Friday, June 28, 2013

My daily grind has changed for the better.

I was asked the other day by a Jordanian friend of one of my daughters if I liked Jordan.  I told her unequivocally Yes.  I really like Jordan.  I like the way the sun hits the buildings at sunset.  How blue the sky is.  The coolness of the evenings.  The food, the people, the camels, and the hills.  The steady breeze.  Did I mention the food?  The Jordanians are nice people, except when behind the wheel.  That seems to be a generalization for much of the world though.

In addition, I like my job.  I like the people I work with and the people I see every day.  And I'm going to be painfully honest here:  I like how my days don't revolve solely around my kids anymore.

See, for the past 17 years (yes... 17 years) I've stayed home.  OK, so for the first few months of Katherine's life I was also in Graduate school.. but I quit to be a full-time mom.  And then I had that year as a part-timer in the Consular section in Chennai where I really felt like a fish out of water and was home at noon most days.  At that point I still dropped everything the second a kid needed anything.

And that's the way it was supposed to be.  Katherine wasn't even a teen yet, Jonathon was in 2nd grade. I wouldn't change a thing.

But now, Katherine is 17 and a rising senior in HS.  Jonathon is heading into 7th grade.  If they get home from school at 4 and I'm not home until 6, it's really OK.  If they need anything I'm 5 minutes away, or they'll come to the Embassy themselves.  I'm OK working full-time in Jordan because the kids are ready for it.  Oh sure I hear "You quit taking care of us" and I'm pretty sure they're joking, but at the same time I think they're adjusting too.  I'll leave them texts to start dinner or do chores.  And though I tried to hire a housekeeper (we'll keep looking), I think we're doing OK without one.  For now.  Even with the piles of clean laundry that have become a semi-permanent addition to our den floor.  Or the dishes that get washed twice a week.  That part is actually fine as we're only eating at home a couple times a week at this point.  All eating together has become so rare that when it happens, like tonight, it's something special.

Part of this is summer vacation and the kids are busy with their friends.  Part is that I'm just now getting into the rhythm of my job (only to have it torn apart again when we go on R&R, I know).

When we get back from our trip things will change.  When school starts up things will change again.  And we'll roll with all of it.

Because I am, how do you say it... "letting go."  At heart I'm a control freak based on my own abilities.  X minutes to complete Y task... why aren't you done yet?  It's time to do A, stop doing B.  Where are you, who are you with, what are you doing, when are you coming home?  OK, those ones I still do.  But at the same time I'm less stringent when things that I feel matter, or should matter, don't really matter.  Does that make sense?  I'm recognizing, painfully at times, that while I think something should go a certain way, the rest of the world doesn't necessarily see it that way, including my husband.

See, I'm an only child and for most of my life I had my thoughts and beliefs about life and the way to live it with no one to argue them.  They were what they were.  Then, about 10 years ago, after 7 years of marriage (can you say Slow Learner?) I had a rough time when I realized the world absolutely did not revolve around me, and if I didn't come to grips with that I was going to lose quite a bit.  I did come to grips and was happy again.  Score one for a solid marriage to a guy who puts up with more than his fair share of craziness from me.

Then I had teenagers. Cue the ramped up craziness machine: I fought and cried and spent many many hours telling myself how right I was and how wrong and blind the rest of my family and the world was.  Teenagers are tough, but that doesn't erase the fact that I was wrong.  They are their own people and I am still their parent, but at the same time... just because I would want or do C, D, or F, choosing something else isn't necessarily bad.

My husband has been a great eye-opener for me.  He is a spectacular diplomat both at work and at home.  As I try to tame the teen beasts to fit my mold, he recognizes they have their own molds to make and fill.  I have to trust that what they hear from us, what they see from us, what they know from the past 11-17 years has made its way into their heads.  The hard part is when all that works... and they still choose the wrong path and make their mistakes.  We also encourage our kids to stand up for themselves against any person when they see something they believe is unfair or inequitable.  Each one is progressing at their own speed in that regards.  Becca has earned the respect of her school administrator for her tenacity.  Nicholas has dealt with friend issues at school in ways well beyond his years.  They're growing up and molding their inner selves.

And then it bites us in the butt when they argue a grievance against us.  Us!  The people they are supposed to follow without question!  Only that's ridiculous, right?  Who wants sheep as children?  These children are growing up fast.  Katherine will be leaving home next year and I certainly don't want her to a be a sheep in the next stage of her life.  I do want her to weigh the right and the wrong, see different angles of an argument, learn to argue better not louder.  And you can't do that with sheep.  You have to engage them and work with them to argue and make their point and support their side.  As a parent I can still say No.  That's a perk.

