Still learning to let go

I just read an article on the Washington Post -“Trying to raise a teen in a terrorized world.

Heartfelt words from a mum about  saying goodbye to her 18 year old as he goes off on a three week trip to Europe. In other generations mothers have had to say goodbye to their 18 year old for more traumatic reasons, but that doesn’t make her concerns less real. She says “I have spent these past few weeks wrestling with the question of how I am supposed to parent him toward independence at a time fraught with so much violence and fear.”

Having Christian spending three months by himself in San Francisco as a 19 year old I completely emphathise with her. I waste a lot of time worrying about things that might happen to him – and this week something did. Mind you it was something that could have happened to him anywhere.

He came off his bike cycling to his internship and banged his head and broke his finger (I did say to him a while back that maybe learning to ride on the 13898171_1389214644429271_1206160372_o.jpgother side  of the road might not be a good idea…)  Fortunately it was early in the morning so no cars were involved. Might not sound like much but when your youngest is overseas by himself and having to negotiate hospitals and health insurance (and now specialists as it is needs to be looked at further), it’s very hard to sit tight. And it’s not even as if he will come back home to get things sorted out – he will have to then negotiate the NHS once he is back in the UK.

My husband reminds me that our boy turns 20 later this month, and that in the scheme of things it’s not so bad. But this is the first time he has hurt himself without me there to help him. And he is without his girlfriend, who stayed on the phone to him from the UK the whole time he limped to the hospital (too scared to call an ambulance as he wasn’t sure of the cost).

I can’t do my normal mother hen routine. I can’t offer anything more practical than FB Messenger phone calls (thank-you Facebook for making that so easy.)  And I can pray – which I am. Fortunately we will be with him in 8 days – bringing NZ chocolate and TLC and probably some mother hen behaviour. And I finally get to see that famous bridge!

I guess now is one of those times where our attempts to parent him towards independence are put to the test. As he moves from teenager to young adult I am so proud of him and his resourcefulness.

Yet I still worry and wish he was here, not there. I need to remind myself that God is there with him and looking after him. I have to keep learning to let go. There are well-quoted words from Elizabeth Stone that I also came across today, that to parent is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

So true.

Three weeks to go!

It is now just under three weeks to the biggest overseas adventure Wayne and I have ever done.

It is customary in NZ as I’m sure it is in many other countries to embark on an OE between finishing university and starting life as a working adult. We  instead married and had our first child in this period so this was not our reality. Ending up with five children meant that overseas travel has been  a scarce opportunity and if we have managed to get on a plane it has usually involved child-friendly island resorts and theme parks.

Our nest now empty with Christian moving to the UK last year to study has changed all that. We travelled with him last year to settle him in, got the travel bug (finally) and this year have committed to 8 weeks away in several countries. Planning to catch up with him on his internship in San Francisco, visiting New York, a small tour of Italy and then a bed and breakfast journey through England, Wales and Ireland before hanging with the boy as he starts his second year at Cambridge. We finish with a week in London before coming home.

Sounds crazy to me that we get to do this! We have never done anything like this before. Months of planning and dreaming – finding interesting places to stay, things to do and see. Our trip itinerary is nearly complete. And one advantage of doing this when you are older is that I haven’t had to book a single hostel or dodgy backpackers’!

I am not without trepidation – the world outside of New Zealand seems uncertain and in some places unsafe. But I look at our son stepping out to new terrain with optimism and faith and I want to be there too. Just the process of planning our trip has broadened my understanding of how interconnected we all are.

According to my long-suffering husband we can’t start packing for at least another week – not long before I can get my suitcase down from the attic and start filling it!

 

Transmission has tentatively resumed

According to my stats I haven’t blogged for over two months – to be honest it feels longer!

Have been processing this new ‘non-working’ life and actually haven’t been able to put the journey in words. I haven’t been able to even look at all the blogs I love to read cos they just made me feel bad about not writing anything!

I have been in a bit of a limbo-like state –  I’m not sure what this new phase looks like, or how to describe it to people. I’m not retired, but I’m not working either. Choosing not to be in paid employment is such a luxury these days that I feel bad about admitting it. I have picked up a couple of volunteer days, partly so I have something to say when I’m asked what I do. Having said that – I’m really enjoying my volunteer work, especially at the SPCA.

Somewhere in the process of feeling like everything is shifting and not quite knowing where I fit at the moment, I lost sight of why I started this blog (and several other projects that are also not progressing anywhere fast.) A paradigm shift as to how I spend my time is very necessary. It’s going to take a lot more discipline on my part than I envisaged. Being one of the world’s great procrastinators is not helping (I’m looking at you Monster Busters).

I have spent an huge amount of time thinking about what happens now. I have pretty much said to myself and God that everything is open for change  if necessary. I do feel a it like the clichéd chrysalis at the moment. Have no idea if I will come out as a butterfly or a moth though, or how long it will take.

