Updated: Sep 24, 2022
We were talking about relationships, partnership in particular. What it looked like and how it felt. Ocean, my 14 year old daughter, bouncing over fresh baked banana bread blurts out: "Mom, if you want it you have to believe it. Don't you know that? You have to act as though it were already here." It reminded me of something I read earlier in the day we have to be the energy we want to attract. I smile broadly, and inhale. How is it that this girl continues to impress and surprise? Is it TikTok? Or just teen wisdom?
Most of our conversations are centered around her wanting me to share my experience of her. "What was I like as a baby? When did I take my first steps? What was my first word? Do you think I am mean? Do you think I am nice? How so? Give me examples. Be specific." Her desire is fueled by an active curiosity. Ocean is like a detective, scouring my brain for memories so she can see herself clearly. She also loves to shock and surprise. Ocean seems to know when I pull into our driveway, hides behind the front door and with a bold "Boo!" she welcomes me home. Jumping out of my skin is never dull. She cleaned the kitchen yesterday, washed all the dishes, before baking cookies, from scratch, all by herself. She uses public transportation to connect with friends, she will happily travel for hours, on her own. She is finding herself and I get to watch. Without her brother here, her independent nature has been ignited, there is more open space for her to expand.
Zander, my 16 year old son, now lives in Denmark. He's been there for three weeks. When we were driving south to pick up his Danish passport last month, Zander wrote an email to Grenaa Gymnasium, a boarding school in Jutland. At this point in time we had submitted maybe five applications to various high schools abroad. We didn't even know if we were moving in the right direction. What we knew for sure was the thing that held us together, our shared determination to try. Zander was clear, he knew what he wanted and he was willing to ask for help. We received the application link the next day. (!!!!) Zander wrote a personal essay, asked his American educators to write letters of recommendation, chose his preferred classes, described his interests and uploaded all requested documents. It took us one week to press "submit". Then we waited.
How do we know what is right for us? This might sound like a no brainer of a question, but I have done plenty of stuff that I thought was right when it felt super wrong at the same time. My head said one thing and my body said another. In those moments I was not consciousl of my body posture. Thoughts/acts that empower make me feel good: contented, motivated, inspired, I stand tall, I have strength, triumph lives here. When I feel bad: discontented, unmotivated and uninspired, my body constricts, I am heavy, I shrink, failure lives here.
In this place of generating change, Zander and I began to soar. We acted as though he were moving to Denmark, we refused to let doubt seep in, new and different felt inevitable. It was detailed and demanding, we were challenged and driven. Each morning we'd check our emails and decide where to put our focus. Dedicated to a cause tasted amazing, we were bright with enthusiasm. And in exactly two weeks from getting his Danish passport in mid-August, Zander was on his way to Jutland. We received his acceptance letter on a Friday and he flew out the following Monday. "You got in!!!!" I yelled from my desk as I ran to his room. Ocean and I and our fourlegger black lab-mix, Vespa, drove him to SFO to say goodbye, bon voyage and good luck. He looks down at me and smiles his big grey eyes: "It's gonna be great ma, don't worry."
Zander is a born explorer. His hunger for more, his life force, and his independent nature were evident at a young age. The sheriff brought him home when he was two years old, he'd snuck out of the house, naked, to roam the neighborhood. I remember him, a hearty four year old, climbing trees, following deer in the woods, getting lost and finding his way, on his terms. He needed to activate his imagination with his whole body, building fairy houses on the hillside or fighting off make-believe creatures, he didn't like being held back, for any reason. In Venice Beach, California, my six year old son begged me to let him take a different path, to walk back to our house by himself from the beach. "It's not far, I'll meet you there, mom, I know the code!" It took us two hours to find him. Homer, Alaska, taught him the glories of fishing halibut, he was six, and forever hooked. At eight years old in the Bangkok International Airport, while awaiting our connection and looking for food, he declares: "I want octopus soup". During a family Thai massage on the beach in Koh Samui, with our limbs being pulled and twisted, lying face down, he turns his head and offers "Now we know what a chicken feels like at the butcher." Zander has always been drawn to strangers and new conversations, looking for stories, seeing possibility. Our neighbor's six year old daughter invited Zander to a tea party when he was ten. He wore a hot pink princess dress with an electric pink wig that he borrowed from his grandma, ready to make an impression on the younger girls. My son is not shy, he is quick to engage others and happy to share his ideas. Zander is someone who commits himself fully to whatever he is doing. A born performer and clown, he has a wicked sense of humor. He takes genuine pride in how he presents himself, meticulous in his grooming and style. His adventure spirit, his big heart and his peacemaker personality carry him well. He is a boy who inherently knows what is best for him, and he possesses the courage to claim it. For years we danced around what he wanted for himself, his way and all. It took me a while to shift gears, to step out of my agenda for him and step into his life with him. We learned how to activate together.
Ocean is in a phase of connecting with Nature. She cleaned our garden chairs this afternoon, she has plans to sit with the sunset. She adopted a 7pm tea ritual a few days ago, which she enjoys after showering and before bed. "It's my night time routine" she says. Vespa gets walked at night so they can visit with the Moon. Yesterday, I found her in the hot tub, "chilaxing" (her word). When I went to ask her for her opinion on a painting project, she answered: "I'll be done in half an hour, happy to help you then." Clarity. Strength. Conviction. Then I asked her "Where did you learn about If you want it you have to believe it. She looks at me funny (since I clearly missed the sarcasm tone during the banana bread moment), pulls an airpod out of her ear, and says, "From you mom." I laughed out loud as I admitted that I'm not always sure she hears me.
Freedom. We yearn for it. Our conversations inspire our growth, help us design our life our way. We are invested in our commitment to thrive. We can lean on each other and call forth what we want for ourselves, together.
I am impressed with their fortitude, their rich knowing, this teen wisdom I am experiencing. Their fearlessness as little kids just blew me away, they both had a willingness to fly. I used to watch them, mesmerized. They would play hard, go big, I couldn't keep up. And yes, I tried. Looks like we are in a new phase of an old expression. I'm ready, maybe I will fly too.