Stepping through the stones

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t”   Steve Maraboli

Stepping onto the balcony through the double doors just off my bedroom was a morning routine for me.  I would wake up stretch and step outside to breathe in the fresh air enjoying the tranquility of the man-made pond three levels below.  I was living in an apartment complex on the top floor facing the interior court-yard.  The Strata Council had recently upgraded the pond to include a small waterfall and stocked the man-made pond with Japanese goldfish to create the illusion of peace and tranquility in a suburban world. That particular morning I was stretching and breathing in the fresh air when out of the corner of my eye I saw an ironic scene.  Standing in the pond was a large blue heron.  I caught my breath because for a second the man-made environment looked like a page out of National Geographic with  this beautiful bird of feather swooping in with its majestic beauty.  As I watched the scene unfold before me, I realized that this beautiful creature was eating the Strata Council’s beloved Japanese goldfish.

The next morning I ran into a member of the Strata Council in the underground parking lot.  “Love the wildlife you guys are creating in the court-yard” I yelled out as he walked to his car.  He looked a little perplexed and I said “the blue heron in the pond, did you see it?”   “No, but someone told me, we are going to do something to stop it as all the Japanese goldfish will be gone.”  “Good luck with that, I’m sure there will be more blue herons in that pond before the week is out.”

Sure enough a couple of days later, standing on the balcony I was greeted with two blue herons enjoying their breakfast from the lovely pond the Strata Council worked so hard to create.  Quite the drama unfolded in the following weeks as the Strata Council covered the pond with chicken wire and a host of other tricks to stop the blue herons from eating the Japanese goldfish.    No longer did the pond have  the feel of tranquility, it looked like a war zone and those bloody blue herons managed to get through every barrier the strata council put in front of them.  It didn’t take long before the Strata Council threw in the white towel, removed the chicken wire and we all enjoyed the pond with the sounds of the trickling waterfall without the Japanese goldfish.

Much has happened in my life since the days of living in that apartment complex and I find myself in a similar situation living with two teenage boys.   When the boys were young my husband and I were able to control their environment by laying down the chicken wire controlling the maze in which we all lived.   As a parent I often stressed about making the right decisions with the boys as I fully understood the power I had over them in their younger years.  To live by example in everything I did was important because their brains were like sponges taking in our environment, our actions and our words.  Were we perfect, far from it, but my hope and dreams for my boys were to raise two decent human beings.  My husband and I were under the illusion, like that strata council, that we could create the environment and if we laid down the stones properly as the strata council did with that pond so many years ago, somehow navigating through those stones would be easier as time moved on.

Stepping through those stones that we laid so many years ago has become increasingly difficult as they are slippery in emotion and opinions.  I have learned like the strata council, that you can not control the wild as it has a mind of its own.  No different with children as they reach teenage years prepping to become adults.  It’s not so much that we have thrown in the towel, it is the realization that laying down those stones all those years ago have paved the way and now it is time to let the boys lay down their own stones and give them the freedom as to the directions those stones will lead.

Now and then I see a glimpse of the little boy with the curly hair or the little boy with the mischievous grin peek through the big teenage boys.  Christmas use to be fun with the boys when they were anticipating Santa.  Hiding the gifts and placing the gifts under the tree on Christmas Eve so the boys could find their gifts from Santa the next morning, brought my husband and I so much pleasure.  The past few years we have given the boys cash for Christmas so they can go out and shop at the boxing day sales and buy what they want.   This year we decided to buy the boys something they could use for school and home by investing in laptop computers.  Some how the boys knew they were getting something more significant than a few dollars to go shopping. I don’t think they knew what they were getting but the day I brought the computers home and attempted to scurry to the basement to hide the goods, I was greeted with two boys waiting for my arrival on the front staircase.  One boy had curly hair and the other boy had a mischievous grin.  I yelled at them to get back up the stairs and they both laughed and said “Whatcha got”.  “None of your business get back up the stairs or what I have will go back to the store”.

