Text Me, Love Mom – the book is coming!

better nestI’m so excited to tell you that Text Me, Love Mom – Navigating (Not Stalking) First Flights From the Nest – the book, will be available this summer of 2014 from Iguana Books. I can hardly wait. The painting on the cover will be the art work of my daughter, Shea Proulx.

Our four kids left home in quick succession. Not enough time passed between Zoë, the oldest, moving away to attend art school and Lily, the baby, running off to another city at just seventeen to test her independence.
In this age of bubble wrapping our kids, letting go of them isn’t easy. Text Me, Love Mom – Navigating (Not Stalking) First Flights From The Nest is the story of four artistic characters who queue up to leave the family home at a rapid pace. The media would have us believe that we have overindulged, overprotected and generally, now that parent is a verb, over-parented our kids. I was able to stay connected and endure their flights from home with the aid of satellite communications, during this anxious time of back and forth texting, calling, consoling, and applauding that goes on as everyone in our family got their bearings again. Text Me, Love Mom – Navigating (Not Stalking) First Flights From The Nest offers an opportunity to contemplate and laugh over the perpetual trial and error of another stage of parenting.
So excited to share.

Phone-less in San Francisco

In response to reading melancholy blogs from parents experiencing  withdrawal from kids gone away to college and university, I promised to re-post a couple of those learning curves of my own.   So here is PHONE-LESS IN SAN FRANCISCO

Seven P.M. on a Sunday night my twenty-year-old daughter calls,  obviously near tears.  “Someone stole my phone,” she cries.  “I feel so cut off without it.”

But she is on a phone, one the cell company she’s been dealing with, has given to her.  Born in 1959 myself, it takes me a minute to catch up.  It’s not the phone, it’s the information in the phone.  “I feel like I have to start over meeting people, making contacts.  I feel so alone again, Mom.”

“Honey, honey, I get that you’re upset.  But those people will call you.  You’ll get your numbers again.”

“Mom, it doesn’t work like that.  I’ve done this enough to know lots of those people were never going to call me.”  What she’s done enough, is move around, this daughter of mine.  This is the third time in her young life that she has by choice surrounded herself with absolute strangers – situations where she had to work to have even a single friend.  From our home in Calgary, at age sixteen, she bravely did a high school exchange in Rome, Italy – isolating herself further by having to learn Italian.  Her siblings went to school on the west coast, but she headed east to Concordia University in Montreal.  Now, trading another cold Canadian winter for a foggy one, she was taking part in Concordia’s school abroad program by doing a year at SFSU in San Francisco.  “People here have their own friends.  I’m the new one.  I have to call them,” she explained further.

I was alone in our renovated, too big house, when she’d called.  Her dad had taken two of our nephews to an early hockey game.  The weather outside was shifting, from a Indian summer to light flurries.  Earlier I’d been in the yard pulling down sweet pea vines and raking leaves, and wishing I was cooking a Sunday dinner like some of my friends would be, for kids who stayed in the city for jobs and school.

“What are you doing right now, Mom?” she asked quietly.

“Missing you guys.  Dad’s gone to a hockey game.  I was going to make toast but the breads gone moldy.

“Mine too,” she said.  “My bread’s gone bad, too.”

“I guess we need each other to finish a loaf of bread,” I said, from where I watched the sky turn dark outside the living room.

“Yeah, we do.  I miss you guys so much.”

“You’ll get your numbers back, Lily.  You’ll run into people.  And some friends will call.  It just seems bad now.  I’ll email you Zoe’s and Hudson’s and Cole’s and your cousin’s numbers.”

“Will you do it now?”

Of course, I told her, yes, I’d do it right away.  And I would add a note to her email, about how brave she was, and how I knew the next time we talked she would be okay again, having found her friends.

Look Up – and Love the Ones You’re With

It’s spring, the weather is warming, the trees are budding a fresh happy green, and I want to start a campaign. It doesn’t have to be on every bus bench, or t-shirt, or go viral on the internet.  It’s made up of two simple words, ‘Look Up’.  Look Up.  Look Up.  Look Up. Though, my campaign has a subtitle – ‘Love the One You’re With‘.  So right now, stop staring at your screen for a minute and smile at someone nearby.  Smile at your partner.  Smile at the person at the next table.  The one right beside you at the transit station.

