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Walking in Dad’s Shoes by Sitting in a Cast

cast and crutches

Injuries mean a loss of independence. It is a loss of the way life has been and a miserable process of acceptance that life is not in our control. This particular injury is providing even further enlightenment I hadn’t expected.

It’s a joke, really, that we have control in our lives. The truth is we can’t control ANYTHING! We can’t control freak injuries or illness. We can’t control procrastination in others or a lack of attention to detail. We can’t control whether people around us want to do the things we ask of them and we certainly cannot control whether they go about doing those things with a smile. We can do things to influence others, but we really don’t control any of it.

I try though. I see tendencies in myself to fill when I’m hurting. Fill by achieving something, fill with food or booze. I am my father’s daughter that way I guess. I find a temporary relief in “feeling” full. I have approached my many injuries as an opportunity to fill with something else.

This injury I am not maintaining the full…I am purposefully emptying instead. Except for one day a week I am restricting sugar, carbs, caffeine, and alcohol. I was scheduled to do a 28-day cleanse starting the day after my injury, so I know God intended for me to endure this injury empty. The process has been eye-opening and HARD.

I don’t like having lost independence. The ice makes it REALLY hard to get around outside of our house. I have taught myself to drive left footed, but I am incredibly hesitant to go any place where I will have to park the car and crutch on the slick surface more than 100 feet.  It is a scary deathtrap and it will stay that way until the temperatures start to rise.

So I’m dependent upon help. Needing help, asking for help and accepting help is getting easier for me, but it is still a struggle. The bigger problem this time around is the struggle with my kids. They have had a hard time transitioning from kids depending on mom to mom depending on kids. And I’m not doing well with helping them. It’s not moving quite fast enough and I’m admittedly frustrated. My dependency needs were immediate and their willingness to pick their heads up from various electronic devices hasn’t happened in quite the way I had imagined it would. They are acting like, well, kids!

This is it. This is what my dad battled, isn’t it? He got to a monotonous part of his life and was struck down by a torn Achilles tendon. He denied the injury for so long he ended up in a much worse place than he would have been: a full-leg cast and weeks of immobility. He could control nothing when he thought he was controlling everything.

He lived in a house with four children (some of whom were similar ages to my kids) who were slipping out of his control too. They were at an age of their own independence and it was excruciating to watch from the couch. All he wanted to do was get up and drive somewhere…anywhere. He couldn’t. He was stuck. He was stuck in a life that wasn’t meant for football gods from small-town Nebraska. He saw he was in a life out of his control: the one that included the 9-5 (or 9-9) job as an attorney with a wife and kids. Those kids… god, 3 of the 4 of them were girls too. What use were they anyway? None of them could even play football or replicate even a small version of his football story. They played soccer: that sissy sport with sissy rules that were worth arguing about with those men who called themselves refs. And his son, well, football wasn’t going to be for him either. He was too cerebral, too much of a dreamer, too naturally gentle to be the reflection of anger and aggression that was filling him.

I wonder whether he ever gazed at himself in the mirror during those dark days. Did he make eye contact with himself and see the demons rising from within? I would bet it was too hard for him to look.

I don’t know that a torn Achilles tendon threw him over the edge, but when he tore the other one playing touch football, it was the start of an unraveling no one could have predicted. Two torn Achilles tendons in 18 months would be a lot for anyone to handle, but if you are struggling to understand the worth of your life, it would be devastating.

I am having a chance to see, firsthand, how truly tough this immobility can be at this stage in life. It may only be 10 weeks, but currently sitting in the middle of it, I can attest to the bouts of frustration, anger, sadness, self-pity and questioning.

Injury is temporary but aging is permanent.

He must have come to that conclusion too. Did he start to wonder whether all the hard work was worth it when he was facing an ugly truth: he was just as mortal as the next guy? His accolades didn’t matter as much as everyone had told them they would, and he was starting to realize it. There was one thing he could control though. No one could tell him to stop drinking if they never saw him do it. His next greatest achievement was hiding that from everyone.

families where grace is in place

My cleanse has been perfectly timed. Also well-timed is a book club book I am reading called Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen. VanVonderen is one of the intervention counselors featured on the compelling A & E series Intervention. One particular section of the book describes an inner circle of self and an outer circle of self. The inner circle can only be filled by God’s grace and love and the acceptance that who we are is enough. The outer circle is the one we create (and fill) to make us feel as though we are complete.

