From my little bird, who has flown the coop, to all the birds around me day to day, in them I can be delighted or disappointed.
I have had rotten photography luck in the past weeks. When I first upgraded from a 18-55mm lens to an 18-400mm lens, I was mesmerized by the world that zoom brought to me. Ten years later, I am drooling when I spot other peoples’ lenses, and thinking to myself how much more amazing birds could be if I had THAT lens. I forgot to be delighted with the amazing piece of technology already in my hands, the lens that captured the bird shots you see here. The birds and my incredible life that allows me to see them have not changed, only my perception.
Every single shot in this post is with my big lens zoomed as far as it will go. These shots – taken during the month of January – are either unsatisfactory, or brilliant, depending on which lens you are used to using: the one in your head, the one that came with the camera, or the upgrade you splurged on.
My other little bird just updated me yesterday afternoon on future employment plans for themself and their partner. The new employment plan has nothing to do with their degree. It almost seems like they don’t care about using their degree after the six years and so many thousands of dollars it took to get it. This news came right after I sent an email to a friend whining about how my kid needs to earn more money to get fully independent of me – including paying for their own phone and car insurance. I had been assuming Tara wasn’t aware of that need. The news came two weeks after I had a visitor who proclaimed (from a place of love) that Tara needs to stop fooling around and get a job using their geology degree sooner rather than later, and that I am somehow a factor in making this happen. At first I bowed my head and said, “I know, I know.” But thankfully before the person left I defended my kid the way I should have from the start.
It reminded me of a conversation long, long ago when a college classmate asked how Tara was doing in school (It was Mads, you recently met him). Embarrassed that my kid was getting poor grades and not turning in homework, I said the only positive things I could think of. I told him about how Tara is consistently kind to other students, and volunteers to help kids who don’t understand classwork, and how Tara raises their hand to answer questions, and looks for opportunities to help the teacher. Mads never forgot this. He told me later, once he became a parent himself, that he told his wife that their goal should be to raise a child like Tara, not one who gets good grades, but a child who is a good person. He dumped my whole perception of the story on its head. I had been ashamed of a child who didn’t meet my expectations, when I should have been proud to describe the actual child, who was an inspiration to a future parent.
You see, children, like birds, will delight you or frustrate you and that is entirely dependent upon YOU, not them.
There is a lesson I need to learn with Tara over and over and over. The lesson is: if I stop telling them what to do, and support them emotionally, they end up being exactly what I was hoping for – often better. Tara does not do things like me, and when I try to impose MY methods/expectations, it only causes them distress and pain and a lack of progress, which typically ends in guilt and a weakened sense of self-worth. Tara is great at knowing themself and knowing the best approach, and they are great at finding a path through obstacles, and great at learning new skills in a pinch if this is what’s needed. Tara – more than all else – wants to do things the most ethically, the most sensitively, the way that harms the least and does the most good for people and the planet, while never causing harm to themself.
Left to their own devices, Tara will find a path much more slowly than I would, but it will be the best possible path, often one I would never have thought of, often one that achieves more than the simple short-term goal I was thinking of.
Every time Tara frustrates me because they are not doing things my way and I lose my patience and try to “teach” them and push them into doing things to make me happy, it backfires. And every time I trust Tara’s instincts and let things happen, it works out great. This has been true since Tara was small, and it’s getting hard to deny the effectiveness of letting my offspring do life their own way.
So when I got the text message news yesterday of their next career plan, naturally, my knee-jerk, predictably Crystal-Mom response was to get angry and frustrated. But I truly am learning and getting better at this parenting thing (after 24 years), and my response was, “Wow! That IS news.” and a little later I added, “Thank you for keeping me involved in your plans. It means a lot.” Payback for this was that I received text messages from my kid for the next two hours, rambling about all the serious and silly things on their mind. This certainly would not have happened if I had let Tara know that my personal opinion about their employment is that they are wasting their education.
What have I lost and what have I gained? I lost a mini me, but who really needs another one of me?! I think I’ve got it covered. I lost about $100,000 in tuition and living expenses, some of which Tara insists on paying back and the value of which is yet untested. However, I gained insight into this unique person, I gained a tighter relationship with my adult child, I gained an enforced appreciation of what decisions look like when they are slowly created within an abundance of empathy and self care. Learning is hard, and takes so much time, and requires constant practice. I can verify that with 24 years of practice, a person can learn a new skill.