Practicing…

I post this poem by poet, Linda Pastan, to offer a different vantage point as we continually look at the ways we know our own story and how that bumps into the stories of our children.  I find her imagery and attention to be helpful in my own journey in identifying those “flashes of brilliance” in the commonplace events of our days. Though this poem speaks to a ‘son’ I’m hopeful that you can translate as needed to a daughter.  May her metaphor help you find your own truth in your own story.

Peace, Dane

My son is practicing the piano.
He is a man now, not the boy
whose lessons I once sat through,
whose reluctant practicing
I demanded—part of the obligation
I felt to the growth
and composition of a child.

Upstairs my grandchildren are sleeping,
though they complained earlier of the music
which rises like smoke up through the floorboards,
coloring the fabric of their dreams.
On the porch my husband watches the garden fade
into summer twilight, flower by flower;
it must be a little like listening to the fading

diminuendo notes of Mozart.
But here where the dining room table
has been pushed aside to make room
for this second or third-hand upright,
my son is playing the kind of music
it took him all these years,
and sons of his own, to want to make.

“Practicing” by Linda Pastan, from The Last Uncle. © W. W. Norton, 2002

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Tradition, tradition, tradition…

The commercials are unavoidable – images of family celebrations nearly every time you change the channel.  Thanksgiving is upon us, as are the Winter holidays which follow; the season of expectations and hope.

One of the dynamics at play this time of year is that the approaching holiday season is the most tradition-based on the calendar.  Families often travel to be with each other attempting to create something akin to the quintessential turkey-laden feast Norman Rockwell made famous.  How might this relate to my college student, you ask?  In what ways have you celebrated during this season since your student was young.  Have you hosted out-of-town family?  Have you packed up the car and headed to Grandma’s house, or some centrally-located sibling?

Whether your tradition is to stay home or hit the road, it is important, if your student is traveling some distance to college, that you consider how, either hosting a house full, or piling in the car for additional travel might affect the family dynamic.

The person you dropped off in August to begin this college adventure is in no way the same one who will show up at your door in the next few weeks.   She has made myriad of decisions which have begun to help her discover a new sense of herself.  He has made choices that have bearing on the direction of his future without consulting you.  To assume that your student is the same is to, from my perspective, create a “set-up” for everyone.  Essentially it is not letting go of who she was to allow them to be who she is becoming.

Frankly, whether you’re aware of it or not, you have changed in your student’s absence too.  We each make incrementally small adjustments to the space in our days that our student no longer fills.  As much as we enjoy having them home, it is an adjustment all the way around.  It is weird that you will feel the awkward space around him.  It is weird too for her to feel a bit like a guest when she walks through the front door of the place she calls home.  The best way to acknowledge the feelings is to talk about it – get it out in the open.

So, before this new creature springs through the door loaded with dirty laundry, late-night stories, new knowledge and opinions, new hopes and dreams, please make every effort to talk in advance about both your and your student’s expectations for the long holidays.  Talk about travel plans to determine if what you have always done is feasible.  Ask if she has made plans of her own.  Ask him if he has his heart set on some aspect of your tradition that you may need to adjust.  Talk to her about the parts of your family traditions you may like to keep in place, but your recognition that it will now be different.  I promise you it will be energy well-spent.

As I have said before, the ultimate goal of this transition is to acknowledge the changes you experience by communicating your way through the process.  Remember the adage: “Your job as a parent is never over, but your job description is changing dramatically.” 

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When Success Leads to Failure…

Periodically I bump into articulate explorations of topics near and dear to the heart of this on-going conversation about how we attentively partner with our college-aged children.  There are more than enough articles in the public conversation detailing the negative ripple-effects of helicopter parenting (many of which are based in a finger-wagging shame that I don’t sense really adds value to the conversation).

Fortunately, there are also thoughtfully pieces with the quality of what I’ve begun calling a “healthy emotional archeology” – that is, writing that leads to a deep consideration of the personal and cultural dynamics of this thing we call parenting.

I find the Atlantic article below to be one of those.  It has a grounded criticism alongside what I find to be thoughtful and helpful questions that can bring us back to our own story as well as the larger cultural story and the ways we may have each, at least implicitly,  made some small contribution to it’s narrative.

I would invite you to consider the issue for yourself and your children, as well as the larger cultural ethos the author shines a bright light on.