Didn’t you go out to a coffee shop to escape the loneliness of working at home?    So let your eyes, and your humanity, drift away from focusing on your iPad.  Take a break from texting on your cell phone. Look Up from the work, or play, that is keeping your attention on your laptop.  Engage a stranger, if only with just a smile.

I am guilty, too.  I have to wait to meet a friend at a restaurant, and I immediately reach for my phone.  I hear that twinkly sound of  ‘you’ve got a text’ and I’m immediately eager to see who is reaching out to me.  “No, just Look Up”, I tell myself. The greeting will wait for me, if I just resist the urge to look down – away from the world unfolding around me, the toddler impressing his parents at the next booth, the waitress who might linger at my table, or I could gaze out the big window –  see the golden setting sun, the small birds on the horizon, the row of purple tulips.

Perhaps I’m alone having a pick-me-up in a favourite coffee shop –  what do I do? Voila, I reach for the comfort of my phone, to check my text messages, my email messages and maybe even Google the weather.  Instead, I could resist the temptation to touch my cool perfectly weighted phone (thanks Steve) and smile at a stranger, or pause to connect with a silly comment about the weather, the way people used to – in the old days – sharing a thought with someone new.  Worse is when we can’t resist the sneak a peak at the iphone when we’re not alone, but are with friends or family that we’ve sought out, or who have sought us out, to spend a few low-tech minutes of actual straight up human connection.  That’s where the subtitle comes in – the ‘Love the one (s) your with’.

On a recent wet and windy day I stepped into that warm coffee shop to view the customers in the line-up, and those hunkered down at the tables with their half-sweet-non-fat-extra-hot-vanilla-what ever’s all looking down, hiding with their many sized screens.  “Look Up,” was what I wanted to bravely call out.  “Look Up and Smile.” 

Love the One You’re With

Okay, we’ve all read those articles that say the younger generation is losing the ability to communicate face to face.  Now, I imagine that those issuing the scary news are from some ‘far older generation’ – the same writers that speak of the perils of Facebook but have never been on it – not even to ‘creep’ on their kids.  But could there be some frightening truth to their suspicious warnings?

If my kids are texting under the table when they are out with their friends, I could be the one their sending their message to, and vice versa (though I try to be more discerning).  I’ll be going about my day, taking care of business and my mind will drift to thoughts of one of them.  It’s no secret that I miss them.  I mean, I write this blog for whoever to read about how – after having  spend twenty-four years in a crazy whirl wind of raising four kids and having all four move out and away – it is now impossibly hard to not be part of all that.  So I am a efficient, speedy text-er.  But a fifty-one-year-old text-er.  I use punctuation and capitals and my iphone spells for me.

My kids and husband came to texting before I did, and back in the day when they did it while at the same time pretending (poorly) to be conversing with me, I would reprimand them and plead, “Love the one your with.”  I imagined it to be what Miss Manners would suggest.  But what would a young Miss Manners with an iphone say in 2011?

I found this gem on an texting etiquette sight – Reading and sending texts when with someone else (while on a date, for example) tells the one you are with they are less important than the one you are texting.  This doesn’t apply when just hanging out with others. WHAT??  I guess my kids and their friends are absolutely always just hanging out.

So having admitted my texting habit I still wonder what all this texting is about?  Could it possibly be that we don’t want to bug our friends and family with a phone call that might demand their time and attention so decide that a text would be preferable – ie. la de da – respond as you can.  Or, worse –  I can’t be bothered with your chat so if I send this text and you send yours we can still occupy ourselves with our more crucial tasks – like texting someone else and waiting for the little ding-ding of them clicking an answer back.

I’ll admit, too, that I’ve wandered around with my hand in my pocket holding my smooth shiny iphone, comforted stupidly that someone I love can send me a little message or a request for some mom advice.  Is it possible then that we are starting to prefer texting to talking?  Am I?

