment, hoping meanwhile that the neighbors aren’t getting concerned something else more traumatic is going on.  Next thing I know she’s unpacking all of her things from the car.  And on the phone.  To dad.

Now.. thank goodness he and I are in a place where .. even in divorce .. this no longer even remotely pits the two of us against each other.  If anything, her growing up and trying to play either of us has us talking and getting along better than we perhaps ever have.  And he knows she has called me at the slightest point of upset on his end.  It’s good to know we’ve got each others backs here.

(If I have learned anything important to pass along through my own divorce, it’s that .. if there is even a chance as a mom or dad you can present a united front .. despite separate homes, it makes a huge difference.  Not always in the moment, but in the big picture.  That’s for just about anything that may come up.)

But it was brutal.  For quite some time.  I let her keep going with it and ignored her for the most part, wondering how long she might keep it up.  And I was generally impressed with the steady stream of insanity that flowed from her healthy vocal chords.  I didn’t realize she had that in her to be honest.  At a few times I had to hold back a smile.  Which upset her even more.

It only ended as we were finally on the road about 20 minutes from home and she was furious I hadn’t started to cry.  My 10-year-old took off her seatbelt and threatened to open the door and jump out because it would be better than staying in the car with me.  And then she went for the gear shift and power button.  (Yes, my car has a power button.)

It was time to put this to an end.

She begged me to stop so that she could go to the bathroom and I told her that was perfect because she had gone on long enough and I was concerned now about both our safety.  And lucky for us, I knew that State Patrol headquarters was right next to the string of restaurants and gas stations we were heading for.

“If you can’t get this under control for yourself,” I said .. “perhaps we need to go and talk with the police.  Because I’m worried you’re going to hurt either yourself or both of us and  can’t let you do that.”

Snap.  She’s out of it.

“Are you hungry?” I ask.

We pull up to Culver’s and get out.

“I’m so sorry, mommy…..” she says as she walks around the front of the car toward me offering her arms for a hug.

“I think it’s puberty.  I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m doing this.  Can I have some ice cream?”

………….

I pray this is not a regular occasion.

But I also know, I gave my own parents a few doozies when I was her age.  Probably not to the extent I got last night, because I knew there would be a hand on my face at the first utter of some of the words she chose last night or a hand mark on my behind.  But I’m sure my words at that time, cut close.

I’m not proud of that.

In fact, and my daughter and I have talked about this already this morning.  If I have any regrets from a life otherwise well lived .. it is that I ever said some of the things I did to my parents.  That I know had to have stung .. just a bit.  In particular, to my own mother.

She used to say .. “I can hardly wait until you have your own kids…” with a smile on her face.

I am learning, day by day .. what she meant..

…………

It is still quiet here at the ranch this now Saturday afteroon.

The dishes are cleared and put away after a late brunch..

And I’ve had a few wonderful moments to sit and write again after a chaotic week…

I can hear the truck coming up the drive ..

The Cowboy is has returned.

And we’re going outside to learn how to ride a bike ..

Which, she also doesn’t want do.

Let’s see how this one goes..