A Letter…On Senior Night

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I gave this letter to Nate last night…

Dear Son,

First born. First grown.

It’s senior night of your last hockey season.

Hours from now, you’ll walk out onto the ice in all of your gear. Your dad will walk stoically hooked into one arm and I’ll lean, unsure of the ice, on the other.

I’m preparing myself for how small I’ll feel. You’re tall now and on skates and in pads, you’ll feel so big to me. Bigger than I’m ready to admit you are.

Mothering you has meant the world to me.

You arrived, and my life became yours. For a second you were a hungry baby who couldn’t keep anything down. And then you were this amazing party-trick-toddler with an awesome sense of humor who loved to sign. Then you were the sweetest big brother who gave endless kisses to your baby sisters and told me how much you loved them all the time.

One of my favorite memories of you was when you were a spunky two-year old running around the house, spiking a little nerf football, declaring touchdown.

“Side step…side step…jiggle, jiggle, jiggly!” You’d dramatically mimic the words and end in an adorable toddler-butt waggle. You loved to celebrate. You still do.IMG_6181

With unbridled enthusiasm, you have often been caught up in the moment of celebration at such a level that you lose sight of those around you. I love watching when those moments happen for you.

I know your sports story has not been all celebration, but I’ve loved being a part of the harder parts too. I’ve loved watching you learn to skate and learn to tie your skates and learn to skate out of trouble. What’s added up over time has helped me to experience more parts of the full version of you than I ever could have known without hockey.

When you were little, you sang sweet songs and danced adorable dances. (Who am I kidding, you still do!) You were small, and cuddle-sized, but I didn’t see the truth.  The truth is, you were just as big to me then as you are now.

Hockey has grown you, but I hope you remember, you’ve always been big. See, that’s the thing about this space in my heart I’ve given over to you. It is bigger than you’ll ever be. You can’t grow into it and you can’t outgrow it.

At some point, you are bound to discover how big you’ve always been, and that is my eternal hope for you.

I am so proud of you and I‘m grateful you’ve made my life bigger. I just ask that you are patient with me as I grow used to what sometimes makes me feel so small.

Love,
Your Biggest Fan…Mom
Copyright Choosing to Grow 2017                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @choosingtogrow

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

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

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

Control of Change: A Big Fat Impossibility

Change builds

Stacked in moments, days, weeks, years.

Change breaks

Instantly… from here to there.

No matter the preparation

No matter the acceptance

No matter at all.

Change is

Big Sprout walks out the elementary arches today. A symbolic exit into that big, scary world that is sure to gobble him up. The 12-year-old who starts this next phase, will not be the kid who comes out on the other end.

No one with teenagers has been able to lie to me about how great these next few years are going to be. No one.

I know what’s coming, and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

In six short years he’ll be gone. Visiting occasionally, I know, but essentially…gone.

I’ve tried not to think about it this past week, so instead I have simply chosen to be miserable to everyone.

The thing is, I kindof love this kid. I love that he gives me a thumbs up every morning when I wake him for school. I love that he digs inspirational quotes and witty jokes. I love that he cares deeply for people around him… making the compassionate choice more often than not. I love that he can be friends with pretty much anyone. I love that he has a contagious enthusiasm for life. And I love that he still hugs me goodbye… but it’s the last thing I want him to do.

I’m out of words…for now. I’m actually surprised I was able to write anything at all this morning.

Choosing to grow through this…because obviously, what choice do I have?

                              

Copyright 2012                  Meagan Frank                             Choosing to Grow

www.meaganfrank.com

My Kids Won’t Listen…Unless I Teach Them How

“Look at me when I’m talking to you! Oh yeah…and take your fingers out of your ears too.”

As a parent with profound wisdom and insight to share (NOT), I really hope my kids listen to me when I am talking about something important (like putting their laundry away).

How do I teach them to be good listeners?

I know when they slink off into a slouch or physically turn their bodies away from me, they are doing everything they can NOT to listen. My instinct tells me to point out the behavior…which I do.

“Please sit up…I’m talking to you.”

This hasn’t worked as well as you would think. They have traditionally sat for a moment, and then before a full sentence has left my mouth, something jello-like takes over their organs and I have a puddle of a kid on my kitchen floor.

This intrigues me. They don’t do this for their teachers…or in the presence of other adults.  I’ve NEVER seen them do this at a practice or a dance class. What is it about my voice that provokes this internal melting?

For those of you who have been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll acknowledge that I am forever conducting experiments on our children.  Nothing dangerous (okay…so maybe a little dangerous because they are psychological in nature) but I am learning this parenting thing too, so how can you call what I do as a mother anything but an experiment?

Any-who…

I have spent some time the last few years investigating this listening thing. It’s harder than I thought…for me!

