So, a few years ago, our beloved cat, Googie (yes, that was his name – if anyone can name the obscure reference, comment and you will get gold stars!) had to be put down because he was so old that he couldn’t hold himself up anymore. It made me so sad that I had to put him out of his misery. I don’t say this to make anyone sad, I say it because he lived a wonderful life from the day we rescued him from the shelter. He was an estimated 1-2 years old when we got him and he lived up until our 18th wedding anniversary, so somewhere around twenty years. He was my joy, my first child quite literally. We fed him a steady diet of love and I am convinced that is why he lived so long.
Children are much the same.
Yesterday, Lucy and I had to have what is known amongst parents as a “Come to Jesus” meeting. A meeting where the facts are laid bare, the cobwebs of doubt and insecurity are swept away with the scuttling spiders of misunderstandings. She had to know where I stand and I had to know where she stood.
I have long preached the value of compartmentalization. The ability to separate emotion from decision making in the interest of solving problems instead of wallowing in problems. My habit of compartmentalization is a coping mechanism. By focusing on the task at hand, either for the two hours it takes for me to coach a practice, the ten hours it takes for me to coach a swim meet, or the five minutes it takes for me to put the screw back in my license plate so it doesn’t fall off the car, I am better able to manage my time and figure out how to get more stuff done in less time. Organizing my day in this manner leaves me more “free” time. Time to sit out on the back deck in the evening, enjoying a glass of wine, or watching the shooting stars that we had in the Atlanta area the other night. Never before have I seen shooting stars, and I probably never will again. About fourth or fifth grade is when I start to point out to the kids the value of five minutes. Until then, I focus on trying to get the kids to “stay on task” and not get distracted. ADOS, Attention Deficit … Oh! Shiny! has no place in our lives because time is finite and there are only so many minutes in a day.
In Lucy’s defense, she gets the brunt of my strong words and strong opinions—probably 50% if you were to divide it mathematically, mainly, because she’s the oldest. Husband really gets the other 47% and the rest of the kids, because they learn from watching Husband and Lucy, the last 3% divided up depending on what’s going on in each of their lives at that given moment. The best thing I can do for them is to teach them how to live. Doing things for them does them no favors because, eventually, they WILL LEAVE and if they cannot open a can of soup to eat, I have failed in my job as mother. I will admit that sometimes I am so pragmatic, I get so frustrated with a lack of action, that I lash out. Nothing bugs me more than people bitching about problems rather than solving problems. However, this can sometimes come across as unfeeling, un-nurturing (is that a word?) and can be interpreted as Mom Doesn’t Care.
Yesterday yielded just that type of conversation between Lucy and myself with her on one side of the fence and me on the other. Just for a little background, as a senior this semester, of her four classes she has AP Biology, H Latin VIII, AP MicroEconomics and AP British Lit. She hates to hear it, but this is her first year of college. Quite literally. I took Econ 101 at Carolina in a class of 300 students. As a music major, I was not really about Econ to say the least, so I understand what she is going through. (Lucy wants to major in Comparative Literature.) In addition to these classes, she had to take the SAT again (see previous post, Music to My Ears), she has her Senior Project which she chose to do on Financial Planning because she knew nothing about it, she got her Driver’s License AND she had to apply for all her chosen colleges and write the essays required for each. Oh yeah, and she teaches swim lessons everyday after school.
Needless to say, not an easy, breezy semester and she has been under quite a bit of stress. Long story short, I got on her about her Econ grade (a B) because I have always told them, if they earn a B and have done everything possible, I am fine with it. If they earn a B because they have been apathetic about it, accepting bad quiz grades and bad test grades without learning from their mistakes, I am SO NOT cool with that. She and I handle situations differently. She is so much like her father, it’s scary sometimes. She tends to go through the “Oh Woe is Me” stage before sitting down to figure out a problem. The time spent in this preliminary stage varies with intensity and importance. She (and Husband, sometimes) cannot see the trees for the forest, so to speak. They see the huge problem, but they cannot find their way out of the maze without wandering aimlessly for a while with angst and drama hampering their every footstep.
I’ll be honest … this approach drives me NUTS! This is where my frustration and cold words come in to the equation and the hurt feelings of “Mom, you have no compassion” are born. I understand completely. I do. On the outside, I seem very unfeeling. I don’t care about the plights that my children are faced with, I don’t understand them. But I do. I really, really do. I just don’t see a need for all the drama. One can care about stuff until he or she is blue in the face. I could wring my hands until my knuckles break with a crack, but it doesn’t do any good and in fact, makes it worse because either the problem amplifies or I just get more and more upset and it all snowballs.
I pointed all this out to her yesterday. Me telling her to quit dramatizing stuff and fix the problem isn’t me saying I don’t care about her feelings, it is me teaching her a coping mechanism. Set emotions aside for the time being. Table the freak out until there is a time and place to deal with it, but in the meantime, do as the English do. Keep Calm and Carry On. That phrase was born in World War II when London was being bombed to hell and back, but life still had to go on.
In the end, I told Lucy that no one loves her more than I do, and no one understands her more than I do. Come to me with issues and I will try my best to help her figure out a plan to solve her problems. I told her I loved her so much that I stopped homeschooling her when she was eight because she got to where she couldn’t make a move without me or my approval. That isn’t me being a good mom as harsh as it sounds.
Teaching her the ways to deal with life’s problems? That’s me being a good mom, even if it makes me seem like a bad mom, but it is all part of the Love Diet. I vow to try to be more compassionate, to explain to her/them that my advice, although harsh at times, is because I love them and want them to be everything they can be. I want them to have the tools to deal because life can throw major curveballs and as much as we all want to, tantrums and emotional rollercoasters are unproductive and unbecoming.
I’m curious, what are your ways of dealing with life’s big issues? Do you have a pattern? A routine?