Tag Archive | parenting

I’m getting old

I am no longer 29.

I took a selfie today, as so many people are doing right now, for that app that matches you to a museum painting. The chosen painting was a little off, as most of them are, but that wasn’t what struck me. No, what I saw when I looked at the picture was a streak of gray running through my bangs.

It’s been there for a couple of years, slowly getting bigger and more noticeable, partly because I stopped coloring my hair and the gray stands out more against my natural ashy blond than against the golden blond my hairdresser gave me for years. But I’m also getting older, and the grays are multiplying, and in more places than just my bangs. And do you want to hear the weirdest part?

I like it. I like that little gray streak. I am no longer 29, or 35, or 39, and I don’t want to pretend I am. I’m 41, and I’ve earned every gray hair on that head of mine. I’m proud of what I’ve done in those years.

I’ve delivered two children, and my husband and I have raised them to be wonderful teenagers, which means learning how to soothe a colicky baby, how to get a toddler to go to sleep, how to potty train a boy, and how to get those kids to become independent little people. (Okay, I’m still working on that last one). 41 means I survived all those busy/crazy/stressful/lovely childhood years. I’m still unsure how that whole empty nest thing will work, when I don’t have to be Mom every day, but that’s a problem for 44 Bonny. At 41, I like my life with teenagers.

I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for over 20 years, and we have a lot of happy memories. But there have been many times when it’s been damn hard. There have been times when I honestly wondered if we’d make it. But we’re stubborn, and love each other enough to do the work and grow and figure out how to support each other in healthy ways. It’s still not perfect, but no relationship is. I’m a better wife at 41 than I was at 31, for sure.

I had a successful career, and I was able to walk away when it was no longer the right fit. Then I went back to work after a hiatus as a SAHM, and it was hard since I was switching fields and had a four-year gap in my work history. But I found something and I’m making it work. It gives me a healthy work-life balance, and at 41, I know how important that is to me.

I’ve made wonderful friends, and I’ve had some friends drift away. I’ve lost beloved pets and adopted new beloved pets. I bought a car all by myself. I’ve written books, full novel-length books, that I don’t think are terrible. I’ve learned skills that sustain me creatively, especially knitting. I’ve traveled to fun places, been to awesome concerts and shows, listened to gorgeous music of all genres.

I lost my father. And my father-in-law. And my husband’s grandfather. All three truly great men. I’ve gotten a hint of what it’s like to take care of the person who took care of me as a child. I survived a prolonged bout with depression, my first (and worst, but not last), at least partially tied to grief and loss and stress and physical changes. I’ve learned my own signs of depression, and I’ve learned that medication can make a huge difference. I’ve learned that life is so much better when you’re not crippled by depression and anxiety. I’ve learned that it can ebb and flow and it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

I’ve learned that it’s so much better than okay to be weird or nerdy or geeky or whatever you want to be. It’s so wonderful to be passionate about the things that bring you joy, no matter what other people think about it (my Twilight shrine pleases me to no end). I learned to embrace my naturally wavy hair and stopped wearing so much makeup every day. Because I like who I am at 41. This is me, take it or leave it. I never could have said that at 29.

I’m a better person than I was ten years ago. I’m more patient, more open-minded, more forgiving, more supportive. That doesn’t mean I don’t still have a temper. I still get mad at my kids and my husband sometimes. I still get frustrated and I still say unkind things at times. But I’ve learned how to sometimes hold my tongue when my words aren’t helpful. I’ve learned–am still learning–how to apologize when I need to. It’s so freaking hard for me. But I’m trying, and doing much better with it than I could have done even five years ago.

No, of course I don’t love everything about aging. My kids have to help me with technology sometimes. I go to bed before 10 every night. My back aches more often than I’d like. My vision is getting worse and I don’t love that the skin on my eyelids is starting to sag ever so slightly. I don’t mind the wrinkles yet, but I know that may change when there are more and they’re more pronounced. I know I will experience more unpleasant things as I age. But I like to think I will be able to handle those changes, just as I’ve handled them so far.

In the grand scheme of things, 41 is not really that old. There’s still a lot of cool stuff ahead of you at 41. So when my birthday rolls around, I don’t need to make the jokes about how “I’m only 37, haha!” I want to be genuine, and honest, and celebrate every single one of my years.

I’m 41. And, guys? 41 is pretty damn good.

Edited to add: it’s not my birthday, but thank you for the well wishes! I’m just thinking about aging today.

