“…you can’t stop my shine…”

Telling me to get my sh*t together now I got my sh*t together, yeah,
Now I made it through the weather better days are gon’ get better
I’m so sorry that it didn’t work out, I’m moving on,
I’m so sorry but it’s over now the pain is gone,

I’m putting On my Shades to cover up my eyes,
I’m jumping in my ride, I’m heading out tonight,
I’m solo, I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, solo.

I’m feeling like a star, you can’t stop my shine, I’m loving cloud nine, my head’s in the sky.
I’m solo, I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, solo.
I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, solo. (Jason Derulo)

boys.sad.

I can hear the music to that song, and all it’s lyrics, coming through the bathroom door as my son showers and sings. It is only 7:30 a.m. and my homeschooled 17-year-old is not only up and out of bed, we have already spoken, he’s fed his dogs, and is showering. Because today, my son is once again, single. Today is break-up day. This is not my first rodeo, as this is my youngest child. I have lived through heartache with my older sons. I recall their momentous announcements to me when they met their wives, “I met her mom. This is THE ONE. I just KNOW it.” Ahhh…young love!

As the mother of sons, I have tried to raise them to be honorable young men. I have told them this: Start praying for your wife now (while you are teens). She is growing up, just like you are. You may even be friends already. Pray that she is safe and is treated with love and respect by the boys she dates. Pray that she will come to you and fall in love, want to marry you, and want to be the mother to your children. Pray that her values and beliefs align with yours. Pray every day for her. And for the girls in your life, girls you may date before you meet your future wife, treat them like you wanted me to have been treated by the boys I knew before your dad. Treat them like you want your future wife and mother of your children to have been treated. Let them know how much you respect them. Treat them like Joseph treated the Blessed Theotokos before, and after, they were married. Pray for all the girls that come into your life, because they will be someone’s wife and someone’s mother someday. Take each person and treat them as special as you can, with respect and honor. And pray for them. Always.

I really do not like dating. Courting is more aligned with what I would like to see happen, at a reasonable age (mid-20s sounds good to me). Recently it was reiterated to me that there are many, many styles of homeschooling. It does not mean the same thing to everyone who does it. And you cannot make assumptions about families who homeschool. Even if they are in your homeschool “group.” Some parents choose to homeschool purely for the academic advantage it provides for their children. Some homeschool because they move around a lot (military for example) or because they have weird schedules and travel a lot. Some people skip the moral and character development opportunities along the way, the lessons available when you are with your kids all day. For me, I wanted to raise good, honest men who loved their families and were men of character. If they gained a wonderful education, that was a bonus to me. Raising people of character is rough stuff, and was one of our main motivators when we opted to teach our sons at home. But, you should see my gray hairs!

sunset grandpa

As young men near 18, they start to look to being on their own. College, career are on the near horizon. They feel more mature and grown up. They sometimes challenge everyone and everything because they are “feeling their oats” and want to prove themselves to be men. I was sort of like that, too, even as a daughter. I had lots to prove to my British immigrant family, because I was raised here, and in America, we think differently. Ha-Ha! Once I learned things, I loved to spout my knowledge to my parents and grandparents. My paternal grandpa was a reddish-blonde, strong minded, strong-willed, short Scotsman. I annoyed him in my opinions about pretty much everything. We could not discuss baseball, unless it was to admire his LA Dodgers. We could not discuss religion or politics, or unions. And I loved pushing his buttons! Ha-Ha. I loved him so much, but he was borderline abrasive, as he was easily angered. It was like hugging sandpaper sometimes. His heart was, once he let you see it, soft and pure and he loved his family with a fierceness I admired. He always told me to love deeply, to hang on, and not let go, no matter what. And he told me how much he loved my grandma and that he had loved her around the world, as their jobs, economy, and family took them to many places. So many times he told me how much he loved her. And I have never forgotten his wisdom, his rough and calloused hands holding mine, and his sweet hugs and kisses.

And today, as my son was lamenting his break-up through his loud music, I recalled my dating history, my teen years, and my grandpa. I was never given the talk about dating versus courting by either of my parents. I learned about boys from boys. Not the best way, but there you have it. My parents never gave me expectations about dating or being serious with a boy, about sex, or getting married. It just was not talked about within our family dynamics. As a child of the 60s and 70s, we discussed drugs and alcohol a lot. But not boys, dating, sex, or marriage. As a mother, I wanted to share things with my sons that were not shared with me, to be honest with them, and to let them see life from a female perspective. I wanted to share my grandpa’s love of family and how important it was to hang on to our family, no matter what. I hope I have succeeded. My daughters-in-law have been blessings to my older sons, and our family. We are blessed with beautiful grandchildren, with the hopes of more of them (they have such cute kids!). And my youngest is no different. Being home alone with me most of the time, I have tried to be honest with him in regards to relationships, love, dating, premarital sex, diseases, and using the “L” word with girls (LOVE!!). I wish I could take his pain away. And I wish I could assist him more in his choices. But this kid is different. He is his own man. He is what you would call “stoic,” keeping everything “close to the vest.” When we get a glimpse, we all fall more in love with him, because he is an incredible young man. His smile and laughter can light up a room. And when he hurts, it hurts me.

