One of my biggest failings as a parent is not knowing when to shut up. I tend to get worked up about something and confront one of my kids and just blather on and on, oblivious to the fact that I have utterly ruined my chances of getting my listener to even listen closely, much less actually do what I want them to do. I think it's a habit borne of nervousness.
Verbally, I like to kill an ant with an anvil.
Most people have [or adopt] an infant, so they get to learn and grow as a parent as the child grows. I didn't get to do that with my children. I still remember after my daughter's adoption, a moment in a Russian hotel room when I looked at this little girl who was nearly as tall as me and spoke nearly no English, and thinking WOW! What the heck have I gotten myself into?!? I had worked so hard and faced so many obstacles in adopting her that once it was a done deal I had to scramble a bit to actually get my game together as a parent.
I was talking to my son last night and I think [hope, pray] I might have said the right thing at the right time. I think there was no anvil in sight..
I was telling him that when I was in college I was scared to death, my senior year. The thought of having to leave the safe cocoon of college life and go out into the world was terrifying. What was I going to do with my life? How was I going to find a job? How was I going to forge a life for myself? I had been so intent on getting through with college and making good grades that the practical stuff just got shoved aside. Then one day it suddenly hit me: what to do next?!
I just kept my head down and went to class, cleaned my apartment, hung out with friends, and tried to remain optimistic. Routine was comforting.
I was lucky to have a Dad who inspired me with confidence.
One thing I realized, with the help of Mom and Dad, was the importance of just getting on with life. Go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Get up at a reasonable hour. Eat nutritious food. Drink water. Pet the dog. Notice the sunset. Say "I love you."
So many little things, mundane things, but their very ordinariness and routine can become the framework for a life that is rich and meaningful.
I went through a dark time my junior year of college when I was depressed, and I actually dropped out of school. I slept a lot and rarely left my apartment for days. Digging my way out of that hole was, I realize now, an important step to becoming an adult.
Going through the motions is not always a bad thing. My mom sort of browbeat my into going to church when I finished college and moved back home. I was having a lot of doubts about God and felt it was stupid and pointless to go to church. "Why should I go? That's being a hypocrite," I argued. She argued that going, and participating in at least one church activity [for me, choir] was important. SHE wanted me to do it, for her. So I did it, for her. I felt really stupid, at first, but then one day I realized that "fake it til you make it" is actually not a bad philosophy. I DID fake it, for a while. No question there. Eventually I realized that God was everywhere, all around, however, and by concentrating on my relationship with him a couple of times a week, I was learning valuable lessons about faith.
I didn't say this to Michael but I was reminded of it just now, that there was another time in my life I had to "fake it" until I got through. After my dad died I just sort of walked through my life like a zombie, for months, doing my job and getting on with life, but feeling as though the rug had been yanked out from under me. There is a period of about 8 months there that I literally have no recollection of, except that I know I got through that time. I didn't get fired. I didn't become an alcoholic. I didn't screw anything up. I did talk to my mother every day on the phone, and my brother, frequently, and we got through that time together.
My son is going through a challenging time right now and still learning his way in the world. He is very mature in some ways, not so much in others. What people don't always see, however, is the battle he wages daily to not let his past overwhelm him. Most of us have incidents from childhood that haunt us, at times, until we learn to cope. We have small incidents, small waves that rock our boat. Michael had to deal with tidal waves of misfortune in his early life. He has 8 years [his first 8, with birthmom] of severe neglect, abandonment, mutilation, and more, to deal with. Michael has been able to mostly not let things get to him too much, but he is still learning coping strategies.
I try to tell him occasionally that he shouldn't compare himself to most of his friends because none of them have the same background he does. Even if I had been able to afford to send him off to college a couple of years ago I doubt he would have been successful, because he still needed to process his early pain. He is getting a lot of help with that now, fortunately. I see big signs of progress in him emotionally and maturity-wise.
I just realize I have failed to really explain what I advised him last night. I basically said: eat well, sleep well, get outside and get some exercise every day, and pretend everything is fine. Develop a routine and stick to it. One day, it will be fine. Have faith that God has a purpose for your life, because I know he does.
I think probably most people need reminders of that, once in a while.