Camp comes to a close ..

Last walk up with a friend ..

It has been one of the hottest June’s on record here in Wisconsin and this week at camp, the girls .. most of them anyway .. didn’t seem to mind.  Other than one day.  They rode in the morning and went to the pool in the afternoon.

“Well,” my daughter tells me on the way home as she is reliving some of the fun that went on this week outside learning better horsemanship .. “some of the girls got really crabby the last couple days.  I think it was just too hot.”

We laughed a little about it, especially since we were at that point, sitting in the air conditioned car.  I looked at the temperature gauge.  99 degrees.  According to the car.

Hugs, introducing parents and taking last day pics ..

Our 11-year-old absolutely loves this camp ..

Showing families all they’ve learned ..

This is only our second year of overnight .. but she’s been fortunate to come for years to the day camp.  There is something about it.  The place.  The people.  The other girls.  Learning something new.  Being close to home but not too close to start to really learn to feel more comfortable in her independence.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s just camp.  Late night chats.  Secret stories.  Running around like crazy.  Freedom of being a kid in a cool place and confidence building in life and social skills.  That experience she’ll remember for a lifetime.  That she’ll perhaps tell her own daughter about.

One last ride for this year anyway, on Quincy ..

She gave a few hugs.  Said many thank you’s.  Bought the standard camp sweatshirt.  Grabbed a Gatorade and we hit the road.  Ran errands.  Then having had enough of the heat all week, grabbed the dog and headed for the River to cool off.

What a beautiful day.

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While she has a few other camps coming up yet this summer, ones that I know she will love in very different ways ..

As we were watching early 4th of July Fireworks from a friends pier on the lake last night and she is leaning on my chest with her arms around me, she says, “Mom, I really miss camp.  I’m worried I won’t be able to go back next year.”

“We’ll see,” I told her.  “If you love it that much and it is important to you, that might be one of the things we’ll make sure you’re able to do.”

She hugged me tighter and said thanks.

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When you can’t control ..

There are a lot of things *worth* making a big deal about in life.

I have an amazing friend that I don’t see often enough, especially anymore because of a move and his retirement, who I can’t believe what he has seen, done and had happen to him in his life .. the loss of two children, a third with severe disability, a major health diagnosis for his spouse, and that’s just to start .. situations that might bring any of the rest of us to our knees.  Yet he gets up everyday, volunteers, goes to work, has the brightest eyes and biggest smile on his face and he just gets at it everyday.

That’s a lot for anyone to deal with.  Those things change you.  They have to.  And they can change a person for better or for worse in an instant.

Most of the time though .. we have little things, issues or challenges, deadlines, tasks, whatever .. thrown at us constantly throughout the course of a day.  And usually, there is little the Universe can truly throw at us that can’t be taken in stride.  That we can’t entrust, if not to God, to someone else.  Or ourselves.

Unless .. we perhaps have some issues with needing control.

There was a time in my life when I used to wonder why life, (I was told), was so bad.  So hard.  I felt horrible because no matter how bad things have ever actually been, I’ve always tried to find the silver lining.  I try to always be open to the fact I can do things better and take ownership of issues that are mine .. deal with them or make peace with the fact they are just my issues and minimize the impact on others.  Like the fact I often try to get one more thing done before I have to be somewhere which often, not always, but often where I feel I might have some leeway, has me running behind.

I have also far too often over the years, tried to take on issues I am told were or are mine.  But they’re not.  It took me a very long time to recognize that.  I used to wonder what was wrong with me that I didn’t see things the way I was told they were.  That perhaps I just didn’t get it.

In some cases, things are a big deal.  And, I try to always give credit where credit is due.

It’s tough though when everyone comes at things from their own past experience, personality and perspective.  So how big a deal something might be to one versus another is all very relative.

But after you’ve been through some actual, real sh*t in life, your realize what’s worth making a huge fuss or demands or threats over and what’s not.

It’s taken me a long time to get to a place where I have learned to better recognize this and  compartmentalize when issues are my own that I need to own ..

And when they’re just someone else’s .. appreciate that fact, and let it go.

Still, no matter how far you may try to remove yourself, sometimes you just keep getting dragged into the drama others need to create.  (And let me just clarify, this fortunately has nothing to do with the Cowboy.  Other than at times we both get to share/swap stories and ponder solutions to the everyday chaos around us.)

