Navigating the Ever-Changing Terrain of Parenting

Parenting is a funny thing. 

When your child is young you need to be involved in every step along the way.

As they hit middle school years, you need to start stepping back; giving them the space they need to start maneuvering their world on their own.

By high school you need to be watching from the sidelines. It’s sink or swim time preparing for college.

The irony though is, if you’re too involved, you can be accused of being a “helicopter mom.”

AND

If you step back too much, you can be accused of not caring.

You’re constantly walking a fine line between over-stepping and under-stepping.

As my Son was growing up, I was by no means a “helicopter mom.” I was what I classified as his advocate.

An advocate he desperately needed at times.

Like when his parochial elementary school told me he had behavior issues and was ADHD. Yet official testing proved he was gifted IQ, not ADHD. Basically he was bored, which was why he was acting out. He was in 2nd grade at the time, and most certainly not mature enough to comprehend that.

The school refused to do anything because they stated the behavior issue had to be addressed first. Needless to say, I had to transfer my Son to public school where they had the resources available to challenge him.

OR

Like when my Son had trouble adjusting to middle school, and his teachers reached out to me requesting my involvement in overseeing his transition to the new demands expected of a middle school student. 

OR

Like when a bullying issue in high school was eating away at my Son’s self-esteem. As if Freshman year in high school wasn’t enough of a challenge. 

OR

My Son’s challenges with time management, which severely reared its ugly head when he hit middle school. Intellectually he was advanced, but emotionally immature. Prioritizing and estimating how long something would take were chronic issues.

This prompted me to bring in a tutor to help with the process, but I did have to keep tabs on him when he had large projects.

By high school he was doing pretty well on his own, so I stepped back, knowing he would be on his own his college. If he faltered, he had to accept the consequences of his action, or should I say non-action.

By the time he graduated from high school, he had this pretty much under control, which served him well his Freshman year in college.

Last semester however, he hit a hiccup.

As it turns out though, the hiccup was a combination of things, not just time management/under-estimating how long the assignment would take.

Junior level classes with a more demanding workload caused quite a few late nights, add in a roommate who decided to stay up late on his phone that caused lost sleep and missed alarms which in turn caused my Son to miss enough classes to impact his grade.

I was unaware of this because my Son tried to handle it on his own, which I respect, but had he spoken with me before it got really bad I may have been able to give him advice that could have avoided the negative impact on his grades. 

In particular I would have suggested he speak with his advisor who suggested he take the Junior level classes, and who just happened to be the instructor of the classes.

Needless to say over Winter break there were many discussions about all that transpired. I told my Son he needs to get back to the methods that helped in high school and left it that

I also noted I felt he does better when he’s playing music, as was evident his first semester Freshman year when he made Dean’s List. Class schedules forced him to drop jazz band for two semesters, which disappointed him, but unfortunately was necessary.

AND, I told him I felt he needs things other than gaming to relax. Like leisure reading or even dabbling with Legos, which was his saving grace in Middle School.

These were all just suggestions, and a parent giving general advice. I didn’t push. I knew he was already feeling bad enough about getting a bad grade.

The more my Son pondered what I said though, the more he realized I was right and even told me so. That about floored me, but I knew it was a sign my Boy was maturing. He was willing to listen to what I had to say and not just ignore me, as had been the case most of his teens.

I do believe we may have finally hit the point where my Son actually respects what I have to say. 

There was an obvious shift in the dynamics of our relationship while he was home on Winter Break. I noticed Mom was still Mom, but there were definitely more “buddy” moments.

I’m excited for this change, but I know it means he’s truly growing up and will one day really leave the nest to venture on his own life quest, not just off to college.

Until then though, we have to make it through his college years, which I found out recently may demand more of Mom stepping in than either one of us thought would be needed.

With all the negativity of the Fall Semester behind us, we both looked to the Spring Semester with high hopes.

That was until the Friday before classes were to start. At 3:30 in the afternoon my Son received an email from his advisor stating two key classes he needed for his major were being canceled.

This was the second semester in a row.

It made our hearts sink. Now what?

The fear that this could happen hung over our heads since the start of the Fall semester. The instructor who taught these classes, and headed up the program, had left abruptly in August (we assume), and although the students were told they had a replacement in the works, they never got any confirmation this had indeed happened.