Just last week I was in Vancouver visiting my kids and lovely grandbaby.  My daughter and I decided we were curious to come see the apartment my son had moved into with his girlfriend.  I texted said son our request, along with an offer of a bottle of wine before I took them all out for dinner.

I texted him, “What time works for dinner?”

He texted me, “7:30.  N has a midterm tomorrow.”

I texted him, “Do you have a restaurant in mind?  Chinese?  Indian?”

He texted me, “How about German expressionism?”  (Sassy guy.)  “Or there is a neighbourhood bar called Malones.”

I texted him, “Remember we have the baby.”  And then I thought, this is silly, and picked up the phone.  We chatted.  We sorted out our evening plans – in less time than all our fingers could tap tap tap out the words.  The texting has the satisfying ding ding – here I am responding again – but talking, with more than 140 character answers, involved my son’s voice and eager laugh and did so, so much more to brighten my day.

 

Talk – Don’t Text, Love Mom

Okay, we’ve all read those articles that say the younger generation is losing the ability to communicate face to face.  Now, I imagine that those issuing the scary news are from some ‘far older generation’ – the same writers that speak of the perils of Facebook but have never been on it – not even to ‘creep’ on their kids.  But could there be some frightening truth to their suspicious warnings?

If my kids are texting under the table when they are out with their friends, I could be the one their sending their message to, and vice versa (though I try to be more discerning).  I’ll be going about my day, taking care of business and my mind will drift to thoughts of one of them.  It’s no secret that I miss them.  I mean, I write this blog for whoever to read about how – after having  spend twenty-four years in a crazy whirl wind of raising four kids and having all four move out and away – it is now impossibly hard to not be part of all that.  So I am a efficient, speedy text-er.  But a fifty-one-year-old text-er.  I use punctuation and capitals and my iphone spells for me.

My kids and husband came to texting before I did, and back in the day when they did it while at the same time pretending (poorly) to be conversing with me, I would reprimand them and plead, “Love the one your with.”  I imagined it to be what Miss Manners would suggest.  But what would a young Miss Manners with an iphone say in 2011?

I found this gem on an texting etiquette sight – Reading and sending texts when with someone else (while on a date, for example) tells the one you are with they are less important than the one you are texting.  This doesn’t apply when just hanging out with others. WHAT??  I guess my kids and their friends are absolutely always just hanging out.

So having admitted my texting habit I still wonder what all this texting is about?  Could it possibly be that we don’t want to bug our friends and family with a phone call that might demand their time and attention so decide that a text would be preferable – ie. la de da – respond as you can.  Or, worse –  I can’t be bothered with your chat so if I send this text and you send yours we can still occupy ourselves with our more crucial tasks – like texting someone else and waiting for the little ding-ding of them clicking an answer back.

I’ll admit, too, that I’ve wandered around with my hand in my pocket holding my smooth shiny iphone, comforted stupidly that someone I love can send me a little message or a request for some mom advice.  Is it possible then that we are starting to prefer texting to talking?  Am I?

Just last week I was in Vancouver visiting my kids and lovely grandbaby.  My daughter and I decided we were curious to come see the apartment my son had moved into with his girlfriend.  I texted said son our request, along with an offer of a bottle of wine before I took them all out for dinner.

I texted him, “What time works for dinner?”

He texted me, “7:30.  N has a midterm tomorrow.”

I texted him, “Do you have a restaurant in mind?  Chinese?  Indian?”

He texted me, “How about German expressionism?”  (Sassy guy.)  “Or there is a neighbourhood bar called Malones.”

I texted him, “Remember we have the baby.”  And then I thought, this is silly, and picked up the phone.  We chatted.  We sorted out our evening plans – in less time than all our fingers could tap tap tap out the words.  The texting has the satisfying ding ding – here I am responding again – but talking, with more than 140 character answers, involved my son’s voice and eager laugh and did so, so much more to brighten my day.

