Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dreaded Adolescence

I will make no more bones about this. I am sick of people moaning about teenagers. I hated it when I was a teenager, and, now that I have a teenager, I still hate it. In fact, I wish that the words "teenager" and "adolescence" did not even exist. If we couldn't stuff them in a category and slap a label on them, maybe we'd treat them like real people and stop moaning about them.

Ok...vent over.

Here's the serious part. I was talking with a bunch of moms the other day and they were all worrying about when their kids become teens. I know that being 13, 14, 15, 16 can be difficult, confusing, frustrating. There's a depth and intensity, though, that I think is precious, valuable, golden. I wish people would cash in on that intensity they way they exclaim over precious baby toes and teeny-tiny fingers, they way they all reach out to hold the little bundle in its early years. Nope, teenagers don't want to be treated like little bundles, but, I think they want to be treated with joy, love, respect. I remember hating being looked down on as a teen, everybody expecting me to rebel...assuming I was rebelling at the slightest statement of opinion. Are adolescents what they are because we expect them to be so? Their emotional volatility makes it difficult to know what to say sometimes. And, yet, there's so much life in a teen. So much intensity. Does it scare us? Do we hate to be faced by the emotions we learned to push down and master somewhere along the way?

We watched a video in Bible study, and the speaker had just done a book signing for a children's book she had written. The book was about royal people in a castle, and the children were invited to come in costume. The girls dressed as princesses and the boys as knights. That's just what they chose. And it was completely natural for them. Small children assume that they really are royal. They have no trouble believing that they are special, destined to be great, heirs of a great inheritance. The rest of the world is pretend for them...dull, boring, nothing like who they really are.

Somewhere along the way, we all become convinced of something else about ourselves. Growing up is hard. But, just when they need to know they really are knights and princesses, we begin wishing the years away. We want them to be young again or to grow up already. We do not like the painful process of growing and becoming.

What would happen if we rejoiced over teenagers, invited them into the stuff of growing up, talked to them about life and love. What if we told them what we really thought, dug deep in ourselves to be vulnerable and intense just as they are. Perhaps, we hate those years because they hurt us. But we have put up the walls. We know how to hide. We are not emotional and vulnerable. We must not let them see who we are. But...if we did. If we did? How would it change things?

I am practicing. I am practicing with a girl who was raised by someone else. She is sweet, honest, deep, emotional... I didn't raise her, and I cannot take credit for who she is. She is not demanding. She doesn't insist on having things her way. She wants to help. I cannot take credit for this, and, yet, I can't help but wondering if, when Mane gets this old, I can be the same way with her, if it will take the pressure off that dreaded adolescence. I *tell* Vespera when I feel like there's something wrong but I don't know what. I tell her what is painful for me. I tell her what I wish about myself. I tell her how beautiful she is, how talented and creative and funny. I tell her how happy it makes me when she's happy. I sit in her room when she studies. I ask her to keep me company in the living room when we're home alone. I tell her what I want for her and what I expect from her.

And I can't help but wondering if this isn't the way it's supposed to be. If we open up the communication wires, could we ease the transition? If we let them in on our own struggle, would it help? If we tell them what is on our minds, would we all feel better?

Of course, my therapy training tells me it's important to not put to much pressure on them, don't expect them to be adults, don't create a situation where they feel responsible for how you feel, guilty for your own hesitation and pain. You cannot force them to talk, and I suppose some won't.

As with everything in life, I suppose there is a balance. I suppose we are in trouble if we go to either extreme.

I suppose I am idealistic and I know nothing about parenting a teenager. As I have said already, Vespera is someone I cannot take credit for. I will visit this post in ten more years and know if it holds true for the child I have raised from birth.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Introducing: My dear, sweet husband's new internet "handle." Thanks to all who made suggestions for him, including, but not limited to, MidnightMenu and MidnightSpecial.

My wonderful man will now be known as "Mango" wherever I go on the internet. That's pronounced the Spanish way: Mahn-go. Meaning: one who is sweet, delicious, juicy, irresistable, refreshment to my thirsty eyes, nourishment in the midst of my daily life, the one I love and live for...

