Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sometimes You Just Have to Walk Away

My best friend is getting divorced after 15 years of marriage. UGH. What a drag. This is a pretty low time in her life right now and I feel very badly for both her and her soon-to-be ex. It's never easy to end a relationship, but sometimes the absolute hardest thing we ever have to do in our life turns out to be the best thing we should have done a long time ago.

I remind myself often of a very powerful sentence in the book The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. In it he writes, "To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation." In the story, an Adulasian Shepard boy travels from Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure. All along the way he is presented with several "omens" or "signs" about his destiny but he doesn't always listen. During his travels he encounters many obstacles from his lack of perspective, but his journey is ultimately successful because he realizes he had the tools to find the treasure all along.

I remember the day I finally recognized a strong omen and made the decision to sever all contact with an ex-boyfriend. We had met in college, dated on and off for about five years and had an extremely tight circle of friends. His friends were my friends and vice versa. Although I knew for a very long time that our incredibly dysfunctional relationship was doomed, I continued the charade of a "relationship" because it was familiar...pure and simple. I knew in the deep, deep pit of my stomach that we were not meant for each other. But I continued to coast and continued to silence my inner voice that was screaming at me to get out.

For years I hushed the voice that said to me, "You deserve better than this. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? What's in it for you?" I put a pillow over the voice and suffocated it so I wouldn't have to face the fact that I was making terrible decisions for myself. He finally met someone else and got engaged, but we kept in contact and continued to exchange Christmas cards. I was even invited to their wedding. I tried desperately to believe that we could actually maintain a friendship because, at the time, that was easier for me to accept than the fact that our relationship had imploded right before my very eyes.

And then, one day, I had one of my shower epiphanies and realized that I needed to just walk away from this whole mess. Cut ties and walk away. No other option existed. I realized that we could never be friends and that it was grossly inappropriate to even try. His life had moved in one direction and I needed to move mine in the exact opposite. Even though some of our mutual friendships suffered and several ended completely, I had to do what was best for me. It was my obligation to realize my destiny attract a better life for myself.

In retrospect, what was an extremely painful decision turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I could never have opened up my life's possibilities by continuing to close the door on my inner voice that was saying, "you will have a better future if you endure this pain today." I finally listened and finally heeded its advice. As a result, my life has turned out better than I could have ever expected. I am still amazed at my good fortune. I met my amazing, wonderful husband, I have two terrific kids and I live a pretty fantastic life. How's that for kismet?

So, I say to my friend today...congratulations for listening to your inner voice. Congratulations for wanting to make a better life for yourself. Congratulations for believing that you are worthy of more. Although it's a painful time in your life and some people will, unfortunately, get hurt in the process, it's a life direction you are supposed to take. You can only prosper by charting your own course and listening to your destiny. If your omens are telling you to walk away, heed the advice and reap the rewards. The rewards are out there and you will find them. I have no idea how long that will take but it's up to you to put yourself on the road that will lead you there.

The best piece of advice the Alchemist shares with the Shepard boy in the story is, "When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person realize his dream." Don't fight it. Listen to your instinct. Shut out the noise.

Trust yourself.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Game On Little Man

Check out a version of this post on the Findlay Area Family website.

I was bamboozled by a 6-year-old. Tricked. Hoodwinked. Duped.

How is that possible? How did I let myself get sucked into the guilt-inducing games of a clever little boy and also, for a brief moment in time, actually think I might have done something terribly wrong? Boy, he's good...he's really good.

Nicholas is starting the "you love my brother more than me" and "I am no good at anything" ridiculousness that drives me nuts. He likes to see how upset I get every time he says, "You hate me!" and I protest for long periods of time trying to convince him otherwise. He likes to see me squirm when he says, "you think Christopher is a better piano player than I am" and I go on for hours about how he is a fine piano player and because of his ability he is always given a harder song to play for his recitals. He loves it when he says, "I am a terrible writer" and I gush about how I love to read his stories and am so impressed with his handwriting and how he is spelling the words so much clearer than before.

Keep in mind that I give praise where praise is due and often when the boys least expect it. I tell them I am proud of them even when they aren't doing the specific thing I am telling them I am proud of. But, I have been feeling kind-of bad lately that, boy, I must have really done something wrong for Nicholas to have such low self-esteem. How is it that he thinks he is bad and stupid and unloved? How did that happen? Where did I go wrong? I know that I give my kids praise. I know that I nurture and respect their differences and different abilities. I know that I offer words and actions of support.

One night after Nicholas got ready for bed and he and I were reading in his room he started acting really goofy and flopping around like a fish. It was time to turn out the lights and go to sleep and he was babbling about how I don't like the way he reads and I hurt his feelings. I was confused and asked him to specifically tell me what he meant. How did I hurt his feelings? His reply was "I don't want to tell you" and that set off the next half-hour of coaxing and cajoling to get him to tell me what was bothering him. He kept repeating that he wasn't going to tell me what I did and I kept insisting that he explain how I hurt his feeling. I needed to know how to remedy the situation but I couldn't do that if I didn't know what was at the root of his feelings. We danced around this until I realized that it was way past his bedtime and we were getting nowhere. Time to turn out the lights.

I was walking with my neighbor the next morning explaining what happened with Nicholas the night before when she said matter-of-factly, "yeah, my kids started that right around Nicholas's age and they still do it now that they are 10 and 12. Not quite as much as when they were younger but they still do it." Started what? Do what?

