Monthly Archives: April 2014

Reclaiming Patience — Can It Be Done?

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If I could find a decorative sign with the saying Patience is a Virtue, I would hang it prominently in my home to remind us all that we can’t have everything we want when we want it, lest we become whiny, perpetually dissatisfied beasts.

Patience  (noun) 1. The quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

Ironically, I just returned home from dropping the minivan off to be fixed.  On the ride back to the house, kindly given by my teenager in our other car, she informs me that she and some friends will be using the car to go to Castle Island in South Boston today and that she has already discussed this with my husband.  My first thought was: I will be without a car on this gorgeous, sun-filled day.

Instead of thanking my teenager for getting out of bed and following me to the auto body shop, I felt instantly annoyed by this new information. Without thinking I snapped  at her that I would need her to help clean up around the house before she left.  In my impatience I blurted it out in a tone that sounded bitter and mean, kind of like Faye Dunaway in Mommy Dearest.  As a result I was treated to some eye rolling.  The whole exchange could have been pleasant if I had given myself time to think.  I really didn’t need the car.  I had things to do at home and going for a walk would be beneficial.  Patience is a Virtue.

Patience (noun)  2.  An ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

My family has a hard time waiting.  Each of us is currently waiting for some big events to arrive and we are guilty of getting restless:

  • Fifteen days left of high school for my daughter (and then the start of college a few months later).
  • Less than a month until my sophomore son takes his driver’s license test.
  • A seventh grade week-long trip to Washington, DC for my youngest child.  (She’s finally there this week after she thought it would never come).
  • An exterior painting makeover for our house, weather pending, any time now.  (Some may wonder if it’s an abandoned home, it looks so bad).
  • Spring weather!  It’s almost May and brief flurries are in tomorrow’s forecast.  Sigh.
  • Big events are hard to wait for but the waiting serves a purpose.  The waiting makes the event that much more delightful.  Christmas, Hanukah, big trips, graduations, marriages, the arrival of newborn babies, house renovations —  all require planning, preparation and yes, funding.  Surviving the wait is almost as joyous as the event itself.

On the other hand, there is a different kind of waiting or patience that is almost missing these days.  These days it’s easy to get what we want, when we want it, thanks to technology and the availability of services and conveniences.   I worry that the younger generation, including my own teenagers, is slowly forgetting how it feels to have to wait even a short amount of time for something.

Recently we picked up donuts to bring to my in-laws’ house.  Prior to going into Dunkin Donuts, one of my children made a request for bottled water. This certainly wasn’t a major request, or an expensive one, but I decided she could survive the ten minute ride to her grandparent’s house without water.  She disagreed wholeheartedly.  (She survived).

7079fe14-ac9e-4fc3-ae62-86b6f0bf8e36How many of us need a coffee to drive wherever we’re going?  How many of us prefer to grab a coffee on the go rather than wait for the coffeemaker to brew a pot?   When I was little, people drank their coffee before they left the house or waited until they reached their workplaces to have a cup.  Now people can’t wait.  They need to drive directly from home to the nearest drive-through.

When I was a teenager, it was a treat to get a manicure and a pedicure. We would wait to get one when we had a special occasion to attend.  It was a treat to eat out at a restaurant.  I didn’t know what eyebrow waxing was (and I certainly would have benefitted from this service).  Watching TV and going to the movies was a one-shot deal.  There were no videos and DVDs and On Demand.  We looked forward to seeing our favorite TV shows on their scheduled nights and we talked about them with our friends the next day.  Today, young girls are getting manicures and pedicures and all sorts of expensive hair treatments on a regular basis.  (Do teens have bad hair days anymore?)

I’m sure there are plenty of people who choose to eat at home and who don’t need fancy beauty treatments, clothes and gadgets.  In fact, most people know when they need to “tighten the belt” and when to turn off the TV or computer.   But I also know that we could all use a little more self-restraint and that requires patience.