Maybe no one told my dad that he mattered without things or achievements. Maybe they tried, but he didn’t listen. He had been filling his emptiness and neediness with accomplishments and accolades his entire life. He thought covering up shame again and again would be enough.

He probably never considered that God might be waiting with the news that who he is…is enough.

Emptying needs to be happening for me right now. There is plenty to learn and work through for myself and with my children. “Filling” would only keep me from the great work I’ve been tasked to complete.

                     

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2014                                     www.meaganfrank.com

 
 

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Whose Plans are These Anyway?

path on the lakeI laugh at my last two entries. Not the light-hearted giggling “hee, hee, hee” of a little girl, but rather the evil “bwa, ha, ha, ha” of a deranged woman.

Dear Self from Last Year’s Blogposts,

I’ve got news for you sweetheart…stop trying to lay your own life plans!

Yeah, right. You’ll just move into the cabin on a lake and build your dream home. Ha! No problem. Sure, you’ll have a hard time closing doors and packing up boxes, but you are really pretty clueless. You won’t see those things you’ve boxed for practically a year. And, honey, you have NO IDEA what your life journey will look like the next ten months. Just relax, would ya’?  There is plenty to see and hear and learn and NONE OF IT IS IN YOUR CONTROL!!

Let go. Sit still. Oh yeah, and if you refuse…there will be outside forces to take care of that for you.

Sincerely,

The Crazy-eyed Future Version of Yourself (jaded and sarcastic)

Back then…two whole posts ago…I thought things were simple. We would move to a new town, start a new hockey adventure and build a home…hilarious! Before I became hardened to reality, I figured one of the hardest things we would do would be to agree on the color of the kitchen backsplash.

God had other plans for us.

Progression of My Plans            God’s Plans
Work for my husband during the summer and   see him lots Work for my husband, stress with him about a new business…see him 5 minutes a day
Move to the lake and start building a new   house Move to the lake and realize the lake has many building restrictions
Cheer for Big Sprout as he starts playing   soccer again

 

Enjoy Middle Sprout as she blossoms into a young lady

 

Watch Little Sprout leave behind any anxieties she had in a bigger school

Co-coach with hubby for the middle school soccer team just so all the   kids could play

 

Be challenged by the nastiness of pre-teen hormones and attitude

 

Realize that innate anxieties move with you

 

Enjoy the temporary nostalgia of no   dishwasher and one bathroom for 5 of us Extend time in close living quarters through one of the worst winters in   30 years
Enjoy the warmth and coziness of our   cabin on the lake Force close huddling because the furnace goes out
Establish independence in the new town Force dependence when my car dies on the side of the highway in -15   weather
Ok fine…find a house in town and keep the   cabin a cabin You’ll find one, but it won’t be ready for you for a while
Well then should we plan to just make the   cabin as big as we can? You could, but it won’t be all you need
Well I’ll just make the most of it then:   snowshoe, cross-country ski, lakeside yoga Wait a second…you need to rest now. Sit still. You need to heal your   ruptured Achille’s tendon anyway

If I’ve determined anything in the last year it is that God wants creativity and imagination. He knows that it takes energy to create and imagine in chaos and with all we’ve faced this year we have been tapped dry. We could never have had enough energy to do what we’ve been asked to do. So yes, we relied on Him more. And He has come through.

Again and again, we’ve had what we needed.  We are suited for this town and this town is suited for us. They accept our crazy. They may not understand it, but they do accept it. We know now what it is to live in difficult circumstances and we have an appreciation for the many blessings in our lives. We are surrounded by good people who are willing to help us…again, and again, and again.

I am no longer in the planning or predicting mentality. I am resigned to live in the moment.

In this moment, I am sitting on the couch with my driving leg propped on a pillow as the staples work to mend the surgically repaired tendon. The heatless sun is shining on the snow-covered lake and I have time to blog. Time I have not had for months and months. (you poor people!)

I make no predictions about my next post, or my next house. What I know is I have a place to sleep tonight and probably tomorrow. I have food to prepare in the fridge and children to parent this evening. What would be the point of planning out any further than that?

