Best behavior

Mothering a daughter is hard, especially a strong-willed, independent-thinking, highly emotional daughter. And most especially the teenage variety of said daughter. She’s smart and funny and caring and I generally love being around her, but it’s still challenging.

I try to be conscious of my actions. After all, she’s been watching me for the past sixteen years and I’m her role model whether I like it or not. On my good days and bad days, she’s taking it all in.

She’s a big part of the reason I walked away from a long-term job with a fair amount of responsibility a few years ago. I wanted her to see how important it is to pursue fulfillment over a fat paycheck.

And I certainly thought about what she would learn if I didn’t end an unhealthy dating relationship not long ago. I wanted her to see how important it is to stand up for oneself and to walk away from situations that may steal one’s self-respect.

It’s also crazy important to me that she sees me interact amicably with her father and her stepmother. She needs to know–to see–the positive effects of releasing grudges and moving forward, that sometimes you can love someone (your kids!) so much that you work through things for their benefit, even when it’s hard.

I want my daughter to absorb my actions and not just hear my words.

Doesn’t that all sound great and honorable? Unfortunately, I’m only thinking consciously about this stuff about ten percent of the time. The other ninety percent, I forget to be intentional and I’m just…me. Whyohwhyohwhyohwhy is it so hard for me to remember that she’s watching everything, not just the lessons I’ve identified?

I can handle a full-blown crisis like a pro, but insult my intelligence, stomp on my pride, or hit me with a steady stream of attitude and all bets are off. Let’s just say my lackluster everyday frustration management skills might be a little more visible than I’d like. That’s not the best scenario for a mom with an already outspoken, highly emotional pair of teenage eyes on her.

I also tend to think out loud, so I go down a lot of rabbit holes before I end up on the right track. know I’m just working through an idea before I take (what I hope to be) rational action, but what does she think as she observes my process?

You’d get bored and I’d get embarrassed if I continued laying out my everyday faux pas. My point is that unfortunately, we don’t get to pick and choose which lessons our kids learn from us. While I’m happy with some of the big things, this light bulb moment has helped me realize that I need to be equally diligent about the little things, too.

The best I can hope now is that someday she’ll look back and realize that in addition to being a mom and a role model, I’m also human.

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The extra mile

IMG_4773Okay, I screwed up. I missed the mark, so to speak, with yesterday’s post. As soon as I hit publish, I knew it didn’t feel right. Something was missing. It’s this:

A milestone, by definition, marks progress; it doesn’t make progress. The travelers do that. And the progress they mark completely depends on what’s left in front of them.

So that list I made yesterday? It’s hollow. It doesn’t say anything about the work it takes to get to each milestone. The individual conversations. The refueling after an argument. The rest stops for alone time. Switching drivers.

It also fails to take into account the type and distance of the journey. Some milestones might be a big deal along a short path, but they might not carry as much weight when there’s a long road ahead. Think about it. It’s usually not very exciting to know you’ve traveled five miles when you have 1000 left to go.

All this just makes the whole concept of earning intimacy more nebulous (see my Snowshoes post for that discussion), and I fear that my list may actually foster exactly that which I intended to guard against. It risks becoming a checklist, and just because you can tick off each event doesn’t mean you’re as far along the path to cozy connectedness as you think you are. It’s a feeling, not an accomplishment.

In truth, the milestones along the way are relative, contextual, and difficult to define. I can’t say specifically what counts as an indicator of relationship progress, but allow me to borrow the words of former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.

Which leaves me humbly knowing that I must appreciate each moment for itself, embrace natural connections, and hold myself back from forcing situations or pushing relationships beyond their natural progression.

Now I wonder whether the only way to compile a list of relationship milestones is in hindsight. Looking back, I can tell you what moments have been important in each of my relationships, but no two were the same–and sometimes neither were the broad categories. Things that mattered in one relationship had no meaning in another. The pacing was very different and never consistent. Most importantly, I didn’t always recognize them as they came.

So be careful with milestones. Don’t presume to know what is important to each relationship. You’ll know it when you see it–but sometimes you’ll be looking through your rear view mirror as you speed off to the next.

(And now, dear readers, I promise to move on to a new topic!)

Milestones

Mijlpaal_Wateringese_VeldLast week in my Snowshoes post, I pondered the concept of unearned intimacy, that is, when we race toward a relationship destination without marking the usual milestones. Of course, my mind has been whirling ever since as tried to label those milestones.

I’m pretty sure they must be different for everyone, and probably even for each relationship, too. Some friendships are cemented by time; one day you wake up and realize that person has always been there for you–and your heart glows. Other friendships are instantly sewn together by an intangible connection; you just “get” each other–and your heart glows then, too.

No matter the nature of the relationship, I still believe in the milestones. You may not realize they’ve come and gone, but when you look back, I’d bet you can find them.

A heartbreak.

A triumph.

Rejection.

A 2am (or 2pm) meltdown in your kitchen.

The joy of reaching a goal.

An awkward moment.

Looking at the person’s parents or siblings or kids and seeing the past, present, and future.

The moment you felt safe sharing your biggest hopes or your deepest fears.

The time you let your guard down and realized it was okay.

Not having to fill the space between you with words or deeds.

When the silences aren’t awkward.

Knowing when to come and when to stay away.

There’s no specific formula for earning intimacy and you can’t force the milestones. You have to let them come in their own time–and here’s the hard part–accept it when they don’t.

When I started writing this post, I intended to make a list of specific milestone moments. I thought I’d ask you for yours and figured they’d line up, at least in broad strokes. As I worked my way through, I realized I couldn’t. My milestones are mine, and yours are yours. Some relationships require miles of milestones, while others need very few.

So I’ll still ask the question: what are your milestones?

But you don’t need to tell me the answer.

Service with a smile

I may be the only person in the world who enjoys taking her car in for service. In addition to regular oil changes and tire rotation, I do everything the guys at my dealership tell me to do: air filters, power steering flushes, brake pads, you name it. They follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, and I follow them.

It’s working for me. At 130,000 miles, all of which are mine, I haven’t had a single major issue with my car. At this point, I’m pretty sure that when I decide to replace it, it will be because I’ve gotten tired of it–not because it wore out.

Reliable car aside, the real reason I love my service guys is that I trust them. They not only tell me what they’re going to do and then keep their promises, but they also go out of their way to treat me (and my car, of course) right. Whenever they recommend a service item, they make sure to find a coupon to accompany it. When there are rebates offered, they make copies of the receipt and staple them to the necessary forms before they even tell me about them; all I have to do is mail them. They provide a comfortable waiting room with that includes a business center, a playroom to corral exuberant children, and free WiFi. Coffee, donuts, and pastries are free, too. These guys understand that building a relationship is the key to retaining customers.

By the way, I don’t have a luxury car. I have a mid-level Toyota.