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p.s. believe me, the gray is a lot more noticeable in real life!

Looking Toward the Empty Nest

The other day, I said something that felt extremely weird and kind of freaked me out. I was talking to someone at work about my kids, and I said “My son is 14, and my daughter is almost 18.” It was the first time I’d said it aloud that the girl is going to be 18 soon and the reality sort of smacked me in the face. I know I’m not the first to say how fast they grow up and all that, and it’s true, but it’s more than that. If nothing else, I don’t feel old enough to have an 18-year-old!

I don’t wish they were little again. I very much enjoy my kids as older people, and I think I’m a better mom to older kids than I was to toddlers and young kids. I do wish I’d had more patience when they were young. I wish I’d taken more videos of them. If I could travel through time and visit their younger selves for a short time, that would be delightful, but I don’t want to do it all again. I think it’s more that you get to this point as a parent and realize the biggest part of your job is almost done, and just when they get to be really cool, interesting people, they leave you.

Then you start to question yourself: did I do it right, or right enough at least? Did I give them a happy childhood, fond memories to look back on? Do they have the skills they need to become independent, responsible adults? Will they be okay on their own?

I feel confident that she does have the skills, and she will be okay. I’m excited to see where she lands next, and watch her do all the exciting college things. As another parent told me, this is what’s supposed to happen. It’s a good thing, a happy thing.

But we all know there’s a thread of sadness too. I enjoy her company very much, I enjoy us as a family very much, and to know that we’ll see her so much less is a hard pill to swallow, even as I tell myself that it’s a good thing. She wants to go out of state, so she might be four hours away, or she might be ten hours away. Wherever she goes, she’ll be able to come home for visits. And I want her to go out into the world, to have the courage to venture away from home and try new and exciting things. I’m the tiniest bit jealous of the adventure she’s embarking on.

I am so very happy for her. But I am a little sad for me. I will miss her, if for no other reason than she’s more chatty than the two men in the house and she keeps me company.

However, a little is okay. I feel more optimistic and excited than I feel sad. But I also I think I’ve been in denial so far this school year. I thought I’d be a mess, crying at every “last” event, but it hasn’t happened…yet. Maybe it’s because we haven’t had that many true “last” things yet; most of them will come this semester. Maybe we’ve been so caught up in all the day-to-day stuff, all the college application stuff, that I haven’t had time to consider what it all represents. But I feel it looming. The college acceptances are coming in, the choices are getting narrowed down, that big birthday is coming closer. An empty nest is not that far away. I have primarily been Mom for the last 18 years. Who will I be after that?

I confess, I have entertained thoughts of life after kids, and they’re not all bad. The husband and I have talked of traveling a bit more (especially if we can get one of those grown-up kids to dogsit for us). We’ve talked about moving to a house that’s not a fixer upper in an area that’s not determined based on the local schools. We’ve thought about what paths we might want our careers to go, once we’re not quite so constrained financially. So yeah, it’s a little exciting for us too, for me. That’s what I’ll try to focus on as we move into this last stretch of senior year.

I don’t usually do those “pick a word for the new year” challenges, but it seems pretty clear that this year’s word is “Bittersweet.”

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Hell Hath No Fury Like A Mother Scorned

Mom-fury is real, guys. I’ve been a mom for almost 18 years now, and I’ve been mad on my kids’ behalf before, but yesterday was the first time I felt pure white-hot blinding fury. I have calmed down some, but the anger is still there.

Someone treated one of my kids badly. Someone in a position of power decided to lash out at my child in front of their peers and at least one teacher. Someone let their emotions take over, and let them spill out in an unreasonable, unprofessional diatribe that devolved into criticism unrelated to the trigger. This person saw that my child was upset, that my child was *crying*, and kept going. Not only kept going, but told two other adults there, “Oh, I made your kid cry” like it was something to be proud of. This person texted me later, “I am so sorry I upset them” but didn’t have the decency to apologize directly to my child, either by text or in person.

Just writing this is bringing the fury back. I have no idea what possesses someone to treat another person, a STUDENT, that way. I have no idea why the other adults present didn’t do anything, didn’t ask her to stop, didn’t intervene to mediate, didn’t at least suggest they go somewhere private.

Let me stop here for a caveat. This is important: this is not a teacher at the school. I don’t believe this person is officially employed by the school. This is a person who is only there very part-time, working with a very small group of students.