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While I’ve paid good money over the years to understand this and get to this place where I am currently at .. there are some valuable lessons I think in sharing stories, situations or resources.

http://drphil.com/articles/article/320

http://www.compatamate.com/Relationships/control.html

Whether or not it’s from me, Dr. Phil .. or any of the thousands of resources/forums available on Google which I won’t bore you with here .. there are lessons here I’d love for my daughter to learn, especially as she ages.  I hope she more easily recognizes a person with control issues than I can or ever did.

It would help tremendously even in situations like the one she and her best friend found themselves in this past year ..

Where a third little girl who so desperately wanted to be both their friends, did what she could to create chaos between the two, in order to come in and be the one to save the day.  She wanted them both to need her and like her best.  Versus just being a good person to like and love, who looked at herself for the person she wanted to be and stood firm in that .. (not easy for any girl about to enter her teens)

And who they would have welcomed into their circle to begin with.

We had this very conversation just the other night in regard to something said to her by another friend completely outside the triangle mentioned above, her reaction to it and how she might best respond.

Friendships, families, workplaces and relationships shouldn’t be about winning, losing or needing control.  While structure is necessary in some form and if expectations are made clear .. they are best when they can just be because everyone is doing their own part.

If it doesn’t work for some reason, it’s my belief .. take it or leave it, .. that natural consequences are a good reminder perhaps we need to look within and work on what’s there .. first.

Last Day of School .

As my daughter and so many other kids wrap up their last day of school for the 2011-2012 school year ..

I took a few moments this morning to say thank you to those who have been so gracious to us and walk the hallways one last time.

It’s cathartic to have moments like these as a parent .. to reflect on the year gone by, how much your child has changed ..

.. the people who have had such an impact, the things they have learned, the excitement of each day and the noise typically bouncing off the walls .. on the playground or a class out on the lawn.

Then see how empty ..

Put away neatly in its place ..

And how quiet everything now seems.

As a child, those sounds to me felt like freedom.  Freedom to sleep in for awhile.  Freedom to run.  To build forts, climb trees all day and go on lengthy, leisurely bike rides with friends.  It felt like it was time again for a fan in the window.  Chorus’ of crickets and frogs at night.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each day for lunch.  And popsicles.  Family reunions.  Packing bags for the summer vacation we always took in the car.  It just felt like change because I knew .. as I walked out of school each year .. that in a few months, it would bring a whole new class, set of challenges, responsibilities which thinking back, I always felt so ready for and that I was also getting older.  That was something I couldn’t wait for back then.  Sound familiar?

That was as a child.

As a parent .. school releasing for the year seems so bittersweet because I know it means in many ways, the same things to her as it did to me as a child.  But we also know now as adults, how quickly that time flies by.  And I want so very much, to savor each precious moment.

This is our last particular year at this school so we won’t be coming back.  Middle school awaits.  And unlike where I went to middle school, which was simply a walk down the hall .. in Madison, that means typically somewhere halfway across town.

There are so many we will miss.  Friends, teachers, administrators, staff.  Thank you all for the job you do and how much you care.  It shows.  It makes a difference.  And it helps set in place a wonderful foundation for a lifetime of learning and of caring about community.

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“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”  – Khalil Gibran

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We wish you the best .. and hope everyone has a wonderful, safe and fun summer!

6th Grade here we come!

Drama ..

The Cowboy and I were standing there the other day .. when a little friend of my daughter’s came up to her just as the 5th grade graduation ceremony had ended .. and said, “Our other friend is mad at you again.  She is.  And she really doesn’t want to talk to you.”

I looked at her, not believing what I was hearing on some level.  Wanting to laugh on another.  I saw my daughters shoulders sag under the heavy weight of more drama between them all.

She looked at my daughter, waiting for a response.  Then she batted her eyes at me.

“I’m sorry, honey, what did you say?” I asked, as if I hadn’t heard the first announcement.

I had gotten to know this child a bit as well over the past year through both volunteering at school and at different events.  And, every time I see her, she gives me as big a hug as possible, I think in part because she needs it.  But also because she knows it irritates the bajeezus out of my own daughter, frustrated by someone who she would prefer is a friend, but who seems more often a foe, doing what she can as often as she can, to stir trouble.  There have just been ongoing issues and drama since the beginning of this school year.  And my daughter has tried her best, I believe to befriend her, as she was also once new in that school and knew what it was like to need a friend.

The little girl repeated herself.

My daughter, sounding frazzled, sad and frustrated replied, “What?  No she’s not.”