A Cacophony of Communication

At eighteen I embarked on a three month backpacking trip around Europe.  I made the brief echo-y phone call to my parents upon my arrival in France, to indicate that I had not disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean.  There were letters and postcard but no other spoken words for those ninety days. Perhaps those were the golden days of parent/child relationships and we’ve fallen back into a cacophony of communication.

Neither of my boys are overly communicative, still I like to think that they are within the normal range of same-age males when it comes to co-operating with their mother’s need for information and dialogue.  At age nineteen when Cole set off on his own trekking trip through parts of the United States, I would have lost less sleep and kept my blond hair blond, rather then tipping to gray, if we could have magically returned to those pre-cell days of my youth.

After a successful but uninspired term at university, Cole had taken another gap, that worrisome break in continuity. The afternoon he left for the U.S of A, his fourteen-year-old sister, Lily, and I were sitting outside in the warm autumn sun, commiserating on how great it seemed to be Cole just then.  He had just finished packing up his friend’s Chevy van.  His traveling companion, George, advised him to empty his suitcase’s contents into the drawers in his organized van, and leave the luggage behind.  The two boys posed while Lilly took photos of their departure, then they shooed her off and turned the van south towards the United States – the land they thought they knew through a thousand movies and every episode of The Simpsons.  They would take the number two south, entering the U.S at the Butes, Montana crossing and wind their way to Salt Lake City, Utah, where Cole wanted to purchase a real tight video camera.

Cole called on Halloween night, music blasting in the background.  He was getting sweet video footage on his new camera of a huge parade, though he confessed that earlier they had slipped down the wrong road in that unfamiliar city and things had looked sketchy.  I warned him to be careful about whose face he stuck that camera in.  And please do nothing sketchy, I didn’t want to hear about sketchy.

Hudson, only seventeen, but away at university, was even less inclined to ever call just to chat, but on that night he called to ask if we would be okay with him dropping two full term classes as he really didn’t like anything about them. Of course, we weren’t okay with it.  Also, he told us, his friend M from Calgary had moved out there unexpectedly, and the two of them were thinking of getting an apartment off campus.

On November first I received another call from Cole.  He told me that unfortunately things had got sketchy. George was not happy, wasn’t sleeping or feeling well, and just wanted to return home.  The boys, friends since forever, were trying to work out a solution. George agreed to drop Cole at whatever mountain destination he wanted to go to.

I was beginning to dread the phone calls.  Hudson called to ask me to send him his resume off our home computer as he was applying for a job, in case he dropped half his courses.  Replace the courses you don’t like with something you’re passionate about learning, I said.  I suspect my kids hate it when I start talking passion.

In the meantime George had dropped Cole off in Mammoth, California.   Cole loved it there – it reminded him of Whistler.  He’d met people from New Zealand and had gone skateboarding with some Americans.  And he said he met a nice Navajo guy who told him he got peyote for free because he was Navajo.  (These phone calls had me wondering just what kind of an out-of-body trip I might sink into with a little peyote myself.) And he met a woman on the street who said maybe he could live with her.  (What?)  He described her as old, and said he thought she was lonely.  I told him that seemed weird, and he should be suspicious.  He quoted me something about riding two horses at one time – you can’t ride Faith and Worry both – you have to ride Aware.  (Fine, I will ride Worry for him.)  He had been offered a job busing at a hotel restaurant and another job at a gym, as well as one at a skate shop, but all of them said he needed a visa.

Now I was making the phone calls.  Twenty-four hours later he had moved in with this older woman. Her house was pretty messy but they were cleaning it – he said it was his idea. (How messy, I asked?  Eccentric scary messy?) He said she had never discussed rent.  And she isn’t a cougar? Or pedophile? I asked.  No, he told me, I needed to chill out. She was just really, really nice.

The next day, jolted by early morning worries I called Cole to tell him he needed to tell me exactly where he was, what was this woman’s name?  He said her name was Annie and she lived near the Harry’s Donut Shop in Mammoth Lakes and drove a delivery truck.  Look Mom, I’m just trying to decide what to do here, he said. If he couldn’t get a job without a visa maybe he would go back to Whistler, in British Columbia, where he had heard there was already snow.