As always, Peace on your journey…

Dane

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/08/when-success-leads-to-failure/400925/?utm_source=On+Being+Newsletter&utm_campaign=09b0d5e36a-20150822_rex_jung_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1c66543c2f-09b0d5e36a-69848605.

Remembering and Letting Go…

As we consider all the ways in which our lives present this question of Letting Go, we can find that we’re either open to it, or resistant to it.  There is no doubt that what Letting Go asks of us is difficult!  We have been investing in the care and nurture and success of our children since before they were born; AND, we are confronted with myriad examples of ways to let go of our attachments to them from their earlier years.  We let go of their hands when they learn to walk, we release our grip on the back of the seat when they learn to ride a bike, we wave goodbye as they walk into school for the first time; the list is nearly endless.

I remember when my own adult daughter left the country for six months on a work assignment.  I was faced again with this question: “How am I holding on in ways that could hold both of us from the truth and beauty of what lies ahead?

So as I came to the reading of the blog post today, I was struck, again, by the beautiful and excruciating truth of the on-going process.  I’m grateful for the vulnerability offered here by Christine Cleary as she remembers what was, while letting it go in order to be fully present to both the sadness and gladness of what now is.

I’m hopeful that Christine’s words help craft this conversation in new ways for each of you.

Peace for your journey, Dane

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/christine-cleary-the-sweet-tension-of-remembering-and-letting-go/7996

The Heart Stays Open ~

“God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan

I am struck by this statement.  I knew it once only by assertion, but was then taught by life to know it deeply through experience.  We are, especially as parents, regularly “invited” to this vulnerable place – this place of offering our heart again and again.

I am grateful for the insight Laura Kelly Fanucci lays out before us here in the endless invitation to offer our open hearts…

Blessings on the Journey!  Dane

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/until-the-heart-stays-open/7522?utm_source=On+Being+Newsletter&utm_campaign=8601cff829-20150704_bela_fleck_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1c66543c2f-8601cff829-69848605#.VZkt20o8KrX.

Move-in Weekend

The New Year has Begun!

This past weekend, all across the country, emotions were piqued!  The culmination of so much planning, so much running around, so much hope and expectation came to fruition as new students moved in to residence halls.  Parents, students and volunteers carried box after box to this little space that will now serve as “home away from home.”  Even students who don’t live on campus sense the energy around getting emotionally and psychologically ready to begin the college experience. The excitement is palpable, as is the anxiety.

As you assess your own emotional state, be aware that students have their own uncertainties.  As you talk with your student about her new experience, be mindful that what you are feeling is not the same.  Be aware of ways in which you may be conveying your fear or loneliness in ways that may not be helpful to your student.

The college experience is one full of questions – and not just questions from professors. Many of these questions are connected to student’s exploration of self-identity. Over the next couple of weeks students are, in one form or fashion, asking questions such as:

  • Is this the right place for me?
  • Can I make a difference here?
  • Will people like me?
  • Who can I trust?
  • Who am I becoming?

I would encourage you to err on the side of curiosity rather than inquisition: asking open questions that promote dialogue, helping your student explore new layers of his self-identity.  It is time and energy well spent!

Dane.

Finding Courage for our Kids

I read this post from my friend and colleague Chip Dodd again not long ago and recognized that his comments about being truthful about who we are with our children and how we feel about their lives and our lives together never really changes.  I see how my feelings with my adult children is so similar to my feelings when they were young.  The circumstances or issues my have changed, but the deep feelings have not.

I’m hopeful that Chip’s perspective can help you find new courage to step further into the deep conversation…

Peace, Dane

http://chipdodd.com/blog/fear-of-children

 

Peace for the Journey…

Poems help me find language.  Language that speaks directly to the concerns and hopes that are building daily as we look toward parting way with our daughter/son at the end of Move-In Weekend. You might begin reading poems with a newly attentive eye to your own awareness of all the memories you carry; all the hopes and dreams, all the longing. So much we want to say…. So much we hope for… So much….

I posted a reflection recently about how, as parents, we have been practicing letting go from the very early years of our kids lives – even if we weren’t aware that that is what we were doing.  This poem couldn’t be more timely in what I know is bouncing around inside each of us. I’m hopeful that Sharon’s words below may help you find your own.

Peace, Dane

The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb

by Sharon Olds

Whatever he needs, he has or doesn’t

have by now.