“I have lots of friends, mom, and they’ve got my back.” Well, you do, son and I am glad. And I think it is so important to listen to our friends, to those who know us best. When dating or courting, the person should be welcomed into your groups and enlarge them and make them better. They should not cause you to separate or splinter off on your own – they should definitely not isolate you from friends, family, or your faith.

Neil Sedaka wrote a great song years ago, “Breaking up is hard to do:

Don’t take your love away from me
Don’t you leave my heart in misery
If you go then I’ll be blue
Cause breaking up is hard to do
Remember when you held me tight
And you kissed me all through the night
Think of all that we’ve been through
And breaking up is hard to do

I remember playing that over and over again when my heart was breaking in High School. And I thought of my son. Things seem to move much quicker these days and many of us could see the “crash and burn” coming, but didn’t know the exact timing. When things don’t fit, they don’t work. “Square peg, round hole.” His oldest brother spent lots of time sharing dating wisdom, and perhaps a little too much information, but nonetheless he shared his love for his brother, with his brother. I am glad they can do that. His middle brother and his wife also shared their opinions with him, and their time, during their recent visit with us up here in the Last Frontier. It was blessed timing.

I am so happy with how he is dealing – loud music and all. He is off, weight lifting with his football team, preparing for his senior year. He is keeping busy and chatting with friends a lot. And we are all praying for him and his future. Seventeen seems so old when you are seventeen. From my perspective, it seems like the blink of an eye, and so young. My dad used to tell me that even though he looked older, he was still 17 on the inside. I used to laugh at that. He will be 90 in December, I am staring down 60, and my son is 17. Time has flown. And some things never change. Hearts and break-up days….they are still the same.

bandaged heart

“…let it go, let it go…”

Frozen

Unless you are completely separated from children, or live in a country without Disney movies, those words above connotate a certain reaction. For most of us with, at least, grandchildren, we know those words are from a Disney movie called, “Frozen.” And many of us wish it would hurry up and just be gone! But when it comes to our children, not so much.

We are down to our last child living at home. And he does not consider himself a child, but rather, a young adult. My middle child reminded me that both he and his older brother are married men, with children of their own (which is precisely why I know about that Frozen movie) and that his brother will be 30 in October. I responded with, “Thanks.” Ha-Ha! This past week, Cinderella came out on DVD. Some movies are meant to be seen in a theater, whereas some can wait for the DVD release (cannot wait for the new Star Wars – definitely a theater movie!). I took my teenager, along with some friends, to see Cinderella in 3-D IMAX. There were just two boys in our adventure, and they were both more excited for the candy/popcorn and the 3-D glasses than the movie, but the other mom and I loved it. To me, it was so worth it to go to the theater. I loved that movie. And I bought it the day it came out. Why? It made me feel good. Her dress (the blue one) was so gorgeous. The backstory of her parents and family – and their love for one another! I loved the special effects with the mice and lizards. Her fairy godmother was hilarious. The scene when the king dies, but he and his son have that “needed” conversation about love. I loved that movie. There were some meaningful and poignant moments in it, which balanced the lovey-dovey parts boys would naturally hate. And this past Friday night, I made my two men watch it with me over dinner. My husband loved it. Yay! Mom win! It was not a war movie, or a sports movie, or a disaster/end-of-the-world, fantasy epic. That’s a win in a house of men. (My dog and cat are the only other females in my house). My teen sat next to me and as the movie ended, he said, “Please tell me you are not crying about Cinderella.” I, of course, was! Ha-Ha! Love a happy ending! (And that dress!!!).

lily-james-1024

But also this weekend, something epic happened. My youngest son had his first date – as in a car with a girl – to a movie – date. And this mom freaked out a little bit. It was just another step in the letting go process of parenting. And those steps can hurt sometimes, especially when you know it is the last time you have to experience a “first date.” As a homeschooling mom, it was nothing at all like the last time I taught Geometry! For that, I did the happy dance! I taught Geometry to three kids, and I had to suffer through it myself. Ms. Fogler. I swear she hated me, and hated teaching, and hated Geometry. It did nothing for my math career. So for me, the last time through Geometry was not a sad thing. This year, I am going through my last year of Algebra II and I must say I am preparing my happy dance. Way ahead of time, I know, but nonetheless, I am preparing. I am not a math person (Cathy, I love you and am so proud of you for having a PhD in Math… someone has to do that, but it is just not me!). There are things we go through as parents that we are not sad about not having to do again (give birth, change diapers, clean up barf, potty train… it is quite a list and this is just part of it). But there are some things that are monstrously difficult to wade through, over and over again. And the last time is especially momentous. The First Date fits the bill on that one.

