To Honk Or Not To Honk: A Parenting Victory

Looking back over the years, as I am doing right now from a newly empty nest, I had one intuitive parenting victory that I want to share with you who still have your kids at home so that down the road you too can rejoice and not kick yourself:

I did not honk my horn at my children. 

I get that some people are honkers; for them an aggressive laying on the horn is just a great communication tool, and they’d be surprised anyone thought any deeper about it. But for the rest of us . . .

Sunday morning. The girls were off to college, only the boy was at home, and because his bones grew an inch a month, or so it seemed, he slept like the dead. And even deader on Sundays. He seemed to understand it was the day of Sabbath rest.

He didn’t really ‘wake up’ as much as slowly surface, like a log released from a river bottom. All that rapid bone growth required hot abundant protein in the morning – like eggs and cheese and bacon. But he only had time to grab a granola bar along with his tie, belt, socks, and shoes, all to be put on in the car.

Six feet, three inches plus his hair, folded in half, and accessorizing in a Fiat.  I rode to church with Mr. Bean.

I assume he grabbed the granola bar; I never saw him do so because I was always sitting in the car by that time waiting, and that is the point of my story. I like to get to church early, especially if I am teaching a Sunday school class. I talk to a lot of people on Sundays, and my nerves just need my ducks in a row.

Anyway, I waited, chomping at the bit, and every Sunday I had to make a choice while sitting in the Fiat. To honk or not to honk, that was the question. He was inside feeling no sense of urgency whatsoever, and my legs were both cramped from holding down the clutch and the brake in first gear, ready to go. And I waited, and the back door never opened. Whether t’was nobler in mind to wait it out or honk the heck out of the horn, aye, there’s the rub.

Preaching to myself, I would say, “Just be patient. Honking is rude and dehumanizing. Civilized people get out, go in, and say mildly, ‘Are you coming?’” But once buckled in to the AC’d car, I wasn’t getting back out, civilized or no, so I would decide I had every good reason to honk and reach my hand to do it, and then decide not to, and Civilized and Uncivilized would war for awhile before the back door would finally slam and he would appear, grinning and at peace with the world. And I was always glad I hadn’t honked.

But I was never so glad I hadn’t honked as I was the first Sunday he was off to college and I walked out the door, got in the car, backed out, and drove to church. Oh the sad, sad, convenience of it all. Oh, the untethered, unwanted earliness. Woohoo, I didn’t have to wait! Boohoo, I wished I had to wait! And as I mourned freely all the way to church I comforted myself knowing that I had not honked my horn at him. At least I had that.

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DSCN6082Sincerely,
A Mom In Transition

P.S. (One week later – wearing huge photo-booth party glasses and popping a confetti cannon) Empty nest is fun!!  “Limbo, limbo, limbo, cha-cha, limbo . . .”

P.P.S. I read a recent good article urging us to be careful writing about our children.  I used care with this and meant to spotlight my retrospective relief rather than the college boy’s foibles.  Some context was necessary.

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There Is A Rose In Spanish Harlem (Me!)

We have always said that the day we take our youngest child to college we will not come right home that first night. Awash in nostalgia, we would wipe our tears, turn north to New York City, and drown our sorrows in exotic cuisine and art exhibits and parks and architecture and layers of history until we find that we are perfectly fine and content being Siegenthaler, party of 2, once again.

Well, two things about that.

In His goodness, the Lord ordained that our nest won’t be empty after all. My niece Erica is going to live with us for a while and work and study here.  And we are most glad. We weren’t really ready for empty nest anyway.  And, second, my new business dictates that I be home for a class early the next morning after I make Will’s dorm bed in Belz Hall and leave him under his own recognizance.

So, as Robert Burns said, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley, and the NYC transition plan seemed to be ganging agley.

But by God’s grace it is going to happen, just a little early – today! Hooray for an early-August lull before the school year starts.  And for an Airbnb “third floor walk-up. Will that be a problem?”  Not at all, I scoff from my one-level rancher. And hooray that our lair is in Spanish Harlem on a street called Tito Puente. Allow me to romanticize it.  And for the Manhattos Indians and the early Dutch settlers and every homeless, tempest-toss’d immigrant yearning to breathe free! Right now, my children are really glad they aren’t going with us.  I’m unbearable when it comes to the grand human story.

