Check-up Check-in

On a recent trip to the dentist office to get a cleaning, I had a memorable conversation with the receptionist. I have known Lauren for almost a decade. She has been the receptionist at my dentist office since I started going there. She is always pleasant, smiling and genuinely seems interested in how I am.  I brought each of my boys with me to the dentist when they were very young. Each visit since, she has asked me about them, how old they are and what they are up to.

On this most recent visit, she inquired about my boys as usual. I mentioned my youngest was getting ready to enter kindergarten and she reminded me that they will be grown in what will seem like a blink of an eye. Instead of stopping there, she shared that her children were now grown. She shared without any prompting on my part, that while you can help guide them when they are young, you sometimes have to stand by and watch them struggle, possibly fail, as an adult. She said, “You sometimes can see what’s going to happen before it happens, but you need to let them experience it on their own.” She continued, “You want to protect them, but realize they don’t appreciate it, or want your insight or suggestions. They just want you to be there for them. It can be hard, especially when a choice they’ve made ends up with a bad result, but what can you do? They’re adults.”

I thought about this for a moment, and replied, “You’re right. I know as an adult, I really only want my parents support and encouragement. If I want their advice, I let them know.”

Boundaries are an interesting thing.  As parents of young children, we are tasked with teaching our children, showing them right from wrong, helping them with their education, and exposing them to values, morals, and beliefs. We can convince ourselves it is our life long mission to be our children’s teachers, but in reality, they will only want to be taught for some long. Then they will want to learn for themselves. If we keep a healthy boundary and let them make decisions for themselves as they enter adulthood, we show our confidence in their skills. It is hard to keep you mouth shut and opinions to yourself when you see someone making a choice you wouldn’t make, or a choice you believe will end badly. You want to help your child avoid pain or disappointment, but everyone needs the chance to grow and experience life in their own way.

Lauren reminded me of something important on this dentist visit. That my role with my children will not always be what it is now. I will need to maintain boundaries, not only for my own sake, but more importantly for my children. I am not looking forward to seeing my children grown and making decisions that I might not agree with, but I do want to maintain a healthy relationship with them, and do hope that they will occasionally ask me for advice after they leave our home. I want them to flourish, and more importantly want them to know my husband and I believe in them and will be there to support and encourage them.

I never expected for my dental check-up to contain such sage advice.

How are you preparing for your role to change as your child enters adulthood? Are you thinking about it now, or holding off until you have to think about it? What will you do differently?

Can You Read This?

There is no denying it, I’m getting older. We all are, of course, but I think I’ve been in a bit of denial for the past 41 years. I’m aware I’ve been aging, particularly over the past few years, but for the most part there were only minimal signs, a word or name I couldn’t instantly recall, or an attempt to type a word only to look up at my screen and realize I’d written something completely different.  Now it seems the physical signs are everywhere: lines on my face that don’t go away regardless of the amount of product I put on, more and more time and money at the hairdresser’s, having to hold the menu away from my face just a little bit further to read the words. The most recent assault was when I tore the cartilage in my knee when I released the footbrake in my car. Are you serious? I thought after it happened. This kind of stuff only happens to—gulp—old people!

But this is my reality now. With each passing year, I’m aware that a few more lines will creep up on my face, I will continue to spend more and more money at the hairdresser’s, I’ll eventually need reading glasses, and my body will suffer injuries caused by seemingly minor physical activity (egads!).

I’m not happy about any of this, but I can’t say I’m mad either. A little disappointed, maybe.  I somehow convinced myself growing up that when you get “old”, (and mind you, with each passing year what I consider old moves up) you just naturally come to terms with your inevitable decline and are at peace with it. I realized this wasn’t necessarily true when I watched a 2011 documentary on Gloria Steinem called In Her Own Words onHBO. The seventy-seven-year-old Steinem says something to the effect of not being ready to slow down because she enjoys living too much.  Her admitting that made me cry. I feel the exact same way, and I suspect I will in my 50s, 60s, 70s and so on, assuming I’m fortunate to live that long.

For me, life is always an adventure. I love to try new things, meet new people and have new experiences, to learn and grow.

I’m working hard to do whatever I need to do to live a long and healthy life. Mostly this doesn’t mean doing anything extreme, just having some common sense: eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and finding ways to relieve my stress any way I can by going to the spa, spending time with my girlfriends, or relaxing with my husband.

Life can be hard, but I’ve really enjoyed the ride so far and want to stick around for as long as I can. It’s not because aging, or even death, scares me. I want to live just for the joy of it.