November seventh and Cole called to say he was in a car driven by a new buddy named Mosses (with Cole there is always a new buddy).  Cole had agreed to pay the gas to and from Whistler if Mosses would drive him there.  They were in a car which belonged to the sister of Cole’s Navajo friend.  He (the Navajo guy), not the sister, lent it to them.  They were close to Seattle.

An hour later – Cole called to say they had a problem – the police had stopped them – just to harass them he said, but they believed that when that happened Mosses put his wallet in his lap and then it fell out of the car six hundred miles back where they had stopped for gas.  Not having ID Mosses was now going to drop Cole at the border crossing closest to Vancouver.  Cole wanted his sister Zoë’s number to see if one of her friends in Vancouver could pick him up at the border (he had a lot of gear and his belongings in large plastic bags).

Another hour went by and Cole called to say they had reached the border but things weren’t good.  Mosses drove too far forward in his attempt to drop him off and had entered Canada accidentally.  Cole admitted to low balling the price of the video camera he bought in the States – just for a minute, he emphasized, before he saw they were going to be questioned thoroughly, but then both he and Mosses, the car and their bags, were being searched.  (Is this what I signed up for nineteen years ago?  To help my kid, looking like a bag person, lying (for only a minute, of course) get back into the country?)   Be polite and honest, I said.  Didn’t we tell you to be careful at the damn border?  They’re talking to me again, Mom.  Gotta go, Mom.  Gotta go.

An hour later Cole called again suggesting that maybe he better speak to dad.    They were trying to trip him up – they’d asked why he wasn’t with the person he drove into the States with (maybe George saw all of this coming). The horse shoe up Cole’s ass, as they say, and his people skills, were clearly not working for him.

I tried unsuccessfully to get Cole’s dad at work.  Cole informed me that his friend Brian’s dad, who lived in Vancouver, was driving to the border to pick him up. I was so, so grateful for Brian’s dad, whoever the hec he was, and glad Cole had the people skills he had, or this could have gotten far sketchier.

Another call from the other son – Hudson wanted to tell us he now had a job at a pizza place and that he wouldn’t be able to come home for reading break the following day as planned.  I assured him he could get another such job and told him that in case he decided he needed a break, I didn’t say – a break from  being seventeen-years-old and away for the first time, and overwhelmed by school work that should have been easy for you, and uncomfortable in residence –  in case he needed a break from all that, I wouldn’t cancel his plane ticket until the noon deadline the next day.

With all of the kids away but Lily, she got to be the target of my frustration.  In the time it took me to drive her to school while she ate her Cheerios and brushed her teeth in the car, (aiming I believe for yesterday’s spit spot out the window) I lectured her on how she would have no choice but to start university and finish it or not to bother going. As I let her out of the car, Hudson called to say the pizza place said he could start after reading break and yes, he would like to come home.  Cole called from Vancouver, where he had already been to the American Embassy to apply for a visa to work in Mammoth, California.  (Do they give visas to nineteen-year-olds when the job offer they want the visa for is in a skate shop?)

We picked Hudson up at 9:35 pm and talked about how he didn’t have to decide about what he would do in January just yet.  I cooked up a batch of sticky chicken wings for Lily and Hudson and he talked about his desire to maybe go to India or Tibet after he made some money in Calgary.  It had been a sketchy two weeks of connecting with the boys. Would it be easier if we weren’t linked by cell phones with updates on Californian cougars and borrowed cars entering the country illegally?  What sort of distressing phone call might I get from a kid in Tibet?

Gap or Gorge?

Two weeks shy of his eighteenth birthday our eldest son landed his dream job. Whistler Blackcomb resort had held their hiring fair in November, but warned potential staff that they wouldn’t actually be working until there was sufficient snow. After spending his meager savings on the flight west and accommodation while waiting desperately for snow, Cole found himself with the highly sought after position of liftie, or as he stated in subsequent resumes he was responsible for the safety and operation of the fastest upload capacity lift in North America. Our ecstatic boy was able to snowboard from the small apartment in staff housing that he shared with two strangers from Quebec, to his position at the chair lift, stationed at the top of the mountain.   He was so high up that he actually had cell service, nothing else was interfering with the signal up there, and he would occasionally call me before the first skiers showed up.  “Mom it’s sweet up here.  The sky is pink, seriously pink, and I can see over half a dozen mountains.  It’s cool.”