Our plans include the following, quite out of order:

*Walking our feet to bloody nubs
*A walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and a tenement-appreciation moment; that chapter of NY history slays me
*Biking through Central Park
*Dining in Queens with Ben and Kim Kaufmann, true food connoisseurs
*Amateur Night At The Apollo in Harlem – you’re jealous over this one, aren’t you?
*Freedom Tower and the Memorial Pools of the World Trade Center
*The Museum of the City of New York
*MoMA- photography exhibit
*Shopping at Century 21; Andrew for sunglasses and me for a new school bag (CCS co-workers, I finally threw out the tattered pink polka-dot one with no rubber left on the wheels)
*Browsing some antique shops and finding a little piece of the city to take home
*The Highline – thanks to Will Hogue for this pearl!
*Columbia University, St. John the Divine, Riverside Church and its tall tower and view
*Greenwich Village literary hotspots and Washington Square
*Abyssinian Baptist, Harlem YMCA, The Cotton Club
*Pizza in Staten Island with the Baldinis – Hey, y’all!  DeNino’s for “The Garbage Can”?
*Book stores, ethnic food, and coffee better than we can make at home which is saying something
*Subway and bus lines
*People-watching, picture-taking, blogging it all in
*Post cards from the bodega
*Another week of Andrew’s beard growth for the general amusement of Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church
*Time to talk and laugh and read and think and sleep a little
*Return quenched with cool urban cultures and glad to be back in time to take Will to college and to welcome Erica to our favorite little town

In short, a leisurely, knockabout week.  🙂
And if you don’t think we can accomplish all this, 
then you don’t know Andrew.

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Also Because It Makes Me Happy

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(Photo cred:  www.carolinamountaindog.com)

I recently discovered a new depth of ‘amazing’ to the grace I’ve known since I was eight years old.

It is, of course, amazing because I’ve never deserved it, and because God is so amazingly different from me.  Everything He has done has been exactly opposite of the way I would have done it, and has been achingly, beautifully successful according to His plan.  I am talking here about everything from the two hummingbirds fighting over the feeder to the certain moment when He returns and every knee will bow, willingly or not.

But it dawned on me the other day that His grace is also amazing because He kindly knows I love, need, and want to be amazed.  I am made to be amazed by Him and my highest joy is when my mouth is wide open in awe that, yet again, He has orchestrated a beauty that none of the masters of any artistic medium could come close to; that He has calibrated a meeting of two people, or moments, or events that no engineer or architect could approach even with impeccable mathematics.  He, the chief Architect, Engineer, Mathematician, Artist, and Lover of His children, amazes me because He knows it makes me happy.

And that’s just another way of saying that He loves me.  And that’s amazing.

It’s amazing, too, because it is so easy not to believe it, or to forget it.  As the hymn writer says, sometimes, “darkness veils His lovely face.”  It does.  A cloud of my ignorance and dust-weakness covers me, and I feel the God of the universe at war with me.  Being thrust exposed before the lions in the coliseum, heart-stopping as that must have been, is nothing to being thrust exposed before the Lion of the tribe of Judah in His righteous wrath.  This is the outer edge of darkness and abandonment.  But the hymn writer reminds me that when that happens, as it does to every earnest heart, it is then that “I rest on His unchanging grace.”

His grace hasn’t changed.  It is there all the while, a rock for me to stand on as I grapple with the darkness that would vanquish me, but can’t!  It is the daily experience of one of God’s own that ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!’

The shell-shocked man whose wife has left him discovers new love in a sweet woman.  The anxious mother takes her child to college and the first person she encounters on the new campus is a blood relative!  The rebellious, drug-addicted teenager stands before his church a repentant young man declaring God’s drawing him out of the fire. The sweet and sassy saint waiting three more long weeks for her cancer surgery dines with friends under the evening sky and says, “God is faithful.  He is taking care of me.”

Examples of amazing from the last 24 hours of my little life.  How kind He is!

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