 

                     

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2014                                     www.meaganfrank.com

 
 

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“Closings” and “Openings” on the Calendar

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Later today we will close the door at our house for the last time. We’ve gently shut many doors this past month, but this one will be the hardest.

The dry-erase calendar in our kitchen has been counting down the days until we pack up our final belongings and head out of town. Over the last few weeks, a number of activities have been listed on that calendar: Move furniture to storage, Concerts, Birthday parties, the last day of school, Middle Sprout’s fifth grade graduation, end-of-year recital and… Final day.

These events mark the closing of an era, of a year of study, and of a year of life.  They needed to be on my calendar. We are meant to acknowledge and grieve the end of things because how else can we be fully open to the beginning and joy of other things.There are doors closing all over the place, but there are equally as many doors opening. So for the big changes in life, we need to mark them on the calendar.

There are other things, however, and arguably the more important things, that aren’t ever listed on a calendar. These are the moments I’ll miss most.

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When you live on a cul-de-sac life happens in impromptu fashion.

Bike gangs emerge, kids gather at the park and kids ask one of my favorite questions: “Can I go see if they can play?”

If it weren’t for the rain outside today, I bet the embers of last night’s cul-de-sac bonfire would still be smoldering in our neighbor’s driveway.

The bonfire, like so many of the other impromptu gatherings that happen in good neighborhoods, was not on the calendar. It came together over the course of the weekend and is the perfect closing for what our time on this street has been.

The night games unfolded in their yard and as the adults stood around chatting, all of the kids, ages 7-17, ran and tagged and fell and laughed. Marshmallows and chocolate melted into sticky gobs and as the eyes of my kids drooped heavily, they resisted going home because they knew what I knew…this was our last impromptu bonfire for a while.944400_10151511412077745_2112992674_n

Bonfires were new to me when we moved to the Midwest. We cannot regularly set fire to things in Colorado, so I hadn’t ever really known the power and draw of a good fire. The cul-de-sac bonfires will be among my favorite memories of living here. It’s magical, quite honestly, and the connection and community that can be sparked around a fire pit is hard to replicate somewhere else.

So last night, I walked somberly from across the street knowing it was the last time I would walk home from an impromptu cul-de-sac bonfire. I know full well it is not the last time I will gather with our friends, but I do know our world, and their movement in it, is about to change considerably. We cannot rely on the freedom of proximity and instead of living moments without a calendar we’ll have to more purposefully use the openings in our calendar to plan ahead.

I hadn’t considered the symbolism of the note I am leaving for the new owners of our house. You’ll notice I wrote it on the dry-erase kitchen calendar.

calendar

It says: Welcome to your new home. You will be happy here. Please make an effort to get to know the amazing people who are your neighbors. You could not be luckier to have people on this street who care so genuinely about one another. We will miss a lot of things about living here, but most definitely what we will miss the most are our awesome friends and neighbors!

                                                                       www.meaganfrank.com

Copyright 2013  Meagan Frank             Choosing to Grow

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 9, 2013 in life balance

 

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For All the Houses My Husband Built…

We’re finally building a Home.

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The five of us congregated to the family room and found sitting spaces on the floor, the futon and the fireplace. We had successfully moved the bulk of our furniture to storage and my husband was preparing for his return trip to Colorado.

Middle Sprout asked her dad, “What do you remember most about living here, dad? You do know it’s your last night here…ever.”

My husband sat quietly with her question and I could tell he was struggling for a meaningful response.

“Christmas,” he quietly reflected. “I loved Christmases here.”

What a surprising answer, I thought. We didn’t spend one single Christmas Eve in this house.

I’m sure he meant the time leading up to Christmas with the sledding, snowball fights, ice skating, tree decorating and the singing of Christmas carols. Christmas season is the time of year when our schedules slow and we are able to spend our most quality time together as a family. It’s traditionally been the only block of time in the year when my husband doesn’t work himself to the bone.

I’m glad those are the memories he cherishes.

I’m glad he didn’t pick the projects and renovations, or the times he was away from the house for work and hockey (which were numerous) or the hours he worked at his home office in order to provide for this family. I’ve come to appreciate his compulsion to construct, improve and provide.

For not one second of our marriage have I gone without provision and I am genuinely grateful for that. I do, however, look forward to relishing more time together in our new home.