Patience (noun) 3.  Quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience.

There are some things that absolutely demand time and patience.  Earning a degree, writing a thesis paper, mastering a golf swing, learning a foreign language, saving for college or building up the strength and stamina to run a marathon – all necessitate patience.   We owe it to our children to emphasize the importance of sticking with a task patiently – to not give up no matter how boring, uncomfortable or challenging a task might be.

Today I was fortunate to be able to have lunch with my Godchild Elise.  At 13, Elise knows more about patience and perseverance than most kids her age and probably more than many adults.  Elise was born with an upper limb anomaly.  She is missing her left hand.  Most kids Elise’s age want nothing more than to be accepted by their peers. They dress alike, talk alike and form friendships based more on their similarities than their differences.

Elise has been navigating the same world as her peers but she has developed a different mindset. While the average 13 year old makes the most of her strengths and minimizes her weaknesses, Elise makes the most of her strengths and prevails over her weaknesses.   She’s a good student but admits that math is not as easy or enjoyable for her as science and reading. (She’s reading Pride and Prejudice for fun).  She has set a goal for herself:  To work extra hard at math since she’s hearing that high school math is significantly harder and she will need strong math skills to pursue a career in either neonatology, genetics or forensic pathology.

I have no doubt that Elise will succeed at challenging math.  This is a girl who learned at a very young age to focus on her abilities rather than her disabilities.   She learned how to dress herself and tie her shoes – no Velcro necessary. Her parents nudged her to give swimming a try.  She didn’t love it at first but stuck with it and now swims competitively.  She writes poetry, knits and does Pilates.  Many of the tasks that others take for granted require patience, practice and determination for Elise to master.  (She had to sit out when her gym class did chin ups on a bar).  She has no desire to be fitted with a prosthetic device simply because she has managed just fine without one.

Has all this been easy for her?  Not at all.  She has suffered through her share of girl drama.  (She now prefers to hang out with academically driven students).  She is accustomed to people staring at her anomaly.  But she wishes they would approach her with questions rather than remain silent.  In fact, she chose to talk to her mother’s fourth grade students about her missing hand – to demonstrate how efficiently she can do certain tasks.  To welcome their questions and eliminate any misconceptions they may have.  I have a feeling Elise’s future is very bright indeed.  She has the patience and determination to make it so.

That’s a wicked good teen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off To College –With Whom Do You Room?

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Now that many high school seniors are committing to their colleges of choice, a lot of buzz is going around about choosing a roommate.  I am reminded of this old wisdom: Never room with a friend from your hometown or anyone that you know well, your freshman year.

The logic behind this is simple.  Meet new people. Branch out.  Spread your wings.  Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.

My daughter will be heading off to college in the fall.  She insists that everyone is choosing their roommates nowadays.  What she is referring to is  colleges and universities that now have Facebook pages, on which incoming freshmen can socialize with each other months in advance of setting foot on campus.  Incoming freshmen are using these Facebook pages to pair up with other incoming freshmen who they think will make good roommates.

I understand why choosing a roommate this way is so appealing to teenagers.  Social media to teens is as important as, (or possibly even more important than), their physical relationships.  In my day, incoming college freshmen would have to wait with anticipation until orientation day to meet other freshmen classmates. That anxiety (or excitement, depending on how you interpret it) is all but eliminated for teens today because they can chat online and gather all sorts of information about each other prior to meeting.  But does this cyber-networking result in a roommate pairing that will work?  Hopefully.

I think the traditional system of randomly pairing up freshmen roommates is better for this reason:  If kids can learn early on to accept, get along with and appreciate others who may be quite different from themselves, they will have learned one of life’s most valuable skills.  Conversely, kids who limit themselves to associating only with like-minded people will eventually have to deal with co-workers, neighbors or even in-laws who have different ideas and opinions.  Like a box full of crayons, the world is made up of all types of people: easy-going, outspoken, assertive, abrasive, timid…..   They all bring something unique to the world but they all need to get along.

