Adjusting to Seasons of Life

I received a letter in the mail. In our online, internet world actual letters are few and far between.   I thought it strange that my daughter’s new mother-in-law should write to me or send me any mail.  She is a delightful woman and I am confident she will be a grand mother-in-law to my daughter.  But why write to me?  I opened the envelope and out fell a short note not from my daughter’s mother-in-law but from my daughter.   Every time I see her first name with her new last name I have momentary confusion.  I guess I am still adjusting.

centerpiecesIt has been a month since the wedding.  The rehearsal, ceremony and reception were all wonderful.  It flowed smoothly minus difficulties.  I loved each part of it.  Tasks were well delegated and everyone’s assistance was greatly appreciated.  My daughter was not a bridezilla.  My tears flowed as I watched my husband practice walking our daughter up the aisle during the rehearsal.   During the ceremony the bride and groom each had their moment of tears, too.

The day after the wedding there were still some non-wedding family celebrations to enjoy.  But then it felt like December 26th.   All the planning and excitement had come to fruition, but it was over and done.  I was a little sad that it was all over.   The season of wedding preparation had ended.

D and D

my daughter and I 

Even clean-up was quick and easy.   Within a week everything borrowed had been returned and a few items returned for refunds.   All the bills were paid and a couple of deposits were returned to us.

Life is filled with seasons and new norms.  We adjust or we don’t.  Not adjusting is emotionally unhealthy.  So let us adjust.  Changes happen all the time.  Long ago I adjusted to being a married person.  It was an easy adjustment.  Then the children came and one by one we adjusted.  Of course there was a time when I wondered if I would ever stop changing diapers.  That season lasted for 9 years and then after an 8 year hiatus it returned briefly when our bonus child arrived.  I clearly recall times when it seemed sickness was in the house for months at a time.  One child would get a virus and it would be shared with all the family.  Sometimes it went around twice.  But even that was a season.

We endured and loved the season of having teenagers.  It was fun and exciting and always changing.  It was also excessively busy.  Then each following the other they prepared to go away to college, and away they went.   They went on to their own adult adventures and lives.   We adjusted.

 

When one has little children and may feel they are drowning or barely surviving the demands of parenting the season may seem interminably long.   Just as a crawler becomes a walker and then quickly a runner and climber so the seasons quickly pass.   Our children grow and change and mature and that is what we desire and needs to happen.  So we too must change and adjust.   My secret to adjusting is the following:

  1. Always be thankful for the present and don’t wish it way hoping for an easier or better future.
  2. Be thankful for the past. Allow yourself to reflect on it.  Record it in a baby book, journal or a scrapbook.   If the past includes sad emotions, allow yourself to be sad for a while, but don’t’ stay there. We can’t change the past but often time does change our perspective or understanding of it.
  3. Be thankful for the future and new adventures.
  4. Don’t begrudge changes but acknowledge that when changes happen they may include a loss of something or someone previously important.

scrap

I have hundreds of photos from two showers, the rehearsal, wedding and reception waiting for me to put them in a scrapbook.  I don’t have to release all the wedding joy just yet.

Still Letting Go, part 2

D. French ClockI am thrilled, excited and emotional again.  It is only eleven days away.  I hope I am ready. Thinking about it makes me tearful.  I have lists of tasks and I am confident each will be accomplished.  But will I be ready?  I have my dress, matching shoes and purse, jewelry, new suit and tie for hubby, all the items for the reception table decorations, and only a few small items left to purchase.  But will I be ready? This is a really big event.

As I reflect upon my own wedding on May 29, 1976, I note some differences.   The biggest difference is that we had a simple church reception with cake, mints, nuts, coffee and punch.   It was served by a few of my aunts.  My mom and I shopped together for the cake and the flowers, but I ordered and mailed the invitations, made my own dress and don’t recall ever having a conversation about a wedding budget.  There were a few things my mom and I disagreed about but she let me have my way.  I hope I communicated as well with my parents regarding the details of the wedding as my daughter has done with us.  I am thrilled to be a part of her planning.

