The popular saying goes, “When it rains, it pours.” Figuratively speaking, it has pouring lately at our house. Although we always welcome actual rain, what I have been receiving lately was not moisture from the sky. It just seemed like everything that could happen, did happen, and happened at once. On top of everything, my mother and father were out of town on a “little” 11 day vacation, so while John was super busy at work, I had no one to help with the bombshells that kept coming my way. I have never handled stress like I know I should. It always seems to throw me for a loop, making me light-headed with a tendency to hyperventilate. I assure you that this is not a good look for anyone. Some people thrive under pressure, I just wilt. In fact, “high-strung” enters most people’s minds who know and would describe me. My husband refers to me as “Anxiety Girl,” as it is my personality to get easily overwhelmed and frustrated. I am well aware that this is a terrible fault of mine, and I am definitely working on focusing, calming down, and letting the worries go. I have 2 boys who are constantly watching my example and learning from me how to handle things. Although I do have certain qualities that I hope the boys learn from me, this is one instance that I sincerely hope they observe and follow John’s example. John is much more tactful, calm, and uses a quiet control in stressful situations. Despite my example, both of my boys do much better handling stress. Austin, my 13-year-old, says I need to do what Popsy does when he is a little stressed out. Popsy just loads up Mimi, and they take off for a spirited drive down some windy, curvy country roads. I explained to him that is the beauty of having your kids grown and out of the house. I might also mention that I don’t have a cute, zippy convertible like they do. Also, by the time I load up everyone and everything that accompanies everyone in my Jeep, I would be taking a lot of the stress with me.
The other day something else fell on my already overflowing plate. My mind immediately began racing in a million different directions, and I felt my eyes get hot with tears. Practicing slow breathing, I could hear the boys on the other side of the house talking, which was out of character for them. They are usually trying to outdo each other, however this time they were sitting down and actually communicating with each other. Since this just never happens, I got a little concerned. I was trying really hard not to let the boys know how badly things were really bothering me, but evidentially I wasn’t doing a very good job of it. I know that it is a mother’s job is to just handle certain things, and mothers usually handle them in silence. But, I had just reached my limit. My 10-year-old Jamison, came to me and said, “Austin and I have decided that you need to come with us immediately.” I noticed that my youngest son had his most serious and concerned look on his face. He tends to scrunch his eyebrows up forming forehead wrinkles which makes him look worried. This is a certain look that he saves for special circumstances when he wants complete, undivided attention. Austin was on my other side with his gangly teenage arms around my shoulders, “Mom the stress has gotten you. We noticed your eyes are going around and around in circles, and one time it looked like your head might spin around like an owl. This is serious. Come with us.”
They both proceeded to walk me out of the backdoor and straight to the freshly cut carpet grass in our fenced in backyard. They had me take off my shoes, shut my cell phone off, and sit cross legged in the grass. Austin and Jamison both sat down with me and said, “Now take a deep breath.” After they convinced me to take 3 or 4 of those deep cleansing breaths I began to feel much better, and rather little silly for getting so consumed by stress. Austin spoke up and with maturity said, “Mom, it is a beautiful day. The air smells wonderful. You have us. We have you.” Then Jamison piped in, “So, just what do you have to be worried about?”
“Sorry guys, but when it rains, it pours.” I found myself repeating to them as an excuse for my lack of situational coping. Austin squeezed my hand for emphasis and said. “You can hate the rain or you can dance it in.”
My boy’s point was well taken, and that day I learned a valuable lesson from 2 of my greatest teachers.
John and our youngest son, Jamison, went off on a true “father-son adventure.” The beautiful mountains of Colorado awaited them for some primitive camping. John has a “new to him” Toyota Landcruiser and the Landcruiser group he is a member of has an annual “100s in the Hills” primitive camping and trail run that John just had to be a part of this year. Austin wasn’t due to return from the Northside Baptist Church camp before John and Jamison left for their adventure, so he and I had to stay home. I really didn’t mind missing this trip too much since the idea of a couple of days without the convenience of a bathroom or hot running water honestly didn’t excite me. So I was making the noble sacrifice of missing the camping trip and staying home with Austin. After thinking about my choice, I was really looking forward to some significant one-on-one time with my oldest child.
My calm 9-year-old, Jamison, is always so methodical and steady in all that he attempts. Everything he does has a purpose and he takes great pains and infinite joy in the simple act of figuring things out. Because Jamison is so completely opposite of myself, I become engrossed in watching him figure out a plan, then seeing him go after things with his tools, and not stopping until he has success. Because of our differences, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have glossed over some of the creative instincts that my oldest son, 12-year-old Austin, comes by so naturally. He and I are of a similar mindset.
In my attempt to spend some time with my vivacious Austin, he and I went to see some movies and visited with my parents while we were on our own for a week. But most of all we had the opportunity to talk and really listen to one another. I talked to him about starting Middle School and recanting some of our memorable summer excursions. Since I have strong creative tendencies and have always enjoyed writing and creating stories, this time spent with Austin had made me wonder if my oldest is going to follow suit.
