Friday, December 14, 2007

Trouble, Mid-Term

This is Kristin Kovacic, on parenting teens, in the winter issue of Brain, Child:

"And just as suddenly, things get really quiet. The kids become secretive, closing the doors to their rooms as thoughtlessly as they once climbed into your lap. The parenting magazines you peruse in the pediatrician's office (who, by the way, has kicked you out of the examining room) no longer apply to you. Their colorful taglines--The Truth About Fructose!--and clever craft ideas seem like pamphlets from another planet, like the Easy Readers your kids can't believe they ever actually read. Most noticeably, other parents stop their happy babble. Your old playgroup coffee klatch suddenly seems to you, in memory, like a teddy bear tea party. Because real secrets, real fear, real shame and the specter of real failure have now entered the space where you once traded stories."

Stryker has long spurned laps. At his last annual exam, I made good use of the waiting room, doing just that. He is halfway through 11.

Yet Trouble has entered my world.

The beautiful 17 year old daughter of friends we admire and respect is having a baby. High school graduation? Uncertain.

Running into an acquaintance I hadn't seen in a long time, I inquire after her offspring. "Real challenges," she said. One was clinically depressed; another had gone through drug treatment.

Another old friend has a 20-year old son living in her basement: under-employed and aimless. He has no interest in higher education, even if she foots the bill.

And in another corner, a smart, creative talented high school senior failed just enough of the wrong classes; forgot to fill out that college application; missed the boat on driver's education. Her post-graduation plans? Zero.

When I was younger--young--I envisioned my life as expansive. Life would encompass a touch of fame, travel, art, excitement. At my wedding, I tipped a martini, sucked in my cigarette and swore off children. Never.

Nearly13 years and three children later, my understanding of 'expansive' has changed.

Sure, I still see Europe (again) and Asia in my future. A touch of fame (most decidedly) wouldn't hurt me.

But it turns out the expansiveness that life is primarily offering me is one of interiority. I am mining the subterranean of self and other. Vast territory, important. Suddenly, I am seeing how high the stakes are. Some mistakes matter.

Seeing Trouble around me reminds me that I will get my share, too. I hope mining the internal terrain can keep me honest, accountable.

Honest and accountable. So that if one of my kids screws up big--you know, pregnant, addicted, dropped out--I can honestly say that I did my very, very best. I didn't check out, cop out, look the other way. I want to know that I jumped into the vast expanse, awake.

And I'm not there yet.


Beth said...

It is one tough job - requires vigilance, love and a lot of patience.
I made it through - you will too. You've got a great attitude!

Mrs. G. said...

I've got one filling out applications and one turning thirteen next weekend, so I shudder when I read what some of your parent friends (and their older children) are going through. I, too, have watched my share of kids run off the track. Having run off the track a time or two myself, I'm hoping my kids will have a smoother journey.

But one thing I do know, is that a good part of the time, parents have no role in the disaster. Mine didn't. It's a cliche, sometimes shit just happens. Here's hoping we dodge a lot of it. Great post.