Now comes the hard part: how do I respond? I didn’t do anything yesterday; I knew that was a bad idea. My gut tells me to email this person and let her know how angry I am, and that her behavior was appalling and unacceptable. My gut tells me that I need to write a complaint to at least one authority figure, because it’s not right that this person is allowed to interact with students and treat them like this without being held accountable. My gut tells me this is bigger than my child, that I have a responsibility to speak up when something bad happens.

BUT. Doing all of that could create problems for my child. Working with all of these people is unavoidable, and it could make relationships with them awkward, and have repercussions for my child’s success both in and out of school. Speaking up very likely would result in no changes, because this person is respected for their experience and knowledge, and no one wants to rock that boat.

And that alone infuriates me too. Why should this person not be held accountable? Why should this person get away with this behavior? No, my child was not physically harmed. But in my mind, it was bullying. The action that prompted the tantrum in no way warranted a full emotional meltdown in front of other people. It was a minor disagreement that should have been handled privately. Thankfully my child is strong, and has a wonderful support system, and they will be all right. But will the next one? That is one reason silence feels wrong. This is about more than my child. This is also about the next child on the receiving end of a humiliating tirade. If we never speak up because we think nothing will change…well, we’re right. Nothing will ever change. And I’m not sure that’s the world I want to live in.

To be clear, we WILL address the situation with this person. We are just trying to figure out the best way to do it. I want to address it immediately and directly and make it clear exactly how wrong the behavior was; my husband wants to be more strategic and try to guide the relationship to a better place. He wants to address it without pissing off this person, because that likely will not help matters. I can see the benefit of his strategy. But it doesn’t satisfy my mom-fury. I still want to take it further.

So, I don’t know. It’s a really complicated situation, and I can’t tell if I’m blowing it out of proportion because of my mom-fury. I am conflicted. I am sad and angry and frustrated. I am going to sit back for now, and try to come to a resolution that feels right for all of us.

It’s a Flute Party!

Have you ever been to a flute party? No? What, you don’t know what a flute party IS?

Don’t feel bad; I had no idea before yesterday either! But now I know, and it was pretty fun. We decided that we wanted to upgrade the girl’s flute for her graduation present, since we felt like she had outgrown her current flute. She’s going into music education in college, with the possibility of music performance as well, and we want to send her off as well-prepared as possible. And given all the things happening this year that might impact her college admissions and scholarship opportunities (State Band, honor bands, music school auditions) we chose to do it now, rather than at the end of the year.

Now, with other things, it might be simple. You go to a store, pick one out, and buy it. But instruments are different, because each musician is different. The musician has to find the instrument that’s right for her. So her flute teacher arranged for us to attend a flute party hosted by a woodwind dealer/repair specialist. There would be a variety of brands to play, plus we’d have other expert ears to help us decide. We also borrowed a flute from a local music store (so generous of Palen Music. We love them.) and ordered one on trial from Flutistry of Boston.

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We showed up to the hotel and found our way to the room, which was just a hotel suite with two bedrooms. There were two sales reps there, one from Altus and one from Miyazawa, and there were two tables full of beautiful shiny flutes. There were lower end flutes all the way up to an $11,000 gold flute!

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We quickly found ourselves in one of the rooms with several flutes, and it didn’t take long to narrow it down to four. But that’s when the work began. There were six of us listening, and while of course the girl’s opinion was the most important, her flute teacher was also very vocal. The sales reps were great, really only offering opinions when we directly asked them. And they each declined to comment on their own flute, which I thought was very classy.

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And she played the flute. Over and over. Rotating between all four brands, trying to hear differences and preferences. I can’t imagine how it must have felt, to be presented with four beautiful, high-end instruments that all play well, and say, “Here, pick one!” But that was the goal, so we kept playing. Finally we did brackets, and compared two at a time, picking one from each bracket. Then when it was the top two, which happened to be the ones from the reps, they left the room and we brought in the party host to be an objective ear.  Finally, after two pieces played on each flute, we had a unanimous winner, and my daughter finally relaxed enough to be excited about her choice. I think she’s going to do amazing things with this flute, and I feel really grateful that we’re able to do something like this for her.

Oh, my girl

I am so in awe of my daughter. She is so strong, stronger than I ever was at her age. She has this passion for music, this talent for flute, and it has become an intricate part of her life. I can’t think of flute without thinking of her, and I often can’t think of her without thinking of flute. They are intertwined. She has worked hard over the last seven years and grown into a gifted musician, and she’s seen a lot of rewards from that work. She’s earned spots in district bands, state band, honor bands. She’s earned top ratings at competitions and played solos without a hitch.

