Category Archives: parenting

The birthday bash…a little late

I’m writing this post in bed, under the covers, at 1:00 in the afternoon. I’ve been here since Sunday night, with some kind of funky lower respiratory infection that I picked up this weekend. I hate being sick…can’t remember the last time I felt so bad that I stayed in bed more than a day. But my good memories of the long weekend I just spent in Colorado far outweigh the negatives of being sick.

 I turned 50 this past December, and my girlfriends, who never overlook a reason for a party, decided we needed a girl’s trip to celebrate. The fact that I already celebrated my birthday and the fact that it was two months ago meant nothing to them. We’ve done girl’s trips for the last 30 years, but the bonus this year was that I finally talked them into joining me for a ski trip to Snowmass.

Leaving my husband and my daughter for a few days is never an easy thing. Of course, I miss them like crazy, but making sure they’re taken care of adds another layer of preparation for a trip. Cooking extra food for a few days so they have plenty of leftovers to eat, grocery shopping so they don’t run out of anything they need, writing out my daughter’s schedule for my husband so that he knows where and what she’s doing. It used to be a lot more difficult. I had to arrange for transportation and/or babysitting for the times that my husband was working. Now that she drives, it’s a lot easier. I just have to worry about her remembering where she needs to be, and hope that she arrives on time and doesn’t forget anything.

They have learned over the years that I usually come back from my girlfriend trips in a great mood, energized and ready to be the best mom I can be. I can’t explain it, but being with my girlfriends, acting silly, drinking wine, talking until all hours of the night, eating junk food,…just being ME…helps me to be a better mom, and wife. I LOVE my family, and I LOVE being a stay-at-home mom. It makes me happy when I do all the mom things…shopping, cooking, planning, listening, encouraging, reminding, hugging, cuddling…all of it, but going away once or twice a year with my girlfriends is something that I treasure.

My daughter misses me, but she always loves to hear stories about the trip and laughs at our photos. She sees that good friends and memories are something to treasure, and looks forward to making her own. My husband still doesn’t quite understand the attraction of piling a bunch of girls together in a car and/or hotel room, and doesn’t understand how we can hear each other when we all talk at the same time, but he knows that I come back with a renewed appreciation for him and our life together. I’m able to remind myself that underneath the “Mom” and “Wife”…there’s still “Me”.

So far, 5 of 8 of us on this trip have the cough/fever/achy thing. One of us tested positive for H1N1, so it’s likely we all have it. Maybe it was skiing in -16 degree temperatures, staying in close quarters, snowshoe hiking up “terminator” and “anaerobic nightmare” trails, or more likely, sharing a camelback…but whatever it was, it was worth it and we’d all do it again.

