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Mom, can we just go alone?

The other day, my twins, still 16, were heading out for their co-ed soccer game “Under the Lights,’ which DSC_0195 means they were going to get to play where the regular competitive school soccer teams play, the ones who compete against the other high school varsity and junior varsity teams.

I am a mom who goes to all my kids’ events if I can. I always want my kids to know their mom is their number one cheerleader.

All of my five children have been involved in many activities over the years, from sports to piano to band to Boy Scouts to youth group and I go to as many of their performances as I can. Because I have a lot of kids, sometimes my husband and I have to tag team, juggle, switch off. He’ll go to one event of one of our children and I’ll go to a different one for our other children.

But right before this particular first co-ed “Under the Lights” soccer game, they said to me, “ Mom, can we just go alone? You really don’t have to go.”

I immediately said, “But, I like to go to all of your games guys.”

They came back with, “Mom, it’s not a real game. It’s just a bunch of us high school kids getting together to play soccer.” DSC_0193

“But, don’t all the other parents come,” I say, secretively showing perhaps one of my other motives in going to the game is not wanting to be the only parent who doesn’t show up to their kids’ game (translated, meaning, loser parent).

DSC_0199“No, not many come to this, Mom. Really, don’t come.”

And so I don’t. I realize at that moment, at that age in their lives, as they begin to become more and more independent, I need to let go little by little, and it’s okay; they are teenagers, they may want space, and I need to honor that.

So, while I so want my kids to know that I am there for them, that I support all of their activities, that I am their number one cheerleader, I also need to allow them as they become young men, to have some freedom. To just be with their peers.

I was talking to another soccer mom, Kate, about this the other day, asking her if she has been going to the Under the Lights games at the high school.

She said, no. I felt such relief, as I did not want to be that one parent who doesn’t show up to certain games while all of the other parents were there. I told her what my twins requested, that I not go, and she said, yeah, those under the lights games are the kids’ own thing, a little bit of their hang out time, just them, away from, let’s face it, sometimes hovering parents.

My twins turned 17 this week, and I had mentioned to them that I would like to take them out to lunch on their actual birthday. IMG_2458We already had dinner plans as a family that evening, and I was set to make them crepes for breakfast, which I do every birthday, and I also thought about taking them out for coffee before school.

IMG_2544But, I like to take them out to lunch as well, to pick them up in the middle of their school days, and treat them to lunch. I’ve done it for several years now.

This year, though, the day before their birthdays, they asked if they could just go out with their friends for lunch on their birthday. I could see, in the sensitive, half-hesitant way they asked, that they wanted to be careful to not hurt my feelings.

I offered that I could take their friends out to lunch as well, and we could all go together, but again, they said, in a very sweet way, “Can we just go alone?”

Oh, okay, of course, that sounds like fun, I say, while not showing that I am, if I am honest, a bit disappointed. Part of it has to do with my background and parenting philosophy of always honoring my kids’ special days, concerts, games, and events, to make sure they know I am there for them.

So, I pointed to the fact that we were going out to dinner as a family in the evening and that we could go out for coffee in the morning and that I’d make them crepes before we went out for coffee.

In working through all of these happenings and decisions, I realize that while my parenting philosophy includes wanting to be there for my kids, I also feel it is important to listen to my older children when they politely — or not so politely — ask for space to be independent. To begin to feel that independence, by hanging out with their peer groups.

We need to, I believe, slowly let go of the strings, as our kids get older. The middle teenage years are a big transition for our kids.

In middle school, pre-teen age, kids begin to test their wings, little by little. They want to go to the park alone, or walk to the neighborhood store by themselves or arrive at the bus stop sans mom or dad. As a parent, you begin to let that string out a bit.

IMG_2503Then in high school, it gets release more and more as they get their driver’s permits and licenses.

My childhood friend Jeanie, who is not a parent but works with parents in her job as an educator, notes the difference in generations of parents. As children, we loved our time alone, to just “be” with our friends. Parents didn’t have to go to every game that we played in, getting together with our friends was spontaneous and not all activities were pre-arranged like today’s “play dates.” We just got together with the neighbor kids. Now, parents are at every practice, every game, every everything.

I tell my friend Jeanie that, as a child, my parents were the extreme of that less-involved generation of parents, and I later mourned the fact that they missed some important events of mine. Once in junior high I had the solo for a choir concert and no parents in the audience to smile at because they were at my sister’s event (which I understand, as I do not think my parents even considered doing something separately).

And I was sad that my parents missed my high school graduation due to travel plans in Germany, though I do not think I was sad at the time. It was as it was.