Of course, students who are assigned a roommate cannot be paired up with anyone, which is why those questionnaires issued to incoming freshmen are so helpful.  My daughter prefers to study at bedtime, using the bed as her desk.  And music has to be  playing.  She can stay up very late and still manage to get ready quickly for school in the morning.  Oh, and she is perfectly content hanging out in a tremendously messy room.  Personally, I don’t love her system but it works for her.  I wonder how it will work in college when she shares a room with a stranger.  But that is her job:  to figure it out.

Choosing a roommate could be an option that works beautifully for some students.  It does seem logical that a person who shares some of the same interests — country music, Stephen King  books, indoor soccer, frozen yogurt, the same major, etc.  —  has potential for being a good roommate.  But in all likelihood, even two people who have a lot in common will differ in some ways, too.  Differences that are less discernable over Facebook. include motivation and work ethic, integrity, learning style and trustworthiness, to name a few.

If you really think about it, most adults have a variety of friends.  They may have a common bond, such as being mothers to middle school kids or members of a certain health club.  Other than sharing that common bond, though, friends can be markedly different from each other in terms of education, occupation, or personality.  But these differences are what make the friendships so rich and enduring.

My daughter has a variety of friends.  They are musicians, athletes, actors and students with varying degrees of talent and ambition.  A friend of hers from another town likes to hang out and watch classic Disney movies, like Beauty and the Beast.  They both sing and act, so this is their way of bonding.  My daughter likes to take long walks and simply talk with her co-worker/friend.  All of her friends vary in personality and interests but all have enriched her life in unique ways and I have a feeling the bonds will endure even when they all go their separate ways.

Freshmen roommates, chosen or assigned, are not guaranteed to work out.  Some will switch roommates after a semester or after a year.  My own freshman roommate was very different from me.  She was very outgoing and I was quiet.  We did not become close friends but she respected my need to have more quiet time and thanks to her, I learned some tips about reaching out to make friends.  By the end of our first year together, we both chose to go our separate ways.  We had developed friendships with others in our dorm and across campus.

Some roommates hit it off with each other immediately.  And there are some who, despite being very different, go on to become lifelong friends. They may never have chosen each other from any description or Facebook interaction but a friendship blossomed.

Like all freshmen, my daughter will need to reach out and make new friends when she starts the next chapter in her life.  I think she is ready.  Will she choose a roommate from her college’s Facebook page?  Yesterday it bothered her that she hadn’t found one yet.  Today, she says no, she will be fine having a roommate assigned to her.   I’m fine with that, too.

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Teens and Grandparents: a Winning Formula

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My mother is a saint.  It’s entirely fitting that her name is Theresa.  Mother Theresa…..

No mother is perfect.  I certainly am not.  Even my mother wasn’t perfect when I was growing up.  But I call her a saint now because she’s been a grandmother for eighteen years and if you know anything about grandmothers, you know that they make everything right — in the toddler years, the teenage years and all the years  in between.

Grandparents have the unique ability to connect with their grandchildren in ways that parents simply cannot.  Parents encourage and support their children. Grandparents encourage, support, cheer, console, spoil, indulge and brag.  When my kids were little, their grandmothers would sit through four-hour-long recitals to see their granddaughter’s 2 minute act.  Their grandfathers would sit on the cold metal bleachers at little league baseball games that went on and on …. and on.  These days, their grandparents show up for band and choral presentations, drama productions, hockey games, and prom pictures.   My kids  look for them and are reassured by their presence.