We’ve lived in seven places and renovated five houses…it’s time for us to come home.

We are setting ourselves up for a radical lifestyle change, and there are parts of it that make me anxious. We have gotten very good at seeing the potential in a pre-loved home. He fixed, repaired and together we prepped all of those properties for eventual sale. We have gotten good at the business of house ownership.

I have no idea how we’ll be at the art of home-making. Picture1

I’ve just recently become comfortable with the frenetic, working energy of my husband. He loves by acts of service and I’ve taught myself to love him for it.

It takes time to get used to the rhythm of a person and we’ve just started to perfect the movement around and away from one another.

I hope we can find comfort in being still.

It will be a strange adventure for all of us to build a home from scratch. I’ve never put much color on our walls (or hung art, or bought rugs). I’ve only picked out the improvement that would make the most sense as an investment.

We’ll be busy during the build…of that I have no doubt. I’m simply preparing myself for when the dust finally settles.

Our house ownership mimics our marriage in many ways. We have noticed and worked to repair and improve the places that needed some love. I hope we are never comfortable sitting still long enough that the house simply erodes around us.

I’d like to say I know for sure it won’t…but we’ve never done this before, and we have no practice at this sort of home ownership.

I’d love to hear what it is about your house that makes it a home. (I’m looking for ideas and inspiration)

 

                                                       

Copyright 2013    Meagan Frank                           Choosing to Grow                                 www.meaganfrank.com

 

 
 

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13 Lessons I’ve Learned While Being Your Mom

nate fishing picture

Today is Big Sprout’s 13th birthday, and this letter is for him.

Dear Big Sprout,

I started out the morning by writing my annual man-you’re-getting-so-big-I-can-hardly-believe-the-time-is-going-so-quickly blogpost. It is never an easy post to write, but today’s was especially difficult.

Just after dropping you off at school, I learned Zach lost his battle with cancer this morning. Actually, out of respect for Zach I want to amend that statement. Like he said in this Soul Pancake video, My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech, he wants to be remembered as “the kid who went down fighting and didn’t really lose.” There is nothing about Zach’s story that says cancer won.

I cannot get Zach and his friends and family off of my heart today nor can I stop thinking about life and your own movement through it. I struggle to keep from imagining what it must be like to be the mother of such an incredible son and to watch him slip away.

We mothers have to do that, you know. In little ways with each passing birthday, when milestones come and go, when college creeps up and marriages happen. We have to let go a little at a time and sometimes, in heartbreaking fashion, what seems like all at once.

Today you’re asked to share the day with Zach. A celebration and a reminder to live life purposefully. To learn as you go and to make the biggest difference possible.

I’m not sure what it is you’ve learned in your 13 years here, but I have a list of a few things I’ve learned from you along the way. Inspired by a recent interview with Jim Higley at www.bobbleheaddad.com, I have compiled a list of some of the lessons I’ve learned from being your mother.

There is such a thing as love at first sight.

I fell in love with you the minute I saw you. It was an overwhelming sensation I had not expected. Don’t tell your dad, but you were the one and only boy I have ever fallen in love with at first sight.

Babies fingernails are hard to cut, and sometimes the pain kids feel comes from a mom who tries too hard.

I vividly remember cutting your fingernails for the first time. (or rather filing because oh my gosh are you kidding… baby nails bend so unnaturally… yet they cut through steak?!?) I filed too closely and your finger bled and you cried. (harder than usual) Trying hard and caring deeply doesn’t make my attempts at motherhood perfect, it just makes the mistakes that much more painful. For both of us.

It’s awesome watching a kid touch grass for the first time. (and all the other firsts he gets to do too)

The joy in your smile when you felt grass for the first time was something I’ll never forget. It is a privilege to witness people’s firsts, and it is worth celebrating each and every one.

Toddler boys don’t sit for story time. (and that’s ok)

Chasing you through the library when I had envisioned a pleasant toddler story time taught me that I need to pay attention to who you are in the moment…and to let go of the made-up version living in my head.

Big brothers can be kind.

You have shattered my expectation that all big brothers are mean to their little sisters. I’ve learned that compassion can come in big brother bodies.

There are scary things in the world and praying is a good defense. 

