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Susan Dalton 07-14-2011 01:47 PM

A Difficult Application
 
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My baby left home today, heading to work at the beach for five weeks before she starts college. Frankly, my off-the-mat aikido hasn't been working so well lately, but today I feel better. In everything I do, relationships matter most. I primarily do aikido so I can go home and be kind to my family. So why isn't that what's been happening?

I teach kids my daughter's age. They love me and I love them. She rolls her eyes and glares. "I hate this town. I've never been happy here. I can't wait to leave."

She wasn't sure what courses to sign up for. Her AP scores weren't back; yet she'd have to register for fall classes. She loved her AP psych class and was fairly sure she'd get that credit. But she couldn't take more psych without that pre-requisite. "You'd like sociology, too, probably," I told her.

"No, I wouldn't," she said, hot-eyed again. "You don't know me at all if you think I'd like sociology."

"Stop letting her get to you," my husband tells me. "Laugh at her when she's being ridiculous. Invite her to have unlawful carnal knowledge of herself." I hear him and I know he's right; I'm getting sucked in, getting my feelings hurt, letting the stakes ratchet up. Where is my center? I've always been good at conflict resolution, but now I find myself yelling, fuming -- acting a way I can't believe.

"Stop that. Breathe," I tell myself. What were we even fighting about?

We went to college orientation but not together. The signs were confusing, so I called to tell her how to find the building. "Mom! Leave me alone. I can find the damn building," she said and hung up. An hour later she called, late for check-in. "I'm lost," she told me. I talked her to where I was; then she took off, walking too fast for me to catch up.

After the welcome, kids and parents split up, off to their different sessions. After lunch we were told to find our children. "There's no room for you to sit with us," she said. I started to tell her about something we'd been told we must handle before Friday. She raised her voice. I felt eyes all around me pricking the back of my neck. I left the auditorium, washed my face, went to sit in the back.

The speaker talked about GPAs and credit hours, the Gen Ed requirements. I'm an advisor at my own college, so I had plenty of time to let the voice in my head whine, think up hatefulness. My martyr complex kicked in hard. "I'll be paying this much money and this is how she treats me. Hmmmmppfff. Maybe I'll let her pay all her own bills, see how big she is then." The speaker finished and the students went to take math placement tests. By then I had myself good and worked up.

The next speaker's opening lines punched me hard in the gut. "Is your child obnoxious? Rude? A know-it-all? She's scared." Parents all around me were nodding. I even heard a few amens. He wasn't just talking to me because he'd seen our little interaction. Everyone in the room seemed to relate. "Going to college is a frightening transition." Scared? Really? Her? She's never been scared of anything. I'd been so caught in my own point-of-view I couldn't see hers. The speaker talked about how college-age students must individuate, separate from their parents. It's their job. I knew all this in my head. So why wasn't I putting it in my body?

A student panel answered parent questions. A surprising number were about how to communicate with one's child. "Do you act like you're the one with all the answers, the wisdom?" one junior responded. Hmmm. Another atemi, this one to the head. On the mat, tenkan is one of my favorite initial moves—yet off the mat for the last few months I'd been bulling right into the conflict. Force on force. That never works for me on the mat. Why did I act like it would work anywhere else?

Later she showed me her schedule. Calculus, Russian, oceanography, freshman seminar, sociology. Tenkan, tenkan—I managed to ask nothing about sociology. "Russian, that's interesting."

"Everything else was closed and I'm not taking Japanese." She looked at me. I said nothing.

"I couldn't get a PE. They all have waiting lists, and I am not taking aikido." She looked at me again. I want to write here that again I said nothing. But I'd be lying. I told her she already knew how to roll, fall. She shook her head, and I did let it go. I swear.

When we got home, we sat and talked for hours. Really, she talked and I listened. I saw something I'd needed to see for a while—sometimes it's more important to hear than be heard.

This morning I took her to get her physical for college. "Even though it's suggested not required, I really want you to get that meningitis vaccine," I told her.

"No," she said. "I'm not interested in unnecessary pain."

"You have your ears pierced in eight places and a nose-piercing, and a shot that could save your life is too painful for you?" (OK, cut me some slack here. Little by little, right?)

"I chose that pain," she said. "I don't want extra shots. I'm eighteen. I get to choose."

I let it go. Really. "Do you want me to go back with you?" I asked.

"Nope," she said. "You might tell them to give me those shots anyway." She grinned at me and I grinned back.

After a while she emerged, her upper arm striped with Band-aids. "Tetanus?" I asked.

"Yep," she said. "And meningitis. And another one the doctor thought would be a good idea. She made sense, so I decided to do it." She handed me the information sheets.

I nodded and kept my mouth shut.

Today after she packed her car, hugged us, and drove away, I stood on the front porch waving. I realized it's all about what aikido has always been about for me: overcoming my fear with love and trust.
"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:

We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.

