Shawn and I often refer to a "heroic journey" metaphor that counselors sometimes use when people are suddenly thrust into situations that require getting out of one's comfort zone, and taking on some kind of challenge that ends with insights that change the traveler in some way. The Wizard of Oz is a classic example of one of those heroic journeys. There are obstacles along the way: "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" And crazy stuff happens during the trip. In the end, Dorothy is a changed person, and "there's no place like home." Parenthood is certainly one of those heroic journeys. Even though I taught kids of all ages over the course of thirty years, and have had lots of parent conferences, I still haven't had any idea of what it's really like to step into a parent's shoes. To me, it's like someone doing a school visit for a day or two, and then think s/he is an education expert because they went to school once. My teacher friends know what I mean here.
So I don't think one can truly understand parenting, until one becomes a parent. That said, I think I gained a couple of insights after last week's heroic journey. I’m still no expert on parenting, as I have no kids. Yet 30 years of teaching and working with kids of all ages has taught me a few things, including the fact that kids thrive on consistency and follow-through. Last week I had the same feeling of almost nervous anticipation when Ash and Kade get off the school bus, that I had when I waited to greet the kids coming to my classroom: be ready to be “present.” We established a good routine, and after a little resistance, they really got into doing their homework with me. The only difference for me is now I get myself psyched up with an espresso so that I can bring that energy to the table ;). This is where I think younger parents might have an advantage, with greater physical stamina. This week, I only got short taste of what it takes to have it 24/7. Just as I was honored to earn the trust of parents of my school kids, I am honored to have earned the trust of Ashlyn, Kade, and Sawyer's folks. And nobody died or had to go to the emergency room.
I’ve never really had much of a “maternal instinct” and I’ve always wondered how parents keep things running the way they do, with jobs, sports, school schedules, etc., without losing their shit. Or at least I didn't think I had that instinct. This past week, I’ve learned that you “just do it.” And things just seem to work out, most of the time. Shawn and I were both a little shocked that I was able to get into this previously unknown “mom-mode” that I thought didn’t exist in me. Previously, I would have never said yes to taking care of kids in this way, not even for my own relatives. So Shawn was pretty impressed with me this last week, in that he saw a side of me that neither of us knew existed. I was also way more appreciative of him, and of my quiet, orderly life, and my relative freedom in life.
There were also so many great moments that gave me a little insight into why it's all so worth it for parents. Cruising around with these kids, storytime with Sawyer, homework and school with Ash and Kade, the really unexpected adventures with all of them, and all the love and cuddles. Funny, I was not really much of a cuddler before. What's HAPPENED to me??!!!
Last night I got to come home, sleep in my own bed, and I have now "stepped back into my own movie." Shawn is also really happy to have his wife back. Even with this new insight, I still have no regrets about the direction our own lives have taken.I like being an "auntie", and I don't feel like I'm missing anything. I'm still in "recovery mode" from last week.
There's a bouquet of flowers sitting here from an "adult kid" in my life (first time that's ever happened to me near Mother's Day), and a very sweet card that coincidentally showed up in the mail yesterday from another friend, almost 3,000 miles away. Since my own mother passed away a few years ago, I've had a lot of mixed emotions on previous Mother's Days. Today is one of the brighter Mother's Days I've had since she's been gone.
Happy Mother's Day to all you amazing Moms out there, with fondest aloha.
A few things I'm passionate about: