After surviving another stint of music camp, we picked up my youngest daughter this past Sunday. Arriving early, her bags were packed and we loaded them into the car. Waiting for her concert, we set out to check her art. It is a rustic camp in the woods, known for its artistic education, rather then comfortable camping.
Blue Lake is a magical place, set among the pines of Michigan, nestled near a quaint picturesque lake. Electronics are not allowed, leaving space for creativity and relationship building. The cabins are rustic, lacking water and electricity, but they are filled with laughter, fun, and friendship. Girls gathered together sharing experiences from the day, while preparing to settle in for the night. Spiders and mosquitos share the space covered by the moon and starlight.
After hours of practice, free time involves reading, sketching, or perhaps a friendly game of Uno. Life is simple at Blue Lake. It is regulated with a creative flair. The stage is set, and the players are in place. Learning about punctuality, preparedness, and professionalism, they come together as one unit, an orchestra.
After checking the art, we head to the performance shell. Still outside, seated on wood benches we locate a place to see my daughter on stage, careful not to be blocked by a pine or a person. She is present, ready to begin. This group of teens, together for only a short time, begins their musical journey.
She has learned much from two years of camp. Her skills on the cello are increasing, but what’s as important are the life skills she is gaining. This year, she made friends and stayed positive during the transition. She’s already anticipating a return visit next summer. This year was easier for me too. I missed her, but I was confident in her abilities to manage her world.
Big growth requires big moves. Leaving home for a week and a half, living in a bit of discomfort, and working towards a goal brings ultimate satisfaction. Staying comfortable, brings immediate ease, but for long term satisfaction, a challenge is needed.
Susan J. McFarland
August 6, 2018
You can’t make every team or have all the experiences. My daughter has practiced her sport for a solid two years. She has played in middle school, attended camps, had private lessons, and played for clubs. Yesterday, after grueling tryouts, she found out she didn’t make the freshmen team. The school and the pool of girls this year is very competitive. She says she’s good, happy the pressure is off. Still, my mind in swirling with the next steps. What to do? She wants to play club again, but without a practice and games, she will lose her momentum. She has three months to wait while the others will be playing nonstop, putting her further behind.
Trying to be a supportive parent without intertwining my life with hers can be difficult. While I wasn’t excited about daily practice runs or weekends filled with tournaments, I’m sad about the interactions I’ll miss with the mothers of the other girls and the experiences my daughter could have had, but won’t. Reconciling my own emotions with the situation is tough. I want to fix it. I want to put an immediate plan in place to help her achieve her goals. Realizing her goals are more about the friendships and fun, over actually mastering the sport, I step back. Volleyball is one of her vehicles to a social experience. She plays primarily for that reason. Understanding this and being satisfied that this is enough is hard.
As a parent my goals and my child’s goals differ. When they are young, we can push our agenda onto them. I’m certainly guilty of this behavior. As they grow older, they begin to determine what’s best for them. I am still here to offer suggestions. Guiding and directing, as needed, but no longer being the decision maker, is my next step.
High school starts this year. It is a new era to test out different paths. My path is to let my daughter figure out her life, supporting her more in the background. Her path is her path. I’ll let her decide on that.
Susan J. McFarland
August 10, 2018
Little growth happens daily, in preparation for the big days. Driver’s training starts today for my oldest daughter, ready or not.
Sometimes we are ready for change and it just feels right. Often we are met with change and we just have to move forward. What we practice daily can prepare us for these moments. Relying on walking and yoga, to maneuver my way through the little and big changes in life, helps to steady my internal balance.
Sending my daughter to a friend’s house, I will not even be there to drop her off or pick her up on this momentous day. It is a weird feeling, not being needed, after ten years(she was adopted at age five) of constant care. I handed her the receipt and sent her on her way. This is a sign of things to come. What control I thought I had is vanquishing and I’m left holding space. My daily practice must stay steady, in order to quell the unsettling feeling I have as a mother releasing her child into the world.
This is where my growth is happening, as I watch her mature. We both must try new things, separately. For each journey is unique and different. We can both grow, but it is an individual process. I must let her move forward, in order to ensure my own forward motion. I will meet this movement, as I face everyday on my walking path, with steadiness and anticipation.
Susan J. McFarland
July 9, 2018
Planning to Pause
Summer breaks starts today. Tomorrow my husband and baby girl travel to Japan for a week. Mom and I, along with my older daughter and her friend are heading Up North for a short getaway. From one day to the next, life is in motion. It never stops and neither do you. Moment by moment, breath by breath, we move through our life. Sometimes we notice the changes, often we don’t. They are subtle and easy to miss, if you aren’t paying attention.