She’s not Me

I don’t have a lot of TV shows that I watch on a regular basis, but “Parenthood” is fast becoming my favorite, because of the way they portray parenting teenage daughters and other family issues. Sometimes I think the writers must have lived in my house and spied on my family to get ideas for the show. In a recent episode, single (divorced) mom Sarah had a heart to heart with her teenage daughter Amber. Amber had signed up to play guitar and sing at a local bar for their “open mic” night, and reluctantly played a little of the song she was working on for her mom. Sarah’s well-intended advice was not taken very well, and Amber completely shut down and refused to play anything else for her mom, announcing that she was no longer going to perform at the open mic night. Later in the episode, Sarah sat down with Amber, and their conversation went something like this…
Sarah: “I’m sorry you’re not playing at the open mic thing. I feel really bad about that.
Amber: Rolls her eyes and twists her mouth.
Sarah: “You know, one day, when you have kids…if you have kids…there’s something you should know. This confusing thing they don’t tell you about. You see so much of yourself in them…your ironic take on the world, your smile, your sense of humor, your walk…and you think they’re you…but they’re not. And they shouldn’t have all your baggage, your fears, your insecurities and your life experience. They have their own.”
Then she went on to tell her that her song was beautiful…haunting, moving, and so…her. She told her she was so proud of her and that was what she should have said in the first place.
It’s ironic that I watched this episode this afternoon, after I had a long conversation with my daughter. It was an incredibly open and emotional conversation, and one in which she got angry with me for the second time in 24 hours for assuming I knew how she felt.
She was telling me about a social situation she’d been going through, and the dilemma she had been facing regarding how to handle it, and I immediately jumped in to tell her how I would handle it. My gut reaction was based on my own experiences in high school, combined with a lifetime of lessons learned and disappointments faced. The problem with that is, she hasn’t gone through any of that yet. She doesn’t have the hesitations based on disappointment. She doesn’t have fear based on memories of failure. She is bright eyed, optimistic, and of course, a little nervous about things she hasn’t faced yet.
Why should I do anything to dampen that spirit of hers? Why should I add even one more thing for her to worry about…something that hasn’t happened to her yet? She has to go through these things on her own, form her own opinions and let her own experiences shape her future. I should be here to listen, to cheer her on, and yes, to guide her gently when I feel she is making a dangerous or life-changing mistake. But this young woman of mine makes some pretty great decisions without my input. She does need me… she needs me to listen when she wants to talk, she needs me to bounce ideas off of, and she needs me to provide advice when asked. She knows I’m the life boat that will keep her from veering too far off course, but at this point I have to let her drive.
Sarah ended her conversation with Amber by saying, “…I’m in awe of you. And I want you to just go out there and fly. You can fly.” The happy ending was that Meghan DID do the open mic, and did it beautifully.

I’ve said it before, but watching my little girl fly is one of the best parts of being her mom.

Almost Ready to Fly!

When I was a little girl, I remember finding a baby bird under the tree in our back yard.  I was so worried about it, because it couldn’t fly yet.  My dad wouldn’t let me keep it…told me we needed to leave it alone.  It seemed so tiny and defenseless, out in the yard, exposed to numerous predators.  My dad explained that when the babies get bigger, it’s hard for them to stay in the nest, so they often just flop out and land on the ground.  He grabbed a kitchen towel, and very gently picked up the baby and put it into the shrubs next to our house.
The mama bird must have been watching, because she immediately swooped in and started bringing food to the baby in its new home.   As it got stronger, we caught a glimpse or two of a parent with the baby out in the yard, drinking out of the birdbath, or poking around for food.  A few weeks later, they were gone, and we assumed the baby had learned to find its own food and flew away to live on its own.
I was reminded of that experience yesterday, as we dropped our 17-year-old daughter off at the airport at 5 a.m. to catch a flight to New York.  She’s a junior at a high school that has a wonderful three-week program in January called “Winterim”.  Juniors and seniors spend those three weeks off campus at internships or service projects.   My daughter, along with 17 other girls, is spending her winterim in NYC, staying at a hotel in midtown, and taking the subway (by herself) to her internship, where she will work from 9-5 at a talent agency.  The girls have internships all over the city, and it’s an incredible experience for them. 
She’s been away from home before, but always in controlled situations such as summer camp, where her meals were provided, her laundry was done, and her activities were planned.   When we attended the meeting for parents of the girls doing travel internships, we had all sorts of questions.  Where will they do laundry?  Where will they get their meals?  What if they oversleep?  Basically, the answers were…they’ll figure it out.
Yesterday, the girls were taught the intricacies of the subway system, did a little shopping, unpacked, and by dinner were taking the subway downtown to have dinner at a restaurant near NYU that someone had told them about.  They didn’t get lost, mugged, or any of the other things that parents worry about…they were back in time for curfew.  This morning my daughter got up on time, worked out in the gym, caught her train and made it to work with time to spare.
It’s like when the baby birds fall out of the nest.  Whether they fell, or flopped out on their own, they became “fledglings” and had to start learning to do things for themselves.  They had grown wings and were almost capable of surviving outside the nest, and that is what they were learning.   The parents were still there, prodding them to try new things, but they were always watching. 
My daughter and her classmates are like fledglings.  It’s important for them to learn how to survive on their own.  It seems like yesterday she was here, with me, in her little “nest”.  I was responsible for all the things she couldn’t do herself…nurturing, feeding, bathing, educating, chauffeuring, comforting, and protecting.  We’ve had a lot of little moments of her finding her independence, but something tells me this is a huge turning point.  
She still has a lot of learning to do.  But unless she falls (or jumps!) out of the nest, she won’t have the opportunity to really learn it. It won’t be long until she flies off on her own, and it will be an incredible, exciting, heart wrenching moment.  It truly is bittersweet, as a parent, to watch your child take these steps.  I am so very proud of her, and as it has always been since she was a little girl, my heart sings when she’s happy.  But it is hard to let go.  
I know I will miss doing the things I’ve done for her for the last 17 years.  I know I still have a little time, but when the time comes, I will cheer her on.  But I will always be watching.

