The current total of pictures in my iPhoto library has now exceeded 36,000! To say I feel behind when it comes to catching up with all of the events that have transpired over the last year that have gone undocumented is a vast understatement.
I miss getting all those adventures chronicled on a regular basis and just need to start a bit at a time to get 'er going.
But, what I really miss, is using this blog as a platform to pour out my heart when I need to work through hurts, or big thoughts, or huge moments of gratitude. Somehow, just getting the words out there to translate what is heavy on my heart is like therapy to me - and as such, the necessary step to process and move on.
Just yesterday, my friend in Oahu, Julie, emailed me and asked me how it was going and what she could be praying for on behalf of our family. Usually, there's just enough chaos going on that something is always screaming "to be helped" with prayer, but at the moment I read that, nothing was on my radar. Sure, there are always ongoing issues, but as I replied, I mentioned, "all is well...happy family harmony lately".
And, then, some things came to light that evening (academic issues), and everything changed. There was me escaping to my bedroom away from my "extended family" of the Schillings (girls only this time around), Whites, and Harris' who'd all been partying it up for a fun Friday night evening. That alone tells you my heart is breaking, because these folks are "my people" and the ones that I would want to have present no matter what mood I'm in. Whitley and Elsie - and Emery as well - all have my heart and I am at their "Steshie" mercy to jump on a trampoline or play a raccoon video game at a moment's notice just to hear their giggles and see them light up with smiles. But, literally, as I sat between them on the couch, absorbing the reality of grades that aren't adding up, my heart sunk and I just had to escape and cry.
A conversation then ensued once said child was recalled home... and when I thought my heart was already hurting (at that point out of anger and frustration), not surprising, at the end of talking and tears, it was aching out of empathy. I'm telling you, this parenting thing is SO HARD.
I remember a time, very early in our marriage, when Riles Audio was crumbling and so far in debt, we had used the building for a coffee house event. People attended, musicians sang, lots of preparation was made, but during the event, John asked if we could leave. We ended up parked along side the river and he laid on my lap and cried over the failure he was feeling and the uncertainty of the future ahead. I realized then, the cost of loving someone goes beyond the heartbreak of potentially losing them or being hurt by them - but it means you ache beyond disbelief when they ache. When you join your heart with someone, if they are broken, so are you.
We rode that storm, and step by step emerged through that valley. I guess, given the timing of the blog, those early years have never been chronicled. Some other day...
But, that story comes to mind now, because that's how I'm feeling all over again. This time, not with the man that I chose to spend the rest of my life with, but with the young man that is here because of that. That kid - he constantly makes me throw out any set of rules or guidebook as to what it is to be "successful" - in a lot of ways, like his father did and still does.
I have to brag for a moment in the midst of this post - recently, I was given information I might not have been meant to see, but got to anyway. It was a reference form about Brayden, submitted by his religion teacher. The question was, "How would you describe the applicant's ability to relate to peers?" The answer: "Brayden is compassionate and empathetic. His ability to encourage and build up others is the strongest I've ever seen in a young adult".
Again, this was supposed to be anonymous, so there was no benefit for the teacher to write that unless he believed it.
So, again, I find myself asking, "What defines success in a high school student?" Is it his GPA? Is it his participation in a varsity sports team? Is it his popularity? Or, is it perhaps statements like that?
Even after all these years, sometimes when I get around the fellow moms of Brayden's peers, I cringe. Because, let me tell you, he has some pretty incredibly-resumed friends. And, as talk of colleges, SAT scores, scholarships, and athletic accolades get thrown around the table - I want to just crawl under it and say "pass" when it comes to my kid. It's not that those are even off the table for him - it's just they aren't his absolute strengths. I know it in my heart, but exposure to the wrong dialogue sure sets my mind for a tailspin.
Brayden admitted last night that he has no idea what he wants to for a career. He knows where his strengths lie, but he he wants to be able to provide an income for his family that would probably supersede the likely careers found within those strengths. Ever since his start at Marist, term by term we've come to new conclusions that the cookie-cutter plan that we had envisioned might just end up getting thrown out the window. His friends have a formula that they can systematically follow. Do good in school, enter into a great college, pursue degree, enter into career. It doesn't look the same for Brayden.
The reality is, it looks a lot like John's did at that age, murky, and moment by moment. It is not what a mom or parents wants to see in the slightest, but I can't help but wonder if its exactly what God wants to. I mean seriously, what does He really think of our plans and formulas for success? If we are living in Him and for Him, are those what He has in mind for our success and ultimate fulfillment or just ours? But, its scary, and hard. For Brayden and us. It's also ripe for comparison and feelings of inadequacy.
What went down last night is not an "end of the world" scenario. It was a "These don't look good."; "What's going on?"; and "What do we need to do to improve?" conversation. What we really tried to drive home was that he needs to utilize the strengths and gifts he has in spades to access resources to help him in areas he struggles (i.e. - use those teachers, ask for help, communicate). Our "otter" would also like to compartmentalize and stick his head in the sand too, which as we know from experience - actually swallows him whole as quicksand before he even realizes he's drowning.
It's sometimes so crazy, because in hanging out with Whitley, and consequently Christi, Elsie, and Emery on an almost daily basis, much of my waking hours are comprised in helping to parent a three year old - and assisting/watching Christi with her two and one year old. This parenting stuff is hard from the start! Tears happen with the little ones on a frequent basis too (meaning from the mommies and daddies...not just from the kids!). Raising human beings: there's just no "one size fits all" set of directions to follow, in fact, if you do think you've found one, it's probably causing more harm than good in trying to fit your "round child" through a "square hole" They are all so different, and complex, and unique - and absolutely astonishing. You'd think I'd have figured all that out by now, with all these years of experience and examples before me, but it's still a lesson I have to daily learn and accept. What it comes down to, the only One who knows the set of directions I should follow to parent is the actual Creator of these priceless human beings, so its Him I need to be seeking the most.