Dreams, Babies, and Millennials

A counselor once told me, “I don’t take much stock in dreams,” meaning the kind that come to us in our sleep. Had I been looking to dreams like some look to horoscopes, I would have agreed. But that wasn’t the case. I had been dreaming a new ending of a true life storyline that was, at the time, deeply disillusioning to me. The dream helped me acknowledge the reality of my struggle, to bring it to light for examination, for prayer, for action.

It wasn’t the first time a dream opened a door to recognizing “what is”—which is the very definition of radical acceptance. To be honest, I’ve been dreaming again lately, vividly. In these most recent creations of my mind, I’ve had a second chance to enjoy small children. With two Millennials of my own—both of whom are working to navigate careers rather than starting families—I am a PMWG, Parent of Millennials without Grandkids. And that’s okay, but clearly my subconscious has a different expectation and timeline. In my dreams, I hold small children long and tight.

It is my experience and observation that there’s a whole bunch of parents in the Boomer generation who had an abbreviated parenting experience. Unlike our own growing up, many parents of my generation sense that by the time our kids turned 12, the parental reins passed into the hands of sports coaches and technology and the noise of the culture. There was a reconnection at about 20, but by then our role was that of influencer, at best. The result is a radical truth that, for many of us, there are fewer weddings and even fewer babies, and more challenges around salary, benefits, and affordable housing. The scene for them and for us is different from what we envisioned. Radically different.

In the meantime, Boomers like me have a new world to engage, and it occurs to me that perhaps our truncated parenting has positioned us for new roles in this culture. Ours is the opportunity to mentor, to foster, to adopt, to pursue new friendships, new careers, new ministries—ways to add humanity back to a technology-based culture. PMWGs were born for such a time as this.


The GAT Generation

I didn’t know it had a name.

I recently learned that the current generation of women have been referred to as the “GAT (guilty all the time) generation.” According to a survey sited by Style Magazine, more than 96% of women struggle with multiple bouts of guilt on a daily basis. As many as half have trouble sleeping because of it.

At a recent event, I heard women of varying ages admit that guilt was the doorkeeper of their lives—having its say in matters from how to eat, what to say (or not to say) to when to take a break from family or work.

In my house, the children are gone, but guilt lives on to plague the time I have with my elderly mother, who recently moved in to live with my husband and me.

Moving Mom was excruciating as we picked through the smallest of items that would accompany her to our recently acquired and downsized home. Guilt.

She left behind the few people she knew in the world. Guilt.

There is no weekly bridge game in our new neighborhood. Guilt.

The list goes on.

In still another twist on the way to improving my mother’s quality of life: she quickly began to remember her former circumstances as idyllic. In hindsight, she had been social, safe, independent, and surrounded by the fond and familiar. And I began to question decisions made. Had I pushed too hard too fast and disrupted her life too soon?

Pushing guilt aside (with the assistance of my husband), I took a second, closer look at what had actually transpired.

  • The move happened before the physical demands of this seismic shift would have overwhelmed my mother—and us.
  • The move happened before Mom stopped making meals for herself because it was too difficult.
  • The move gave Mom access to immediate, safe and necessary transportation.
  • The move allowed my mother to retire from the stress of home ownership.
  • The move eliminated Mom’s rapidly increasing isolation.

No, there is no weekly bridge game now. That sucks. It also sucks that Mom has outlived virtually all of her friends and the vast majority of her family. It is also true that for all the benefits of our new arrangement, I cannot be all things to my mother. I can only provide what is necessary in the moment. For now, safety and comfort are primary. Even these I do imperfectly.

Though difficult, I strive to accept the truth that what is far from ideal can still be the best choice. Struggle finds all of us no matter what season. Goodness too. Whatever I have to offer is enough because I am not the source of happiness for any life beyond my own. This radical perspective closes the door on guilt as it opens the door to choosing to be happy. Come what may.

Unconventional Grief Under the Tree?

Some of us will spend the holiday season–and the New Year–with someone we once knew but has, for a myriad of reasons, changed. And we feel a real loss, not unlike the actual loss of a life. That person is gone. The following link is to a blog from The American Academy of Bereavement. I include it here in hopes that those who are struggling can find some perspective and a sense of community in moving forward, into the face of a new kind of grief this season.