Walking in the morning watching the world wake up, I gaze at the sun rising and see bunnies hop away. I smell the fresh morning air, and admire the beauty of each wild flower. Somewhere between prayers and wondering thoughts, I stop for a moment of mindfulness, appreciating the pause in my life. This is why I love to walk, outside, early.
Plan your pauses. A pause is a decision to make to choose the moment over reliving the past or anticipating the future. Sometimes I plan pauses, such as a yoga class or sitting out on my deck. Often the pause you take, amid the activities of the day, are the most beneficial. The planned ones are grounding, but the spontaneous ones bring you back to your life and the reflection of the beauty that lies within it at each and every moment.
- Susan J. McFarland
And Then There’s Me
We are hitting a milestone today with the final day of middle school for my eighth grader. She has come far and I am proud of her. I’m also proud of myself, for my growth as a mother and a parent. Today is a day of pause and reflection, in this busy thing we call life. Looking back on her first days of school, not speaking English or knowing her colors, she is now ready for high school. Am I?
Am I ready for more freedom and less parental responsibility? Am I ready for less communication and more holding space? Am I ready to let go, a moment at a time, praying that she will make the best choices? She won’t. She will falter. She will learn. I’ll get anxious and upset. We will disagree. But in the end, I will be there for her, with love, behind the scene.
When she was little we would go to lunch, then ice cream the day school ended. Today, she’s riding a bus home with friends and I won’t see her until tomorrow afternoon. I am no longer her first choice of companionship, but I am her first choice for a mother.
What’s left is me. I’m here now. Taking in the precious moments as they pass by. My younger daughter will be in eighth grade next year. I know what to expect with school. But, she is different then her sister, the trials will test my strength. The journey continues with both of them. Finding me is part of the process.
- Susan J. McFarland
Motherhood is Enough
Celebrating Mother’s Day this past Sunday with my 82 year old mother and my teenage daughters brought tears to my eyes. It was a simple day. We traveled to mom’s condo, played cards, took a walk, and ate dinner.
It was one of the best days. The girls were happy and engaged. Mom was healthy and content. I loved the simplicity of it. We didn’t exchange extravagant gifts, a card and chocolate was enough.
Tears came to my eyes reading my oldest daughter’s card. Motherhood and is about being there, in the moment, as it is. This day required little to no planning, yet it was more profound then the ones I have exerted over in the past. In our culture, more, bigger, and better appear to be the goal. This is a falsehood. Simpler, easier, and less, actually bring greater lasting happiness. Appreciating the moment for its own sake is enough. You have enough. You do enough.
You are enough.
Middle school for my eldest daughter will be over in less than fifteen days.
It’s the end of a chapter for her and for us. She has come far from her elementary days. As this cycle ends, new opportunities await. Friendships are changing. Our relationship is changing too. This is not a time to hold on or hold tight. I loosen the grip, without letting go. She knows I’m there, in the background, called upon when needed. My role as a mother continues to evolve, as she evolves. Together, we grow, a process that is never complete.
Teaching her all I know and believe, she is now closer to being ready to handling life herself. At this point, pushing and prodding has decreased. Checking in without directing or controlling has become part of the transition. Learning to ease up on her and ultimately on myself is a point of growth in my own chapter. Our race is individual, but our score is collective. I can’t succeed without her, and neither can she, without me. Through all the adjustments, I’ll remember that no matter what, we are always united.
Life requires us to tackle that which we may not want to do. Waking up to ants marching around my kitchen this morning, I was in a tizzy before the day even began. My daughter, feeling the same energy, with an upcoming science project which required touching an animal heart and an evening concert, had us both feeling frazzled early. Knowing meditation, writing, and yoga were on the horizon, brought light to a stressful situation.
Life is not filled with perfect moments. On the contrary, it is a mix of both bliss and anxiety. Neither last forever. Both are fleeting. The key is being aware of this while in the space offered. Appreciating a sunrise while it is rising or not letting the cause of stress rule over you in the moment is the necessary response.
A new month brings newness. Anything can happen and will. Awareness and appreciation can help you maneuver any situation.
- Susan J. McFarland
Three years of middle school is almost completed. While it is an accurate statement that my daughter has matured during this timeframe, the same could be said for me.
Three years ago, we entered middle school. It was an unknown world for both of us. We were excited and nervous. In my eyes, she still needed care and attention, similar to her early days in kindergarten. Emailing teachers about her learning abilities, I prepared her for the best start and success possible. Continuously throughout the year, as tests and assignments were administered, I monitored progress and worried about results. My stress reflected onto her. These were tough times.
Two years ago, in seventh grade, I loosened the reigns, ever so slightly.