The three of them have been spending a lot of time recently with the guidance counselor trying to work things out.  Much of the school year has been spent negotiating this relationship, actually.  For some reason, the drama only seems to build, not wane.  And it doesn’t seem to matter what is said or done.  There is never any making it better.  Not for more than a couple hours anyway.  Often when I walk into school, people ask, ‘How is your daughter doing?’ because something else has happened that day.

I had done my best to stay out of it all year.  Be an ear for my daughter.  Help her think through how she might best handle the situation on her own.  But knowing she had cried over another apparent misunderstanding created by the third party the night before, called her best friend to work it out, clear up the notion there even was a problem, then seeing the effort right in front of me to stir it all up again .. I couldn’t help myself.

“Perhaps if (best friend) is still having some issues with (my daughter), the two of them should speak directly to each other, would you be okay with that” I said to her.

“That way you don’t have to be a go-between, which would probably make it easier on you …. and then they won’t have any miscommunications about problems that might exist that really don’t.  Otherwise, I think they have it worked out,” I said.  “Is that okay?”

She nodded her head.

“Great,” I ended the conversations.  We stepped to the side to take a family photo.

While I’d like to say if for no other reason to be happy the school year ends tomorrow, it might be, that we can move past the social challenges of 5th grade.  The time when it seems the drama really kicks in.

But, sometimes .. people get stuck in 5th grade ..  

You know who I’m talking about .. those who always need a little drama, or when there is none, are more than happy to stir it up.

………………………………………

drama

[drah-muh, dram-uh]

4.  any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results.

………………………………………

The Cowboy and I were talking a bit about two particular issues that have come up where that is the case.  In just the past 48 hours.  Funny thing is, typically the person who loves to create it is quick to point out its not them, but you that is the problem.

And if you would just cooperate ….. the world would be a much better place.

As adults, you would think we should know better than to engage.  But it’s tough .. you feel like the little boy or girl again in 5th grade.  Exasperated it seems there is nothing you can do to fix a situation.  Because, in my opinion, there is no ‘situation’ other than the one someone is creating for you.  Exhausting.  Who has time for that?

Apparently many.

The Cowboy says it helps him to step back and think about what someone’s motives might be .. to best deal with any drama, as some people are motivated simply to get what they want.  They need to feel, regardless of whether or not they are actually in control, in control.  They need and want that power.  And unless one takes a deep breath and stands still long enough to recognize it, we get swept up in it.  Great insight, Cowboy (according to the following article.)

http://drthema.blogspot.com/2010/11/dealing-with-high-drama-people.html

The mother of my daughter’s best friend .. as we spoke the other night about future play dates .. mentioned she thought that was the case with the other little girl.

That the drama she is creating between our girls is her way to have some control in a world where she feels she has little to none.  A point that just absolutely makes me feel sad for her.  Sad especially, that she would see that as a solution versus just being a good friend.  That creating drama is her way to be able to not only have others possibly need her, but it might also be where she feels in the midst of chaos she can also come in and be the hero and fix it all, too.

Whatever the challenges we face .. be it 5th grade, making friends, finding our way, changing interests, changing bodies, new schools, new classes and creating our own good space in life .. or a new job .. adult friendships .. perhaps a relationship or a marriage..

May drama only be a class you take or a reference to one of the first three definitions according to Webster’s:

dra·ma

[drah-muh, dram-uh]
noun

1.  a composition in prose or verse presenting in dialogue orpantomime a story involving conflict or contrast of character, especially one intended to be acted on the stage; a play.
2.  the branch of literature having such compositions as its subject; dramatic art or representation.
3.  the art dealing with the writing and production of plays.
Best of luck, dear sweet girls .. in 6th grade!

When Life Hands You …

I woke up by chance this morning at about 3:15 ..

I flipped on the tv, trying to decide whether I would get up and get to a few things I wanted and needed to do.

Or go back to bed.

While I was trying to decide, I happened to catch the following:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7409866n&tag=mncol;lst;1

So many great words here .. all of which I love, most of which I try to live by and many that I hope my daughter will internalize and remember someday when she needs to dig deep.  Make some tough decisions.  Apply herself.  Set goals.  Or just wake up and remember that being positive and having the right attitude about life can make all the difference in any God given day.

But because she’s getting to the age where she knows best and mom knows nothing so I won’t listen to you .. lalalalalalalalaalalalalalaaaaa …

(even though I know she does)

I thought I’d post this too.  Thinking, perhaps the wisdom and insight from many others will give her pause.

