Monthly Archives: July 2011

In the driver’s seat without a steering wheel

Riding along with our three teenagers as they were learning to drive is no match to the last two weeks in the passenger seat in Scotland. I’ve been sitting in the usual driver’s seat on the left side but without a steering wheel. My desire for control has never been stronger. And to add more anxiety, we’re in the left hand lane (most of the time). As the front seat passenger I have the constant feeling I am riding on the curb, in a pothole or better yet, in the ditch that is ever present 6 inches off the pavement. And that feeling has been a reality more times than I can count.

This has been a test of nerves, marital harmony and controlling the tongue. At home I am comfortable giving up control in the passenger seat on the right. I’ve learned over time how to live in that seat, relax and enjoy the ride. But here in Scotland, where the rules of the road have changed, I am sitting where I would assume I have control but all the rules have changed.

How often I assume that I have control of the circumstances in my life, only to find that the slightest change or unexpected difficulty can bring that assumption to it’s knees. The view from the left has given me a chance to reflect on control. My desire for it. The assumption that I have it. And the rest that can come when you trust the one who does have control.

Sitting in the driver’s seat without a steering wheel again today.

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Alarm bells are ringing – get out the tool box

. . .when the alarm bells go off, we want to put out the fire. We assume — understandably — that we can make a child feel better by making her problem go away. Parents are habituated to this from the moment of a child’s birth: feed when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, hold when they cry. We bypass empathy and go straight to the problem solving.

But as your daughter grows more independent, and her peer culture becomes more influential, it becomes almost impossible for you to make her problems “go away” (in my experience, most girls come to accept that long before their parents do). In fact, peer aggression is one of the first moments many parents come to that painful realization: I’m not going to be able to control her world. I can’t fix it.                    – Rachel Simmons

This excerpt from an article by Rachel Simmons today in the Huffington Post stopped me in my tracks.  She described one of the toughest realizations of parenting.  I can’t fix it.

I can’t fix it.  I can’t control his/her world.  And, I can’t be their God.  Ouch.

The article goes on to say that one of the things that evades parents when their girls are bullied is empathy. Listening, reflectively to their feelings, seeking to understand their pain.  It’s a tough place to be as a parent. In a position of empathy, sitting on the sidelines with your child, rather than as their champion going out to fight the fight for them.  There are times when you do step in for your child.  When a 4th grader was punching kids in the stomach on the bus when 1st graders didn’t give him their milk money, we stepped in. But when friends were spreading hurtful lies and rumors, we couldn’t step in, we couldn’t fix it.  Sometimes I think I listened and empathized.  Sometimes I jumped in head first with solutions and bypassed empathy all together.  And along with that came a large dose of righteous anger and ‘we’ll see about that’ attitude. Not the most helpful attitude for a parent to share with their child or teen.

I find fixing to be more fulfilling for me.  But perhaps empathy, listening and understanding is more fulfilling for the child.  My ‘children’ are now 20-somethings.  But it’s still the same.   Now more than ever they need someone to listen, understand and reassure.  Not fix things for them.

The scriptures say, Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Don’t think you know it all.  Perhaps another way of saying, you can’t fix it.

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The Unexpected Wedding Gift

The bridal registry. It’s a little like the letter to Santa with your Christmas wishes only much more public. Some brides to be enjoy the whole process of picking dishes, linens and fine china. I was a bit overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the whole process. Although once we began to receive gifts that were not on our registry I soon began to see why you would want to let people know your colors, style and tastes. The odd burnt orange vase i would have passed by at a garage sale, sculptures of various little animals or the endless supply of salad bowls began to pile up. But one unexpected gift not on my bridal registry has proven to be the best one even after 29 years of marriage. It has brought tears, joy, anger, conflict, laughter, long walks and talks over and over. A set of golf clubs.

My uncle Mike was and is, even at the age of 79, an avid golfer. He knew more than I how important it would be for me to learn to play, appreciate and love the game. You see I was engaged to a golf professional. The clubs came with this advice, “if you’re gonna’ marry him, you’re gonna’ need these”.

In 7th grade gym class my school was on the cutting edge of an experiment in wellness and lifetime fitness. In the spring semester we were given the choice to participate in running track or take golf lessons.. Being the non runner that i was it seemed like an obvious choice. I joined 7 other girls ready to try anything, as long as it did not include running, on the driving range. We learned enough in 6 weeks that we were allowed out on the golf course for our first nine-hole round. Somewhere between the 95 degree heat, 30mph wind, countless swings and a bought of poison ivy I lost my potential to love the game. I gave up my short try at golf. But 10 years later the game came packaged differently in my fiancé and I fell in love with both.

A set of clubs, bag and golf shoes were the perfect wedding gift. The original gift has been replaced over the years by newer models but they still bring us together after going our separate ways throughout the week with jobs, friends, commitments or interests. They have brought a shared experience, fun and pass time to our marriage. A couple I know married 40+ years sail together. Neither had ever been sailing when they met but they knew they wanted something that they could learn and enjoy for a lifetime. Each year they spend countless hours together sailing the gulf of Mexico. Early in our marriage we read the book, His Needs Her Needs, and it suggested finding a shared recreational outlet to continue to build friendship into our relationship. This has been a good piece of advice over our 29 years together. Sailing for some, cooking for others, golf for us.

And golf it will be. And in Scotland, no less. I’ll be reflecting from there the homeland of golf on the sites, the game, the food and anything else that comes along. Check back in a wee bit.

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