It was Vespera who helped me stumble upon this handle, and it stuck. I asked her what word she uses in Spanish when referring to some gorgeous dude she passes on the street. Her prompt reply: "Mango!"

So, there it is.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Road Less Travelled

I wanted to say that this blog isn't about anything. It isn't about adoption or granola living or politics or homeschooling. Though all of those things are high on my radar. And it isn't about Harry Potter or Tolkien. Though, I have an awful lot to say about both of them. It just is. It's where I'm at. Day by day.

So, last night I drove home from my cousin's house and I listened to Amy Grant in the car. First, I thought how disgusted certain people might be that I still listen to Amy Grant. Then, I decided that it was me & Mane in the car and we were going to play it as loud as we wanted. The song of choice was I Surrender All. I am captured by the lines:

Take me, Jesus.
Take me now.

I am here. And I have given my life over and over to do whatever it is that I'm supposed to do.

So, I took the road less traveled, and it's totally as unclear and untraveled further down, ok folks? Don't kid yourself into thinking that once you get so far upon that less traveled road, you'll suddenly find the way sunny and clear. Yes, there are patches of sunshine. And sometimes we just sit in them for a while to warm our backs. But then we get up and move on with our pocket knives at the ready to cut through the brush. Because we can't just sit. Then the road would start to look like that well-traveled one we didn't take. Maybe it would even morph into that road...become that road if we sat too long, getting sedentary, complacent.

And I don't mean it to sound like such a downer. It's exciting and exhilarating, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I get tired, and I get sick, frustrated, sad, angry. But I also get those moments of complete contentment, awe, wonder. I get the moment of sheer joy. We talked about joy in Bible the Hebrew word that is translated "exceedingly glad," actually means to "jump for joy." This road has those moments...the moments when we skip and leap along the narrow path rather than fight through the brush. The moments of breakthrough are well-worth the struggle.

I wouldn't trade this for easy.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Internet Screen Names

A word for anybody why still doesn't know... "Mane" is a Latin word for "Early Morning," and "Vespera" is a Latin word for "Evening Prayer." Mane is our beautiful morning sunrise, our first child. Vespera is the answer to many evening prayers.

I call myself MidnightCafe most places on the internet. It's a handle I started using when Mane was a baby and nursing all night long, and it stuck. The name reminds me of coffee shops with Dh late at night, of lying in bed on hot summer nights with a soft breeze coming in the windows and Dh and Mane breathing softly in their sleep beside me. It reminds me of walking silently through my house at night, feeling content and peaceful. So, that's the story of the internet handles.

...still looking for one for Dh, though...

Bridging the Gap

Nothing in life has prepared me to watch two people I love so much struggle to find their way in a relationship together. Vespera has never had a father before. And, likewise, Dh has never been the father of a teenage girl before. He's having flashbacks of his dating years in high school trying to remember what 16yr old girls were like. And Vespera is particularly sensitive to anything that comes out of his mouth. This experience impresses on me how important fathers are to young women, and how powerful and influential fathers can be. The minute something comes out of Dh's mouth, it has gone straight to the heart. She's taken it personally, deeply. Quite simply, his opinion matters a great deal. From his perspective, he is an outcast, always saying the wrong thing, someone to be totally disregarded. You see the disjunct here? Everything he says matters to her. And he doesn't want to say least, not without thinking it over a great deal.

And then these moments happen...moments of quiet connection...studying for biology, sharing headphones at the computer, a drive home in the car when she tells him about a dream she had or the guy she likes. Tentatively, a relationship is forged.

She had a very disturbing dream about him. It was upsetting...for all of us, I think. But it got something out on the table. "This relationship is very difficult." Nobody quite knows what to do. It was good to say it. At least, from my outsiders perspective it was good.

Last week saw a certain breakthrough, I think. It was silly, really. He teased a way that would have never made me think twice. She was heartbroken. I asked her what happened and she dissolved in tears. I called for him. He came...he apologized...he told her how much he loves her...she did not look up. She didn't move until he left the room. I said simply, "I know you trust me. And you can trust me when I say that I know he would never mean to hurt you."

