"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, May 21, 2015

School's Out for Summer!

Gillian's Mother's Day present to me.
Mother & infant by Gillian Chapman
Today was the last day of school for Gillian. When she started her sophomore year last fall I never imagined what a difficult, challenging, stressful school year it would be. We're both more than ready for a reprieve from the onslaught we've been under for the last several months. I don't think I've ever looked forward to the beginning of summer break more than I have this year. This morning I reveled in the pleasure of waking up on my own instead of to the loud, jarring sound of Gillian's alarm. Amazingly, she was almost always able to sleep through it for several seconds before I would finally yell at her to turn it off. And the snooze button...don't even get me started! I'm not a fan of the snooze button. Our mornings for the next three months are going to be much calmer and peaceful without the daily fight over alarms, snooze buttons and getting out of bed and out the door on time.

I would never want to repeat what we've dealt with these past several months, but if nothing else it's been a growing experience for both me and Gillian. I've had to come to terms with some things that were extremely painful and disappointing to me, and she's learned a lot about herself and is starting to learn new, better ways of coping. Somewhere several months back I read this great piece of advice, "Parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had." Those words really struck me and I've come back to them over and over when I've been struggling with acceptance and coping. 

Gillian - May 20, 2015
I've also leaned heavily on my mom for advice, support, a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes my mom can drive me a little crazy and make me frustrated, but there's nobody better when I'm at my wit's end and need some help gaining perspective. She's my safe place. She is the one person I could tell about my deepest fear as a mother.  She understood and validated the reasons for my fears, and reassured me that I should trust my mother's instinct about some of the symptoms I was seeing. But then she very clearly and firmly told me that I should never make parenting decisions from a place of fear. She agreed that I should do everything I could to advocate, fight for and get Gillian the help and resources she needed, but that I needed to do so in a rational, calm, deliberate and informed way. She also always reminds me what a smart, gifted, unique, creative, intelligent, talented, amazing person Gillian is, and she's right. 

One thing I've tried to continually remind myself of lately is that my function as a parent is to raise a happy, healthy, well-adjusted person who is able to lead a fulfilling life. What a fulfilling life looks for Gillian and the path she takes to get there is up to her. What I'm mostly struggling with right now is how to best help her find that path. Gillian is nearly an adult, and yet in many areas of her life she still needs considerable guidance. I want to give her freedom to make her own choices, even really bad ones, but I also want to help her see that some choices have far-reaching, unintended consequences that we can't always see at the time we make them. A good friend told me several months ago that parents should never deprive their children of the opportunity to pay the price for their own choices. The hard part is knowing if the price is affordable. At what point as parents do we step in and save them from themselves? 

Annoying alarms and not wanting to get out of bed were the least of the frustrations and problems we've faced over these last several months. But we did face them. It wasn't pretty and there was plenty of anger, resentment, sadness and misunderstanding. But for now it feels like we're in a pretty good place. Thankfully I have the resources to get Gillian the outside support and care she needs along with counseling for both of us. It seems like we made it through the eye of the storm and I'm cautiously optimistic about the next several months and next school year. Although, the chorus to the Taylor Swift song 'Out of the Woods' keeps playing repeatedly in my head like some kind of cautionary mantra. "Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out the woods? Are we out of the woods? Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet, good." Play. Repeat. Over and over. 

I'm not quite sure I trust this current calm state of affairs. But for now, I've decided to accept, embrace and enjoy this break. I hope this summer is a time that we can both take a much needed reprieve from the storms of the last year and spend a lot of time laughing, loving, enjoying each other and most of all, healing. 
Me and my girl - Mother's Day 2015