Whatever the world is going to do to him

it has started to do. With a pencil and two

Hardy Boys and a peanut butter sandwich and

grapes he is on his way, there is nothing

more we can do for him. Whatever is

stored in his heart, he can use, now.

Whatever he has laid up in his mind

he can call on. What he does not have

he can lack. The bus gets smaller and smaller, as one

folds a flag at the end of a ceremony,

onto itself, and onto itself, until

only a heavy wedge remains.

Whatever his exuberant soul

can do for him, it is doing right now.

Whatever his arrogance can do

it is doing to him. Everything

that’s been done to him, he will now do.

Everything that’s been placed in him

will come out, now, the contents of a trunk

unpacked and lined up on a bunk in the underpine light.

Put Your Mask on First…

My friend and colleague Melanie Rogers posted this very insightful and helpful perspective on the needs of adolescents, which would certainly include your soon-to-be college freshman.  I’m grateful for her vast experience and calm perspective in her words.  I hope that you find this helpful and another guiding voice in this new journey.  Thank you Melanie!

Written by Melanie Rogers, MMFT, LPC-MHSP

When I tell people I work with teenagers, I usually get some version of this response:
“Wow, that’s a tough age. You must be really patient, brave, or crazy.”

I may be a little bit of all three.

The changes that occur in the teenage years make working with (and parenting) teenagers both scary and (potentially) really fun.

Whether the “issue” that brings an adolescent into therapy is anxiety, self- harm, sexual acting out, depression, or relational struggles, a parent’s biggest question is some version of: “How do I make my child’s pain and suffering go away?” or “What does my child need?”

My answer to this heart-wrenching question is: “They need you.” My response is normally met with a mixture of confusion and fear. Your teenager’s biggest need is not for their pain to be fixed.

If their need isn’t to be fixed by their parents, then what on earth do they need? Here are three things every adolescent needs from their parents.

1. Teenagers need their parents to help hold their pain by being emotionally present.
Being emotionally present means giving them permission to feel their own feelings without being shamed, judged, or abandoned.

2. Adolescents need to know that they are enjoyed just for being who they are, not based on how well they can perform certain activities.

3. Finally, teenagers need consistent boundaries. Consistent boundaries help teenagers feel safe, giving them the freedom to explore and develop their own internal boundaries (wisdom and discernment) within the safety net that external boundaries provide.

That sounds simple enough, right? So, what makes it so hard?

Teenagers are amazingly adept at stumbling upon and bringing to the surface their parent’s own need for healing and restoration. Teenagers are like soldiers stumbling through a mine field with clown shoes on, never missing an opportunity to trigger their parents own “unfinished business.” A parent’s emotional reactivity, impulsive behaviors, and distorted perceptions of their child may all be indicators that point to the parent’s unresolved trauma and leftover “issues.” Sadly, this reactive and inflexible state of mind impairs a parent’s ability to think clearly, and remain flexible in their responses, ultimately preventing parents from being able to give their children what they most need.

Adolescents need parents to have access to their own feelings. Having access to their own stories and the the feelings that go with them allows parents to not be as reactive to getting triggered by their children. Simply, the clumsy teenage minesweeper won’t be able to trip the alarms as easily, because the parents will know where they end and their children begin.

Put on your own oxygen mask first.

In short, the most loving thing you can do for your teenager is to put on your own oxygen mask first, so you can see and think clearly to help your teenager navigate the stormy seas of adolescenc

Melanie Rogers is a therapist at Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves inviting people to explore their own interior landscapes, challenging them to be intrigued with the bigger story being told in and through their lives. Melanie loves nothing more than to see her clients discovering, recovering, and living from their truest self.

Financing Sense – A Syllabus…

As the price of higher education becomes more expensive year after year, it becomes incumbent for both parents and students to be more informed and savvy about finding ways to make this dream more accessible and less costly over time.  It’s a daunting task for most families; especially for those students who will absorb the primary responsibility of financing their own education.

I’m grateful to one of our readers (thank you Brandi) for the link to the following graphic from CompareCards.com.  It is a comprehensive and thoughtful treatment of a long-term relationship with finance and debt of college expenses, and ways for students to begin a life of negotiating the intricacies of the financial marketplace.

I might suggest that you sit down with your student to walk and talk your way through this step-by-step process of considering the ways your family’s unique financial situation will come to play as your student begins the college experience.

http://blog.comparecards.com/infographics/financeu-syllabus/

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