Stepping Back

Tuesday night I attended college night at H’s school.  We feel fortunate that she is at a school with an incredible college counseling program.  Now that she’s in 11th grade, the “counseling” portion of it is beginning…with a vengeance.  She’s doing SAT tutoring, in preparation for her first test in December.  She went on a college trip through her school last summer, and visited nine colleges/universities in 4 days in Philadelphia and Washington, DC.  We are planning on visiting a few in March before our annual ski trip for spring break.

I know I didn’t do this kind of preparation when I was in school.  In fact, I don’t remember thinking about college until Christmas of my senior year.  One of my girlfriends and I decided we’d go to MTSU.   Then, the spring of that year she decided not to go to college.  So I decided to enroll at David Lipscomb College.  Two years later I wanted to major in communications, so I decided to transfer to the University of Tennessee.  *Note, “decided”…not in the vocabulary of today’s current high school students.  They actually have to apply, write essays, get recommendations, have 4.0 averages and take honors and AP classes, as well as do sports, volunteer, start clubs, write for the school newspaper, and God knows what else.  At Tuesday night’s college night, H received her Planning Handbook, a three ring binder chock full of 13 divided sections, from college search information, website access, testing, college visits, interviews, resumes, application process, essay writing, and financing.  On top of my daughter’s extremely demanding academic schedule, her extracurricular activities, and leadership roles, now she has more information to digest.  While the colleges I “decided” to go to were not on any lists of great schools, even though I graduated in the top 10% of my high school class, and graduated “with high honors” from UT, today I might not get in because my ACT score is well below the average for UT freshmen.

It makes my stomach hurt.

So, my mommy mode kicked in.  I have been on multiple college search websites, College Confidential, College Prowler, College Board, etc., trying to narrow down the lists of schools so that H can have a more manageable list.  Some stretch schools, some safety schools, and some in between.  I signed her up for the SAT in December, so she can take the ACT in the spring, and then decide which one she wants to concentrate on to retake next year.   H is my only child…I’m kind of a control freak…so it’s what I do.  But, Tuesday night, H’s counselors emphasized that we should be stepping back…letting our daughters do the research, fill out the forms, register for the tests. 

Step back.  Whew.  It makes perfect sense.  She has to learn to do these things on her own.  She already does a fabulous job in those things that I don’t get involved with,  so I know she can do it.  But when I start stepping back, what am I going to do with myself?  I am H’s mom.  It’s who I am.  It’s what I do.  I’ve cuddled, encouraged, kissed boo-boos, made lunches, cooked nutritious dinners (even learned to cook tofu when she became vegetarian),  comforted, cheered, driven around,  prayed with and for,  advised, worried, planned, shopped, and basically lived for her the last 17 years.   I’ve loved every minute of it. 

But I can’t go to college for her.  Hopefully all those things that have been so much a part of who I am will help her become who she is.  But she can’t become who she is unless I step back.  I will still encourage, cheer, and pray for her.  I will probably always worry about her.  Maybe I will advise her…if she asks.   It might be a little painful, but watching her become her own woman will be a magical thing.