Mom-Bragging: A New Look at an Ancient Sport

Thanks to Laura L. Wolf for the following blog.

And here’s to those of us who can relate, those of us with young adult kids traveling winding paths toward adulthood. When the mom-bragging starts we just get quiet because there’s just too much to say–too much to try to explain. But it’s okay. Absolutely and radically okay.


About That Mom Who’s Not Bragging About Her Kid

There were a few regularly-used Yiddish words in my house when I was growing up. Like the word “kvetch” to refer to my great-aunt, later dubbed “Aunt Kvetchie,” who was a known complainer.

Or “you are such a klutz” – as in uncoordinated. I heard this one often. An accurate description of my always bumping into things, not the least bit athletic self. And “what a schmuck he is” – my dad describing someone who was a real jerk.

One Yiddish word I didn’t learn until I became a Mom is “kvelling” – when a person is bursting with pride and pleasure. As in – “His mother was kvelling over his early admission to Harvard.” Kvelling is done by all mothers, Jewish or not, when discussing their children.

In my lawyering years, I ate lunch several days a week around a conference room table with younger female colleagues. There was a lot of kvelling among us. My friend, Lisa, would tell us about her daughter’s star soccer skills. And Michelle would let us know that her son got an A on a tough social studies test. Denise was naturally thrilled when her daughter was elected class president in 6th grade. I shared my kids’ accomplishments as well. And when your kids are young, you have lots of achievements to kvell about. It isn’t boasting or bragging; you are just proud of your child. And okay, I’ll admit, maybe a little back-patting.

When Lisa, Michelle and Denise’s kids were in elementary school, mine were of high school and college age. Kvelling gets a bit trickier as your kids get older. Especially if your kid happens not to be on the direct path from high school to early admission into Harvard, then on to elite grad school or Wall Street or a fancy internship.

What happens to kvelling if your kid is on his or her own very different path?

By the time one of my kids was in high school, we were on a first-name basis with mental health struggles. In college, the same mental health challenges grew worse. An elite grad school, Wall Street or a fancy internship did not seem likely. (Although hope does spring eternal.)
Continue reading “Mom-Bragging: A New Look at an Ancient Sport”

Thank You, Harry

On Wednesday, May 25, at the Library of Congress, thousands will give tribute to the life and triumphs of Harry Wu, a Chinese political prisoner turned human rights activist.

No one could have foreseen how Wu’s courageous trip back to China in 1991 with Ed Bradley (Sixty Minutes) would have resulted in Wu’s Laogai Research Foundation (Washington, D.C.), which continued to expose atrocities against the people of China by their own government.

As an adoptive mother of a Chinese child, Wu inspired me too. When I wrote a novel, The Blu Phenomenon, illustrating how Chinese children welcomed into US homes were a latent power for change in China, Wu agreed and wrote a book endorsement. Wu’s work will continue, though perhaps in new ways, by new hands, maybe even those China abandoned.



When Children Carry Your Name But Not Your Stamp




Years ago when I told my brother that my husband and I were planning to adopt a child, his response was something to the effect, “I get it. That’s creative.”

Creative was not a word I would have put on a process that involved nine months of paperwork. But, in the end, I believe he was correct in his succinct assessment of both the process and of me, as a “creative” kind of gal.

It’s my perspective that parenting, in general, is—or should be—a creative process. It’s something you pour yourself into—that’s the part where you play taxi driver and write checks for piano lessons. Then there’s what I call “putting your stamp” on it—that’s the part where you share parts of yourself that you hope will remain with them: a deep sense of belonging, a love for beauty, faith. The thing is, in parenting—particularly in adoptive parenting—one never really knows if the piano lessons will “take” or if the child-turned-adult will bear your stamp.

That’s where “radical acceptance” enters in. I wish my brother—or anyone—would have introduced me to that phrase before my son arrived from overseas. I poured every ounce of my creative energy into his personhood only to learn later that it was quite likely that I would see little or no part of me in the man he became.

It’s a funny thing about being a creative type: you do what you do because you have to. I had two children and my fondest memories with both are those in which I freely gave them something of myself—a part of the stamp—that they could keep or discard.

But I gave. And giving is radical. And letting go of the desire to live on somehow through our children is a matter of radical acceptance.


photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/47823583@N03/8700814222″>ORIGINAL Rubber Stamp</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;