Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Raising Jackson: Kindred Spirits

Remember when you were a kid? And your mom used to say to you something like this: "I hope you have one just like you some day."  You don't?  Oh, well, then maybe it was just my mom who said it to me (Author's side note to her mother: please don't read into this, I'm sure your mom said it to you, and her mom said it to her).

Well...I got mine.  It's true, I think, that everyone who has children can see pieces of themselves in their son(s) or daughter(s).  The good and the bad.  But, sometimes, a child will come along who is so like ourselves...not in the mirror mind you, I'm not talking spitting image here.  I'm talking about the soul.  What's in the heart.  I call mine the "child of my heart" for fear of using a less flattering term.  Deep down, Jack and I are kindred spirits.  But what happens here is this:  We fight.

We don't just disagree sometimes, arguing as you would with someone over a split piece of chocolate cake.  Oh no.  We. Fight.

Now, not all of this is due to that kindred spirit I speak of - that's just an explanation for it, not the reason.  Jack is a passionate soul.  When he is happy, he is the single most loving, giving, warm person in the room - in the world.  He walks into a room and truly Lights. It. Up.  I mean that very sincerely.  Maybe you have a child like this.  Maybe you know someone like this.  Hell, chances are you've fallen in love with someone like this - it's easy to do with these room lighters, let me tell ya.

There is a flip side.  When Jack is angry, there isn't a soul for miles who doesn't know it.  He breathes and sweats that anger.  It radiates from every limb.  When he is angry, he is walking, talking, breathing, sweating, being - angry.  This is the side of Jack that is difficult to raise.  There is no reasoning with Angry Jack.  There is no calming, reassuring, or squelching Angry Jack.  He just IS.  And the aftermath is typical of any violent storm - there is damage.  Residue.  Holes in the wall, broken doors, bruised hearts.

The good news here is that Jack is not afraid to talk.  He freely shares his feelings, his emotions, his thoughts with me (well, pretty freely, considering that he is a pre-teen boy).  There is no wondering what kind of mood Jack is in.  Ya just Know.  Ya know?

But I Digress.  It was towards the end of one of these storms last night that something happened.  In my eyes, it was nothing short of miraculous.  We were squared off at opposite ends of the laundry room, like a couple of cowboys in an old John Wayne flick.  Arms at our sides, hands curled into fists, with our fightin' faces on, Jack says something to me that stops me in my tracks.  It wasn't so much the words he used (which I'll keep private, seeing as I'm letting the universe in on everything else about our relationship), as it was the tone he used.  He changed his voice just a touch.  Softened his tone just enough, uncurled his fists just a hint, let the fire out of his eyes.  He let me in beneath the anger.  And I softened.  I listened.  He listened.  And then we both sat down and talked it out.

I explained to Jack that I really do "get" him - because (and son, I know you don't want to hear this, but...) we are sooo much alike.  Creative souls.  Passionate.  Complex.  Begging to be understood, if only by the ones closest to us.  Maybe he got it.  Maybe he didn't.  But it made us both feel better, I think, to understand a bit more why the two of us fight so much.

Now, as a parent, I can't let this kindred spirit stop me from parenting.  I can't let it lower my expectations.  It doesn't, for example, excuse the violence, the disrespect.  Not for a second.  But what it does do is help me to understand from where it comes.  And that is the first step in helping Jack learn how to deal with it, diffuse it, and find more acceptable ways to handle it.

No one said parenting was easy.  And when you're dealing with a strong-willed, complex child, well, all I can say is, may cooler heads prevail.

I think I may turn this blog - Raising Jackson - into a series.  If I knew of a parent going through the same type of challenges as me, who was willing to lay it out in a blog, I'd certainly feel better about my own challenges.  And maybe I'd discover some idea I hadn't yet tried.  

What I learned last night is that Jack and I can learn from each other.  So, maybe you and I can, too.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sorry, Trees...

My dad's been a fan of the Kindle since the first one came out several years ago.  He passed the first one down to me when he upgraded to the new version.  I wasn't too thrilled about this new form of reading, but I didn't want to be like my mom standing in the grocery line with her checkbook out - the lone consumer under 80 who does not carry a debit card.  She doesn't trust them.  Dear Lord.

But I digress, I took the e-reader for a test drive.  The book was called  "The Shadow of the Wind," written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  Fantastic book.  Great writer.  In hindsight, it probably helped the e-reader's case. When I finished the book, I promptly drove to the book store and bought a paperback copy for my bookshelves (all my favorites have a home there).   And herein lies the problem (at least for me).  I just like the feel of a book.  The smell of the pages.  I read with pencil in hand, underlining well-crafted passages, scribbling notes in the margin.  I realize that the latest e-readers will allow me to do the same thing, electronically.  I do.  It's just not the same.