This news threw my Son into a tailspin. He began to wonder whether he was meant to stay in college. He was beyond deflated. This hurt more than the bad grades from the last semester. This made him feel like his dreams weren’t worth pursuing.

Seeing my Son crushed and hurting was heartbreaking, but it also made me furious. No one was going to do to this to my Son. Something had to be done, but first I had to back my Son off the precipice of the cliff he had himself on.

The next day however it was time for me to strike. After pondering what actions to take, I decided I would reach out to the college President and voice my thoughts on the schools unconscionable behavior. I was very diplomatic, not throwing stones, but approaching the subject from the angle of what such actions do to the student.

Much to my surprise the President responded within a few hours, and agreed with me. Stating I was right about everything, but also adding neither she, nor the Provost were aware that these classes had been canceled. Noting the head of the department canceled them without following proper protocol and reviewing the needs of each student registered for the classes.

She also noted they were addressing the issue, and hoped to find a way to resolve it, but couldn’t make any promises for this semester.

Much to our surprise though, within an hour she once again emailed with good news. They were able to find an instructor from another department qualified to teach the cancelled classes. Noting the Provost would be reaching out to all the students to work with them to get their schedules back on track.

Needless to say my Son and I were thrilled they were able to salvage this semester, but shocked they knew nothing about this until I reached out to the President.

How long would this travesty have prevailed had I not reached out to voice my thoughts? 

I also wondered if I was the only parent who had done so?

If so, why?

We’re paying good money to send out kids to college and if the money isn’t going to the classes they need for their degree we should be pissed and stand up for our kids, right?

I know I’ll never know if any other parent spoke up, but I do know I will continue to be the one that does. Just because my Son is in college doesn’t mean he doesn’t still need Mom to be his advocate

AND, this just proves how important it is for a parent to stay engaged in their child’s life, even when they’re away at college.

I don’t mean meddling, but if they have an issue that’s causing them great stress, help. Navigating college life can be challenging enough, so every little thing that shows you still have their back most certainly can aid in their success.

There are some that may not agree with me, but I know for my Son and I, this is truth.

So, although I may be traveling the road of self-rediscovery while my Son is away at college, I can honestly say the biggest thing I’ve learned through all of this is that being a Mom will always be the most important part of me.

No matter where my travels go, at my core I am first and foremost a Mom and proud of it.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

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The Best Laid Plans

As each new month starts, I tend to take the first couple days to ponder the theme for that months post.

Sometimes I know exactly what it will be because of some epiphany I had or something that happened.

This was particularly the case when I was writing “Waking the Walker – a Mother’s quest to survive her Son’s zombie years – aka his teens.” When raising a teen, there is always something happening.

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/twd-apocalyptic-parenting-tactics/

Other times I can spend half the month tossing ideas around, seeing what sticks, even struggling to make something out of nothing.

Which is kind of odd when this blog is about self-rediscovery. 

Am I so lost I don’t even have a clue which way to turn?

With this not just a new month, but a New Year and New Decade, I thought for sure I would venture down the road of aspirations, goal setting, intention and purpose.

Especially after I read my favorite astrologer, Melissa Stratton’s https://twitter.com/hevmelissa?lang=en column for January 2020. I felt the energy around this New Year didn’t feel like other years and Melissa’s column confirmed my gut was right.

After reading this I was pumped to shake off the overbooked, too much to do holidays and get back to some sense of normalcy

I was beyond ready to hit the ground running and get back to focusing on all I had already set in motion in 2019.  My long-term goals and aspirations for my future could once again become a priority. 

Not that I don’t love the holidays, but between work, home and the holidays, something had to give, and outside of getting my December post written, anything else related to writing as a business got put on hold

I had to set boundaries for my own sanity and health. Especially with my Son home for a 5 week Winter Break.

So, as 2020 dawned, I busted out the blog business plan, and started to update it for 2020. With full-hearted enthusiasm I stepped backed into allowing my mind to focus on my personal journey, and on pinning down a clear intent for my future.

Yes, writing full-time is the central point, but having a clear purpose for this writing has still not been completely solidified. Without that, the vision for my future is still fairly hazy

I told myself 2020 would be the year I pinned that down, and formulated a clear and precise plan to make it happen.