“Should you be on your phone?”

“No, but who would know?  When there’s no one coming up the lift it’s, I dunno know…lonely.  I mean, it’s just me.”

Cole called often in the beginning, justifying his need to make contact with some request, could I send Cd’s he left behind,  or he’d make an appeal for super warm gloves from a camping store.  Other times he would call and ask to speak to his brother, and eavesdropping I realized he was sharing the wilder aspects of being a liftie that I wasn’t privy too.   At the same time that he gained a few dozen new friends his cell service became less reliable.  I’d interrupt him trying seven-twenties in the snowboard park, his friends shouting in the background, or at a party any night of the week, a rapper rhyming nearby.  “Sorry Mom, I think I’m losing you,” he’d shout.

“Everything’s cool, Mom.  You’re breaking up,” he’d say and I was supposed to believe he was out of cell range when he lost me.

Yet as the winter carried on, working alone at the top of the mountain got lonelier, and the nights, in contrast, were perhaps too chaotic, if that were possible.  Cole came home in the early spring determined to save up for one more adventure.  His job, bussing tables at a popular bar on Calgary’s now famous Red Mile, was cut short by an Easter snowboard accident that left him with a cast on his arm and time to contemplate his new fascination with Buddhism.    Despite his Buddhist teachings he was distraught.  His year hadn’t gone as planned.  He had the itch to further his travels.  He wanted to be able to work despite the broken limb.  He suddenly ached to return to the freedom he’d known on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb, which while not Belize, or remote Chili, represented a Mecca of sorts for him. It was there he’d first lived on his own, amongst a community of his peers, and there that he’d escaped the confines of his parents rules and learned to make a bean and rice wrap.

Never-the-less, with his one good hand he typed up the application to university in our hometown of Calgary.  We held our breath.  He talked more of Whistler, of the power of the sunrises over the peaks, of the new friendships forged.  Forward, we had whispered into his ear.  “Talk to your big sister Zoë.  Zoë loves being a student again.” (Of course, Zoë always liked being a student.)    “Try university.  Study whatever you think you’d like.  The boy/girl ratio is two to three.”  (We were desperate.)  “You did Whistler. You worked.  You broke your arm.”  Of course, all the while we wanted him to believe he was coming to the decision himself.

He sat in the sun on a summer’s day and chose courses – an eclectic array of mind expanding areas of study.  Still he wondered whether he shouldn’t take more time off, make the gap larger – let it turn into not a gap but a chasm, an abyss, a gorge … 

He thought the three day university orientation would be lame, but instead it was cool.  The way he went on to Hudson, who was beginning grade eleven, about the kids he knew and the tight barbeque and how he, Cole, (the guy who would switch from general studies to film production) got on an outdoor stage at some point and addressed his peers, you’d have thought I’d slipped him twenty bucks to influence Hudson to earn the marks to get there.

I drove Cole to his first day of university (how could I refuse?).  On the way up I told him I was proud of him for reaching this milestone.  “I guess,” he’d said, adjusting his hat.  He’d picked out his first day ensemble the night before. The look was casual with a hint of mystic – a 1940’s style gangster hat and 1970’s aviator classes, his dad’s  plaid shirt from some other decade, his brother’s jeans from this decade, and his very own new running shoes.

We pulled into the campus behind a line of cars driven by this generation of hovering parents.  I tried not to say too much.  Cole gave me a big grin before skateboarding away from me, asking directions from the first friendly looking girl he spotted on the fly by.  For a few minutes after he disappeared from view I let the car idle before driving off.  We’d done it.  We had made it through Cole’s gap year.  So why then couldn’t we trust our instincts when it was Hudson’s turn to have a gap, instead of leading him down the path to a trying experience?