But, I think because of my childhood experience, as well as understanding that we, as parents, need to be our child’s number one cheerleader, I make every effort to be at every event of my children. Once, my daughter had a district track race and she had one of the top times going into both the 1500 and 800 meter races; while making my way to the meet, I came up against some traffic and the first race she was in started earlier than I had originally realized. When I arrived, the 1500 meters had just ended and my daughter had won.

Loser parent I was.

So, what did I do? I told her good race and when she asked if I saw it, I lied: “Yeah, I saw the end. Great job.”

Double loser parent.

I so desperately did not want my kid to feel like she was all alone and that no one cared, so I fibbed — and prayed she’d also win the 800 meters so I could at least see that race.

She did win.

There’s a balance when it comes to supporting our kids and their events. On the one hand, they sometimes say that I don’t need to come to this event or another event, and I’ve said, “Look, I want to see your concert,” or “Hey that is a big race, I’m coming,” or “Yes, this is a big game, I am going to come watch you.” IMG_2510

But, there are some other times when we need to give our teenagers independence. To allow our kids space. With their friends, peers.

Each child may be different when it comes to this. Some children may want us to be at every event, even through senior year in high school and beyond. My kids like it when I substitute teach at their schools, for which I am grateful.

So, when they want a little space, just to breath, apart from me hovering, I need to give them the space they need.

And, when those big events approach, I can insist, and say, “I’m going to be there. . . You’ll appreciate it later.”

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Family Life, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Sports, Tradition, Transitions, Twins, Writing.

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The art of breakfast- It’s what they remember

I love making breakfast for my kids during the summer and on Saturdays off during the school year, and when their friends have spent the night. Crepes are my specialty; crepes smothered in whipping cream and Nutella IMG_9356or sprinkled with lemon and powered sugar or in the summer, topped with fresh Oregon strawberries or raspberries and whipped cream. IMG_9392

I love gathering with my children, with the table nicely set with my good German porcelain and the pretty containers for the lemon juice and the Nutella and whipping cream and strawberries and plenty of napkins. And we say a prayer to thank God for our meal, and it is pure joy. It’s a great way to start our day together before everyone goes his or her own direction. We have grounded ourselves together. IMG_9389

When my kids write me Mother’s day cards and birthday cards, they thank me for making me crepes for them. They remember the crepes. Of all the things I do for them, they talk about the food I craft for them. From scratch. Wild. And my kids friends talk about eating crepes at my house and the my tell their friends  when they are spending the night that their mom makes crepes and their friends want to eat breakfast in the morning with our family. And while I am making them, the house is filled with the aroma of butter and fresh thin pancakes frying on the stove top and that is what they wake up to. And it makes me feel good, if I do nothing else I day long, if I’ve made homemade breakfast for my kids.

But crepes are a mess to make. My kitchen turns to shambles and greasy butter flies everywhere and the batter splashes in nooks and crannies of the stovetop and my kids eat the crepes in minutes then dash off to do other things for hours and there is still the mess.

IMG_9382But it’s oh so worth it.

My husband on weekends when he is home used to never join us for breakfast. He’d eat his granola with cold milk and take off into the yard or to the garage to get his work done.

“Takes too much time. I have too much to do,” he’d say to me about eating breakfast with us as he meandered off.

But I said to him, this is an important part of life, taking the time to have this breakfast together; it’s so simple, yet so profound. This art, making breakfast for my kids; it reaches the kids in ways that I cannot explain but it just does. Crafting crepes is an art. It cannot be measured with the word “Accomplishment” and “check it off your list of things done today.” Art is not a check-off list. Yet, like good art, it’s what matters in the end. It’s one of the things that our kids remember.

Sounds so simple. It is.

My kids once in a while get to go to their grandparents’ house, which is about 15 minutes from our house. Their grandpa makes a mean pancake and they say, “Grandpa makes the best pancakes,” and when I make pancakes, they tell me they are not as good as grandpa’s. That is what they remember about grandpa and it is fabulous. And we tell grandpa this and it makes him feel good. He has a secret recipe and he’s proud of it.IMG_9358

My husband is starting to recognize the importance of our weekend and days off morning breakfasts together. One day recently, it just hit him. He began sitting down with us to join us eating breakfasts together. And, he also began making pancakes as well. And bacon and buying good syrup to smother on top of the pancakes. It takes him away from his weekend projects for a few hours in the mornings and it is a mess and he only has so much time off and I totally understand that.

But, he realizes now that it is important to share that time with our kids.

Now, we argue over who gets to make the breakfast on a Saturday morning.



Posted in Art, Family Life, Home, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Summer, Writing.

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