At the same time life  is still rocketing along – our latest grandchild is now three months old and it’s been great to get to hang out with him a lot. Our youngest has finished his first year at Cambridge and has been rewarded with a ‘First’ for the year (proud mum moment). We are just over 6 weeks from embarking on our big 8-week overseas adventure where we will start by catching up with him as he interns for the summer in San Francisco. Bit of a travel flavour to blogging coming up I think!

To all of you who have been kind enough to follow my fledging blog, my apologies for dropping the ball. I do have a lot of ideas jotted down in a file so hopefully I will start to be able to get some of them out finally.

It’s good to finally write something again – and now I need to catch up on all of the blog entries I have missed!

 

How do we do it?

So yesterday we said goodbye to our teenage son and his gorgeous girlfriend as they  headed back to the UK  after spending Easter with us. Way harder than leaving him at Cambridge University in October last year.

They arrived earlier this month on the morning his sister had her baby boy  in the evening. And  we have had just over a month of our family basically spending  every possible moment together. So much eating and laughing and connecting! We are a close unit so to be together has been amazing but to say goodbye yesterday has was very very hard.

I have spent the last 24 hours tracking their plane back to the UK all the way from NZ and have just had the FB messenger post that they are safely ‘wheels down’. I know for them that they are back in their other home and that the rest of the year holds excitement, challenge and adventure.

We have our house back to ourselves – and it is already quieter (and tidier!). And I  miss them so much already. A lot of tears last night after we farewelled them. I realised  this is different to sending him off on a holiday or an OE. He is studying and making a life on the other side of the world. He isn’t going on a holiday – he’s going back to his other home. As is his girlfriend (not the right  word for such an important person in his life). They are carving a significant path together at a very young age – watch this space for these two!!

And so to the title – how do we do this as parents? Letting our baby adults leave the nest, fly away – to other cities and countries. Wondering if they will be OK, remember all the things we told them and taught them. Airport hugs and goodbyes. Spoiling them while they are home. Grabbing any moment to chat with them about important things. Still being a slightly nagging parent…

I know that our experience is probably a minor one on the scale of letting them go. We have already  been inundated with messenger alerts and they only landed 30 minutes ago. (Let’s hear it for flight tracking apps). And we will see our boy in San Francisco when we visit him on his internship in August and he will be home for Christmas.

And how do they do it? They will miss out on what is going on here, just as much as we will miss out on what is going on there.They  leave behind three nieces and nephews who won’t remember this visit. Well one of them might 🙂

As we left the airport yesterday we realised this is our new normal – saying goodbye to our youngest as he heads back overseas, but we know that he will always come back at least for a while and for now that’s something to hold onto.

Chistian and babies

Sophie and babies

Life Got in the Way

Despite every good intention to get into a blogging rhythm, life has got in the way in a BIG way, in a good way. This week has been one of those momentous ones and I am only now stopping to catch my breath.

A week ago we welcomed our youngest back to NZ for an Easter break. It was so hard to

Chrisian and sohpie
Enjoying the beach after a UK winter!

wait out that final week. And then imagining his plane winging all the way around the world – although thanks to Flightradar I could pretend the little plane on the map actually had him and his girlfriend in it). Wondering if they  would successfully navigate the perils of LA transit (always a stressful exercise), and then finally get to see them emerge through the arrivals gate. Coming from the English winter they are very pale skinned beings at the moment! They have started to remedy that pretty quickly by an emergency trip to their favourite beach.

If that wasn’t enough to make it a very good week (especially as we kept it a surprise that Sophie was coming as well) all this on the same day our new grandchild was booked to start making his or her way into the world.

Only a week after posting about the fun of choosing a mountain buggy with our daughter  here she was diagnosed with a complication that didn’t affect her but could potentially affect her baby very seriously. This put her on a countdown to being induced early. What a scary week  as she and her husband walked the line between keeping the baby in as long as possible and keeping it safe.

This is when you realise your children(these people that you still worry about whether they can remember to mow their lawns, eat properly or put the rubbish out) have become adults and that they are calmly and capably running their own lives – when they deal with the hard stuff, when things don’t go as they planned, but they stop and take a breath and then go with the new reality.

After a week of blood tests and monitoring, the decision to induce was made and our first grandson was born safely just over two weeks early, on the evening of our son’s arrival home.  I was very privileged to meet him when he was seconds old. And  all of the siblings and their partners were able to meet their new nephew only hours after he was born. (Don’t think delivery suites are set up for large family visits!) What a lot of joy and excitement – a seriously momentous day!

And now there is a new member of our loud and chaotic family. So tiny and perfect, unaware at this stage of how many people love him (he is very blessed to have a big family on both sides), unaware of  besotted grandmothers and grandfathers, unaware of how long he he has been hoped for, unaware that he has already been pronounced “cousin” and gently held by our  three year old grand-daughter.  I am however profoundly aware that he has turned our daughter into a mother, her husband into a father and changed their lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buying a mountain buggy

On the countdown now for the arrival of our third grandchild, and our daughter’s first baby. As a girl with  four brothers this makes her journey a bit special (but don’t tell the boys that). Just a few weeks to go so lots of final planning and organising underway. She and her husband have continued what is looking like becoming a family tradition of not finding out the gender of the baby, so there is lots of anticipation and theorising about what the outcome will be.