But with every bright spot, there is a bit of darkness hiding. There is so much competition in this world. She hasn’t succeeded at everything she’s tried; she hasn’t gotten every first chair or solo she’s wanted. And to try so hard, to practice and work so diligently, and not get the results you want, must be incredibly disheartening at times. I can’t say for sure, never having been in anything so competitive. But I imagine, and my heart aches when it happens.

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It happened yesterday. We went to District Band auditions. After an early bout of nerves a couple of weeks ago, she was feeling confident. She was practicing, working new tricks from her flute teacher, and getting good results. She felt good at the first audition, felt good after the callback audition, and we settled in to wait without too much anxiety. But the callbacks ended, and the wait stretched to 45 minutes, an hour, 90 minutes, and the stress built. What could be taking so long? 27 flutes for 13 spots (including the two honorable mention spots), surely it couldn’t be that hard to sort it out?

Each musician is scored during their audition, and the scores are tallied at the end. The drama comes if there are ties, and the judges have to come to an agreement on who gets which chair. Many flute players also play piccolo, and if they earn a chair on both instruments, they’re given the choice. If they turn down piccolo, the judges move to the next piccolo, and so on, until the piccolo spot is filled. So if you’re sitting waiting, and you see other flute/piccolo players getting called back to talk to their director, you know the results are coming soon. We did our best to stay patient and positive.

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It took almost two hours after callbacks ended for her to get her result: second chair in the district band. That’s an awesome result. It really is, to get second chair out of all the flutists in the area who auditioned. And given how long it took to get results, it must have been an extremely tight competition, coming down to the smallest of details.

But. Last year, she had first chair. And when you’ve had that, and you think you’ve earned that again, second chair is bittersweet. I understand it, even as I know how wonderful second chair is. Like I said, it’s a competitive world. She’s been competing against the same musicians for the last couple of years, so it feels a little personal. You don’t just miss out on the spot, you see your competition in that spot. I can imagine how sharp and sour that must feel in your chest.

Plus her experience as first chair last year wasn’t all she wanted it to be. First chair typically comes with a certain spot in the band; the first chair flute is next to the edge, right beside the piccolo. And the first chair flute is given any flute solos in the band’s music. But last year, the district band director decided to switch things up, and he flipped the seating so that she was in the middle of the band, and had the entire flute section play all the solos. So while she knew she was first chair, she didn’t get to experience the perks that usually come with it.

So this year she was, is, disappointed. Sad, frustrated. She knew she’d done the work. She knew she’d improved. So why didn’t her spot show it? It’s hard to remember that even as you’re growing and improving, you’re not doing it in a bubble. The others are doing the same thing. You have to remember that there is some subjectivity to each audition, and something like first and second chair can come down to very small differences. It reminds me of Michelle Kwan when she won silver at the Olympics when everyone expected her to win gold. They’d ask her, “How does it feel to know you lost the gold?” And her answer was, “I didn’t lose gold. I won silver.”

That’s what my girl did yesterday. She earned that second chair. And she’s learning that you have to take each setback and use it as an opportunity for growth, without getting distracted by what everyone else is doing. She still gets to audition for All-State Band, and I think it’s likely that this will motivate her to work even harder to perform as well as she can.

And that’s why I’m in awe of her. Every time this happens, she finds the strength to rally. She sits back and feels the disappointment, and then she stands up, puts it behind her, and goes on to the next great thing.

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I am immensely proud of her results yesterday, as I am every time she auditions. I can’t wait to see how it goes at State. But the greatest thing for me yesterday was watching her interact with the middle school musicians. She works with the 7th and 8th grade bands at the middle school, and she’s built lovely relationships with these kids who admire her and look up to her, and she found so much joy in encouraging them. She called them her “babies” and kept notes of who got what results, and she hugged them and cheered them on, and it was so sweet. She is going to be a wonderful teacher. I love that not only will she create beautiful music herself, but she will also help create future musicians. To have such a gift and be able to share it with others, that must be the most wonderful feeling of all. And how lucky I am that I get a front row seat.

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P.S. There was a LOT of knitting happening yesterday, what with over eight hours in one building. That post will be coming soon!