Maintaining the Connection

It’s Saturday morning, the first weekend of the school year, and I’m sitting in the kitchen,  doing the crossword puzzle, waiting for H to wake up.  I just realized I’ve been doing this almost every morning for the last 16 1/2 years.  I feel like my day doesn’t start until  she’s awake.  Typically, on the few days that she doesn’t have to wake up early for school or some other activity, we let her sleep in.  Theoretically.  But I usually can’t just go on and do what I need to do until she gets up.  What is up with that?  When she’s out of town, it’s not as bad.  I will go ahead and do whatever I have to do, but until I get a text or phone call from her, I’m still on edge.

I’ve been really sentimental and emotional lately.  Even catching glimpses of “Bethenny Getting Married?” on TV will make me tear up.  Seeing the usually bitter, acerbic Bethenny Frankel get all mushy and gushy about her new baby daughter takes me back to the wonder and the profound love that smacked me over the head when H entered our world.  I wonder if it’s this bad when people have more than one child.

These intense emotions are being exacerbated by the fact that my sweet, loving, sensitive almost 17-year-old daughter is experiencing some normal bouts of moodiness.   Last night, we were at a party, and she was at the Friday night football game with friends.  We had not seen her much all week, since school had started, and Friday we saw her even less.  She left for school at 7 a.m., went to her Friday volunteer job after school, and ran in to take a 5 minute shower before leaving to get ready at a friend’s house.  When she texted me that she was home, I couldn’t wait to leave our party to get home and talk to her for a few minutes before she fell asleep.   (I know, I know…get a life, mom!)

Anyway, we came home about an hour later, and I went upstairs to chat with her.  She had a different idea.  When I think of it from her point of view, (long week, emotionally drained, needing to decompress)  I completely understand, but it was still difficult for me.  She was in her bed, watching some mindless TV, and I came bursting in wanting to hear all about her night.  She did NOT feel like sharing…just didn’t have the energy.  I reverted back to childhood and kind of stomped off, then she felt guilty and apologized.  Not the outcome I had imagined or wanted for the evening.

When I reach WAYYYYY back into my memory of being a teenage girl, I remember the need to establish some freedom and autonomy from my mom.  I needed to assert my independence from my mom,  but still needed the connection… although I had no idea how to do it.  As a result, I know I pushed her away.  So there was that give and take that I’m experiencing now.  She pushes me away, and then when I go away, she tries to pull me back in.  She experienced an incredible growth this summer from her experiences at Adventure Treks,  Operation Smile, and Design Camp at NCSU.  She is discovering things about herself, and in an effort to develop that sense of self, she feels the need to rebel a little against my control.  I know that…my common sense tells me I need to let go a little bit…but my emotional side keeps fighting back. 

We’re making some progress.  The good part is she’s developing a really good connection with her dad.  They walk the dog together, or have lunch together, and she is telling him more now than she did as a young girl.  I do bite my tongue many times when I want to ask for more details than she gives, and try to keep my tidbits of “advice” which she always sees as criticisms, (are you going to wear that?  I like your hair better this way, etc) to a minimum. 

In other words, when she pulls away, I’m trying not to pursue as hard.  She does always come back.   Every now and then, when the stars align, I am in her bedroom when she feels like talking, and we have some wonderful discussions and connect in a way that gives me hope for the future.  I think she reaches out when I don’t push so hard.

So my hope for this school year, is that she continues to find out more about herself…her goals, her dreams, and who she wants to be.  The only way that is going to work is if I let go.  Not all the way.  Just more than I have in the past.   We will always be bound together, but I’m going to give her some slack in the rope.


I am so livid about H’s recent experience on US Air that I just have to put it in words.  We picked her up from design camp in Raleigh, NC last week, and drove to Charlotte to put her on a US Air flight to Denver for Operation Smile’s Student Leadership Conference.  That flight was uneventful. But on her return to Asheville, NC through Charlotte the nightmare began.

