Saturday, November 6, 2010

Parenting 101

This past month we said goodbye to Grandpa Fred who fought a brave fight against ALS and died with such grace and beauty. This year I have seen the loss of both of my fathers and the loss is great.
The Michaelmas dragon bread. Gianluca got to experience his first Michealmas.
Gianluca tried his first sushi for Miku's birthday party this month. He liked it!
Gianluca's first jack-o-lantern. He did a great job!
Lucy and Mason with their respective pumpkins. Nice job!

This weekend has posed for me a new challenge in that it was the first time that Gianluca was knowingly invited to a party with alcohol. I appreciate that he was honest with me about what the specifics of the party were and I told him that I had to think about it. In the end, after consulting with about twenty different "experts" I told him no, of course. For me, the responsibility of caring for someone else's child is quite daunting. Gianluca's parents are trusting me to keep him safe, and this was the first time where I really feel like I was tested. Gianluca wasn't too happy about my answer but in the end he accepted it. I reminded him that he did not come here to party. He came here to learn about our culture and attend American school. He came here to expand his family.

As a reward for his honesty, my friends Andrea and Scott decided they would treat Gianluca and Mason to Go-cart racing and a meal at Red Robin. It was a gracious gesture and they too wanted Gianluca to know that they were proud of his honesty. I've been working on honesty with him, and just general opening up and sharing. He's a pretty quiet and private kind of person and sharing is not something he does readily. He has acknowledged this, but he also has made great efforts to share with me what he is feeling. I appreciate this because I know it is a struggle for him. He can articulate that back home he does not readily share with his parents, but that he'd like to work on it. He really loves his family. As he grows older it will serve him well to be able to express his feelings, so I think this is the great gift of his year abroad. I want him to also see that he can trust adults, that we have his best interests at heart, and that we really are interested in what is going on in his life.

One of the other AFSers calls me a "helicopter mom". If I am perceived as someone who pays attention and is right there in the middle of the action, then I'm okay with being a helicopter mom. I'd rather be right there, invested in my kids. They don't have to like it. It's not my job to be their best friend!

The other big issue that has come up is dating. While I am completely comfortable with Gianluca dating I realize that we have different values. Because I teach sexual education courses to adolescents I am acutely aware of the importance of strong values around sexuality. I want Gianluca to think about the girls that he is dating and value them. I want him to consider how his actions affect the girl he is dating. I want him to be gentle and loving and respectful. He says he wants to just date many girls and have no girlfriend per se. I'm not really sure that is true, because in actuality I think he is a really kind and considerate young man. But all of this has caused me to pause and ask him why he is really here in the US. If he is here to drink and go to parties, and to randomly date girls he will soon discover that I can't support that vision. It is my hope that by the end of the year his priorities will have shifted and he will have gleaned something far greater from his experience in the US and with our family. I am confident that will happen. Eight months from now when we look back he will see that what he got from his experience is far different than what he had originally anticipated.

I'm looking forward to the journey.

Oh, and hey I got a job!