In this day and age of rampant sex everywhere, wading through courting/dating is a heavy responsibility. And it is nothing to be taken lightly, nor in my opinion, is it a subject to be discussed in school. This is a family decision. And even though I have raised several, each son is different in how they feel about it and how they choose to experience it. Both of my older sons dated sporadically. They had more friends who were girls than girlfriends. Which is fine by me. And they both knew the moment they met their wives and they were done dating anyone else. And I tried so hard to instill in my boys a love of women in the sense of respecting and loving me, and the model for all women, the Theotokos; the Mother of God.

I always have insisted the boys treat each girl in their company as someone’s future wife and mother. Would they have wanted me to be treated the way they are treating that girl? Would they have wanted their wives to be treated that way? The mother of their children? Friends of theirs who were female – did they appreciate how their friends were being treated by other boys? How did it make them feel? How was the Mother of God treated? From Scripture, we know that some in her home village kept their distance because she was pregnant out of wedlock; they actually shunned her. Joseph took her as his wife to protect her, and to honor her, and because an ANGEL, a real ANGEL, appeared to him and instructed him to do so. He knew that GOD wanted him to be with Mary, and he never doubted it, for a moment. And the ANGELS continued to care for the Holy Family, once again instructing Joseph to flee when the Christ Child was in danger. He trusted God with his decision to marry Mary. I want my sons to trust God in their decision making processes, as well.

360 Rest on the Flight into Egypt 1879 Oil Painting by Luc-Olivier Merson

I love this painting and have used it in posts before. It shows Mary and Christ resting on the Sphinx, with Joseph on the ground, as a guard. “The Flight Into Egypt.”  I love so much about this painting. The stillness and peace within that vast desert is conveyed through color and lack of light, except from Christ, Himself. I love that both Mary and Joseph slumber in peace, even with the Divine Light still glowing brightly.  That is what I have hoped for all my children, that they can rest in the Divine Light of Christ.

Letting go a little at a time begins to happen just after birth when we, as mothers, have to let someone else hold our child, who we have kept safe within our womb for the past nine months (or so). And we continue to let go, in steps, often quite literally, as our children grow and walk away. I remember letting my eldest walk into a parochial school kindergarten. I knew the nuns were there and his teacher was amazing. I had complete trust he would be safe, but I still cried – my son ran into class, never looking back. Yeah, that’s typical of my almost-30-year old! Running towards his future! I distinctly remember my chat with our middle son as he prepared to attend school for the first time. (Ironically it was a class with Cathy, who I mentioned above. She was his math teacher and eventually became a dear friend). And after I dropped him off, I cried. He was off to a high school, and not with me. My life has been a series of moments of letting go. Death in our family, friends who have died, and friends along the way we have lost contact with, and my children beginning to have a life separate from mine. They are making memories of which I share no part. It has been hard in many ways, and yet seems right in so many others. As our children merge their childhoods into adulthood, letting go becomes more severe in the sense that the steps are larger. This past summer, our youngest flew across the country to a summer camp – alone. He had to change planes in 4 major airports, and then catch a bus for the camp itself. Last year he attended the same camp, but with a friend. This year he was alone. I was a wreck. Once the camp confirmed he was there, I was finally able to breathe. It was a long journey, for us both. When our eldest went off to war, he took part of me with him. I never slept very well until he was on American soil, once and for all. He doesn’t realize it, but I shed the same sort of tears when he left for basic training as I did when he walked into kindergarten. Dropping my middle son off at college, thousands of miles from home was devastating and exciting, all mixed together. And as each child takes their momentous steps away from home, we all die a little. We mourn their babyhood, and we rejoice at their maturity. Seeing my sons parent their own children is an indescribable joy and part of this whole parenting and letting go process. Parenting is not for wimps or fraidy-cats. This is serious stuff. And it doesn’t stop, even when they are married with children of their own.  I recall my grandfather telling my dad, on his 60th birthday, “Well, son, I guess I can stop worrying about you now.” We all sort of laughed, but as I get closer to 60 myself, I totally understand my grandpa’s statement. My grandfather was 86 at the time, and I think I can see myself worried over my children another 20 years or so!

So, today as I chatted with my son about his date, we laughed and we were both happy. I think he felt good about himself. I know he was proud he paid for it all out of his hoarding abilities. (That kid always has more money on him than I do!). He introduced us to his date and we all chatted a little last night. It was good. They first attended youth group at Church together, which I think is a great place/way to meet someone and get to know them. My husband and I share a strong faith and I know it has been the glue for many years, in our family. I am learning to let go – just like the song admonishes me. My older kids tease me that it’s okay and he will be fine, etc. I know that. But that last one out of the nest is rough. I am looking forward to our empty nest time, though, as we have never known marriage without children (yes, honeymoon baby!) and we have lots of places we want to go and see. So life is getting more exciting, even as we hit our golden years. I hope my kids know I never intentionally held them back, but rather, held their hands until they let mine go.

hands