When she arrived in Charlotte, (after only sleeping 3 hours the night before=tired and emotional) she was told her connection to Asheville would be delayed. An hour later was told it was cancelled.  She called us trying to hold back the tears because she had no idea what to do.  We sent her to the “special services” line, and when she reached the attendant was told there were no flights until Saturday!!!! (2 days later!). Trying not to cry, she told the attendant she was only 16, and asked her what she was supposed to do. Another attendant didn’t even look up, but murmured, “well, her parents didn’t tell us she was a minor so there’s nothing we can do”. (**side note:  when you purchase tickets online there is no designation for a 16 year old, only adults or children up to-14 years old. )

We were ready to drive the 3 1/2 hours to pick her up, but that would have meant she would have to sit in the airport, exhausted, scared and alone for 3 1/2 hours.  As it was, it was 6 p.m. and she had been up since 6 a.m. and in airports since 7.  Luckily, we were able to find a car service ($600) to drive her to us, but when she went to get her bag was told it had been put on another flight and she couldn’t get it. No “lost luggage” code because it wasn’t lost. Now it’s three days later and we still don’t have her bag. Multiple phone calls to customer service, putting us on hold for two to three hours total, it has been a nightmare.

We were lucky that we had the means to find safe transportation for her that night.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if we weren’t available and didn’t have connections to find alternative travel.  The multiple agents that she encountered that evening were of absolutely no help at all.  There was no consideration that she was a child traveling alone.  No sympathetic adults, no kind smiles, no information other than the fact that she was s&*% out of luck.  The icing on the cake was that her cell phone died, so she had to ask a stranger to borrow his cell phone to call us.  

Needless to say, we will never fly US Air again! EVER!!!

The Rope’s getting longer…

We’re back in lake Toxaway. Picked up H from the airport last week from her 25 day backpacking trip in California. This summer she decided that instead of going back to her all-girls summer camp, she was ready to try something different. She did an adventure treks trip, which was definitely different than anything she’d ever done before. She was in a group of 24 kids, boys and girls, and they did several 4-6 day backpacking trips, on mountains and the lost coast of Oregon, went mountain biking, rock climbing, rafting, and climbed to the summit of Mt. Shasta, which was 14,162 feet, then glissaded downhill!

I think they took a grand total of 2-3 showers…but she absolutely loved it! She not only pushed herself physically farther than she had ever gone before, she had a life changing experience with these kids.

The re-entry to normal family life has been difficult. The group she was with bonded like they’d known each other their whole lives. I think Adventure Treks does a fabulous job building community. They were from different parts of the world…and in a normal setting, probably very few of them would have naturally become friends, but the experience in the back country brought them together.

When J and I picked her up from the airport, I went to baggage claim to meet her. I pulled her bag off, and waited for her to get there. And waited. And waited. Finally, after the baggage carousel stopped moving and almost everyone had taken their bags and left, this dirty, beautiful, sobbing girl walked over to me. Her eyes were swollen, her face was so dirty there were tear tracks etched in what looked like mud going down her cheeks, and she was crying so hard it took a few minutes for her to get control and tell me she had just walked four of her friends to their connecting gates to say goodbye.

She’s never been so thankful for facebook and video chatting. They’re already planning next year’s trip. She never made this strong a connection with her friends from summer camp, even though she loved those girls, too. I think going through something so physically and emotionally challenging provides a deep connection that is hard to duplicate. She learned so much, about herself, about nature, about being a team and building community. She hasn’t shared a lot of details with us. I think she will, eventually, but only a little bit. I think she wants to keep this experience to herself…and her new friends…which is a good thing. She’s been taking baby steps to independence and growth over the last few years, but this was a giant step. By not sharing every little bit with us, she’s becoming more of her own person.

I’m not going to lie. As her mom, it’s hard. On one hand, I love when she shares things with me. But on the other hand, I am so proud of her. As I see her gradually becoming her own person, with her own thoughts, beliefs, goals and dreams, I am filled with awe at the miracle of watching her grow.