Gloves and Flowers

As expected, I finished the blue and gray fingerless gloves yesterday during our drive to the band competition. With an hour and a half, I even had time to weave in all the ends, so they’re ready to go to their new owner today. The base pattern is the 75 Yard Malabrigo Mitts, but I added the design element of the Twinkly Lights Cowl.

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It was a good thing I finished them before I got there, too, because once we got there, I didn’t really want to be distracted. The girl is a senior, you see, and this was her last marching band competition. She was a featured soloist in their show, a siren standing atop a pirate ship, and I’m always amazed and proud of her, but last night the finality hit me a little hard. Of course I’m so excited for the next part of her journey, but I can’t help but be sad that this part is almost over. I wasn’t a band geek in high school; I was a theatre geek. They’re actually pretty similar crowds, and I love the collaboration and camaraderie and commitment that I’ve seen in her bands. They’re good kids. She’s a good kid. Plus, I’ve discovered I love band music. I love watching marching band shows. Thank goodness I still have three years to watch the boy in marching band! Anyway, it was a lovely, emotional night, and the band did well, winning lots of awards, including Grand Champions in the field show category.

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With the gloves done, I wanted to finish up another small project before returning to my bigger WIPs. The knitting group at work makes bouquets of flowers for friends who have lost loved ones, and we had a couple to make recently. They’re a beautiful variety of flowers: some people make felt flowers, some ribbon flowers. I chose my favorite crochet flower pattern, added a green pipe cleaner, wrapped the stems with floral tape, and finished each one off with a pretty button. I think they’ll make a nice addition to the bouquet.

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Now that I’ve finished two projects for others, I think I’m justified in going back to some selfish knitting today. I was clever and did the grocery shopping yesterday, so today I can relax with my tea and yarn. Happy Sunday, friends!

I Can’t Adult Today

May, you’re killing me already. My brain feels so full. I feel like I’m trying to do 50 million things every day and forgetting 49 million of them. Sometimes people think that because I don’t have an official job, I’m a “lady of leisure”, and while it’s true that I do get great downtime some days, I definitely make up for it on others. My schedule is flexible, but that doesn’t mean my days are empty. I’m lucky, so lucky, to be able to be a mom full-time, but it can still be hard and crazy. And when it’s being a mom to a super-active teenager who doesn’t drive yet, managing and supporting her schedule feels like a job by itself sometimes. It’s one I like, one I chose, and remembering that does help.

I just feel scattered right now, unfocused. I’m trying to get the yarn orders done, I just started a proofreading project, and I’m trying to coordinate all the spring/end of school year stuff that needs to happen. There are birthday presents to buy and forms to fill out and concerts to attend (on a school night, natch, and some of them I want to bring my mom to, which adds another layer of planning) and Mother’s Day is coming up and some days I just want to abdicate my role as social coordinator. Really, that’s all I want for Mother’s Day: someone else to prep the house for company, someone else to buy the food and cook the food and do the dishes without me having to nag. Isn’t that funny, the best gift for Mother’s Day is a day off from being the mom?

Deep breath. I’m on week three of some big changes, and it’s possible they’re affecting me too. I’m halfway through my weaning period for my antidepressant, and I really think it’s going fine. I mean, yeah, I’m stressed out today, but I get stressed out every May when this craziness hits. But I’m not sluggish, overly cranky, weepy, or sleeping poorly, and all of those things are my problem signs.

I think it helps that I’ve committed to becoming healthier, and part of that is regular exercise. I’ve known all along that exercise helps; it’s just been a matter of motivation. Well, I’m tired of being the weight that I am, of feeling the way I have, so yeah, I’m exercising. And even though I admit I feel better when I do it, I still don’t like it. I’m never going to be an exercise junkie, or someone who preaches the joys of exercise. I do it because it’s better for my body and my mind. So, whatever. The stationary bike has become my friend, and I turn up the music and zone out on games on my phone. It works. And I’m making better choices in what I eat, cutting calories, but I’m not calling it a diet. It’s just making healthier choices, and that’s something I need to commit to for the rest of my life.

Ugh. It sucks getting older. Yeah, it beats the alternative, but I do miss the days of not having to worry about calories or exercise or being in charge of multiple people.

But it’s fine. We’re fine. Right? Right. I was going to take today as a rest day, but I think I need the head-clearing action of a little workout, and then I’ll tackle my to-do list, and maybe I’ll feel better when the list is a bit shorter.

Here’s hoping your head space is clearer than mine today!