When you brought me over to the rock pile to show me the black widow you had wisely decided not to touch, I realized I would never be able to watch everything you do nor would I be able to protect you from every harm. It’s true that sometimes I just need to lean harder on my belief that you don’t really belong to me… God has you in the palm of His hand.

People want to feel important.

Someone once told me you were like the mayor of preschool. You knew all the kids names and you would regularly inquire about their well being. Not much has changed since you were four and you’ve taught me a positive way to live is to try to make other people feel important.

Determination comes from within and parents have the power to damage the naturally determined kid. 

When you were five and you refused to stop spinning to catch a tennis ball I had encouraged you to drop-spin-and-catch I learned that you take parental pressure way too seriously. I’ve learned to let you lead the way since.

It is important to listen to stories. Dreams and wishes live there.

Walking into your school conference for first grade, you confided you had made up a story that was supposed to have been true. You said shyly, “I might have written that we have lived in Hawaii and we have a dog named Hunter.” You were reeling from a new baby in the house and your made-up story reminded me how important imagination can be. That… and you really wanted a dog.

Singing is cool.

When you and I were locked out on the balcony of a mountain condo for a few hours, we passed the time by huddling in my jacket and singing any song we could think of. You haven’t stopped singing since and I think it is one of the coolest things you do. Other things will come and go in your life, but music is forever.

It’s important to teach a man to fish…no matter the weather.

There was a time when you felt incredibly uncomfortable being alone. Since finding your peace in fishing, you have calmed that unsettled energy. You’ve taught me to celebrate rain and cold and to relish time outside alone.

Thirteen-year-olds are pretty awesome.

They may wear headphones, laugh at crude jokes and flip their hair to get the flow, but they are loveable and I enjoy being with them.

And finally,

Letting go, in even small ways, is hard…really, really hard. But when we carry something with us, we’re eternally tied to something bigger.  

What comforts me, and what I hope will be of comfort to Zach’s friends and family who are having to let go, is the light that Zach has left for us to carry.  Life is a series of lessons and we are meant to learn from experiences and from people. Lessons are the lights we pass to one another. Zach was very intentional about his light. He carried a huge flame through his short life and he managed to light millions of candles along the way.

Son, you are challenged to carry with you a light from this shared day with Zach. You are challenged to take in all the lessons you are meant to learn and to pass on a light of your own to as many people as you can convince to carry it.

I love you more than I can adequately express and I truly hope this is a birthday you will never forget.

Love,

Mom

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 20, 2013 in celebrating choice to grow

 

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The Difference of Blogging

I am assigned the task of writing about the difference blogs/books have made in my life. I am taking part in a bloghop hosted by the magazine I work for, Books Make a Difference. It’s harder than I thought it would be. I have procrastinated all month, and although I could blame my husband’s annual departure, our impending house sale and move, or the general expectations of my job and child-rearing, it is also true I have not made time to write through this piece.

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Blogging hasn’t always been this way. I used to have to restrain myself from putting out too many blogposts in a week.
Blogging with small children was as necessary as breathing.

I started blogging fall of 2003, and I found the support, encouragement, friendship, wisdom, connection and sounding board I so desperately needed.

That’s what writers do essentially, right? We write to hear an echo back from the world. We write in the hope our words will be important to someone else. Maybe not every writer needs emotional feedback, but I sure did. I was a stay-at-home mom unhappy with having made the deliberate (and seemingly permanent) decision to stay home and raise our children. Motherhood wasn’t what I had expected and I needed to know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

As I grapple with the focused subject of this post I am sitting in the back hatch of my car. My laptop is open on my legs and I am lounging near an elementary school playground . I glance up occasionally to make sure the girls are happily playing and taking frequent breaks to pet the dog. Big Sprout is building his muscles and stamina at a dryland hockey practice at a gym in town and I’m admittedly a bit nostalgic.

I never thought I would be at this point in motherhood.

Over and over again, in the early years of blogging, I’d write about the permanence of motherhood with small children. It was either pervasive frustration, or bouts of hilarity. I’d catch the sprouts teaching me things, and without a classroom to hash out the life-changing reality of the motherhood experience, I decided instead to put my stories out into the world for commentary.

I am most grateful for the commentary.

