No surprise

He keeps surprising himself over and over again. Befuddled by his own success. While I sit quietly on the sidelines, not surprised at all.

My youngest, a bit of an Eeyore with a mother who channels a lot of Tigger, generally underestimates himself at every turn. Growing up with an older brother who was not the kindest Alpha, he became far too used to being told what wasn’t right with him. No matter how hard I tried to drown out that voice and build him up, he over-indexed on it. Perhaps an older brother’s opinion matters more than Mom’s at a certain tender age. And moms, if we are doing our job right, just love you no matter what. While that is wonderful and right and good, it also lowers our credibility in the ego-boosting department. We’re hopelessly biased and our kids know it.

My “baby” has always left the brashness and bravado to my eldest son. He will never beg to buy a dirt bike (or ride one, for that matter). He doesn’t long for a tattoo. He has zero interest in contact sports, finding his brother’s previous love of lacrosse quite puzzling. Let’s just say if the school was calling to talk to me, I could say with almost 100 percent certainty, it wasn’t about him. He takes care of business in his quiet way.

Perhaps that is my doing. Since my divorce—once he got old enough—I’ve made it clear he was the CEO of his own business–and for now, that business was school. I don’t generally edit his papers, help on the science fair project, hover in any way. On the plus side, he sees I have the utmost confidence in his ability to not only handle things, but figure them out. I am always there with an ear or advice—but am clear what he reaps is based on what he sows. Conversely, there may have be days he wishes that I cut him more slack. I guess each generation improves upon the prior. I definitely am more present and encouraging than my mother was. Perhaps he’ll improve on my shortfall with his own children. I certainly hope so.

I like to say he’s a Renaissance Man: he nailed it on the school stage, won a statewide poetry contest, took the award in a tech entrepreneur showcase, brought home a string of ribbons for original comedy, and competed in the statewide speech tournament playing the role of a quirky Irish priest. Did I mention the gold award at the state science fair? Yep. You’re right. Now I’m just bragging. Mea culpa.

At every turn, he has doubted himself. At every turn, he has told me, “I’m not going to win. My (fill-in-the-blank) sucks, Mom.” I joke that he will win the Nobel Prize but say to me privately, “Wow. Can’t believe they fell for that one. My quantum theory really isn’t that good.”

My eldest, on the other hand, can write a paper rife with grammatical, spelling and syntax errors and proclaim it a masterpiece. Or, sometimes, just “good enough.” And that’s good enough for him. He happily moves on to other pursuits he feels are worthier of his time.

I don’t lay all of this out because I kid myself you take a grand interest in my children, but rather to present a conundrum I have to believe many of you have faced. We raise our children—or are raised ourselves—by the same parents. And yet, some of us come out believing we were born for the gold medal. And others, even while besting peers at the finish line, believe we just aren’t very deserving.

My wise words on that?

Huh.

Go figure.

I believe we are a soul in a body and have laid out challenges for ourselves before we enter this lifetime. Some of us choose easier routes than others. I’ve been reading Ainslie MacLeod’s book, “The Instruction,” which provides a possible framework for soul types, levels, challenges. If you’re into the spiritual, you’ll probably like it. If not, let it lie. It’s been a helpful resource for me as I look not just at my own choices, but also those of my kids.

Parenting these two children requires a few of the same basic skills, but a lot of different hats. I wear my cheerleader hat for my youngest often, even when it just annoys him. And I wear my wise counselor hat for my eldest, trying to temper his enthusiasm so he channels his Tigger energy without squashing those around him. (It’s usually me that is squashed as I try to offer said wise counsel.)

Like all parenting, it’s rewarding but exhausting too. Do you ever come to the end of a day when all of your kids need you at the same time and wonder—what’s left for me? Besides the dishes, the bills and the laundry, that is.

It is those days when I sit back and watch the movie in my head. My eldest marching proudly into the kindergarten classroom with nary a backward glance, as other children clung to their mothers and cried. The look of shocked surprise on my youngest son’s face when people he doesn’t know stop him after a performance and tell him how good they thought he was. The slow—and boy, do I mean slow—progress my eldest makes on tempering his temper. The ability of my youngest to now pick himself up after falling apart from fear of failure—and to move on.

And on those days, I admit to myself that I have so little to do with their success and yet, so much. I know that doesn’t make sense. But it’s true. I just provide the steady backdrop, the unfailing love and encouragement, for their successes, failures and everything in between. But making it happen? That’s all them. Completely them.

Sometimes it’s smooth, like butter. Other times, it’s a bit ugly and rough around the edges. Overall, they’re nailing it. With every success, every failure, every proud-Mama moment, every how-in-the-hell-could-you-do-that-because-I-didn’t-raise-you-that-way incident—they are getting there. Wherever there is. Further into life. Hopefully a life they co-create with the Divine, rather than one they accept passively.