They laughed all the way back to their rooms and my heart was smiling as I headed down to the basement to hide their Christmas present knowing full well that the two of them would be filled with anticipation when they found the time to sneak down to the basement when my husband and I were sleeping to find the hiding spot to get a glimpse of Christmas before the presents were wrapped and placed under the tree.  I hope I never stop seeing the boy with the curly hair and the boy with the mischievous grin and that their stepping-stones always have a path that lead to the two people who laid down that first stepping stone so many years ago.

DRIVER’S SEAT

“I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something.  Say, instead, that you are doing it.  Then fasten your seat belt.  The most remarkable things follow.”   Julia Cameron

My oldest son, Brendan, and I share many of the same traits, unfortunately, a bad temper is one of our shared traits.  Brendan turned 16 this past October, old enough to get his “L” to learn to drive.  We didn’t get around to him writing his test for the “L” until this past month.  I’m not sure whose idea it was for me to teach Brendan to drive, but we added extra insurance to my vehicle and I was given the job to teach Brendan the rules of the road.

Our first day driving together, I get in the truck give him the tour of the gadgets on the dashboard and off we go.  From the moment he steps on the gas and down our street to the stop sign, my heart is in my mouth.  He was driving too fast and stopped too late at the stop sign.  I’m all over it, telling him to slow down, be more cautious, focus and yelling at him to stop.  Not a good start and when I get home after teaching him that day, the first thing I said to my husband when I walked through the front door was “I can’t do this.”  “You can’t do what?” “Drew I can’t teach Brendan to drive.”  “Why not?”  “Because I fear for my life.”  At this, Drew gives me a big belly laugh and he says, “Don’t be ridiculous, you can do this, you can teach him to drive.”  “No I can’t, I can’t teach him to drive, it was a stupid idea for me to teach him, you need to teach him.”   Since I drive the boys to school every day, they are with me in the car all the time, it is logical that I teach him, but from the beginning my perspective has been that this situation is not working.

Negative I know and coming from the person who wrote “The Power of Positive”, I really needed to go back and read my own advice.  Digging deep I had to admit I was very nervous and reacting to my son’s emotions.  Brendan is 16 going on 40 and he thinks he knows everything, like he knows how to drive yet he’s never driven before.  Since I am an empath, I tend to take on other’s emotions and dealing with his cocky, know-it-all attitude in the car was completely draining me and if I am to be honest, I was all over him for things that hadn’t even happened yet because I knew how he would react.  This was not working in my, nor Brendan’s favour, and we were fighting non-stop.   Everyday I would say “this is going to work” and at the end of every day I would be saying “this is not going to work.”

After school one day, Brendan was driving and we had to stop at the drugstore to pick up a few things.  Brendan pulls into the drugstore parking lot too fast and pulls one of his cocky manoeuvres.  Finishing off a very busy day at work and feeling tired and irritable, his driving set me off and I was all over him.  When we finally parked, I kicked him out of the truck and told him he wasn’t driving home and for that matter I wasn’t teaching him.  He reacted to my outburst, and the two of us got out of the truck and we were yelling at the top of our lungs at each other across the top of the truck about the driving situation.  Brendan and I are alike in that when we lose our cool we lose all perspective and neither one of us care about who is around, who is listening and what their thoughts are.  Needless to say, we put on quite the show for everyone going to the drugstore that day.  I was so mad I went around to the driver’s side and decided to abandon shopping and jumped in the truck.  I was about to drive off without Brendan when he jumped into the passenger seat.  Brendan being Brendan, decided he was going to give me a lesson by imitating how I sound from the passenger seat while he’s driving.  All the way home he imitated me giving him instructions.  I have to admit he did a pretty good job and I did find myself very annoying.