I was confident in my choice of a husband despite my young age of almost 18 years old.  I am confident in my daughter’s choice too, because I trust her judgment. entry to shower

As a minister I have officiated weddings. I have created check lists and timelines for other couples.  Three times I have been the mother of the groom.  I understand the details and mechanics.  But will I be ready for my only daughter to be a Mrs.?   My future son-in-law has begun to call me  “Ma”.  And in some unexplainable way it is helping me draw him in as one of mine.

Our daughter lives three hours away from us.  But as she likes to remind me, we moved away, not her.  I thought that was my final “letting her go”.  She loves to travel for fun and for ministry, yet she lives and works in the same community where she grew up.   She and new hubby will continue there.

It has been my joy to attend two wedding showers for my daughter.  They were elegant and idyllic.  I am confident her wedding day will be as delightful.  My little clutch purse will be packed with lipstick, my phone/camera and tissues.

I will be ready (I hope, I think, I pray).  I will have tissues  just in case.

Deb and I

Moms’ Camp

I only went once, but it was awesome.  It was so hot we had to stop at the showers to cool off on our way to the pool and then back to the showers between the pool and the cabin. The cabins were primitive.  In my bunk I felt like a hot dog wrapped in a bun, which was the thin mattress.  It wasn’t the Hilton, but it wasn’t at home either.   No one asked me what was for dinner.  No one asked me where their shoes were or could they have another snack.  In fact all my meals and snacks were prepared for me and I didn’t have to do dishes.  We called it Mom’s Camp.  Women from ages 20-65 years were attending.  Actually the University of Illinois Extension Office ran this event.  This Mom attended camp to retreat from her 2, 4, 6, and 9 year old children.

sleeping personIt was wonderful to choose my activities at camp based on my interests.  I awoke and went to sleep at my choosing, not when little hands were prying open my eyeballs or shaking my shoulders to ask an urgent question.   I felt free.  It was a temporary freedom from my daily responsibilities, but it was a breath of fresh air which allowed me to better love and nurture going forward.

Everyone can benefit from a retreat.  We all need to be refreshed.  A retreat is different from a vacation.  One takes their family with them on vacation, but not on a retreat.   To survive my wonderful blessings I took a small retreat every day.   While the little ones took their daily naps, the older children and I each retreated to our individual rooms.  Be Quiet was the rule.  No talking at all. Rest, read, play quietly alone, or look at books on your bed. perspective

Life has come full circle. Our children are now adults and they have blessed us with twelve grandchildren.  My house is quiet on most days.  Now I host “camp” for my grandchildren.  The four oldest boys and then the four oldest girls each come to our house for planned fun and activities.   The minimum age is four so that the child is well potty trained, doesn’t require daily naps and will be okay without mommy and daddy for a few days.  All our children live three hours away in three different directions.  This little camp is a good retreat for the children and probably for the parents too.   It is fun for these grandparents and the cousins are happy to be with each other.

madhouseParents, try to provide little retreats for each other.   We all need time to unwind, relax, think and dream. I once heard the following formula for retreating: One weekend a year, one day a month, and one hour a day.  Most of us would struggle with even the one hour a day. Hunt for and seek mini retreats every day.   As we gain mental, emotional and spiritual strength we become better individuals, parents, spouses and friends.

 

My husband offered to let me attend Mom’s Camp again . . . . . just as soon as all the children were big enough to take care of themselves.   The kids agreed with him.   I only went once.  Now I sometimes go to my children’s homes to give them a break.

bronze children

Fried Okra

Far too late, I realized today, that I was not the best example to my children. They are all adults and between my three eldest sons there are twelve grandchildren. I have a second opportunity with the next generation. Since I only see any of them occasionally I will have to be quite intentional.

I don’t really know exactly how I started on this path. It was not a New Year’s resolution, but sometime in January I decided this was the year to try new things.  This morning I wrote a note in a birthday card to a great niece wishing her fun and encouraging her to try new things. As I did this, the thought of my own failure hit me.  I always encouraged my children to be brave and try new foods. But they did not see me trying new foods.  I ate a far greater variety of foods than any of them did, but I was always asking them to not let appearances or even scent make a decision for them. As chief cook, I prepared food that I liked.  Well, I recently dared to eat cottage cheese and blue cheese.  In my mind they are both quite scary looking. I was a hypocrite. I asked them to do what I was not willing to do.

H and S in the garden

My husband with our youngest son in our garden pruning “suckers” off the tomato plants. 

