Second Rite of Passage: This One’s for the Girls!

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Now, you can’t leave a kid with only tunes from troubled teen-hood, can you? You’ve got to bring her up to date with your current “poems, prayers, and promises” (well, in a manner of speaking).

The next activity up for sharing was “a desired anthem”- the song we wish we could have heard in our late teens. As we shared our picks, we realized we were not only singing them to Ginny, but also to ourselves. It was salve to the heart . . . . Here’s a few tidbits from a few songs. Imagine getting to hear these lyrics sung to you as a young woman:

“Her face is a map of the world, is a map of the world. And you can see she’s a beautiful girl, she’s a beautiful girl. And everything around her is a silver pool of light. The people who surround her feel the benefit of it. It makes you calm. She holds you captivated in her palm. Suddenly I see, this is what I want to be . . .” from Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall.

“In the easy silence that you make for me, it’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me, and the peaceful quiet you create for me, and the way you keep the world at bay for me . . . the way you keep the world at bay . . .” from Easy Silence by the Dixie Chicks.

“So sit down and write that letter, sign up and join the fight, sink in to all that matters, step out into the light . . . so many years from now long after we are gone these trees will spread their branches out and bless the dawn . . .” from Planting Trees by Andrew Peterson.

“Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces, calling out the best of who we are, and I want to add to the beauty to tell a better story; I want to shine with the light that’s burning up inside . . .” from Add to the Beauty by Sara Groves.

“This one’s for the girls who’ve ever had a broken heart who’ve wished upon a shooting star; you’re beautiful the way you are; this one’s for the girls who love without holding back, who dream with everything they have all around the world; this one’s for the girls,

yeah, this one’s for the girls . . .” from This One’s for the Girls by Martina McBride.

You get the picture . . . . what song would you have wanted to hear at age 18?

Second rite of passage: ample room for playfulness

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A taste of what I’m talking about, and then an explanation:

“Two patchwork quilts, a crazy quilt, a wedding ring quilt, and a wrapping-paper-wrapped quilt enter through the front door. Boxes, bags, ice chests, c.d.s follow.  “Let’s play last time’s Rite of Passage c.d.!”

A few Charleston strokes of the foot. Some old fashioned turns. Finger wagging in 1920’s style. “Put another nickel in, in the Nickelodeon, all I want to listen to is music, music, music.”

“This one is Sharon’s.” Someone says.

“Really, this one’s mine?”

“Yes!”

“Laughed as she came to my cradle. No, this child will be able. With love, with patience and with faith. She’ll make her way . . .”

“Don’t you remember?”

“I do now!”

Someone nods and points to Ginny. A few appropriately mimed moves, “I’m a challenge, to your balance.” A slide and a glide from Sharon and myself. A finish and final flourish of the song.

Then the raunch of a digerydoo, “oh, here it is!”

Dar Williams. “As Cool as I Am.” The long sung kitchen anthem of our tribe. Spoons are often microphones. Most of us know it. All of us know what it means. “You tried to make me doubt, to make me guess, tried to make me feel like a little less. Oh, I liked it when your soul was bared. I thought you knew how to be scared. And now it’s amazing what you did to make me stay. But truth is just like time, it catches up and it just keeps going . . .”

The miming ensues. . . an arm is flung to the sky; a sauntering back and forth, helplessly waiting for the outbound stage. . .

Goofy? Yes! Funny? Of course. Fun? Absolutely. Playful? Unabashedly! I have found that creating a rite of passage can be just as fun for the “adults” as it is for the burgeoning edges-and-fringes-of-adulthood woman . . . and here’s a little tip (ssshhhh, don’t tell!). The teenager can often be caught staring up smitten in helpless wonder at all of these grown ups having a good time! A pricelessly valuable lesson indeed! My daughter actually said to me, “Mom, why don’t you do this with your friends more???”

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Second rite of passage: considering the theme

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Ginny in her quilted “nest”.

Ginny’s first rite of passage was such a big hit on everyone’s radar (for the adults as well as the fledgling teen), that she and I were ready for round 2. Because the palette of colors was so rich in our first attempt (great food, great wisdom, great music), we thought, “why not broaden the spectrum”? Instead of a day retreat, we opted for a full weekend. More time for mentoring, more time for questions, more time for frolicking with the old fogies (I jest).

It was important when considering the thematic idea for this second rite of passage at age 18, that I look at current life circumstances and areas of “itching” importance for Ginny. Living in community was a biggie. She was considering moving in with a team of 5 other twenty-somethings (she being the only teenager) to volunteer on the south side of Chicago. So “community” was a consideration, but so could have been “living artfully” or “being the gift others open up”.

As I alluded to in an earlier post, in the end, we opted for “The Community Nest”. This one could bring out great lessons in “playing well with others” as well as incorporating fun aviary images such as “nesting”, “flying”, and “coming home”. . . . More twigs and feathers upcoming in the next post!