Try to get as much attention as possible; that's what. Whether it's claiming to love one sibling more than another, announcing that they are no good at anything or declaring that a parent has made them feel really bad about "something" it's clear that these self-absorbed little rascals have stumbled upon a really good way to get lots and lots of attention and push mom's buttons.

As my friend and I were walking and she related some stories to me about the way her kids did (and still do) practically the same thing that Nicholas did the night before I stopped dead in my tracks. I realized instantly that the inane conversation Nicholas and I had the night before had nothing to do with his hurt feelings and everything to do with his desire to keep my attention for as long as possible and avoid going to sleep. It worked. He had my attention and his bedtime was pushed back by at least 30 minutes. Chalk one up for Nicholas.

I felt a lot better after my conversation with my walking friend because I realized that I'm not a bad parent, I just have a clever kid. Now that I am aware that this happens to other people in other families with strikingly similar stories I can feel confident playing the game instead of sitting on the sidelines frantically reading the player's manual.

For example, every night before the boys go to bed they ask me what we are doing the next day or as Christopher puts it "when the sun comes up." I told them the other night that we were taking Grandma Murray to Greenfield Village for the day. It's one of our favorite places and the boys always have a great time.

Nicholas tried earnestly to delay his bedtime that night by insisting that I read what he wrote in his notebook. I let him come downstairs to show me and saw that he wrote "I do not fel lik going to Grenfeld Vilg." Hmmmmnnnn. Don't feel like going to your favorite place? That's weird. I asked him why he didn't want to go and he declared, "I hate Greenfield Village! It's boring." I asked him why it's boring and he said there is nothing fun to do there (which is utter nonsense). I sensed that he was wanting desperately to avoid his bedtime by announcing that the plans I made for the next day were clearly unacceptable to him. So, I told him calmly and simply that since his dad was working from home the next day he could stay home and I wouldn't make him go to the nothing-to-do-boring-dull place. Problem solved.

Only Nicholas did not get the reaction he expected from me and was perplexed. I told him he needed to get back upstairs into bed because it was past his bedtime. He said again that he didn't like Greenfield Village and I said again, simply, you don't have to go to Greenfield Village but you do have to go to bed. My conversation about Greenfield Village was over. He turned to me, stomped his foot and yelled emphatically, "Fine! I'll go to Greenfield Village." His tune changed completely when he realized that I wasn't falling for his shenanigans and that his option to stay home with his working dad wasn't quite as appealing as going out to have fun for the day. Chalk one up for mom.

I can't believe I was hoodwinked before by a 6-year-old, but kids instinctively know how to push buttons. Nicholas especially can zone in with amazing precision on what makes me crazy. Talk like "I'm no good" or "you hate me" makes me nutty because it's simply untrue not to mention unfair. But, I am learning to read his cues a whole heck-of-a-lot better and like the old saying goes, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me."

Game on, little man. Game on.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How Did You Get To Be Six?

I write a letter to each of my boys at the end of every month. In the letter I tell them about all of the fun outings we have been on during the month; all the people, places and things that we have seen. Writing my monthly letters serves two purposes; 1) to keep an historical record of their childhood and 2) let them know how much I thoroughly enjoy being their mom.

I shy away from writing too much about the negative (yelling, fights, temper tantrums) but focus more on the quality time that we spend together. I would rather they remember the good times and not the bad when they are older and reminiscing (hopefully with their own kids one day) about things like our trips to Greenfield Village, the science centers or the zoo. I wish I had kept a running tally of how many times we have actually ridden in the Model T cars at Greenfield Village. No one would believe us!

Every once in awhile I get a little down on myself for thinking that I didn't give Christoper the attention I should have when he was animatedly explaining his play date to me or when Nicholas asks for a long bedtime story and I'm trying to convince him that the shorter one is better. The easiest way to get out of that slump is to sit down and read my letters. Page after page describes from the day they were both born how we have spent our days engaged and totally captivated by one another.

I'm not quite sure how so many months and years have passed by already. We were all driving in the car the other day and Nicholas wrote something on his hand with a marker. Mark told Nicholas not to write on his hand with a marker and Nicholas said, "well...you did it Dad." (My husband was on the phone with a customer and needed to write a number down really quick and didn't have any paper. So he wrote on his hand.) Anyway, I said to my husband, "I guess he got you on that one." We had a good chuckle and I said, "really, what do expect a 4-year-old to do?..I mean a 5-year-old...wait a minute...holy crap...he's six!" I laughed when I realized that I still think Nicholas is four or at the very oldest five. I haven't quite grasped the fact yet that he is 6-years-old. It's too mind-boggling.

I sat down with Nicholas the other day and thought it might be fun to read some of his letters together. I did not even get through the first page because the tears were streaming too hard down my face. Just starting off telling Nicholas about the night of his birth brought back so many incredible memories. Hopefully, one day we can get through some more of his letters together without my waterworks display. I don't really see that happening, but I can only hope.

People tell me all the time to enjoy every age and stage because it all goes by so fast. Fast doesn't even begin to describe it. I blinked my eyes and my babies are little boys...no longer babies or even little toddlers. Little boys with boy faces. If I didn't have pictures of Nicholas and Christopher's chubby baby cheeks I might not ever remember them.

But, I have my letters to take me back to those days of first smiles and first steps. I have my letters to remind me that Nicholas used to say "moozget" instead of "music." I have my letters to tell me again how Christopher used to sing "The Owl and the Pussycat" with the sweetest, most angelic voice you have ever heard.

Whenever I get nostalgic about the past I just need to remind myself that I am really looking forward to reading the letters of our stories yet untold.

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