I have been trying new things, mostly new foods.  In addition to the above mentioned cheeses, so far this year, I have tried Belgium endive, leeks, spaghetti squash, collard greens, fried okra, kombucha tea, and coffee.  I liked the coffee, squash, endive, and fried okra.  I plan to give the cottage cheese a second chance as I discovered my container was far past its expiration date. With food tasting, one only has to be brave very briefly.   Water washes away most tastes.

A willingness to try new things has extended to other areas.  I am trying yoga in the privacy of my home thanks to you tube.  This would be far too embarrassing to do in a pubic setting.  I think children might also benefit from trying something new in a private setting and not before an audience, even an audience of friends or family.

I have also been experimenting with new hairstyles.  I have long hair and I think I can learn to do much more with it than I do.  Here, too, I have gone to you tube for instructions.   Doing something new takes practice.  The first time is often messy.  First attempts at learning new skills can turn out badly and that is okay.  A friend who taught me how to knit gave me instructions for “easy” bootie slippers.   When completed, one slipper was at least 3 inches longer than the other.  Oops.  I have had much greater success with crocheting, but even that takes practice.

Sometimes we forget how long it took us

This “new things” quest has got me thinking about other areas to explore. Perhaps I should try a new genre of music, movies, or books.   I might make a very enjoyable discovery. This summer I hope to try zip lining.

I have always considered myself a brave and adventurous type, but my spirit of adventure was limited.  This is my year to expand my horizons.   What new foods or things are you willing to try?   How do you help your children be brave and adventurous?

976 Elephants

976 elephants.  That is how many Great Aunt Doris had in her collection.  She had all sizes and shapes. They were made of a variety of materials.  Some came from exotic locations around the globe.  She had elephant everything from earrings to end tables.  But isn’t 976 too much of anything?   Many were simply packed away in a trunk (pun intended).  What’s in your collection?  What does your child collect?

shakers

some of my salt and pepper shakers

Step one in having a collection is discovering what we are interested in or what we prefer.  It is a valid discovery.  I recall as a child being challenged to find things I uniquely enjoyed and not just parroting my older sister.   Having an identified interest makes gift giving easier and more fun for others as they shop for us.

Step two is managing that collection.  How do I use it? How do I incorporate it into my life and my space?  Is it usable or is it just something to display and admire?  What is required of me to take care of my collection?

Step three is to not broadcast your interest too loudly or loosely lest you be inundated with too much of what you love.  This may cause one to reconsider their chosen item.   It is okay to let family and friends know that you have enough of ______________.

Dear Great Aunt Doris lived to be 105 years old.  That is a very, very, long time to collect elephant-bowlanything.  I believe she never tired of elephants.  I am thankful to have inherited a single elephant bowl from her.  I keep it filled with fruit on my counter and it reminds me of her.

As children grow and mature, naturally their interests will change.  The Polly Pockets which were completely thrilling at age six may have no meaning to a twelve year old.   The toddler who adored penguins later as a teen may find them rather boring and even smelly.    Allow your child to cast off old interests and embrace new ones.  You might encourage your child to find ways to share their old collectibles with others.    There is a time and a season for everything.   One of my sons assured me baseball cards are timeless.

I have seen adults try to start collections for children.  This rarely works well as each person needs to discover for themselves where their interests lie.   We also need to allow our children to decide for themselves when they are ready to move on to something new.

One more challenge with collections is the trap of discontentment.  If we always think we need more of something, then we must ask if our collection is controlling us.   Try a reverse collection.  I love banks, but I don’t need banks.  I have a few. It is enough.  I routinely give banks as a new baby gift.  It is sort of my signature gift. I give what I enjoy and hope they will enjoy it too.     Do you have any ideas for signature gifts or reverse collecting?12509089_1210792845603492_6949928042686141160_n

 

Fat Momma Syndrome

Fat Momma Syndrome, or FMS.   You will not find this syndrome on any medical list.  You will not find its traits or characteristics described anywhere but here.  This label is my creation based on years of observations as a youth pastor.   Caveat;  I am not attempting to criticize any woman’s size. That would be the pot calling the kettle black.   I am labeling a parenting temptation.

