The ropes course looked awesome…but the helmet necessary to participate was dusty, filthy and gross. What’s worse, I didn’t have a scarf to put between my hair and the helmet.
I was raised by a neat-freak. Admittedly (ask Darrell), I have those tendencies myself, although in a much lighter form.
I’d never done a ropes course before, and had been excitedly waiting for this day.
The dilemma presented itself: the only way to engage was to put on the helmet.
I’ve heard it said that “if you think your hair is more important than your head, you’re probably right.” However, this was not about vanity. This was about extreme dirt. Remember: neat-freak tendencies.
Yet, I was clear that I would not miss this ropes course.
At that moment, being brave didn’t at all mean walking the tightrope or jumping from a high pole onto a trapeze (all of which I was facing). At that moment, being brave meant putting on that damn helmet!
Outside of my comfort zone? Yes! Already! Before putting one foot onto a pole step or rigging!
Once I made that first “leap” of faith, everything was downhill from there. Crossing rope bridges, diving from poles, ascending vertical obstacle courses to reach new heights…piece of cake.
My takeaway lesson for the day: being brave looks different for everyone. For someone afraid of heights, it’s jumping off a climbing wall. For someone afraid of dirt, it’s donning a dirty helmet. It doesn’t matter what fear we conquer. It just matters that we conquer it.
The helmet course was amazing. Who wants to go?
See Part 1 of this story here.
Gone were the days when I could direct his actions. Gone were the days when I could logic/convince/velvetly force him into anything. Gone even were the days where my opinion mattered at all. Though individuation for a growing person begins much younger, I was present to the full brunt of it when he was now out of house and completely out of influence.
Thankfully, I have a dear friend and prayer partner who passed through this phase many years earlier with her two sons and yet was still “writing the book” on parenting of adult children. She called this phase unique in that the kid-come-adult is trying to be an adult – but doesn’t know how – and the parent is trying to not micro-manage their life – but doesn’t know how. It’s a very weird and challenging stage for both young adult and parent alike.
The first bit of wisdom she passed on was to cease all attempts to advise: regardless, whatsoever, notwithstanding anything! Then, the challenge was to simply acknowledge whatever could be acknowledged about the paths, choices, or directions he was taking…”challenge” because, as the parent, we think we know better. The idea was to become an acknowledging and validating machine, and close the mouth of “the wise one”.
What that also meant was being able to hear the need for financial support and stand strong in allowing the necessary path of growth from kid-wanting-to-be-adult to, possibly, actual adulthood. That is a tough one.
There’s a story I once heard about a man who saw a butterfly just beginning its exit from a cocoon. He thought he would aid in the process by using his fingernail to help nick away parts of the cocoon shell so that the butterfly could get out easier. What happened, however, once the shell was eventually removed, was that the “butterfly” became a would-be butterfly because, as the bloated insect lie there with wings full of fluid, there was no way it would ever be able to fly. The very act of having to force itself out of the cocoon was a critical process in squeezing out the fluid so that the wings would be light, airy, and flight-worthy.
Learning to let my son learn what he needs to learn – without meddling one way or the other – is, for me, a big Back Forty growth endeavor.
Yet another more recent bit of evolved advice from my sage veteran parent partner was this: when he tells me something he did that I feel like praising, instead of being the one approving and acknowledging of that action, I am to put it back to him: “How did that make you feel?” This act of turning him toward the source of all approval as being within him vs. my “guidance” slipping in through some side door of “approval” is another way of pulling back so my adult child can become adult.
I’m in no way through this process, and we all know that our kids are our kids for life. Yet going through this requisite phase of Back Forty parenting upgrade is a unique period in which I’m learning just a thing or two about a thing or two.
One of the many new dimensions of our midlife, The Back Forty, is the necessity to parent differently. I’ve practiced this a great deal over the last several years, as my son went from 17, with an appropriately growing voice in how his life goes, to now being 22.
I was an “involved” parent all through his growing up. Following a divorce when he was 2½, I focused my half-time custody on all the typical things a dad and son would do as he grew: YMCA Indian Guides, AYSO soccer, YMCA swimming (first Guppy, then Minnows, then Sharks), Tai Kwon Do (first Tiny Tigers, then…)…moving as he got older into Cub and Boy Scouts, geckos, rats, fencing, and persistent video game systems (Gameboy, Nintendo, X-Box). Not to mention church on Sundays where he took classes over the course of 12 years. My involvement and guiding direction of my son’s life was strong.
From age 2½ to 7 or so, my parenting was pretty default: play, learn, discipline with timeouts when necessary…but all fairly easy and without thought. Around that time, however, I went through a custody suit lasting a couple years. One of the many blessings that came out of that whole process (from a Back Forty INFUSE Program perspective) was a more conscious study of parenting.