Still here…

I know I post this sight quite a bit, but the summer view of the quiet lake showing the perfect mirror image is so beautiful!

Yes, I am still alive. I am sitting on the balcony at our lake house in North Carolina, reading and relaxing before the weekend of July 4th activities begins. This is the first July 4th that we haven’t had houseguests, so we’re actually being a little more social than normal. Parties tonight and tomorrow night…we’re starting to meet more people up here. Since we plan on this being our home in a couple of years, it’s nice to finally start to make connections. For the first few years, it was such an ‘escape’ for J and I, that we liked the fact that we didn’t know anyone. We were able to just fly under the radar, come in and do things we wanted to do without any social obligations. But that would make for a pretty lonely existence up here. We’ve met people playing tennis, at the club, and at “music on the mountain”, the monthly pot luck get-together on top of Mt. Toxaway. We always take Rosie, our black lab, who serves as a wonderful magnet for new people.

H hasn’t had much luck meeting kids her age. We’re having better luck just bringing friends with us, or having families with friends her age come visit. We brought three friends right after exams were over for five days, and last weekend some dear friends came up with their daughters and a friend.

The problem with that is that when we’re here for weeks at a time, it’s hard to get kids up here for a few days. So, she just hangs with us, sleeps late, plays tennis, walks the dog, and signs up for every camp she can talk us into. She’s now in the snowy mountains of northern California, backpacking, ice climbing, rock climbing, rafting, and camping for a month. I was just reading about her upcoming hike to the summit of Mt. Shasta…it’s a serious thing! They’ve had record snowfalls and still have tons of snow there. So in addition to worrying about her staying warm and making it to the top of the mountain, now I have to worry about avalanches and accidental luge-like falls down the mountain.


She flies home and has four days with us before going to design camp for a week at North Carolina State University, then one night before going to a leadership conference for Operation Smile. Then she’ll have six days before school starts. Something tells me those six days will be spent reading the three summer reading books she hasn’t done yet, and completing the projects as well. So much for a relaxing summer. J didn’t want her to do the last conference, because he thought it was just too much time away from us, but finally recognized her desire to be around other 16-year-olds, and relented. She might decide hanging out with her parents isn’t as bad as she thinks, after the whirlwind of activities…or not. It’s all good. I miss her like crazy, but if she was here I’d just be dragging her out of bed before noon every day and bugging her about her summer reading. What fun is that?

As a rising 11th grader, she is spreading her wings. As we begin to let the rope out a little bit, there are lots of emotions that accompany it. I’m proud of the decisions she has made, and is making so far…her choices in friends and activities. I’m trying not to be a ‘helicopter mom’…letting her make mistakes and learning from them. That’s hard for me. I have typically been one of those, swoop-in-and-fix-things kind of mom. We’re lucky that her mistakes have (so far) been minor, and affected mostly herself. She’ll make more, and become a better person for it, of that I am sure. I have to bite my tongue, sometimes literally, to avoid nagging her about her summer reading, her eating habits, what she wears, how she fixes her hair…all things that really don’t matter in the large scheme of things, and things that drive H crazy. When she does the eye-roll, or the “mo–ooomm”, or the silent treatment, it’s usually because I’ve gone a little overboard in the motherly “advice” (or as she sees it, “smothering”) When I am successful at keeping my mouth shut about the little things, we have incredible times together. Before she left on her backpacking trip, we played golf, tennis, hiked, watched movies, and cuddled together. I’m so glad we did. She’s going to have an incredible time while she’s away, but hopefully, she’ll remember the good times we had before she left.