Brainstorming: the creative scatterings of imagination

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

In a few weeks I will share the gorgeous tale of a second rite of passage- one for my girl at age 18. The whole thing was a scrumptiously rich smorgasbord plated with small secret plans and large platters of imagination, but like all good things, it took some healthy helpings of daydreaming. Carving out enough space to let the mind wander and meander is the stuff “genius” is made of. How can a person think outside of the box, if he or she doesn’t even know (s)he’s in one? I say, bust out the cardboard sides, lay the corrugation to waste and let the dreams scatter! That’s what I did when brainstorming how to help my daughter traipse across this second bridge to adulthood.

I was actually in an airport with a friend when the broiling creative stew for this event starting bubbling. I believe the phrase “thinking out of the cage” might be more appropriate as bird-themed images were the ones that kept appearing.

“What kind of wisdom can be shared with a “fledgling” adult, who is gently being nudged out of the nest?” I said . . .

“Hmmm . . .  I’m now thinking of images sprinkled around the house of spreading wings and attempting flight . . .” my friend said.

“What if we created a weekend where there was ‘nesting’, ‘taking flight’, and ‘journeying home’?” I said.

“What if we actually made her a nest!” my friend said.

You get the picture. It may sound a little “bird-brained” at first, but it did turn out to be an amazing event. I’ll share it with you in upcoming posts. But think about it. Today, whether building a rite of passage or a gateway to your own future, what tributaries can you follow that trickle, flow, or gush past your own house of cardboard?

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

Your child: a thank you assessment

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Yesterday, our household celebrated two intricately tied events: my son’s 19th birthday and Mother’s Day. It was a chance to both honor the child brought into the world on that fine May afternoon (all nine and some odd pounds of him) and the one that hefted that oversized boy around in the primordial stew of embryo en utero (sounds fancy and French, doesn’t it?)

Such a stars-aligned event brought about another unique opportunity: to make a fairly comprehensive list of appreciations for the united act of motherhood and childhood. To take 15 minutes or so out to carve a personal thank-you note on the stationary of my computer was a worthwhile experience. I find that when creating a list of appreciations, the more detailed the better. Small is beautiful (think petit fours or diamond earrings). Little specifics make the gratitude both palatable and real. Here’s a few of mine. What are yours?

gratitudes when contemplating motherhood:

receiving texts that simply say, “love you, mama. good night.”

my son snuggling up closer to me during a movie because, “it might be a bit scary for you, mom”

my daughter alluding to our favorite children’s book character, Paddinton Bear in a text message sent from her dorm room

on contemplating my son, John, I’m grateful for:

hearing him say, “I have been craving doing math lately” as he responded to a middle school kid’s need to go to him as a tutor for school

paying consistently for the vegetables on our grocery list since he’s procured a job

wanting to catch up with me over a cup of coffee on a fairly regular basis

Simple things . . . but I feel better already recounting them. It’s sort of like a piece of chocolate on my pillow to welcome me back to someplace special . . . .

Held: a quiet presence

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When we want to support our teen or adolescent, the three-foot wide air of independence they prefer to create as pillow around themselves doesn’t always invite the gifts of assistance and conversation we want to offer them. Rather, it creates more of a bounce house effect where we find ourselves propelled in the other direction, the closer we try to get to them. Transition is hard, and we want to honor our children’s desires for “self-actualization” as well as assist in those areas that feel far far away from any breath of that lofty idea.

The world “held” has come into my sphere over the past couple of years, and what that has come to mean to me is merely, “holding with loving intention.” I know that could sound a bit “woo-woo”, but really, when you focus on a person, child or otherwise, with confidence and love, you give off a certain quality and thickness of air as well. I interpret this space as “welcome”, “trust”, “availability”, “acceptance”. And in my experience (and believe me, there are exceptions), those moments of “holding” tend to draw in, rather than push away. They create a resting pillow rather than a bounce house.

Being “held” can be in itself the loving gift placed on their pillows or tucked into their bedsheets. It doesn’t take the place of meaningful and essential conversation, but it does blanket the spaces in-between with a warmth that oftentimes they can feel during these thresholds of their lives. . . .

Boys to men: “enough is as good as a feast”

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Sometimes a child is more ready for a small, satisfying meal than a banquet. This was true of my son at 18. A meaningful afternoon seemed a more fitting tribute to his growth and the contributions of his mentors, than a weekend away. By creating an event within the parameters of a limited time frame, it was important to think of how to pack those few hours with meaning and affirmation.

First came the guest list. By this time in his life, my son had connected with important people that were from both genders. I thought out of the box (of my usual gender specific rites of passage) and decided to choose men and women. Because he knew about the event, I checked in with him on this one, and he approved.

“What would make a rich impact at this time in his life?” I thought. What came to mind was for these loving and accomplished people to give him two things: an object that symbolizes transition, and a thought or two about who John is now and who they see him becoming. The wonderful and the wildly adventurous showed up: a carabiner that hooked meaning and connection on the side of a cliff for his step-dad and mentor, a bark covered journal brought lovingly from a friend’s native New Zealand to record John’s thoughts, an empty notebook to write down any question at this time in his life to share with a ready and willing mentor/friend, a savored movie that opened up the worlds of meaningful conversation and art and the hope it could do this for my son, too.

And that’s really all it takes. Time. Memory. Meaning. And an extension of ourselves. These are all it takes to set the table for another person’s soul.