And that is no surprise to me.

43 Comments Add yours

  1. srbottch says:

    So, everything sounds pretty normal at your place great work, Kristine. (aside: Why do outsiders think it’s great and normal while, to the parent, it feels like everything is falling apart?) Yup, just keep up the great work!!!🙀

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. Steve😉🙏🏻! And that is a conundrum I can’t even begin to solve :-).

      1. srbottch says:

        It’ll solve itself, time does it.

  2. “My eldest, on the other hand, can write a paper rife with grammatical, spelling and syntax errors and proclaim it a masterpiece” LOL. There was a NY Times article that said by and large, boys tended toward this judicious output of effort in school, figuring when something was “good enough,” while girls tended to put out more than was required (to their own disadvantage). That wasn’t your point, but in closing, I am here waiting for your parenting manual.

    Can you send me the link to the old post where you named books you read aloud with your son before he outgrew the precious ritual? I believe you had some adventure titles in there. Thanks.

    1. candidkay says:

      Writing that parenting manual would require my publisher to give me an advance in wine and/or champagne :-). Because it would have to be humorous. I will dig up the old post and put a link here. I hope all is well!

    2. candidkay says:

      I looked back in my posts and can only find one where I mention Rick Riordan’s books. But I think you and I might have conversed through the ether on the Imaginarium Geograpicha (http://jamesaowen.com/books-and-publications/the-chronicles-of-the-imaginarium-geographica/) series. My son just loved it . . .

      1. Thanks for this. I don’t think it was Rick R. Maybe a Peter something, some ship-adventure story among a handful of others you named. You spoke of your ritual with your younger one (in which you did voices) before he outgrew it as his brother had. If that rings a bell, hope you can find. If not, of course that’s all right.

      2. candidkay says:

        Oh! Peter and the Starcatchers! Yes. That was a fave too. I’ll look again at my posts:).

  3. Your sons are already so accomplished, and your faith and support of them helps to bring out what’s already there and good and strong. I also think birth order has an impact. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I remember all my rebellious ways: I’m a third (and middle) child. Big hugs to all three of you (if your sons can stand being hugged virtually by strange bloggers). You done well!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Cynthia. I try my best:). And birth order–yes. At least in this case! Big hugs right back at you . . . they still let me hug them so I’m guessing virtual hugs are just fine:).

  4. Amy says:

    You are a great mom, and your boys are lucky to have you in their corner. ❤ xoxo

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw:). Day made, right there. Thank you, sweet lady! XXOO

  5. mydangblog says:

    What a beautiful tribute to the uniqueness of your two boys! I only have the one, but I tried to raise him to be independent and confident in himself in the world–he just went merrily back to his uni residence after a nice weekend home with nary a backwards glance so I guess it’s all good…for him anyway, lol!

    1. candidkay says:

      We raise them to do just that, right? To find their way and be comfortable in shaping their own world. I just hope we instilled enough TLC that they send that back our way as they age:).

      1. mydangblog says:

        So long as they visit regularly 😊

  6. George says:

    And here’s the fun part, (sarcastically speaking), it never goes away. Regardless of their age or place in life they will always be who they are and you will always be there, cheerleading and counseling even when they’re older. Such fun ahead…:)
    PS….sounds like you raised two very capable and successful young men. It’s good to be proud..:)

    1. candidkay says:

      My mother used to tell me the same thing. That no matter how old your children get, you worry:). When my eldest was born, the heft of the duty hit me. My heart split wide open and hasn’t been the same since :-). And who knew it could split again for my youngest? I guess you did :-).

      1. George says:

        And then the grandchildren will spilt it open again..:)

      2. candidkay says:

        Oy! You’re killin’ me here:).

  7. Phew, I’m exhausted just reading about it 🙂 I don’t have kids so I don’t have to worry about these things! I was also an only child so I can’t compare how I turned out with anyone else, but it is interesting that my parents were very different in personality and I became the shy, quiet one like my dad rather than the outgoing one like my mother – who knows why 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      You probably chose that path because it feeds your writing. How many truly deep writers do you know that exhibit like an extrovert? 🙂

  8. It takes so much energy to parent, doesn’t it? And insight, and resiliency. And on and on. I can tell from this that the cheerleader and wise counsellor hats both are great fits. Thanks for this.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Kathy. My friends and I have discussed the trade off between being an older parent who has more wisdom and a younger parent who has more energy. I think my wisdom serves me well. But I do believe it’s probably different for everyone.

  9. You are correct, younger brothers spend their whole lives trying to keep up with their older brother 😀 .

    1. candidkay says:

      Am I to Surmise from this that you are the younger or the older?

  10. Michele Coppess says:

    Kristine,
    You totally nailed this universal question! It was like you have been living in my house observing my 2 kids for their entire lives. Appreciate the insight – and it definitely is a Huh! Always a delight to see a candidkay new post pop up on my email – makes my entire day a bit brighter! Thank you!