The Every Day Memories

I’m not the only one in my family who’s been hit hard by the pollen in Nashville this spring. For me, it has aggravated my asthma to the point that the medication doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help. I can’t run more than a mile without chest pain that feels like a truck is parked on my solar plexus. For J, it’s allergies. He’s walking around sounding like a dog choking on a bone…a dry, hacking cough, and sinus congestion that makes him feel terrible. His snoring has escalated to decibels that rattle the windows. On a good day (without pollen), he snores, I nudge him, he rolls over and stops for a little while. Usually that happens 2-3 times per night, and I can fall asleep in between the snoring, and hopefully stay asleep most of the night. But now, he is snoring on his back, on his side, and even when he falls asleep sitting up. He’s waking himself up several times a night. And when I try to nudge him to turn over, his attitude is, to say the least, not very accommodating. Last night he decided to sleep in the guest room so both of us could get a good night’s sleep.

I was sitting in bed, reading, when H came downstairs and said, “Daddy is worried that you might be lonely. Can I sleep with you?” I thought about it for half a second, but pulled the covers back, patted the bed next to me, and she jumped in. I turned off the reading light and snuggled up next to her, a smile on my face. Memories of moments from her childhood, when she had nightmares, or couldn’t sleep, or just wanted to be with us, when she’d walk into the bedroom and ask if she could “cuddle” for a little while. She’d wiggle in between us, put one little hand on me, and the other on J, and the “little while” often turned into all night. I usually didn’t sleep well on those nights. When she was really little, I worried all night that I’d roll over and wake her up. As she got older, and more accustomed to sleeping alone in a queen sized bed, sleeping with her growing limbs all over the place became like sleeping in a bowl of spaghetti. I was constantly lifting arms and legs off my chest and putting them back in her space. So as she got older (and so did I), I felt we all needed a good night’s sleep more than she needed to “cuddle”. So we started sending her back to her bed. It wasn’t until last night, when I woke up in the middle of the night with her 16- year-old LEG (yes, her leg) smacking me in the face, that I remembered just how much I loved those everyday moments. On those nights when she was snuggling in next to us, J would reach over her head, rub my hair and we’d both look at each other and H and smile. Everything was alright. We were together.

I take lots of pictures of my family. I have boxes and books full of photos from special moments. Vacations. Recitals. Graduations. Birthdays. I don’t have so many of those regular, forgettable moments. The times spent together doing nothing special. The naps together, jumping in the McDonald’s play area on a Tuesday afternoon together, reading at night before bed, brushing teeth together, weekday meals together at the table in the kitchen, watching TV, walking the dog, picking out groceries, wrapping gifts, packing lunches, shopping for a new backpack, playing the ‘alphabet game’ on a family hike together, taking a temperature when someone’s sick, wiping away tears when a friend disappoints you, the list goes on and on. It’s those every day moments that I treasure more than the special occasions. The ones I wish I’d taken more photos of. Every once in awhile the camera would be conveniently sitting nearby when something happened and I’d take a photo…H taking photos with her first camera, H and J falling asleep while watching TV, J teaching H how to shoot a free throw. I will always remember those moments when I see the photos. But those other moments, the ones I didn’t photograph? I’ll remember them when I least expect it. When she’s not around. When we have a typical mother/teenage daughter argument. I remember washing her hair in the bathtub with the “Baby Bop” cup pouring water over her head to rinse out the shampoo…”Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle…RAIN!!!” I remember thinking she was finally eating a cheeseburger (even when she hated meat from the time she was a little girl), and then seeing the pieces of meat sprinkled on the floor around her chair. I remember her walking out on stage at a show at Opryland when she was 3 years old and standing front and center while the show continued to go on and she smiled the whole time, thinking she was supposed to be there. I wish I’d had a camera then. But those memories are as sharp as any photo could ever be. I just never know when I’m going to see them.

Letting Out the Rope

Someone very wise once told me that parenting is like having a very long rope. That as our kids grow up, we let out the rope a little bit at a time. We might have to pull it in a little bit, but we never completely let go. As the parents to an only child, J and I have held onto the rope pretty tightly, but we’re finally starting to ease up, and let go-a little bit.