That was until my focus was blindsided by a massive headache that sidelined me for a day, and left me dragging for days dealing with what I was told was a sinus infection. Not strep, the flu or a cold, but a simple sinus infection. 

In all my years I have never gotten a debilitating headache from anything. Headaches that made me sick and knocked me down for a few hours, yes, but nothing that warranted an injection that knocked me out for over 12 hours.

That Saturday every time I made an effort to move, I had to lie back down. Nothing worked. Not ice, not Tylenol, not rest. The pressure in my sinuses was so severe I thought I was going to vomit. I could barely hold my head up. It took me till 3:30 in the afternoon to get myself together just to go to Patient First.

The doctor didn’t even need to ask what was ailing me; she could see it in my face. When she said they could give me an injection to ease the pain and help me sleep I was all for it.

Needless to say I had no idea it would knock me into the next day and leave me feeling a little woozy.

I was able to make up for some lost time that Sunday, but I was still dealing with the post-nasal drip and congestion from the sinus infection, so I was far from moving at break neck speed.

As was the case the following week. 

I had major brain fog from the congestion, which left my head in the clouds. Making it through work every day was a major feat.

So much for all my full-heartened enthusiasm to step back into focusing on my personal journey and future plans. My only focus was making it through the day so I could go back to bed.

All I wanted to do was sleep.

At first I was pretty upset about this set back, but then I remembered what the nutritionist said at my visit the week before I got sick. She told me I need to allow time for relaxing/restful activities.

The reason why – her tests showed high levels of stress, yet I didn’t feel stressed.

How could I be stressed, and not feel it? 

I was betwixt and befuddled, but when I got sick it entered my mind that I must have been running on adrenaline from the holidays and completely oblivious.

With my ass kicked, I realized maybe the nutritionist was on to something and what my focus needed to be on was how to allow more time for relaxing/restful activities, not just on doing.

This made me wonder if being a single Mom for so long made me become so accustomed to always being on “GO” that “STOPPING” to truly recharge my batteries may have gone by the wayside

Daily I do stretching/yoga and a short meditation period, take time to veg a little at night before bed, and of course get at least one vacation in during the year, but could it be after all these years I’ve forgotten how to really relax?

AND, it is finally catching up to me

I’ve always been a list person, even before becoming a Mom. My lists are my saving grace. I may not get everything done, but it helps to keep track of what needs doing and to prioritize

Crossing things off my list has always been very rewarding, although not necessarily refreshing.  

Some things on my list however, like personal projects, are a form of relaxing. Doing creative projects can be very invigorating. Unfortunately, these are the things that get bumped for other more pressing deeds

The more I thought about all of this the more I thought about how I used to be an avid reader, but now I’m lucky if I get the paper read. I used to curl up with a book, especially before bed and just get lost in the story. I have plenty of books to read, but I honestly don’t think I’ve finished one since I was in my twenties.

I do take bike rides and walks when the weather permits, but I actually have to schedule it into my day, just as I do my weekend workouts.

SO, although I may be driven to achieve making writing my retirement goal, I realized I need to find real balance between doing and not doing

In my mind I keep telling myself when I retire I will have more time to just relax and do the things that bring me great joy. 

BUT, the bottom line is I shouldn’t have to wait, especially if I want to stay healthy.

I want to retire on my terms, not my body’s terms.

I need to start working on doing those things now, and in turn lighten my load, allowing room for more growth. Growth that can only benefit my writing, and possibly help me solidify my purpose.

The issue at hand though is relearning how to simply relax may be the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. I’ve become hardwired to do, and when I stop I think about what needs to be done.

Overriding that circuit board will take some time.

So, although my month may not have transpired quite the way I wanted it to, I believe I did have an “epiphany” which will make a major impact on my journey to rediscover myself.

AND, force me to be realistic about my plan for the future, namely my timeline for the business side of this blog and my retirement.

I can push and push and still not achieve if health challenges knock me down.

What better way to plan than to slow down, relax and take it easy?

OR, should I say, be easy on myself. Something I’m not always very good at.

Sometimes the universe nudges you, and other times it kicks you in the butt. This was one of those butt-kicking times and I have to make sure I remember that.

SO, my New Year, New Decade Resolution is to create balance in all that is on my plate. AND, to allow myself time to just be, because then and only then can I truly rediscover myself.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

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