Saturday, June 9, 2012

Watching Life in the Rear View Mirror

Oldest left for a performing arts camp last weekend and returned last night. His dance class has 39 girls- and him. When I asked him how he liked it, he said that whenever he heads over to his classroom, he tries to think of a dozen ways to get out of it. It's usually hot, he's tired, he knows he's going to have to put out some extreme energy, he's feeling lazy. But when he's done, he's super-glad he's participated. I wonder if that's because of the 39 girls or the exercise or the fun of it.

One of his more interesting classes is called "Stage Combat" where he learns about theatrical fighting. After his first day of class, I asked him excitedly, "So how are you doing tonight?"

"I'm sore."


"Because we spent the stage combat class time slapping each other!"

I laughed merrily. His classes sound like a huge amount of fun. He's able to make mistakes there that don't make me cringe because I can't see them. He's learning new things. No doubt about it, this time in his life is so darn cool.

I realized this morning that I was viewing his life as if I were driving in a car down the road, and looking back in the rear view mirror.

You see, I only remember chunks of my childhood and teen years, and truthfully, I walked a path that my sons will never follow. They'll never grow up on a farm as I did in my early childhood.  I lived my teen years in a lakeside home; they have to drive to just go swimming. I am female; their male experiences are quite different. Disco was popular when I was in my teens. Hip hop is their dance music. The list of our different life experiences go on and on.

Yet I find myself glancing backwards in my rear view mirror as they travel down the road in life to see how they handle teenage love, high school classes, and now, going away to school. It's not quite like going off to college, but somewhat. The road, of course, is different for our boys, and watching how they handle "the road of life" is enthralling. I'm probably even more fascinated with Oldest's theater experiences because I started in performing arts when I went off to college, then took an abrupt turn left. His road in theather might actually go forward.

That's what led me to my morning epiphany. It's all right to glance back at our childrens' experiences. Where it gets to be an issue is when it encompasses my own life. Just as driving down the road requires you to glance behind you on occasion, it's critical to keep your eyes focused ahead. I can see how quickly a mother can get caught up in the lives of her children so much that her own journey gets side tracked. You know these kinds of women. Remember the mom who bought the billboard for her daughter when she was running for queen? Or how about the one who murdered a cheerleader in her daughter's class? These are fools who live with their eyes so focused on the rear view mirror that they end up driving off the road completely.

I realize now that while it's great for me to enjoy my children's experiences, I still have future adventures of my own. It's equally as important for my sons to see me toodle off down my own path as it is for me to enjoy their journey. It's a lulling thing, looking back on a path that's familiar,  but it's fatal to both driver and the people coming behind. It also makes for a lousy role model.

It's both liberating and overwhelming to realize that I need to establish a new life roadmap: one that involves my family and yet gives me a course that's right for me. I don't mean just in a job, but spiritually, travel-wise, in adventure, and ways I haven't even yet comtemplated. It's more than establishing a "bucket list" to do before age 100. It's knowing the journey ahead will be filled with adventure. And that's a wonderful thought as I turn my eyes back ahead on the road.


  1. Good morning Beth! I can really relate to this. I'm creating a new road map now - and the longer I've had to reflect on this, the more excited I get. At first, there was the tinge of sadness that comes with knowing an era is winding down and about to end. I've SO LOVED being home with my daughters, parenting full time, volunteering in the schools, etc. I'll always look back on those years with great fondness ~ and that's where those memories must remain. To lug them around with me 'missing them' would only weigh me down.

    So, I take what I learned and want to keep, I accept that Change has come and I can either work with it or resist it ~ and I create my experience from there.

    I think you have to have a pretty solid sense of Self to move in this direction with confidence. As some of the roles I've carried over the last 16+ years are eventually going to shed from me like dead skin - I've got to know in every cell of my being that I was a Woman who served as Mother, Volunteer, etc. for a period of time - but that did not solely define who I am.

    Similarly, in my 'professional life before children' - and in my student days before that -- I had various other ways of identifying myself at those times ... but they certainly don't make up the sum total of all of Who I'm Capable of Being.

    So now, I'm in this almost Magical place of standing in appreciation of all I've accomplished as I see my children with awe and wonder at how they're meeting what awaits them ~ and I'm figuring out what I'll do next ~ and I'm choosing carefully, because however I decide to employ myself, it'll be something I'll be doing for the next 15 to 20 years (all going well) - I want it to be as meaningful as it is financially viable and enjoyable.

    I love how you are with your boys; the love, the support and the opportunities you provide them. It feels good to know that we've provided a solid foundation from which our children can step out into their own lives. And it's with much anticipation and enchantment that I now start to focus more intently on mine - as you are also doing with yours.

  2. Thanks, Sally. I was thinking of you as I wrote this, because I realized you and I are both sort of in moving forward stage in our lives. Funny how that is. It's sort of scary, this deciding how to move forward. But it's also a thrill knowing that I can trust those two to be grounded. I'll be here as a touchstone for them whenever they need it.