Ten years ago, J and I took H skiing for the first time. She was in first grade, and up until that point, we were afraid she was not going to be athletic at all. Sure, she played soccer, but that was just an excuse to get together with her friends and most of the time, she had no idea what she was doing. Once, she got her foot caught in the soccer goal netting while playing goalie (in between looking for four leaf clovers). I remember the first time she played when the weather warmed up, and she ran to me afterwards, saying, “Mommy, I don’t like to sweat!”

It was a few years before she realized that she DID like to sweat, and even more years before she became a human punching bag on the basketball court, so we were afraid that she might not like skiing. J hadn’t been able to ski for several years, due to his avascular necrosis in his hip (a long story, two hip surgeries and years of rehab). So we took a babysitter with us, in case H got cold, or didn’t like ski school, so that we could ski uninterrupted. We went to Beaver Creek, which has one of the best ski schools (if not the best) in the country. We bought lessons for H and the babysitter as well, along with lift tickets for all four of us for the week. The first day, I was more nervous than H, who only said, “I hope I meet a friend in ski school.”

Luckily, she did meet a friend, and even more luckily, she LOVED skiing! We told her she had to do at least level 7 in ski school (the black diamond club) before she could learn to snowboard, because we were afraid that if she started snowboarding she’d never learn to ski. Fast forward to today, she’s in 10th grade and even though all her friends were going to the beach for spring break she wouldn’t think of not going skiing. She’s already focusing on colleges in Colorado so she can ski on the weekends.

Snow skiing is the one sport we can all do together. J is a beautiful skier, since he grew up skiing up North. I started later in life, and until I was a senior in high school had only skied in Gatlinburg, TN, so I really didn’t have nearly as much experience as J did. Luckily, even though I don’t have the form or the beauty of his technique, I can hang with him. The first year we took H, we started a tradition of picking her up from ski school riding up the lift to the bunny slope to take one last ride down together. As the years went by, H became a great skier, and we were able to spend whole days on the mountain together. You couldn’t erase the smile on my face.

Skiing is by far my favorite vacation. I love getting up, making breakfast, and jumping on the lift to spend entire days together. We’re physically active, outdoors in the most beautiful mountain setting, laughing and joking, and most of all spending a whole week together, just the three of us. I also love the evenings…the après ski scene…bonfires, live music, and wonderful restaurants and great wine for dinner.

When H “graduated” from ski school, we thought about taking a friend with us, but at that point, she didn’t have any close friends who skied at her level. None of us wanted to sacrifice time on the blue and black runs to ski with a beginner, so unless we met another family there, it was just the three of us. We’ve always felt pretty lucky that she wanted to spend that much time with her parents. At first, J would start skiing, H would follow, and I would stand there and watch for a minute or two, just happy and loving the sight of the two of them zig-zagging down the hill. Then I would take up the rear.

Now, J starts, then H flies by him, and has to wait at the bottom for the two of us. She’s an amazing skier, and doesn’t have the “Oh, my God, I’m going to kill myself” feeling that we do. So it was inevitable, that she would get tired of skiing with us. It might have something to do with the cute lift operators, but this year, for the first time, she would start skiing with us, and after a few runs, ask if she could head off by herself. As J and I spent most afternoons skiing together, just the two of us, it was almost like old times. Almost…but in the back of my mind I never really relaxed, until she would let herself in the door around 4 or 4:30, red-faced and eager to talk about all the double black diamonds she’d tackled by herself, and the people she met on the lifts.  Being close to a ski mountain is one of the key goals  she has at this point for where she wants to go to college.

We’re letting the rope out more and more these days, and even though I know we’re pretty overprotective, I’m still anxious every minute she’s away from me. She’s driving by herself to more and more locations-school, volunteering, sporting events, social occasions, and although my life is a little bit easier now that I’m not the taxi driver I once was, anxiety now takes its place. The sweetest sound in the world is the “beep-beep” of the door opening when she comes home. Now I understand why my Mom always tells me to drive carefully, even now, at 49 years old. We can let go, but we can’t stop worrying.