As I write this, I am watching a young mother with her little boy. He is about the age Big Sprout was when all of this blogging madness started. When I started to blog, Big Sprout was four years old and starting preschool, Middle Sprout was just over a year old, and Little Sprout was merely an idle egg in my ovary. I felt as though life were never going to be any different. Big Sprout turns 13 this month, and long gone is the permanence of mothering small children.

Blogging, instead, has been my permanence.

I was talking with someone yesterday about the shelf we have moved seven times during our marriage. We are preparing to move it again. It is a plain, white, cheap, particle-board bookcase, but it is the most important piece of furniture we own. On one side of the bookshelf there are hand-scrawled marks denoting the height of each of our children at various points in their childhood. If I’m grateful for any of my ideas, I am grateful I made the decision early in their lives to put this record on something portable. I didn’t ever want to have to paint over the marks or leave them behind. I guess that is sortof what blogging has been for me too.

Blogging is my portable marker. I can go back to old posts and I hear the voice of a woman I hardly recognize. I see linkbacks to women who have remained important friends in my journey through writing and motherhood and I can hardly imagine what type of mother I would be without them.

So, what difference has blogging made in my life? Having a space to write through and mark the growth that has happened for our family, and for me personally as a mother, has truly made more difference for me than I have words to explain.

 

Meagan is constantly moving, but you can sometimes catch her these places:


Website:
www.meaganfrank.com

Twitter: @choosingtogrow

Facebook: MeaganFrankAuthor

Email: choosingtogrow@meaganfrank.com

 


Copyright 2013                     Meagan Frank                     Choosing to Grow

 
 

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Practice does NOT make Perfect: It Makes Practicers

Please Pass the Snake

This was taken a few years ago when my husband and son were “practicing” catching garder snakes in our yard.

Yesterday while at coffee with a couple friends, the subject of malpractice came up. One of my friends wisely pointed out that doctors are not perfect…they only “practice” medicine. It got me thinking:

Doctors practice medicine.

Lawyers practice law.

My husband and I are practicing parenting.

Yesterday afternoon, when I was working through some difficult emotions with our almost-thirteen-year-old, I borrowed this idea of practice.

He is in the midst of confusion about life and his place in the world. (did I mention he’s in seventh grade? or that his dad is getting ready to leave for out-of-state work for 6 weeks? or that we are preparing to move to a new town?) His confusion is explicable, even if his behavior is not excusable.

After hacking away at what seemed to me to be surface excuses for his recent behavior, he worked to identify the feelings he couldn’t quite express. I gently pushed him a bit further. Much of his behavior has revolved around what seemed like anger toward me and my husband. (shocking for a teenager, I know!) So, I prodded him to talk through his feelings toward us. As hard as it was for me to hear his perspective, I did my best to listen without reaction.

I sat for a few minutes, taking in his viewpoint about what we are not doing quite right as parents. Honoring his feelings, I told him I was grateful he shared with me.

Then I asked him, “How long have you been here?”

“Thirteen years,” he said.

“How long have I been here?” I asked.

“Almost thirty-eight years,” he smirked, frustrated because he thought he knew where I was going.

I said, “You know what? You are practicing being in seventh grade. You’ve never done any of this before. Your dad and I have done seventh grade, and high school, and college, so we have a perspective that you do not yet have.”

He subtly rolled his eyes, because I did go where he thought. Then, I changed gears.

“The thing is, we are practicing too.”

He looked up from his hands to make eye contact with me for the first time.

“We have NEVER been parents of a thirteen-year-old before and we only get one shot to get it right.”

“No,” he sunk back into his annoyed posture. “You get to do it two more times with the girls.”

“Ok, let me rephrase. We are practicing being parents of a thirteen-year-old boy named Nate, and sometimes we try harder than we should because we so desperately want to get it right.”

He softened and made eye contact again.

“Everyone is practicing something,” I said. “We get better with more practice, but we’re never perfect. You are practicing life as an almost-teenager and your dad and I are practicing mid-life and parenting. All that matters is that all of us keep trying to get better at what we’re practicing.”

How about you? What are you practicing? Are you choosing to grow through the experience, or are you going through the motions?

www.meaganfrank.com                                                                     

Copyright 2013 Meagan Frank Choosing to Grow

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 4, 2013 in Children, Family, tweens

 

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