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Changing Gears

My Moon will be graduating from high school in a week… Graduating! How can she be graduating? Wasn’t she dancing around at Kindermusik and climbing those big colorful Gymboree obstacles just the other day? Didn’t I write about leaving her at her first sleep away camp something like an hour ago in

While helping her to prep for her next steps in life and trying to make her last days of high school run as smoothly as they possibly can amidst all the sibling activities, doctor’s appointments, house renovating, and organizing (we have lived in this house for about 9 months and don’t quite have everything “finished” or in its “designated spot”… heck, we haven’t even finished designating, yet!), I have been thinking about the things life has thrown at us lately… and the cards that this particular child has been dealt. I wonder if I have done everything in my power to get her ready to play her hand successfully. I wonder what I could have done to get her a better hand. Does she have all the tools she will need? Do I even really know what tools she will need? After all, the world is a hell of a lot different now than when I was growing up.

While I may not know all the tools she will need for her future, one skill that I put a lot of credence in is resilience… and the ability to change gears. Ideally, I want things to be smooth and for the kids to glide (not effortlessly, but somewhat continuously) along the paths that each of them chooses, but life is often not smooth… and even when it is, it can change in the blink of an eye and things can start hitting the fan. When this happens, I don’t want my children to be “stuck”. I want them to be able to change gears. They say that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. However, it may also scare the bejeezus out of you and leave you paralyzed in fear. I want my kids to be knocked down enough to learn important life lessons, but to then be able to pick themselves back up, evaluate, adjust, and move ahead.

When I started writing this, my Moon was going to be graduating in a couple months… then weeks… and now we are counting the days. Will I finish before I find myself counting the hours? Why is it so hard to write about this? She is my oldest child…my first baby. She has had (and is having) to deal with some serious (and seriously scary) health issues. The thought of her heading off to start a life more and more separate from mine while in the midst of it all is… well… it is frightening. And there is also a certain amount of guilt that bubbles its way to the surface when words like congenital disease and genetic testing are thrown your way. After all… where did she get those flawed genes? Don’t get me wrong. I am not in any way a helicopter mom (maybe I would have noticed some important things earlier if I had been… says my guilt. Shut the hell up… says my reasonable self). I started this mom journey thing with the end goal of self-sufficient, independent young adults set firmly in my sights and have been looking forward to this next step. Of course, now that she will be heading off to college we will still be looking out for her, but she will have a much bigger role in looking out for herself… and that task is revealing itself to be more complicated than either of us had imagined. It doesn’t seem fair for her to have to change gears so abruptly, but isn’t that just a prime example of why it is so important to try to raise resilient kids..? Life is not always fair.

Like many first time mothers, I started out on my adventure with my Moon with the best intentions of following a strict schedule for her. With this in mind, I read the books and soaked up all the latest advice. Then, suddenly, I had the actual living baby in my arms… and she had apparently NOT read the manuals or even deigned to listen while I had read them aloud over my belly. Yes, I cried at times, and I asked myself why my baby wasn’t following the instructions and wondered if maybe I was doing it wrong. It felt so hard…that is, until my Sun was born and I quickly realized that baby number one had been a walk in the park and that any kind of schedule that I thought I had established and could repeat with this new baby was a complete and utter illusion. So…I changed gears. Nay, I was forced to change gears… and in no organized fashion or succession, either: I found myself shifting from 4th gear to park and even reverse, at times. Then…surprise (and, yes, it was truly a surprise)! Little Man came into our lives. Schedules completely flew out the window and it often felt like complete madness. I wondered if the lack of continuity, …the moves, …and resets would harm who my children would turn out to be. There is an over-abundance of parent shaming going on… and sometimes I listened. But, guess what? LIFE DOES NOT FOLLOW A SCHEDULE. It happens in the order it wants to and despite any schedules we may try to make. And before the lectures on the benefits of a schedule start… my point is that there isn’t always a right way to do things when raising kids. Every kid is different and if you happen to have been blessed with perfect little angels who follow along like ducklings, more power to you. I’m just saying that, perhaps, a certain amount of chaos can be helpful. I mean, if you teach your kid to play baseball and you only toss them nice easy pitches… what will happen when they are in a real game and on the receiving end of curve balls, screwballs, and sliders..?

Skip ahead to the present… and now that first little baby is getting ready to graduate from high school. It is easy to look back and to second guess decisions we made in the moment. Hindsight is, after all, 20/20. “What if I had done this or that differently? Would things be easier for her now?” We all have regrets, but I want my kids to understand that it’s ok because, in the end, we are human and, despite this most recent push by society telling them that they have to be perfect according to some physical and academic standard pitched to them through testing and toted on screens everywhere,… they WILL make mistakes; they will need to OWN their mistakes; and they CAN then get back up, brush themselves off, evaluate their situations, and change gears, if necessary.

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