I believe the syndrome begins long before the teen years, but that is when I saw it reach its peak.  I am referring to the teen years of the daughter, not the mother.   As she enters her teen years, her mom is entering her mid-late thirties or maybe her early forties. Momma no longer has the youthful figure that she had at 15 or 20 years of age, but she remembers. perfect-parent

 

Her daughter is beautiful and shapely.   Momma is proud of her.  Rather than helping her daughter to learn to dress tastefully and modestly, she allows or even encourages her to dress in ways that attract attention to her body.   I have many times been shocked at the alluring outfits that mom helped select for her daughter.

I think psychologists might use words such as transference or projection.  Others might say mom is living vicariously through her daughter.  However it is described, it is sad.   It is sad that mom is putting so much emphasis on outward beauty, which she knows changes and does not last.   It is sad that mom is passing along to her daughter her own inner struggles with self-image.

My own daughter was more sensible than I in this area.  I am proud that she dressed more modestly as a teen than did I as a teen.   As an adult, she has my permission to speak to me about my clothing if I wear something unflattering or too aged or too youthful or immodest.

 

Moms, no matter your size or shape, help your daughters to sail into womanhood with grace and style.  Perhaps together you could learn about fashion, styles, body shapes and discovering what looks best on each of you.  Teach your daughters to be discriminating and individuals not controlled by fads.    Hygiene, personal grooming, make up, and hair care are other areas that need to be taught.   Learning to do these well will instill personal confidence, which is very attractive.

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Still Letting Go

I surprised myself.  I thought I was ready.  I had prayed for years and years for this very thing.  And then when it happened, I wasn’t ready.  My emotions were conflicted.  I do not enjoy being emotional.

I thought I had “let her go” long ago.  She went far away to college for three years and then she returned.  She moved out of our house and then we moved away.  She is a fully independent adult.  Yet, I realized there was one more way in which I had to “let her go”.

little-dOur only daughter has found a wonderful man who cherishes her and they are planning to marry.   Why was I feeling sad?  He is a fine man.  They love each other.  I struggled with these feelings for several weeks, even as we went bridal dress shopping and began talking about wedding plans.  These are exciting plans and I am thrilled to be involved.  Yet, the sadness persists.

She is not our only child.  No, we also have four sons.  Three of them have been married for more than ten years.   They have given us three amazing daughters-in-law and twelve wonderful grandchildren.   I have been through weddings, young marriages, and in-laws before.  This is not a new experience.

BUT, I have never experienced this with my daughter. Until now.  I realized there would be more changes. Changes we make ourselves are easier to handle than changes made by others, which affect us. I realized my sadness is selfish.  I have to share her.  She will have less time for me and for us, her parents.  I am not just sharing her with her future husband but am also sharing her with his family.  Holidays and birthdays will be divided between two families.D and D

I am whining and being a bit ridiculous.  But the feelings are still my feelings.

I also know that I will adjust and be okay. Talking (and writing) about this is helping me. I have told countless parents that they will be okay when their adult child makes a life transition and so will the child.  This is still true. So I am trying to apply my own advice.  I can adjust to changes.

I am thankful for the close relationship I have with my daughter.  We have had some wonderful adventures together. New adventures await us.  Onward we go with the wedding plans.

P.S. Yes, she will read this because she is my writing editor.

at lunch

Editor’s Note: From my perspective, you have been nothing but excited and supportive. Thank you. Thank you for feeling the saddness, and yet choosing to making room for new. Thank you for loving my fiancé. Thank you for graciously coming along side without taking over as plans come together for the wedding. However, no matter what you do, never let me go! Not really.  I’m 31 years old and I need you and Dad in my life. Circumstances change, and priorities shift, but our relationship will always be important to me. I love you, Ma!

How Long?

Parenting.  When does it begin and when does it end?  Does it begin at birth?  Does it begin with conception?    Does it end at a specific age?   Is it the same age for all?