What I’ve discovered is that it is fine to point out the behaviors of good listening, but it is more important how good I am at listening.

Frankly…lately I’ve sucked.

I listen when they are saying what I want to hear.

I listen with bias and opinion already forming on my lips.

I listen in spurts between what I’m trying to capture in my writing or between glances at the emails on my phone.

I talk a good game, but these days I haven’t been playing the part of the listener very well.

I know I can be better…I used to be much, much more intentional about how I listened to our kids.

When our children were babies, I taught each of them sign language. I was fascinated by their ability to communicate before they could speak, and I would listen to them for hours.

Maybe I listened better when they were little because it felt like they were listening too. I would teach them something and hear. “red…square… bus… spider” in adorable little-kid repetition.

What I wanted them to hear would come back to me in validation.

Pre-teens are not great at validating.

So, as I’ve written through this blogpost, my challenge has become abundantly clear.

I need to parent my children with intentional listening. PERIOD!

These strategies are hard when the growing children in our house physically guard themselves against touch or Active Listening, but good parenting isn’t about what I need…it’s about what they need.

Don’t get me wrong, I deserve, (we all deserve) someone to listen to and validate our feelings, our experiences, and our ideas.  I just have to stop expecting that from my kids…they need me to teach it to them first.

I need to seek and accept validation from somewhere other than our kids.  It’s not their job right now.

That’s why blogging communities of mothers are so necessary. We are each other’s listeners…we are the ones who can validate, assure, and comfort. I’m better having gone through Momalom’s Five for Five challenge this week…not because I blogged everyday (although that provided much-needed distraction) but instead because so many of you listened…and for that I am truly grateful.

                                           

Copyright 2012    Meagan Frank                         www.meaganfrank.com              Choosing to Grow

 

Don’t Delete the Awkward Pictures

Where’d You Grow Wednesday?
April 25, 2012
Special Edition for

For a few months on Wednesdays (or as close to Wednesday as I can manage) I have chronicled the ways I’ve chosen to grow through my life. It is a snapshot…a bite-sized version of intentional steps I take to improve myself. Very often it is not a painless process.

Some weeks are better than others, and I never shy away from the growth that is uncomfortable.

I Choose to Grow the same way I deal with my digital pictures. It’s easy to take hundreds and thousands of digital pictures and then delete all the photos that are not perfect.  I make a point to keep at least one awkward picture with every grouping that I print.  The awkward photos tell a story too…and I am not good at pretending that everything is perfect.

Awkward Picture of the Week

Saturday night, while I sat at my writing desk, Big Sprout, our nearly twelve-year-old son, came in and sat on the wooden music chair my daughter uses to practice her french horn. This is rather common behavior for him.  My husband trailed quietly behind him and lay down on the foot of our bed.

I should have thought, “This is going to be an important moment.”

I didn’t know that.

The conversation started rather simply… Big Sprout asked questions about how his dad and I thought he played in his two hockey games that day.

There was nothing about that conversation that I had planned.

After more dialogue than I can explain here, I hadn’t planned to say, “Your chances of making it the NHL are pretty slim.”  I hadn’t planned to watch his face sink and his eyes well. I hadn’t planned to get the look of “What the hell were you thinking?” from my husband. I hadn’t planned to feel like the worst mother in the world.

I scrambled back to better parenting when I explained to him that it wasn’t that I didn’t believe he could, but that it only matters that he put action behind what he believes about himself. I believe he is destined for great things, and I will do anything he needs to help him get there…but the work it’s going to take, has to come from him.

Doubting and dissecting every part of that conversation led to a blogpost on my sports blog. Dialogue started. Debate began. And now, that snapshot of parenting will be the feature topic of conversation on Hey Coach Tony’s ESPN radio show this upcoming Saturday morning. I hadn’t planned that either.

Sharing that awkward moment of our lives has led to growth for a lot of people…and had I just pretended it didn’t happen, the story would have ended there. Instead…the story continues.

To our son’s credit, he chose a better reaction than I could have possibly scripted for him. Instead of wilting with my comments or being pushed down because of them, he chose a new attitude about what hockey (and work) mean to him right now. He may not completely understand how it will pay off for him in his life, but he made a step on Sunday toward embracing work ethic…determination…grit. I couldn’t have been prouder of him… nor more relieved.

I didn’t take a picture of my son as he sat on that chair, with the background sillhouette of my husband on the bed. I didn’t need to. That image is a permanent part of me now.

I’m not sure who grew more in that moment, me or our son, but I know, without a doubt, we both made a choice to grow because of it.

What sorts of choices did you make to grow this week?

I would love to hear how you are choosing to grow.  Either comment here, or send me an email:  choosingtogrow@meaganfrank.com.

                          

Copyright 2012     Meagan Frank              www.meaganfrank.com                            Choosing to Grow