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, thank you:). Those are really kind words–made my day! And yes, “huh” is about as profound as I can get on this one.

  11. messagemaggie says:

    It is truly “no surprise” that your boys are doing as well as they are. Can’t wait to see where “there” ends up!

    1. candidkay says:

      Me too:). And thank you for the props!

  12. You dear lady are the guide rails in this life, for those offspring and many around you. You shine like a sun but have your rainy days too. And just to add a little conundrum to the mix, you also pass on your faults that your parents pass onto you (unintentionally). But we can only be what we have been raised as, fears and all.
    And speaking of which, we lock those fears in by about 10, already feeling their presence but just getting the hang of that ‘wall’ to deter that pain…of which we spend the rest of our lives tearing back down…but only after much decorating to mask its real purpose…and finally giving it a mortar round when it crashes into us for the 50,000th time and leaves us a mess, but finally with a hint of a crack that lets in some of that sunshine, the real stuff.
    But in hindsight, after many years, you realise the need for all those ups and downs to create something very wonderful…a human being that slowly becomes polished and shiny, albeit with many lumps and bumps, but beautiful none the less because both sides of those coins in life have shown us a magic like no other, an appreciation and empathy of just what it has taken to find that beauty within and shine it a little more strongly, a little more brightly, as each event shows a bit more wisdom in each step we take 😀
    Good or bad times? Are they really? For without one the other would have no meaning at all 😀
    You my friend, as a parent, are being that opposite each time they bump the guide rail and you gently nudge them back onto the path. And in all those ‘contacts’ in life, the teacher and student may change lanes many times, but always with the knowledge you are both doing your ‘bestest’ because of the love that drives those engines ❤
    Take a bow young lady, you most certainly do have reason to be proud, it takes great love to have the courage to be a guard rail…and even to change lanes when you realise that as you open to that love inside you can then give it from a whole new place and guide them even better ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Wow. A lot of wisdom! Mortar rounds, eh? My eldest is familiar with those:). And even after all these years, it feels odd to be the guard rail instead of the vehicle that needs guarding :-). Thank you, as always, for your wise and kind words, Mark. They always help.

    2. Well said Mark.
      As a mother of 2 who are almost out of the nest, I have fought my battles and wear my Mothering Crown shakily.
      I’m entitled to it though. Some days, I adjust it, some days I pause and re-think. All days I love them and remind myself, how blessed and chosen I am to have them.
      Some days, they belong to The Husband.

      I love the way you write Kay.
      Out the heart and that there is Mothering.

      Kavita

      1. candidkay says:

        Thank you. You two will make me blush:). “Some days, they belong to The Husband.” Brilliant. And made me laugh:).

      2. You know how it is… When they mess up, they are his.
        We smile about it.
        When the mess up, he gives them back to me. 😊

  13. “Sometimes it’s smooth, like butter. Other times, it’s a bit ugly and rough around the edges. Overall, they’re nailing it.” Kudos to you, Mom!

    These days I envy anyone whose kids can attend school, be it public or private. And then I remember just what you said about soul challenges, and I remember we’re doing the best we can. My son and I seem to have picked a few doozies. And life won’t always feel this challenging.

    1. candidkay says:

      You have Definitely signed up for the graduate course in soul challenges. And yet, he is so very lucky to have you. So many parents would not be able to guide him as you have and accept the journey with us much grace as you have.🙏🏻

  14. Dale says:

    I commented on your linked post, but I’m repeating some of it here.
    It is amazing that we can give birth to 2-3-? kids, have the same fathers and yet they are so different, you wonder if there was some kind of switch at birth! Like the come from not only two different planets, but two planets from different solar systems.
    That would be about the case between my two boys.
    Mine are a little like yours. The eldest is go for it, no holds barred, the other is I don’t feel the need to go that route at all.
    We need to be alert to each one’s needs – of course, at 21 (next month) and 19, I’m of little consequence…

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh my dear, I am sure you will be of great consequence again the moment they mature enough to become wise. And realize how phenomenal their mother is. And how thankful they are that she raised them the way she did.

      1. Dale says:

        Possibly. I’m at the “I don’t need you, except when I need you” stage. The rest of the time, “if I don’t see you all day, I’m good”. It is the hardest thing ever.

  15. Karen Lang says:

    Parenting is definitely a roller-coaster ride and there are plenty of times during the ride we have all said, “Did I sign up for this?” But like any scary ride we finish and say, “That wasn’t so bad after all! Let’s do it again!” ha Each child is so different and I agree, nurturing their individual needs is a juggling act. But You got this hands down!! And so do they 👏😘

    1. candidkay says:

      That reminds me of the scene from the movie “Parenthood”. Brilliant analogy!

      1. Karen Lang says:

        Ha! Life is one crazy ride my friend 💕

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