Don't get the wrong idea, I'm pretty tech-savvy.  I'm also socially driven.  I manage two blogs, two twitter accounts, two Pinterest accounts and a Facebook page.  I'm not inept with technology (unless you put a pc in front of me...I may burst into tears).

My point (and I do have one) is that some things are sacred.  And for me, one of those is books.  In their natural form - paper (sorry, trees).

Nevertheless, Chicken Soup for the Soul contacted me yesterday.  They are running a promotion on 12 of their books:  offering the Kindle version for just $4.99.  Three of these happen to be books in which I am published.  So, if you're interested in any of these titles (caution: blatant self-promotion around this curve...) you can click the title to purchase at (or any other e-book retailer).

CS: Think Positive

An excerpt from my story ("A Positive Step"):  "I don’t want her to go,” I whispered conspiratorially to my brother.  At fourteen, he was three years older and, from my 11 year-old perspective, much braver than me.  Not only did I look up to him, but I trusted him to stand up for me, and to speak for me when I was too afraid.  And he did.

CS: My Dog's Life

An excerpt from my story ("A Healing Friendship"):  We are in a tiny exam room at the vet and Jack has flown into a tantrum so wild, even the animals are shocked into silence.  The veterinarian, Dr. V., had just asked to keep Biscuit overnight for observation.  At six, Jack had already been through the loss of two beloved dogs, and he wasn’t about to let anyone take another. So the minute the assistant reached for her, Jack unhooked Biscuit’s leash, and unleashed his temper, kicking, biting and demanding they let her go, tears streaming down his bright red cheeks.

CS: Shaping the New You

An excerpt from my story ("Taking Care of Me"):  The first time I stepped through the doors of a health club, I was thirteen.  I was tagging along with my best friend, after I’d spent the night at her house.  She had joined a local gym with her mom as a New Year’s resolution to lose a few pounds.  I distinctly remember an oval-shaped room, with a track running around the outside, and weight machines scattered throughout.  Tracy headed for the track.  I plopped down ceremoniously in the carpeted area in the middle of the track, laid down, and proceeded to go back to sleep.

Despite my preference for paper books, I'm going to purchase the e-book edition of each of these.  Then again, I'm partial.  Maybe the more familiarity I have, the more comfortable I'll become with this format.  And who knows, maybe my mom will get herself a debit card...

Tell me:  In which format do you prefer to read?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What about the here and now?

July 1st.  Just 4 months away.  I can hardly wait.  I'm looking ahead because when that day arrives, things will be so much better.

Isn't it funny how we tend to look towards the future, towards happier, wealthier, easier?  What about the here and now?  Remember 6 months ago?  When you thought for sure you'd pay off that bill, get a raise, have more savings...right about now?  Do you?  And if you did, did it make your life all those great things (happier, wealthier, easier)?  I've been doing this all my life...

I am a thirteen year-old 8th grader.  My older brother has just earned his driver's license.  When I'm sixteen, life will be so much better.  I'll have so much more freedom, I'll have so much more fun!

I am a sixteen year-old driver.  My brother is away at college.  When I go to college, life will be so perfect. No parents around to tell me what to do, no chores.  College guys, parties, and freedom - I can't wait!

I am a twenty year old college student.  This is hard.  Things will be so much better when I graduate.  No more studying, no more tests.  I'll get a job and begin my career, and won't have to answer to professors.

I am a twenty-three year old new bride.  I can't wait until I move up in my company, have a family, buy a bigger home.

I am a thirty-three year old mom of three.  When the kids get older, things will be so much easier.

I am a 39 year-old single mom of three.  And as I close out this decade, I can't help but think back and recall all the times I looked forward.

This is different than dreaming or having goals, mind you.  I'm looking forward right now.  To a vacation this summer, to working on that novel I've always wanted to write, to getting more publishing credits and writing for the "big" magazines.  But I also realize that there'll be stresses, too.  College tuition to pay for, continuing to juggle my kids and my career.  Possibly a new car payment, giving my oldest the keys to a car and watching him drive away.  Increased car insurance.

So, I'll try to enjoy the present more.  I'll try to remember that right now, this minute, is good.  And that I'll look back on this time someday and realize how wonderful my life is.  How lucky I am.

But I digress.  July 1st is only four short months away.  And no matter what else happens, I'll be getting these braces off my teeth.  I can't wait!