We arrive home and Brendan is furious, jumps out of the truck, slams the door and walks into the house.  My youngest son, Matt, was in the back seat that day and the whole time he was observing the situation and never uttered a word.  I sat in the car trying to calm my temper and Matt just sat in silence with me.  Matt is my quiet one and he is a self-assured boy who has a good sense of himself and sees all but doesn’t say too much.  However, if you ask Matt his opinion he doesn’t pull any punches.  I rely on Matt’s perspective because he always comes from “a matter of fact” place.  After a few minutes I turned to face Matt in the backseat and I said, “am I that bad Matt?”  He looked at me for a second and then stared straight into my eyes and said “you want the truth mom.”  “yeah Matt I want the truth, give it to me.”  “Worse, I think Brendan played you down a bit mom, you are bloody annoying.”  I stared at him for a few seconds, “that bad Matt,” “yep, that bad mom.”

I didn’t talk to Brendan about it that night but the next morning as we left the house to go to school, I gave him the keys and he seemed shocked, went to say something and then thought better of it.  He drove to school and I barely said two-words to him, I let him make the decisions and he drove really well that morning.  Once he parked the car and before we went about our business for the day, I apologized to Brendan for being so over the top with his driving.  He graciously accepted my apology and I did bring up how cocky he could be while driving and that he had to respect that I was nervous and for him to be respectful of my feelings.  I also reminded him that he still has a lot to learn about driving.  He admitted to the attitude and we both agreed to start over again and be more respectful of one another in the car.

Brendan is on his way to his “N”(new driver) and he will get there and by the time he does, I am sure he will be a good driver.  I still brake the imaginary brake while sitting in the passenger seat, but I’ve learned to keep out of the driver’s seat while riding as the passenger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Will

“Life is a combination of destiny and free will.  Rain is destiny; whether you get wet or not is free will.”  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Lately I’ve been having many conversations with my boys about free will.  I  believe whole heartedly in free will and I live my life by free will.  This past summer we adopted a beautiful Belgian Shepherd from the SPCA.  He had been neglected and was at least 25 pounds underweight when we took him home.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that he had been abused as well.  The name on his chart said Chaos but the SPCA changed his name to Kenny to make him sound more attractive to potential adopters.

The boys loved the name Chaos but I wanted to change his name.  Finally after bouncing different names back and forth we decided to keep the name Chaos but I changed the spelling to Kaos.  From the moment I met Kaos it was apparent that he and I had a connection.  We spent time with Kaos in an enclosed room and he kept snuggling up to me and placing his body in my space the entire time.  When we finally got him home I spent the first week giving Kaos his space and letting him come to me when he wanted to.  I never forced him to come to me,  I gave him complete free will.  He willfully followed me around the house in those first few days.  Everything was new to him and he needed the space to get comfortable with his new environment.

My youngest son does not understand free will, he annoyingly gets in your space and if you don’t give him the response he wants he tries to force you  by being ultra annoying.  He does the same thing to Kaos and the dog does not like it.   Kaos lets Matt know that he is annoying him by ignoring him, growling  at him or hiding in the other room.  One day Matt says to me “how come Kaos doesn’t like me mom?”  “Because you are always in his space Matt and you don’t give him free will.”  “Free will he says, what do you mean?”  “Matt you force  Kaos all the time, if he doesn’t come to you, you use force,  if he is sitting by himself minding his own business, you get in his face, you pull at his ears while petting him even though he doesn’t like it  and you push him out of his chair and steal his space.”  “You have to give him the free will to come to you, you have to stay out of his personal space and you have to give him the time he needs to chill.”

At the beginning Kaos and I struggled with the furniture as I don’t want him on the furniture and he really liked the couch in the living room.  When he lies on that couch, I know he is taking time out because the living room is off the family room and away from the hustle and bustle.  Every day Kaos and I would struggle, he would go on the couch and I would ask him to get down and as soon as  I walked out of the room he would climb on the couch again.   It dawned on me that he needed that space to retreat to, so I covered the couch and let him have his space.   If Matt finds Kaos on that couch, he gets into Kaos’ space by practically lying on top of the dog.  Kaos usually warns him with a growl and then will abruptly leave the couch and hang out somewhere else.

