Teen Times Vol. 1

crazy

I have found communicating with one’s offspring to be daunting at times. When they’re small children, conversation can be simple: “Gotta go pee-pee?”, “Time for nap” and “No, don’t put the fork in the socket, honey.” Simple supervisory skills.

As the they get older, and if they’re still not as smart as you, you can figure out how things are. But it does require knowing your children and what their proclivities are. But then they hit pre-teen, and with technology the way it is, you’re gonna fall behind. I did Twitter, but just got depressed; I am on Instagram, but the kids aren’t really there anymore. It’s all about Snapchat…and I’m not going there. So they have this Snapchat world that you kinda have to watch from a distance.

Then there are the full-blown teenagers, the attitude has come, the manners have gone, and any motivation or inclination to do minor work has vanished. Communication becomes very difficult. I have one teen with whom I can have normal conversations, hopefully that will not change, I have one who must have mentally muted my voice, and I have one with whom I can start WWIII with that hate-filled word, “Hello”. Texting is the go-to form of communication for my teens. However, how my texts are perceived by them is a mystery to me, even after 30 years of child rearing. For example:

Sample Mom Text: What time will you be home?

In the English language, this kind of sentence is called an interrogative sentence, a question, if you will. Typically, these kinds of sentences elicit a response, and furthermore, in our sample text, a response dealing with time. This text, in its basic and unfettered form, would seem innocuous; however, in the mind of a teen, our sample text can create benign annoyance to outright hostility. Also, this sample text has elicited declarations of independence from said teens who are over 18. You know where I’m going.

Lately, I’ve been spending two nights a week at my mom’s “mom-sitting” while my dad’s been in rehab…no, not that kind of rehab. One of those nights is a Sunday night, and consequently, my two school-aged daughters must get up, get ready and be prepared for pick up around 7:30 without my gentle nudging, aka “get your butt outta bed, it’s almost time to go” encouragement. 🙂

This particular Monday morning, I sent out some preemptive texts at 6:55.  I sent this harmless text: “Awake?” Interrogative, yes, so I get one response, not good, both should be awake by now. Ten minutes later, I send this declarative text: “Be ready in 20 minutes.” Same respondee, text one, “Whooooa?”, text two, “We’re not ready.”

As I wait for mom’s caregiver, I send another text, testing the waters of readiness, 7:27 am – “Ready?” Faithful respondee, “No, E in shower” My calm response: “Whaaaaat!!!” E must think that “Be ready in 20 minutes” means “I have ten more minutes before my shower.” I have to drop off two teens at two different locations in two separate cities, and get to work by 8. The Plight of the Hare. Ain’t gonna happen this morning. Que sera, sera! We’ll all be late today.

I finally get over to pick them up, I futilely text, “here” and wait. We get on our way at 7:49, faithful respondee needs to be at school by 8:05 and her silent (mentally mute) sister needs to be there by 8:12. I’ve been using my son’s manual transmission Toyota, so today necessitated me to fall into Mario Andretti mode. I bobbed and weaved, shifted and downshifted through residential streets to deposit Thing 2 by 8:00 and managed to fly up Sharp Park, make the lights on Westborough and get Thing 1 dropped off a little late. Meanwhile, I get to work late, there goes my break.

Since I have an advanced degree in teen times, I didn’t stress out. I chocked it up to experience, and determined the next Monday morning to send out preemptive texts earlier. I tell my older daughters who have young children to enjoy the baby years since time flies by so fast. Folks, these teen times too will pass, so my advice is to fasten your seat belt and enjoy the bumpy ride.

 

 

Put A Little Vaseline On It

rx

As I embark into my sixth decade, I am realizing that there are certain things I really need. I prided myself for many years in being able to thread a sewing machine needle without my Dollar Tree cheaters. Evidently from the text I sent my daughter last night – “I unlicked doir” –  I need my glasses all the time for reading, writing and arithmetic (especially since I’m in accounting). Last week, a friend of the family sent up a distress Facebook post needing prayer for the final weeks of her MA program. It was late, but I wanted to chip in my support, which I did with this message: “Im peaying, habg in ghere. So olose.” I checked the comment in the morning – oh snap – she’s gonna think I’m drunk, that’s not what I wanted to communicate. I added a comment which translated the above sentiment and assured her I was not intoxicated in any way, just forgot my glasses. She responded with a hearty laugh emoji. Without my glasses, miscommunication events will likely happen again, especially when I’m depositing money into offspring accounts, so I better keep them close.

Now the above comment was ridiculous, but miscommunication can have other outcomes, other effects. My sister and I were at my parents’ house one day. Standing at the kitchen counter, we were engaged in a serious and riveting conversation about what we all discuss in the kitchen: hemorrhoids. Who knows who the afflicted one was, but our conversation covered causes, symptoms, side effects and various and sundry methods of treatment. My mother entered the kitchen while we discussed the burning, itching and pain. She listened for a bit. And, in a humph, she pronounced her expert therapeutic remedy: “Just put a little Vaseline on it; and, for Pete’s sake, stop licking it!” Yes, miscommunication at its most humorous. No, Mom, we’re not talking about cold sores.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when miscommunication is rampant. Fake news, fake polls, fake people assail us on a daily basis. It takes a real serious effort to find out the veracity of a story, if we can at all. One has to examine multiple points of view, multiple forms of media and multiple sources to even glean or hope for a true understanding of an issue. It can be a real pain in the, um, backside, like our favorite kitchen conversation topic. But to be as informed as we can, we need to persevere in understanding what is going on. Whether that makes a difference in the long run, I don’t know; but, for me, I need to try to get the best and most objective understanding of a subject, I try to consider all points of view.