It sounds like I have this figured out.  I don't.  But what I do know now is that micromanaging my kids once they hit a certain stage doesn't work.  Nicholas is 13 and made an argument for letting him decide when to go to bed, even during the school week!  In my gut I know he needs a lot of sleep and that he should be in bed by a certain time and I simply didn't want to leave it up to him.  But he convinced me in a rational and calm argument that he should decide when he'd go to bed.  I think the big thing here is that he brought it up as an option, supported his case, and I had two choices: impose my will "knowing" that I was right, or letting him try and let it play out.  It's a good thing he knows he needs a lot of sleep too, and he's done a great job of managing himself.

I still tell Jonathon when to go to bed.

I'd like to think that an important part of watching kids grow up is growing up yourself.  These people who are not little anymore are their own selves.  It's hard to watch some days, and other days it makes me smile.  I love to watch them do things they really enjoy, and I need to tell them that more.  I need to release more responsibilities to them with the understanding it won't get done the way I'd do it but it would still be done.

I like that I have a job because it's showing them that they can do what they need to do.

I haven't "stopped taking care of them," I'm just doing it a different way now.  Do my kids need me?  Of course.  They call me at work, they come by the office, they're home when we get home.  I get texts all the time.  Usually it's of the nature "Where is...?" but how is that any different than if I was home?

"Hey mom, where are my pants?"

Yeah, I've heard that a billion times and I don't know the answer any better from home than I do at the office, so all is still equal.

So yeah.  Life settling into a totally different "grind."  The grocery store, a place I used to visit a couple times a week, is probably wondering where I've disappeared to.  The Oasis Club I see every day.  I forget to fill the car with gas until the light comes on, but my water bottle is never empty.  The laundry takes forever as do the dishes, but my day planner and desk calendar are full and the kids are generally happy and last I looked they weren't breaking anything.

Except, well, this:

Totally not my fault.  He was at school.  He fell.  Would have happened anyway.  Right?  Bummer he'll have it over our entire vacation, but at least our hospital here is close by for checkups.

We also did this, which totally wasn't the same night.

It wasn't, I promise!

Check out if you're curious about a local program to make and eat a traditional dish with a bunch of friends.  We had a group of 13 in addition to a British bunch at the other end of the table.  I can't give you directions as we got lost both getting there and getting home even without me driving, but it's a fun evening out if you can find it.  It doesn't exactly overlook the Citadel but the Citadel is nearby and beautifully lit up as you drive around, lost and annoyed.

No, that's too harsh.  There was a lot of laughter in the car as we drove in circles, down a one-way road the wrong way... we were following another Embassy car that time into oncoming traffic... and made additional wrong turns at intersections we actually did know.  Did we ever make it home?

Of course.  And my fabulous husband from way back in the 3rd row did not mock us audibly once, the driver and navigator, as we meandered our way home.  If that's not love, I don't know what is.

So here we are, living a very different daily life than we did a year ago.

And I think we're doing OK.

Friday, June 14, 2013

No words needed.

Happy Birthday Nicholas!

You might think Nicholas's birthday was in April, and you'd be right.  But way back then we promised him Paintball with his buddies and it didn't work out.  And didn't work out.  And didn't work out.  So today we went, last chance before summer break.  Ten of our folks played, and 7 others kids joined in, and afterwards we stayed for a light early dinner. While Mountain Breeze Country Club is a nice place, I didn't find it easy to find nor was it easy to find our way back.

The two younger girls in our group had never played before and were a little hesitant about joining in, but now I hear they're considering it for their own birthdays. Always happy to help.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Long time no write.

Tell me again why I took a "part-time" job?  I'm having a good time, but the balance still isn't there.  Piles of clean clothes have been in the den for a week.  The dishes have collected.  I only make 2-3 dinners a week and the rest of the time is reheatables or delivery or cereal.  I've gotten so very lame.

In this time, some stuff has happened.  Ian joined the school board.  He's not sure what he got himself into.  I finished Gone Girl and decided I didn't like the end.  Still reading Argo and like it much better.

The chorus and band had their last concert.  Here's the choir singing an a capella piece.

And the band played "Edelweiss."  Sorry the video is so bad, we got there late and sat in the back while the band sits on the floor, which never made sense to me.

And riding continues.  They've steadily progressed with trotting, preparing for small jumps, and some cantering.

The baseball season ended with Reese's winning the season 9-1 (remember Nicholas got the only score, a home run, to win the game and the season with a 1-0 game), and tied in the championship with a 5-5 game. Today was the finale, the awards ceremony with medals and photos and gifts from sponsors.

The cats are still alive.  We've rescued 2 kittens in the past few weeks, one as we were walking past Taj Mall and another Becca found near a dumpster.  Both went to the vet for a check-up and adoption.  

And there you have it.  Busy folk leading busy lives. The kids are still in school for a few more weeks but they've already all checked out.  Please, bring on summer.