Parenting was different now than in the days of my simple, country upbringing. Plus, I lived in California, in many ways a far-cry skewed mentality than that of my Texas roots. Having come to California specifically for consciousness reasons, I was always on the touchy-feely side of most things anyway. Still, when California new-age consciousness and attitudes about the raising of indigo/millennial/Gen Z individuals come together, parenting looked a lot like coddling to my tainted eyes.
Upon moving out of the parents’ house, however, parental views about how to relate to “adult” kids differ… especially among divorced parents. My own (right or wrong) basic stance was “If you’re going to school, I’m supporting you (financially). If you’re not, I’m assuming you want/need to learn about life…so I’ll support you in that too by letting you support yourself.”
I’ll relieve you of the litany of differences of opinions and challenging interactions a stance like that can take – both with adult child and ex – and yet something became very clear: I needed to find a new way to relate to my son…
To be continued…
Read Part 2 here.
If I am going to use my calories on ice-cream, it’s got to be worth it. Vanilla, Strawberry, Eggplant Madness or Garlic Jalapeño is not worth it. Thrifty’s Rocky Road is worth it.
We recently moved to the sweetest little gem of a micro-town-within-a-metropolis by the sea: the Belmont Shore area of Long Beach, CA. One recent evening, while walking on the happening 2nd street with Darrell, we visited our local Rite Aid for some Thrifty ice cream. I asked for not just my favorite, but my one and only, and the friendly ice-cream clerk, Bill, said they were totally, completely, and utterly out of Rocky Road. The refrigerator was being serviced, and their ice-cream selection was cut in half. Rocky Road was one of the casualties.
While I was recovering from the shock, my dream of a Rocky Road cone fading into abyss, Darrell chose his flavor of the moment. He’s far more flexible on some things than me. And he isn’t thinking calories either.
The ever-helpful Bill tried to tempt me with tastes of other options, but I wouldn’t budge; I was absolutely clear that I was not going to settle for “second best,” and if I couldn’t get the ice cream I wanted, I would have none.
Petulant child? Stubborn adult? Or a woman unwilling to settle for less than what she wants?
As we started to leave, with Darrell busy at work on his cone du jour, Bill asked us to wait for a few minutes, excused himself to “check something” and walked towards the back of the store. He was gone for a while.
This was getting interesting. I hadn’t put up a fuss, or (despite my words here) even copped an attitude. What was he up to?
“Wouldn’t it be wild if he came back with a fresh bin of Rocky Road?” I thought out loud. Darrell raised an eyebrow… “If he does,” I added, “it will be my sign from the Universe to never, ever, settle for anything less than what I really want.”
W. Somerset Maugham said:
“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”
And yes, you guessed it. Bill came back with a fresh, brand new bin of Rocky Road.
I am taking W. Somerset Maugham’s words into my Back Forty. I am excited for an “un-settling” second half of life.
Who is with me?
“Oh s**t! You want me to do what????”
Up until the moment the door actually opened at 10,000 feet, I was cool. Then it all turned upside down.
I am a little nervous but excited about our skydiving adventure, which is not even on my bucket list. A year ago, Darrell asked me if I wanted to go skydiving, and I said “yes” – because I have a thing for trying everything at least twice (in case the first time is a fluke) – and I hadn’t even done this once.
The prospect of jumping out of plane was a little scary, which is why I wanted to do it. Doing things I am scared to do is good for me. It expands who I know myself to be. My view of myself becomes bigger. I am learning to be courageous: having the fear and doing it anyway. Plus, I want my second half of life to be radical.
So, there I am, after signing my life (literally) away in the most severe Liability Release I had ever read, about to jump out of a plane nearly two miles up with a dude attached to my back. The dude has a parachute and is a professional. Millions of people skydive. I know it is safe. I am cool.
Until the moment the door of the tiny plane opens and my instructor tells me to put my foot out on the tiny plank outside of the plane…
This is where “Oh s**t!” hits me…
“Is it too late to change my mind??” flashes through.
Meanwhile, my foot goes on the tiny plank, and my body flies out of the open plane door… and I am free-flying… with the dude still attached. The view is magnificent, and what is even more magnificent is that I did it.
The fear is replaced by quiet and beauty. And this is what I learn: behind every fear is a door. When I get past the fear, I open a door to new possibilities, and a new expanded “me.” My world gets bigger, and I know that “If I can do this, I can do anything.”
I am now someone who can jump out of the plane at 10,000 feet. Radical.
Afterwards, a friend asked me if I would do it again. Yes, I would. And the second time will be even better – because I will be past the fear and more present to enjoying the flight. And that’s the real treasure – enjoying our flight.
Sooo… Who wants to go bungee jumping?