Watching the struggle between Matt and Kaos has been interesting because Kaos makes no bones about the fact that he is not impressed with Matt.  Matt is clearly frustrated by this situation and when I repeat to Matt about giving the dog free will, he says to me “I’m using my right to free will to bug the dog.”  “Well then Matt, Kaos is using his right to free will by growling and ignoring you.”

As much as Kaos likes his couch he remains on the floor at night, he doesn’t climb into our beds to sleep, he lies at the foot of our bed on the floor.  For some reason one night Kaos climbed into Matt ‘s bed and made it so difficult for Matt that Matt ended up sleeping on the floor.  The next morning Matt came down to breakfast complaining that the dog had kicked him out of his bed.  He told me “every time I tried to get Kaos off my bed he growled and when I asked him nicely, he ignored me.”  The dog then used all of his body weight and pushed Matt off the bed.   “Is that free will mom?”  “No Matt, that is called Karma.”

 

 

 

 

 

THE AWKWARD YEARS

“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.”
– John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680)

I wrote about the boys when they were little farts in the “Wonder Years”.   It seemed like those years were filled with special, magical moments that I’ve captured in pictures time and time again.  Life with teenagers is a whole other dimension.  At times I feel ill prepared and I say and do all of the wrong things.  The most I can do is offer them support and guidance and hope all goes well.  I was a teenager too and I remember those years and to be honest my children are a breeze compare to what I was like.  I was a rebellious little bitch back then and I thank God I don’t have a teenage version of me in the house.

What I’ve really noticed is the language has changed.   When the boys were younger we talked all the time, now that they’re teenagers the most I get is yeah, no and I don’t want to talk about it.  Being me I ask another question and I get “I told you I don’t want to talk about it.”  However, they don’t have jobs, they can’t drive a car and they need my husband and I to act as their chauffeurs, give them money for their entertainment and support their sport endeavours.

A while back my fifteen year old asked me to drive him to the movie theatre so he could join his friends.  On the way over to the theatre I asked him what movie he was seeing.  I made a comment that I wanted to see that movie and I got a blank stare.  Then he said “mom you can’t come to the movie with me, you know that right?”  Ouch… “What makes you think I want to see a movie with a bunch of fifteen year old boys Brendan?”  “Well just in case you did mom, you can’t come in.”  “Wow Brendan – really – believe it or not I much prefer your dad’s company.”  A couple of months later my thirteen year-old asked if I could drive him to the theatre to meet his buddies to see a movie.  Same chatter, different day – I asked him what movie he was going to see.  “We’re going to see the Fury with Brad Pitt mom.”  “Matt I love Brad, I want to see that movie.”  Blank stare and after a few moments of thought Matt said to me, “mom if you want to come in and see the movie, can you drop me off, drive around the back, come in a different door and sit in the other side of theatre.”  “Matt that is such a sweet thing to say.”  Perplexed he said “really, I’m telling you to sit in the other side of the theatre and you think that’s sweet.”  “Yeah Matt, the fact that you invited me at all makes me happy, but as enticing as your offer sounds,  I’ll pass and pick you up when the movie is done.”

Recently there has been the drama of girls and I am really not prepared for that as I was never  a princess girl and I keep telling my boys if they are going to date to make sure they look for girls who don’t play head games and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.  Don’t bring home a princess head game player because your mother won’t survive it. Both boys think I’m nuts and that’s ok because I am nuts – you have to be certifiable to raise teenagers.

Day in day out I question if I’m doing it right and at the end of every day when all is quiet and the boys have washed up for bed – it’s usually the same routine – I’m in the kitchen cleaning up the day’s mess and Brendan comes down and gives me a big hug and says good-night and about five minutes later, Matt comes down and hugs me good-night as well.  Makes me smile every time and admit to myself that maybe just maybe I’m doing something right!