They say that parents should never be their children’s  ” friends”.  Instead, experts say,  parents should provide discipline and structure to their children’s lives so they can learn respect, responsibility and the difference between right and wrong.  Parents are supposed to enforce rules that are often very unpopular with their children.   Do your chores.  Do your homework.  Go to bed.  These days, I can be pretty unpopular with my teens. Where will you be?  Who is going? You should put some of that money in the bank.  No, you can’t do this/go there/have that.  Nag, nag, nag.  I do it even though I cringe at the way I sound, because  this is my way of guiding them.  I’m sure there is a more relaxed method of parenting, but I haven’t managed to adopt  it yet.  My mother had a similar parenting style.

My mother, who sometimes wanted to pull her hair out over the obnoxious things my siblings and I said and did in our youth, now sighs — even laughs — when these childhood shenanigans are recalled.  Like the time when a woman living at the other end of our street  phoned my parents to report that  my brother and his friends had been prank calling her for a long time and it needed to stop.  These situations were anything but funny to my parents back in the day.  Now they are sources of entertainment for all, including Gram.  What happened?

Time heals all wounds.

Grandparents are simply parents who have softened over  time.  I’ve heard it said that grandparents have earned the right to be doting, silly and fun with their grandchildren.  I’m sure I will soften, too, when I am a grandmother many years from now.  In the meantime, I call my mother a saint because she makes  my life with teenagers easier.  And she makes life for my teenagers special.  If your kids are lucky enough to have grandparents who are still living, I have this piece of advice: Cherish those grandparents!   Consider the perks to this special bond:

1.   Been there, done that.  Grandparents have raised kids of their own. So, something that infuriates or worries a parent will not have the same affect on a grandparent. They survived and they know that we will too.

2.  Quality time with grandchildren makes up for real or imagined parenting mistakes.   Parents who are too strict, too serious or too tired to kick back and have fun with their kids often become silly, fun-loving, easy-going grandparents.  It’s as if  they embrace getting  a second chance to be  cool.

3.   Grandparents tend to be heavy on praise and stingy with criticism.  Sincere praise and encouragement are great for kids and grandparents have plenty of it, but occasionally some constructive criticism is helpful, too (and somehow doesn’t sound like nagging).  A mother’s preference for the  less revealing prom dresses might elicit eye-rolling from her teen but a grandmother’s similar opinion is given lots of consideration by her granddaughter.  Funny how that works.

4.   Grandparents remind grandchildren that parents are human.  Teenagers sometimes forget that their parents want the best for them.  Parents are imperfect with sometimes imperfect parenting styles.  Parents get tired and grouchy but they aren’t trying to make life harder for their kids.  They just want their kids to be  responsible and to think of others, not just themselves.  I’ve heard my mother telling her grandchildren to give their mother (me) a break and help out a bit more. (I like that).

5.   Grandparents bring out compassion in grandchildren.  The love of a grandparent is enduring and even strengthens with time.  The cruel reality of time passing is that the aging process accompanies it.  My kids lost their beloved grandfather to cancer nearly three years ago. It was a huge loss to us all but I think it served as a reminder to them that grandparents are here for a relatively short part of their lives.  Thankfully, they have Gram and there other grandparents as well.  I believe the love of a grandparent is equal to the love and compassion that is returned by a grandchild.  I witnessed this love en route to California via airplane when my 12-year old held her grandmother’s hand.  The simple gesture was meant to comfort Gram who experienced excruciating ear pain when the plane was landing.   That’s love.

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On a recent Saturday morning I woke around 7:30 to the sound of a lively, although muffled conversation.  My husband was sleeping soundly next to me.  Could one of my teenagers be awake so early on the weekend when “sleeping in” was a possibility?  Listening carefully, it became clear to me that my 18-year old was on the phone with Gram.  In between a lot of giggling, she was trying to describe  Olaf, the silly snowman from the movie Frozen.

When I questioned her about this, she replied that she missed her grandmother and hadn’t spoken to her or spent time with her in over a week.  My two daughters, 18 and 12, drove to Gram’s house later that morning to watch Frozen with her.  Was I baffled?  Jealous?  Not at all.   A better word is grateful.

 

 

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