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I woke up in 2003

Before Thanksgiving Day 2003 I had been asleep, going through the rise and fall of daily life like waves on an ocean. I believed the key was to make my children’s lives better than my own and to create the fairy tale, the one with the white picket fence, big house, and happy family. Back then I had three major goals: Have a house that my children could call their childhood home, stress education so my kids would go to college, and educate myself and have a career so I wouldn’t be dependent on anyone. I finished my degree, we built the house and my husband, and I set high expectations for our children’s academics. We fell into the rhythm of early mornings, school, after-school activities, bed, and repeat.

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5th Grade

To the beginning of 8th grade... What a difference three years can make.

“Please understand that everything I ask you to do has a purpose. Whether it’s learning to take out the trash and recycling every week, completing your homework on time, giving others your attention while they are performing, or remembering to say thank you when someone gives you a compliment – all of these things are lessons meant to help you make an easier transition into adulthood.” His reply; “I’m a teenager, mom. What do you expect?”

I wanted to say “I expect you to do everything I ask, immediately, without question.” Well maybe I did say something along those lines during our hour long conversation. It was more like… please know that every time I have to repeat a request, I get a little angrier each time. Luckily, a close friend of mine with three boys explained to me that she never expects her boys to complete a task the first time she asks. This way, she’s ready to ask several times or pleasantly surprised if it happens at once. It helped me put things in perspective because when my kids were little it was rare that I had to ask them to do something more than once. Then came middle school.

Why did I have an hour long conversation with my son, Kai? Because the evening before we were like two angry bulls, red in the face and ready to charge at one another. Sometimes dealing with Kai is a lot like having to deal with myself. His streak of independence and determination can astound me when he practices a piece of music non-stop for hours and then frustrate me incredibly when he says he has his own “system” for taking out the recycle – one that sometimes leaves empty cans on our pantry floor.

I realized how alike we were when he was two and I tried to pull the old … “It’s time to leave the park now. Bye… I’m leaving…right now… bye… bye.” I waited at the car with my friend who already had her twins strapped into their car seats. She shook her head and laughed as we watched Kai across the empty park playing, unphased that we had all left. He wanted to stay. I recalled a similar story of how at a very young age I insisted on riding an elevator alone. My parents and grandparents were running up and down the stairs shouting “Krista, get off the elevator!” I wasn’t frightened; I simply stepped out when I was done riding.

When I see a quality of myself in my children that I know caused me some snags in my transition from teen to adult, I desperately want to help my kids better understand themselves in order to prevent some of the hardships I faced. For example stubbornness can be good when focused toward bettering yourself or overcoming obstacles but bad when it stops you from seeing someone else’s point of view.

We discussed our similarities and our differences. I tried to explain my parental point of view.I listened to Kai and tried to understand his feelings. We ended our conversation with laughter and, “I’m a teenager mom, what do you expect?”

Our relationship has changed. He is no longer the little boy whose biggest concern was when he’d be old enough to stay up past eight pm. like his sister.  I’m constantly questioning my husband in order to better understand what my son may be feeling at this stage in his life. Sometimes I feel lost – unable to relate.

I’m still stunned when I hear Kai’s voice or hug him and have to reach up to put my arms around his shoulders. My little boy is gone. Before me is a young man who I must continue to get to know, understand, and gently guide. A young man who I am extremely proud of and who I continue to tell that I love him to the moon and back and around the earth a billion times.

Here’s a great example of what a good dose of determination will produce. Kai taught himself how to play this and practiced for hours. Jerry Lee Lewis, Great Balls of Fire.