Putting a little Vaseline on it may work for cold sores and even may work for hemorrhoids – I know it works for diaper rash – and I suppose (hah!), metaphorically, it may work for us adults who are trying to soothe the painful troubles of our times. If we realize what we see and hear on the TV, the Internet, the paper and even what we hear from our friends is not necessarily the whole story or even the true story THAT can be the first course of treatment in getting to a higher place of understanding. And maybe from there, we can assuage the burning issues with the balm of compassion and commitment which will lead to respect, respect for each other and for our different points of view. And from that place of respect, I am confident, we can begin to heal our country’s ailments. Fifty years after MLK, RFK, Vietnam and Watergate, we should be there by now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 27 to the Rescue

Silhouette of helping hand between two climber

The last couple days have been kinda hard. Actually, the last couple years have been hard. My mom had a stroke two years ago, and my siblings and I have been increasingly taking more care of our parents. With my mom’s partial paralysis and my father’s decline into early dementia, the responsibilities as well as the emotional toll are being felt deeply by all of us. On top of that, aching old scars and fresh wounds seem to have resulted in acute estrangement from them and from one another.

Saturday night I went to bed carrying a lot of this emotional weight, not the kind of weightlifting I resolved to do this new year. Saturday was tough enough dealing with one of the kids’ issues, and I was looking forward to collapsing into bed and getting a good night sleep without having to get up early in the morning for work. Texted my son, who was out, “you good?“, his reply:

“Yea gonna be home around 10”

Good, one daughter was out babysitting, and she’d uber home whenever, late, no doubt. Around 9:30, I crashed and slept fitfully for over two hours. I woke at midnight. Checked my phone and there was a text. An hour-old text from an old friend: “Hello Donna, I know its late please can you life me up in prayer/medical issues. need them thank you so much. I texted back: “praying…”. I said a little prayer, then got up, went to bathroom and checked son’s room. Not home. Quick text to son, “You ok?” Ten minutes later:

“Yea”

Ok, good. Probably be in soon. He sometimes stays out late even if he has to work in morning. I sent up another quick prayer for my friend. Then I tried to go back to sleep. I couldn’t.

My mind went into manic mode as it got swept up in the family drama and distress. Every time I closed my eyes, the feelings of estrangement and rejection swirled and churned inside me. After about an hour of wrestling with fears, doubts and feelings, I checked the clock: 12:54 AM. Son still not home. Well, as any reputable helicopter mom could tell you, my mind was ripe for panicking about what possible harmful scenarios my son stumbled into. I sent another text, thinking he may just spend the night at a co-worker’s: “Are you coming homr”, ( I was tired.); another at 1:20 AM: “Ok?”; and the last one at 2:09 AM: “You good?”. No answer to any of those texts or the couple of texts I sent my daughter. But, I figured she’d just stay over and get a full night sleep away from the baby.

As you can imagine, I was getting frantic. Sleep was impossible. Even if he came home, I was so wound up, that an all-nighter was inevitable. I hate these kind of nights.

I put on my Bible study, often that would put me to sleep. J. Vernon McGee on his Thru the Bible radio show has been going through 1 Chronicles. It is his opinion that although 1 Chronicles seems like a rerun of 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings; it is the same stories and characters, but from God’s point of view. The latest Bible study was about David’s great sin. No, not the one with he and Bathsheba, but the one when David numbered the people. McGee contends this sin, in God’s eyes, was worse in the sense that David was no longer trusting God, but in the numbers, in the strength that he thought he had accumulated. Wasn’t I failing to trust God like David? Yep.

In my emotional mania, somehow that lesson began to seep into my mind. I’ve been trying to be more trustful of God. And I was failing miserably, I was not trusting the Lord at all. I could not get a grip on the worrying, the pain and the despondency. I checked my email, and my daily Henri Nouwen devotional was already delivered. I read it:

Nouwen post

The further reflection took hold of my attention. I got out my Bible and read all of Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

I read it again. I saw that even if my parents forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Even if what I feared was true, I had God to turn to. Then, finally, wait for the Lord. Not my strong suit.

As I let these words, these words of healing and solace, soothe my tempest-tossed mind, the storm slowly stilled just like when Jesus stilled the storm at the behest of his frantic friends. I began to trust, trust Him that my son would be OK, trust Him that my family’s issues would smooth out, trust Him that my financial situation will prove to be enough and trust and believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Far past two o’clock, and as I was drifting to sleep, I heard the jingle of his keys and the door unlocked. Before I fell asleep, I muttered to him as he passed my door, “Ten, huh?” He said something about dropping off friends (good kid!), and I finally said so he could hear, “glad you’re home safe.”

Good night.