With all this in mind, this weekend I finally got round to putting a  carseat in my car that will work for our two current grandchildren (who are getting to the stage where nanna can take them out for a hour or two),and the nearly here one.

Well, spending an hour in our sweltering garage trying to decipher instructions worthy of installing a NASA escape pod was interesting. And who would have thought a car seat needed a cup holder?  Or that they now come with expiry dates? However it’s now securely ISOFIXed (thanks Volvo for burying those vital bars so deep in the  bowels of the seat). Driving to worship practice on Sunday morning it felt very strange glimpsing a carseat in the rear vision mirror again after so many years without one.

Carseat checked off, later on Sunday Nicole and I  had fun choosing the all important mountain buggy. As a super fit person she wanted one that was suitable for serious running miles ( she has only just stopped running at 35 weeks pregnant so I suspect she will be back into it pretty quickly).

Have to say I’m a bit envious of all the improvements in  baby transportation from the last time we bought one 19 years ago, and they look like veritable contraptions from another planet compared with the one we bought over thirty years ago (could be 200 years ago they are so different).

Not so envious of the prices. This is a big business once you add on all the ‘essential’ accessories – somewhat of an oxymoron. We had the choice of different types of wheels for different terrains, carrycots, attachable carseats, water bottle holders, food trays, travel bags – these are seriously cool  and very pricey ways to wheel a baby around!  We ended up deciding to buy the mountain buggy second hand and purchased the rather useful carseat capsule that attached to it new.

As we browsed TradeMe at lunch, and then stood in the shop comparing reviews of the buggy cornucopia, Nicole filled me in on all the things she had researched. I realised how wide the gulf between then and now, and yet again marvelled at the wonder and power of the internet. Every model can be compared, both price and specifications, hundreds of reviews to choose from. Even buying second hand is easy through on-line auction sites as opposed to the now forgotten and thankfully defunct classified ad pages. When we had our first baby, we only had the knowledge we could glean from our parents and friends’ recommendations. My mum was great, both in helping choose the right one and financially. There was an awful lot of walking round shops to see  different models, a distinct dearth of choice, and some seriously ugly options in the 80s and 90s!

And  despite all the changes and innovations, on Sunday it still eventually came down to a question from a daughter to her mum – “what do you think?” and we chose together; just like her grandmother and I did all those years ago. The technology may change, baby transport options have definitely changed, but the rituals surrounding your daughter having her first baby thankfully have not.

 

Empty nest?

At the interesting  and definitely enjoyable stage of life we find ourselves, we often get asked about what it’s like having an empty nest, especially as our nest was such a big one!  ‘Empty nest’ to me is quite a negative phrase and always seems to be accompanied by images of forlorn nests slowly falling apart, tufts of baby feathers the only reminder that this nest once was full of bustling life and energy. We even describe it as  Empty Nest Syndrome  and there is a lot written about it, much of it dire.  I’m certainly not saying that this isn’t a difficult and challenging time as we learn to let our children go – but the connotations of an abandoned nest don’t help.

The analogy breaks down pretty quickly too – don’t most birds build a new nest every year? Do the newly flighted fledglings come back for dinner/budgeting advice/free laundry/more dinner? Do the adult birds visit the nests of their children to check out their eggs and chicks?

Our adult children and our one remaining teenager are definitely carving out their own paths – spouses, houses, babies, overseas study –  but our home is still full of people coming and going. Lots of celebrations and family dinners with those living in the same town as us; endless FB messenger conversations, photos,snapchats  and videos with the teenager and his girlfriend so many miles away in the UK.

This weekend we hosted 40 people for a baby shower for our daughter  and son-in-law  (It was more of a full-on party as the guys were all invited too. As our son-in-law said – it’s his baby too!) We  got to talk to  some of their friends we had not seen before, or had only said a quick hello to at church. It was a wonderful occasion, helped by a beautiful Auckland afternoon – community being extended and strengthened, lots of laughing and connecting, toddlers staggering around, new babies being admired.

The last thing our home felt like yesterday was an empty nest. Yes today the house is very quiet (just me and the animals) but I know that this nest isn’t empty, isn’t forlorn, and hasn’t lost its purpose as a hub for our family. While part of me misses when they were young and I was essential to their lives; another bigger part of me loves being the parent of adults. I don’t want to spend the next few years mourning the loss of one facet of parenting, huge though it was, and risk missing out on the richness of the next phase.

So I’m looking for a new analogy to describe a family where the children  have left home – something more positive than the dreaded empty nest. Anyone got any ideas?

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