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Transitions R Us

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Life is full of transitions, isn’t it?

I mean, really, when is it not?

We go from being little human boneless skinless chicken breasts: limp and helpless as they come, to purposeful smiling, to lifting our heads, to rolling over all in the blink of an eye. We become terrible toddlers, and then learn to read, and before you know it, we dare to think our own original thoughts, and dream our own individual dreams. And that’s just what comes from moving into adolesence.

As young adults, we transition into paying our own way through life. To (hopefully) no longer being quite as self-focused as we begin to focus on raising those who will take our place in the next generation. And after that, we transition into life AFTER children: the “What will I do with the rest of my life?” phase that so many of my friends are in, and that I am moving towards so rapidly.

But all along the way, as we move from one developmental level to the next, we hit bumps. (And if you don’t, my hat is off to you. But most people I know, do.) And sometimes, as we try to figure out what’s next, and how we should get there, it’s just plain HARD! We know who we used to be and what we used to do, but things have changed, and it’s time for something new: a new goal, a new focus, a new vision. How do we step into this new phase? Everything feels awkward. And if you’re an adult who is “supposed” to be “mature”, there can be a real feeling of shock, and shame and inadequacy, “Wait a minute! I thought I was all grown up, and knew who I was and what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but things have CHANGED, and I just don’t know what this next part is supposed to look like!”

At my Fabulous Friday Friend’s get-together yesterday, one of those wise women, Judy, shared with us a profound truth that she had learned. “There is no shame in transition”. As we struggle, it is important to remember that struggle, even the struggle of a mature adult, is a normal part of life : something common to man – and woman.

Well, we’ve been transitioning around here. And since there is no shame in the struggle, I’m just going to admit: there’s a whole lot of struggling going on. Sometimes I think my kids are just like caterpillars trying to eat their way out of the snug, comfy little cocoons I so carefully spun just for them.

And honestly, I want them both to fly. I do! I do!
But it’s so hard sometimes, watching them strive to do that.

One of the things I have said for years – eleven years, to be precise – is that I have loved the opportunity that homeschooling has afforded me to truly know my kids. And I HAVE loved it. I feel like I know them inside out, sometimes. Like I know what makes them tick better than they do.

Well, lemme tell you, just because you FEEL that way, doesn’t make it so. (I am saying this with the most rueful of smiles, and totally laughing at myself, so you may feel free to join me in this ironic little endeavor.)

My son’s tutorial had what they call “Band Night” this week. Those who wanted to perform a song or two, could, and lots of them wanted to. Not surprisingly, since we live in a music town, a lot of these kids are children of professional musicians, and they are extraordinarily talented. The other GREAT thing about this tutorial is that these kids LOVE each other. No cliques! They cheer each other on, regardless of the level of talent.

Now, I am someone who, if I’m going to do something in front of a group of people, will practice and prepare until I have down exactly what I am going to present: be it song, or teaching, or whatever, I think things through carefully, and prepare accordingly.

My dear, dear son, on the other hand, is temperamentally so very, very different from me. He prefers to fly by the seat of his pants, loving everyone and everything around him, and rolling with the moment like a playful otter. I have some thoughts about the wisdom of this strategy to prepare one for life, but, luckily for you, I will keep those thoughts to myself for the moment. You can just play your own imagined version of my response to this in regard to school work in your head right now, and fell well and duly lectured. But school work aside, playing guitar is a hobby for my son, so it’s his deal, and I’m pretty much hands-off. “Have fun, son! Enjoy yourself.”

So, with that frame of reference, I went with some trepidation to Friday night’s band night, to see what in the world my son would come up with.

He did not disappoint.

While we were there at Band NIght,, I shouted into my son’s ear, over the din in the room, “So – what are you going to play?”
“Oh, a song called, “It’s A Dirty Little Town”.
At this point, I’m thinking, “OK, this could be good. Or not. Could be really, really bad. In front of all these godly little homeschool families. Yikes.” But, I kept the smile plastered to my face.

“Oh, really? What else?”
“Well, just this song that I sorta kinda wrote.”