JW 07-14-2011 11:06 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Yikes! I am terrified of having a teenager. I hope things work out between you. Do you believe it about the "they're scared" explanation? Do you think that info will help you connect?

People say things like "it's just a phase," but lots can happen even during a phase, and then these phases end up being what our lives are composed of.

As I read, I kept thinking that "tenkan" doesn't mean just letting it slide and forgetting about it-- you are connecting, storing, "charging" your connection in a tenkan, so that all that energy can all become productive (rather than lost) as the encounter progresses. So, now that you are able to not get so affected by things-- how can a parent absorb all that harsh energy and then channel it into a more productive use going forward?

Thanks for the read!

Mary Eastland 07-15-2011 07:13 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Thanks for the memories. I have learned that not talking allows another to speak. Isn't it amazing what happens when we get out of the way? Great column. Thank you.

j0nharris 07-15-2011 10:05 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Wow! Hard to believe she's off to college! Wasn't she just rolling around in the kids class last year? :)

Anita Dacanay 07-24-2011 04:22 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
The most challenging life path I have ever consciously chosen: Motherhood. Second most challenging: Aikido. I keep at the second quest primarily to build my skills for handling the first.

I totally agree with the scared-out-of-her-mind assessment. Sometimes our kids being awful to us is evidence of our own love: they know exactly who is going to be there for them when they are at their worst.

Even though your husband is right about "letting go" - I personally find it extremely difficult to "let go" of the only two people on the planet with whom I have actually shared a body at one point. So I am right there with you. I look at them and remember hearing their heartbeats for the first time, the long and painful right of passage that is childbirth, first words, first steps, first days of kindergarten - on and on and on. How do I let go of that? I can't, I hold it all in my heart every minute of every day.

Maybe the irimi is more applicable than the tenkan for you right now; the blend is what allows us to be compassionate.

Thank you for the frank and thoughtful column, and good luck to your daughter as she navigates the choppy waters of young adulthood. My intuition is that she will be just fine, and so will you. :)

Susan Dalton 07-24-2011 11:49 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
[quote=Jonathan Wong;287877]Yikes! I am terrified of having a teenager. I hope things work out between you. Do you believe it about the "they're scared" explanation? Do you think that info will help you connect?

I do believe it, and I think being able to see from someone else's point of view always helps us connect.. Also, it helps to remember my own teenage years and how impossible I was to my own mother and how close we became again. Thanks for reading!
Susan

Susan Dalton 07-24-2011 11:53 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Thank you, Mary, for reading.
"The most challenging life path I have ever consciously chosen: Motherhood. Second most challenging: Aikido. I keep at the second quest primarily to build my skills for handling the first."
I love how you said that. And sometimes my technique works and sometimes it doesn't.
Susan

Susan Dalton 07-24-2011 11:57 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
"Wow! Hard to believe she's off to college!"
Hey Jon,
It is. It really is.
Susan

Susan Dalton 07-24-2011 12:03 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Oops, I got my quotes scrambled. Thank you too, Anita, for your kind words. My daughter has already had a great summer working, and things are good. I can never do things the way my husband does anyway because we're nothing alike, but I do appreciate his different way of looking at things.

Chuck Clark 07-24-2011 12:37 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Susan, I understand. Aaron is now forty with two kids of his own, eleven and sixteen (going on 25!)... I can still remember when I was pushing his pram in the woods and looking forward to when he could walk and talk so we could be friends. It sure goes fast when we're looking backwards. As usual, a nicely written piece that shows your heart. Thanks.

Susan Dalton 07-24-2011 03:14 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
I think you got your wish, Chuck, about being friends with Aaron. I realize about myself that I have an easier time with younger kids because I like being adored. Teenagers aren't known for openly adoring their parents. But that doesn't mean they don't love us, just that they have to go.

Thanks for reading and your sweet comments.
Susan

Randy Sexton 08-01-2011 07:17 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
My daughter and son did the same stuff. I let them fly and always let them know my love and support was always there when they needed a place to land. Now my daughter is a successful accountant and my son just graduated from college. My daughter is now a great friend and the other night my son was visiting and we went downstairs to watch a movie and instead he went to fridge and got us 2 beers and we talked till 2 in the morning. At the end of our time together he gave me a hug and went to bed. Have faith in your kids, It will be okay.
Doc

genin 08-02-2011 02:05 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Parents often times become the punching bag, simply because they will always be there and they won't hit back. Kids take out their anxieties, frustrations, and fears on thier parents because they are the only ones in their lives who they can do that to. The key is to not allow yourself to be a doormat, but also to allow your children to vent without putting them in their place.

Marc Abrams 08-02-2011 02:25 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
When I use to give workshops and lectures on parenting I would tell them the funny story about I.Q.