Emails were sent less, although still delivered. I monitored grades and assignments less frequently. Not ready to give in freely, I reminded her about homework. Reviewing assignments and participating in test preparation was present, but less constant. She was changing. I was changing. She was capable of handling her work. I was capable of letting her.
This year she does her own homework, unless she asks for help.
I do not watch her assignment due dates. Rarely do I check grades. Even less, do I worry about an occasional missteps. Trusting in her capabilities, I am beginning to let her live her life. Decisions will be made that I don’t agree with or even support, but she has to falter to succeed. If I continually make sure everything is always good, how can she handle life when it’s not?
This week, there was a miscommunication on a ride to her practice. I was gone. She handled it. In the past, I have wanted my kids to not suffer or experience pain. Learning now, as a middle school mom, that trials are as needed as any assignment or test. Life isn’t perfect. Kids need to understand that they are responsible and capable of handling tough situations now. If not, as adults, when the problems are bigger, they will not have the skills to mastered them.
Middle school has been about my daughter’s growth as a human. Just as much, it is about my growth as a parent. Give your children tools to
handle themselves. They want to manage their life and feel in control. Letting them find their way (as safe as possible), will help them succeed beyond their middle school years.
Susan J. McFarland
My oldest daughter had a make-up test today. I didn’t know it, because I thought she was taking it yesterday. Yesterday, she came home from school expounding that it was a horrible day. I assumed it was from taking the test. I was wrong. Once she ate, she felt better.
She turned 15 this week, although she wants to continue to be 14. She’s in denial and so I am. Her story is that she is adopted from Guatemala, not as a baby, but as a five year old(or older). Never experiencing many of her firsts; like her first smile, her first laugh, her first crawl, her first walk, or her first run, I am more challenged with letting her go. I cling to every accomplishment, longing for the ones I missed. Hoping this could make up for the time when she was not in my care.
From the time of her homecoming, I have been by her side, nurturing her, mothering her, guiding her, assisting her, and loving her. She was an orphan, motherless and left to manage on her own. Thankfully, kind and loving people took up her cause, before I was there to “rescue” her. She has needed me and I have needed her, but our needs now have changed.
She is adjusting to this change, as she has adjusted to losing her birth mother, her language, and her country. Her calm and easy spirit propels her life forward, at an ever slow pace. My style is not her style. Calm and easy, although my goals, are not my natural state. Intense, focused, and determined, I challenge the world.
The life of a parent and the life of a teen are not always compatible, especially, with opposing personalities. We have to learn to need each other in a new way. Gone are the days she relies solely on her mother for support. Turning to her friends more often than her parents, she masters her surroundings. I must adjust, in order to survive. Finding myself in fear mode, I judge and offer advice, when advice is not sought. Understanding is.
Learning to quiet my mind and quiet my voice is a daily opportunity to hold space for her. She needs me to be her rock, her strength, and her constant, not her judge and her criticizer. Life is constant adjustment, in order to gain understanding, as your needs and the needs of those around you change.
Susan J. McFarland
Not everything needs to be fixed, solved, mastered, or conquered. One of the causes of anxiety, is the belief that I need to be the one to resolve any issue, whether it’s a messy house, a dilemma between siblings, or the world orphan crisis. I take it as a challenge that I alone can fix. Where this belief of rescue originated, I do not know? It is deep and powerful.
Setting my own needs and wants aside to save other’s have been a life-long mission. Loving a challenge and the thrill of control over it, is like a drug, that ultimately leads to my demise. Striving to make things right for others, leads little time to listen to my own sacred calling. After suffering from multiple health crisis’, I am finally learning to see these as inferences of my peace, obstacles to avoid, where and when possible.
Mothering teenage daughters allows for practice of my new found concept. In the past, I catered to their every need and whim, hoping for them to find happiness and contentment. While this was necessary when they were babies, once they became old enough to be self-sufficient, the time came for the me to step back. My identity has been based on caring for them. They now, no longer need, want or desire my help, I am left at a crossroads. Who am I? What defines me? How can I keep peace and stability in my life? This is my priority. I am my priority.
Looking at challenges in my life as hindrances to steer clear of, assists me in staying balanced. As a sensitive, I am in tune with other’s emotions and I tend to own them. Because of this, it has caused untold anxiety over the need to find a solution, in order to regain control over the situation. In reality, it is not my issue to control.
This goes against cultural norms, as a collective consciousness, we are rewarded for taking action in matters that may not be ours to address. This denies the person responsible the satisfaction of working it out for themselves. Recognize your own challenges. Step around obstacles belonging to other’s, so you can see your path clearly.
- Susan J. McFarland
Susan J. McFarland