Someday, if my own history is any indication, she will remember my thoughts, hopes and dreams for her.  And she will pause, and hopefully along with that, smile.  Especially since I’m adding now to my arsenal (sorry, need to pilfer this one), one of the phrases from Jane Lynch, among the speakers featured in the CBS Early Show’s video montage:

If life gives you lemons, grab it by the horns and drive.”

Intentional combination of several metaphors, for the record.  And a lovely moment in the video if you have time to watch.  So many other great quotes to cite and may grab them in writing later but for now, love this one dearly.

Glad for some reason that I was awake and caught it.

And that I did finally decide it was wise to get a couple more hours of sleep.

“No …”

It seems one of my daughter’s favorite words recently has become ‘no’.  Like, I’m not even sure sometimes she realizes she is saying it or that she could stop should she choose .. because no matter the consequence it just keeps blurting out of her mouth.

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“Little said is soonest mended.” – George Wither

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Perhaps the above quote is why the stink eye my dad would shoot us .. even just the thought of him coming home and being told what we had done, was the fastest way for us to break out of whatever bad behavior we were exhibiting as children.  And instead of fights and punishment, we could all move on to throwing around the football together at the park next door, laughing and treating each other with respect .. or the chores we had been asked to do with no grumbling .. until mom called us in for dinner.

Back when I was a child …” I’ve found myself saying to my daughter more than a few times lately.

Boy I used to really get it for back talk.  Hand across the face.  The butt.  Grounded.  I think I have mentioned somewhere in all of these blog posts so far, I spent much of my young adult life alone in my room.  Grounded.  No radio.  Just me and myself.  Sitting there staring at my posters of C. Thomas Howell, Motley Crue and Ratt.  Come to think of it, it wasn’t all that bad.  Just kidding.  It stunk.  All that time alone in a room with nothing to do.  Plus, we had to walk 10 miles barefoot through the snow uphill both ways to get to my room, I’m pretty sure.  But I’m better for it now.

While all of that is running through my head as my own daughter pushes her limits, and I’m thinking, ‘what did she just say to me?’ ..

Externally, we work to find the appropriate tone of voice, the right volume, the right consequence and nip it in the bud.

But what is that anymore?  The right consequence?  Punishments many of us had, like spanking are just too cruel and controversial.  (Kitzie and Kellie, really?  Norwegian spanking paddle and bread board?  At least they had cooler names than ‘wooden spoon’, ‘the belt’ or ‘the hand’.)  A slap on the face, well that you just can’t do either anymore.  Soap in the mouth?  Do we question if that is still acceptable too?  I’m not saying do any of these things.  But I am saying, it seems more often than not we do little to nothing as a consequence for poor behavior out of fear its wrong – versus doing something.

And it seems because of this, there is growing concern we are raising a generation (if we haven’t already) of sassy, spoiled brats.  Is the the case?  I don’t know.  But I certainly am not wanting nor willing to add another to the mix.

How to solve?

It seems buying stock in soap is still a good idea based on answers to an informal little poll I took this evening.  Ivory, one of the more popular choices, at least from our parents generations.  And none of this liquid soap stuff.

Grab the bar and start chewing.

But besides setting a good example, having high expectations and not tolerating back talk from the get – go .. which I believe is easier said than done, we’ve all got to find that magic little ‘something’ that resonates as a consequence with our kids.  And make that work.

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There is a perpetual flow of new information (books, magazines, web articles, bloggers,  friends with opinions, counselors, etc) coming out that talks about what works, what doesn’t, how to handle .. what’s normal, what might be ok or what shouldn’t be tolerated and what will happen if you do.

A book I have heard many others reference as a good resource, including counselors and psychologists .. is called “Getting to Calm“.  I have the book and my dear child, in the event it may come in handy, I will save my copy for you.  🙂  For anyone else this might benefit, here’s the link.

http://www.gettingtocalm.com/

As I was perusing the web tonight quickly on the topic, found this page too which seems to offer some good thoughts, observations and action items.

http://josseybasseducation.com/uncategorized/back-talk-excerpt-from-the-big-book-of-parenting-solutions-101-answers-to-your-everyday-challenges-and-wildest-worries-by-michele-borba/

We hopefully all find a solution that fits, works and that we want for our own family, based on not only what the experts might recommend, but from our own personal bias of history .. the things we vowed we would never do to our kids because we remember all too well what was done to us.

Or, because while we hated it, it worked.

Buena suerte ..

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

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What are the most important lessons your mother taught you?

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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.

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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.