How do I bridge the gap between them? My heart is tight, constricted, tense trying to hold them both as they fly apart in opposite directions. I know she is afraid. She wants to accept the love we offer, but she doesn't want to expect it of us. She cannot relax in it, knowing that it is there, expecting it to always be there, because she is still afraid she is imposing...that we've taken her in but she's somehow getting in the way. She allows Dh in a little bit, but then any little teasing just confirms her fears...that she is imposing on our family, that she is asking too much of us. He can she allow herself to be unconditionally loved and accepted if she is worried that she's a bother? And Dh is shocked at the depth of his own emotion for her. He says over and over that it's just as though she was born to us. How is it possible to love her so much? I feel it myself...hardly believing that we did not even know her at this time last year. The attachment bonds have formed quick and strong and deep. It is mostly her. She "wears her heart on her sleeve." She is so open and vulnerable...allowing things in, and then experiecing both the wonder and comfort of love and the wounding pain of vulnerability. It hovers in a fragile balance.

She said that it was ok, that she understood he was teasing. I told her he needed to hear that then. Being silent allows him to think that she is still upset and will not forgive him. God forgive me for being pushy. I could see that they needed to mend this somehow before she stepped out of the house for the weekend. The divide between them would grow over the weekend, and I would be left with a tight heart holding them both as they again fly apart. I let it drop and went to joined Dh & Mane in the living room.

She got her things together to go home and tentatively stepped out into the living room and sat down. He said, "I'm sorry," as tears splashed down his face. She was shocked, taken aback. Here is real emotion, a tangible deomnstration of love. Dh had been trying to keep his emotions checked...trying not to guilt her for feeling bad. The tears spilled over anyway. My heart lurched. And I tried to stay quiet. It ended with them in a tight hug, both crying. A strand of trust began weaving it's way between them.

She went home for the weekend...just minutes afterward.

She bounced into his classroom Monday and gave him a big hug.

This week that little tightness inside me loosened up a bit.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jesse Tree

And for inquiring minds...This is a picture of our Jesse Tree, which, quite obviously, is actually a Jesse Wreath. It's from last year. There's an ornament to go with each scripture reading we did over advent. So, this was the picture from Christmas Day, once all the ornaments were up.

Music and Advent

Our lives continue to revolve around music. I feel as though I've made some kind of full circle in my life. When I was young, in high school and college, music infused nearly every moment of every day. I went to sleep playing music, even woke to turn it back on sometimes. Now, I am living with Vespera, who is young, in high school, and who spends hours upon hours steeped in music. And my life is filling with music again.

I walked out of the bedroom after reading Mane to sleep a few nights ago to find Vespera & Dh, each with one earphone from a shared headset, at the computer scrolling through itunes. Dh has always been a connessuir of music. His listening menu is broad - from the meaningful to the comical. And now Vespera listens to everything from The Sound of Music to Billy Joel and much in between.

Mane goes around singing Do, Re, Mi, and I Surrender All (that's from Amy Grant's Rock of Ages, if anybody wants to know)...and also the cherry cola song by Savage Garden.

So, now I'm in search of music for Advent, as a way to enrich our Advent time together this year. And, yes, folks, that means Advent is beginning soon! December 3rd is the first day of Advent this year. We'll be lighting candles and doing a Jesse Tree again. And maybe adding some music to the list.

Ok, so now Mane is sitting on my lap & I can't see the screen any more.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Just to write

I'm writing today because I rather feel that I ought to. The writer in me believes that you need to squeeze something out every now and then even if you don't really know what to say. It's good practice.

I'm off for a weekend with the girls on Saturday. We're glazing pottery and spending the night in a hotel. I assume lots of other various and sundry things will be part of the weekend, too, as usual, but I have no idea what. Vespera is coming with this year, by popular request. They love her. I do, too, and I'm looking forward to the drive. Hopefully I can be quiet long enough to really listen. This is my goal. Be quiet. Listen. Speak when it's time and not before. I can't do it, really. I love to talk. And I so rarely get to hang out with my friends and there's always a million trillion things on my mind. I'll try, though. God help me. I'll try.

So, I thought about sending my Bible study ladies over here to read. Decided I was too radical. What if I say something offensive? The friends I'm hanging out with this weekend think I'm a rule follower. I laugh in my hands. Yeah, appearances are not everything.