I think parenting begins as soon as you begin to make decisions based on the well-being of your unborn child.  A decision to abstain from smoking or alcohol for the health of your child is a parenting decision made months before birth.  Parenting involves much self-sacrifice.  These sacrifices may be as simple as choosing not to watch certain movies or shows in your child’s presence.  Or they may be as challenging as making the one thousand decisions per day regarding care, nurture, discipline, meals, snacks, nutrition, recreation, relationships, scheduling, health, education, babysitters, clothing, baby equipment and furniture, naps, . . . . .  this list never ends.

little-boy

The truth is, parenting is in a constant state of change.  The children are growing, aging, and gaining new skills and abilities all the time. Just as we figure out how to handle or resolve one issue, new issues arise.  Of course, we want, our children to grow and develop. Therefore our parenting must continually grow and develop.

Some day we may think, “Ah, they are all grown up.”   This does not mean our parenting is done.  This truly means we are entering a new phase of parenting.   It is called Parenting Adult Children.  It is very different from parenting babies, toddlers, school-age children or teenagers, and each of those is unique too.

The following quote is from an elderly man who recently has passed away.

“You are not done with your kids till you die.”    D.Curry

I liked his words as they express the idea that parenting does not end.   It does change.  Therefore we must change.  And it conveys the message that parenting is highly relational.  Parenting is not just an eighteen year commitment.  It is a life-long relationship.

Our adult children need us in new ways.  They need us to be supportive cheerleaders.  They may need us to be a listening ear and sometimes might even ask for advice.  They need us to be an unconditionally-loving friend.  They need us to be prayer warriors for them.  They need us to let them go and allow them to be independent.

Open Door

Is your front door open?  It might cost you and it might be messy. An open door may let in pain but it may also let in some wonderful relationships.  We have experienced both. Like many parents we …

Source: Open Door

What’s in a name?

Choosing a name for your soon-to-be-born child can be a daunting challenge.  It could take a full nine months.   Parents must cooperate and both be satisfied with the final selection.  Each partner may have differing ideas about how the name should be chosen.  Some wish to carry a family name.  Some desire a modern name, which may equate toa name that was popular 100 years ago.   For example, I have been hearing the name Mabel recently for infants.  My grandmother, Mabel, was born in 1908.   Some creative parents make up a “new” name.   We gave our children biblical names.

hello-my-name-is-660-x-660During the 1950’s through the 1980’s siblings often received names which all began with the same letter.  Twins had rhyming names such as Don and John.  There are theme names such as flowers like Rose, Lily, Violet, and Daisy; or months/seasons such as April, June, August, Spring and Autumn; and even gemstones such as Ruby and Pearl.   I have been partial to Faith, Hope, Grace, and Charity, but have been told these are “hippie names.”    Even last names can be used as first names.  Some strive for unique names only later to discover the name they choose is quiet popular.

No one will give their child the name of a kid they knew and disliked.  One must consider how a name could be shortened and even mutilated by other children.   Please pay attention to initials.  My brother had a third grade teacher who referred to students in this manner.  Unfortunately his initials were B.M.

We do not choose our own name.  It is given by loving parents who deliberate long and hard.   Some choose a name based on the name’s origin and meaning.   A few individuals will choose their favorite version of their name.  For example my name is Diane, but I often refer to myself as Di.   Most of us don’t even choose our nick names.    Our son Daniel, was called Danny as a child, but as an adult goes by Dan.

But every mother and father has the opportunity to choose what their children will call them.  Will it be mother, mom, momma, mama, or mum?  Will it be Father, Dad, Daddy, Poppa, Poppy, or Pop?    It is whatever you teach your child it is.  This too could change with time, and attitude.13076999_263584877342925_875694023625990266_n

When I became a grandmother, I chose to embrace my German heritage and named myself Oma.  Recently my granddaughters have shorted that already short name to just Oms.   Some grandparents do receive their name from a grandchild.  That is how my husband’s grandfather was called Bopo as was his father and now him.

I think it very nice when each grandparent has a slightly different name from other grandparents.   My grandparents were all called grandma and grandpa and all their last names started with the letter H.  It was often confusing.     I was 20 when my first child was born and my parents became grandparents at age 43.   My dad really felt too young to be called grandpa.  For more than a year we referred to my folks as Grandma and the Man.  Eventually our son named him Pa, and it stuck.

As you are considering names for your child, talk with your parents about their grandparent names, if they don’t already have them.    This Oma is awaiting the birth of her 12th grandchild in mid-Dec. 2016 and her parents are still working on her name. I am confident it will be as beautiful as she will be. 14440924_1204306552981429_8930950963544655844_n