When your children are old enough to speak fluently, they think that your I.Q. is in the superior range. Your I.Q. very slowly decreases to the high average range as they are entering pre-adolescence. Your I.Q. then nose dives to the point that your teenage children are amazed that you can remember to breathe on your own without life support systems in place. Your I.Q. slowly begins to inch up so that by the mid twenties, you are smart again, but not as smart as they are. When they are around their thirties, they realize that you were really smart after all and that intelligence is too subjective to be that important a measure after all.....

Like Randy, I can now enjoy spending time with my two eldest children and I am a goofy, fun-loving grandfather who loves to give the grandchildren back after a nice ice-cream bonding experience (so that the parents can deal with the sugar high later :D ).

Parenting is quite the ride.... I wonder if we really knew what we were getting into how many of us would have had as many kids as we did?

Marc Abrams

Susan Dalton 08-02-2011 05:19 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Quote:

Randy Sexton wrote: (Post 289217)
Have faith in your kids, It will be okay.
Doc

Yes, I think it will. Thank you for your examples, Doc.

Susan Dalton 08-02-2011 05:21 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Quote:

Roger Flatley wrote: (Post 289309)
The key is to not allow yourself to be a doormat, but also to allow your children to vent without putting them in their place.

Knowing what to do and actually doing it aren't always the same for me. That's where aikido practice comes in...

Susan Dalton 08-02-2011 05:25 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Quote:

Marc Abrams wrote: (Post 289310)
Parenting is quite the ride.... I wonder if we really knew what we were getting into how many of us would have had as many kids as we did?

Marc Abrams

I'd still have mine but hopefully I'd have more humility.

Marc Abrams 08-02-2011 06:07 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Quote:

Susan Dalton wrote: (Post 289328)
I'd still have mine but hopefully I'd have more humility.

Susan:

We are lucky to have children ranging in age from 33 - 17 y/o. The patience, humility, judgement, etc. came with time & experience. The funny way of looking at it is that they burned us out and we became more mellow as a result....

Enjoy every moment, both good and bad, they go far too quickly.

Marc Abrams

Marie Noelle Fequiere 08-03-2011 12:37 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
I usually like your posts, Susan, but this one is a jewel.
I do not have kids of my own, but I remember the time when I was just like that.....
And because I remember, I hope your baby does not find out that you posted this before, lets say, another ten years....:D

Susan Dalton 08-03-2011 05:54 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Quote:

Marc Abrams wrote: (Post 289330)
Susan:
Enjoy every moment, both good and bad, they go far too quickly.

Alas, that I know. Just yesterday she was pedaling off on her tricycle.
I'm looking forward to grandchildren and the sugar payback you suggested.

Susan Dalton 08-03-2011 05:59 PM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Quote:

Marie Noelle Fequiere wrote: (Post 289388)
I usually like your posts, Susan, but this one is a jewel.
I do not have kids of my own, but I remember the time when I was just like that.....
And because I remember, I hope your baby does not find out that you posted this before, lets say, another ten years....:D

I know, Marie. I should probably have been more thought into that very thing before I submitted this column. My only hope is that she won't go near anything aikido because that's what I do.

Marie Noelle Fequiere 08-04-2011 09:24 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Chances are huge that she will do just that.
Accept your baby the way she is, wether she does Aikido or not. Aikido is a wonderful thing, but there are other wonderful things to do out there. As long as she find something beneficial to her that makes her happy, you should be happy to.
That's what she's teaching you right now.
And if you learn well, who knows, maybe one day, she might, I said might, come back to Aikido.
Let her find her own way, and be happy with that. :)

Susan Dalton 08-04-2011 11:56 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Quote:

Marie Noelle Fequiere wrote: (Post 289452)
Chances are huge that she will do just that.
Accept your baby the way she is, wether she does Aikido or not. Aikido is a wonderful thing, but there are other wonderful things to do out there. As long as she find something beneficial to her that makes her happy, you should be happy to.
That's what she's teaching you right now.
And if you learn well, who knows, maybe one day, she might, I said might, come back to Aikido.
Let her find her own way, and be happy with that. :)

Yeah, she decided aikido wasn't for her when she was about 7. I've never been the competitive athlete she is/was--her nature is really different from mine, and it's wonderful (usually). Even my son who did aikido for eighteen years or so isn't doing it now. I can't orchestrate my children's lives any more than I could have allowed my mother to orchestrate mine. Though I do wish she were still alive so I could apologize for a thing or two that I now see from her point-of-view!

Commander13CnC3 09-27-2011 08:21 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
Susan Sensei, great story!
Kept me busy for at least part of my high school day!
Too early in high school for me to understand, though, what's going/ gone through your daughters head though :P

Commander13CnC3 10-12-2011 07:12 AM

Re: A Difficult Application
 
The principles of Aikido always apply perfectly to our daily lives, a philosophy we should all apply to ourselves.

Glad to see you do it too, Susan Sensei!


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