At this point, my head swiveled toward him like Linda Blair’s head in The Exorcist. Pretty sure that would make it a 450º: a 360º plus another quarter turn. I felt my eyes demanding permission to bug out of my head. I sternly gave them an internal “Permission Denied” and carried on with the aforementioned plastered smile.

“Oh, really? A song you WROTE? I didn’t know you wrote songs.”
“Well, yeah, I wrote this one.”
“Well, OK. Good.”

At this point, as the sweat began pouring out of my armpits, I began to consider my options. I COULD make a break for it, and run outside and cower under my car until this is over, but then….that would kind of defeat the purpose of me showing up to show my support and love for my son. Still…the oil stained gravel of the parking lot is looking mighty tempting….

I elect to stay, praying I won’t throw up.

The time arrives. My dear son and his friend take the stage.

My dear son is holding a banjo. We don’t own a banjo. To the best of my knowledge, my son has only SEEN a banjo in his life. He certainly has never played one at MY house.

They commence to play their song.

Now really. I’ve heard worse. I had heard worse that evening. It could have been SO much worse.

One song down. One to go. The one he has written.

It IS possible the earth MIGHT open up and swallow me. It did happen once in the Bible. Miracles still occur today….

But not that night.

He began his introduction of the song: “This is a little song I wrote called ‘Sparta, Tennessee’. I went there once and it was really gray and depressing, and so I wrote this song.”

Great. Now he has alienated everyone in the room who comes from Sparta. Oh, well, maybe he’ll be lucky and no one here is from there.

And one more itty bitty thing….Sparta, Tennessee. Sparta, Tennessee???? My son has never BEEN to Sparta, Tennessee. Oh dear God. Help.

The intro ends. The song begins.

Well, hey. It’s kinda…good. I mean it’s not bad. It has verses, a recognizable chorus, he’s playing chords (on his guitar, thank God) that seem to go with the melody.

The song ends. The crowd goes wild (because they’re great kids, and they love my son.).

My son approaches me, a searching, slightly timid look on his face as he looks into my eyes. “Well, what did you think?”

“Honey, you were GREAT! I loved your song!” I say, meaning it. “By the way, hon, have you ever been to Sparta, Tennessee?”

“Sure! Don’t you remember that canoeing trip I went on with that youth group? We stopped on the way back home and ate lunch at the Chinese Buffet, and it was all gray and depressing?”

“Oh, yeah,” I reply, relief surging through me that he is not a liar.

Transitions are hard: I am learning that my son has an interior life and talents of which I know nothing.

Transitions are awkward. I’m trying to figure out how to let him become his own person, and make his own mistakes, and enjoy his own triumphs, without raining on his parade with all my superior adult life experience wisdom.

But there is no shame in transitions. Thanks, Judy, for that sound bite of wisdom that I was able to grab onto and retain, for one day, at least.

The Hayes Zoo

Sunday 15th of November 2009

I think I'm going to write that phrase on a pillow.

There is no shame in transition.

My, my....wisdom.

Parenting is like a rollercoaster. Just when I 'think' I've got it down...there's that ginormous dropoff that send my stomach to my throat.

Thanks for the story. The testimony does my heart good. :)


Saturday 14th of November 2009

Great insights, Susan. I agree transitions are hard and awkward and sometimes painful. And I like your friend's comment that there is no shame in transitions. I'll be thinking on that one. My latest transition has opened up a whole new world for me.


Saturday 14th of November 2009

OH MY! I have so many instances of finding out that my child is living a life that I don't know EVERYTHING about. It's a transition, for sure!

Loved your post. Loved chatting today. HUGS!!!


Saturday 14th of November 2009

I love that kid.

I think he and I have a lot in common with that fly-by-the-seat-of-pants thing.

I'm painfully spontaneous, but I like to think it keeps things fun.

Tell B-Dub that I said "hey".


Saturday 14th of November 2009

Oh, Susan, such a lesson. May I remember it as my boys grow up and older and into (gasp!) their own selves. Thanks for sharing with us.