With the many trips back and forth to Victoria over the week that Austin and I made, we had a good time seeing who could create the most intriguing stories. With a sly grin and a glint in his eyes, Austin would amaze me with how detailed and factual he could be in telling a “secret agent story” right down to what caliber gun the agent used to the type of vintage 64 Ferrari GTO with Borrani wire wheels the agent drove. I can only deduce that his flair had to come from all the time he spent visiting with my father when Austin was younger. When those two got together it was either a stealthy game of hide-and-seek or lying on his bed with Popsy telling the most outlandish stories of “Jack Austin Bloom and the Beanstalk” or a vivid story about a suave and debonair “Jack Austin Bloom the Amazing Cat Burglar.” You can never tell what grandchildren will pick up from grandparents who appear to be going through their second childhood.
On one such occasion the giggles coming from the room Austin and Popsy had chosen to use for their storytelling adventures were louder and longer than usual. I thought that I had better go in and check it all out. As I came around the corner, it appeared that their storytelling had evolved into acting out the plot. Austin with an old ski mask, a black T-shirt, and a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles underwear was sneaking up on an unsuspecting Captain of the Detectives who was staked out sitting on the floor beside the foot of Austin’s bed. Just as I was about to leave them and return to the kitchen, Popsy sprung from the floor and said, “I’ve got you now Jack Austin Bloom. You will not elude me this time.” A roar of laughter came from deep down in Austin as he scrambled across the bed to his hiding place at the head of the bed that was protected by a high voltage electric fence (or as I refer to them, his bed pillows and rolled up comforter).
Jamison with his love of tools and construction and Austin with his creativity make for quite a package at home. Everything normally meshes well when we all get together and you don’t seem to notice your children’s individual talents as much as you do when you have them by themselves for a length of time. Hopefully Austin’s creativity and Jamison’s love of construction can be channeled in the right direction. Spending this time with Austin has made me aware of how much your kids pick up from you.
Austin can still remember every one of the stories that Popsy told him when he was much younger and he was being entertained. Jamison still clutches tight to the red toolbox loaded up with tools that Mimi and Popsy gave him. He uses the tools the way that Popsy taught him, knows the various tools names, and the proper uses for each. As I am writing this column he is outside tightening the screws on a bird feeder he constructed.
When John and Jamison returned from their “guy camping trip,” I was filled in on all of the details of their adventure. Jamison told me about the rain storms they had experienced in Colorado while in their tent and all of the various night sounds they heard. He even quietly informed me so earnestly, “Mom, you wouldn’t have like it very much.” Later in in the day I overheard Jamison filling Austin in on the experiences of the trip. As Jamison got to the part about all of the sounds that were outside the tent, I heard Austin chime in trying to contain a little laugh with, “maybe it was a bear with long, sharp teeth and huge claws that was outside your tent.” “Or,” he chuckled as he continued, “the sounds could have come from Bigfoot.” Next I heard Jamison reply, “Yeah, maybe it was. Maybe I was sleeping right next to Bigfoot; he could have been like 2 feet away.” As I appeared around the corner, I thought I would witnessed Austin’s sly grin and twinkle in his eyes, but much to my surprise it was Jamison’s expression instead. Perhaps I have two storytellers in the bunch, as Jamison hurried to tell me a drawn out story about seeing Bigfoot in the mountains of Colorado, and how he was very brave and “he could see his hairy, gross feet out of the tent window and he could even smell his stinky breath through the cold, night air.”
John and I are blessed to have two boys that are so very different and yet so alike. Our household never seems to get boring. What one child doesn’t think of you can rest assured that the other one will. We, as their parents, are going to have quite a job ahead of us. We need to provide Austin and Jamison with examples to follow and instill qualities that will serve them well in their future.
Lately there have been numerous television shows and books revolving around Southern culture, manners, and quirks. Whether you were born in the South or have just adopted the Southern culture as your own, the South is definitely unique. Knowing that each region has their individual differences, everyone can agree that the South is extremely colorful with Texas, in particular, having an extra heavy duty helping of good old Southern charm and manners.
I have several Northern friends (who I affectionately refer to as “my favorite Yankees”) that when they come to visit me in Texas always comment that even strangers are polite and overly courteous. With just a few words, mere strangers can melt your heart and bend your will into doing what they want. “Honey,” they will say, “I’m awful sorry, but would you let me go ahead of you in line. I just have a few items, and I am in such a hurry.” The imposing stranger would have the softest mannerisms and sweetest eyes, that something just tugs at your heartstrings and you would feel so bad saying no to them. “Um, Sure. No problem,” you hear yourself saying before you can stop yourself, completely bewildered about what just happened.
It has suddenly dawned on my 13 year old, Austin, that manners really do make the man. Since birth, my boys have been instructed to always say the requisite: “Yes Sir.” “No Sir.” “Yes Ma’am.” “No Ma’am.” Respect for elders, do not interrupt people while they are talking, table manners, look people in the eye, and have a firm handshake, are of a few of the manners that John and I vehemently try instill in Austin and his 10 year old brother, Jamison. My boys do these required social graces without even thinking about them, they are simply ingrained as a benefit of their strong South Texas heritage.
During Spring Break, Austin spent some time with his grandfather, Popsy. Austin and he ran some errands, and then he patiently sat in Popsy’s office reading some car magazines while he finished up some work. When they met up with me later, he recounted the day’s events. With a new found appreciation Austin explained how Popsy would meet people, shake their hands, and look them in the eyes.
“Mom, he would just immediately develop a relationship with them. It was like he was running for a political office. He was politic-in.”
“Politic-In?” I questioned him.
“You know, like he was a politician running for office.” Laughing Austin included, “But, he didn’t kiss any babies.”
Popsy overheard his explanation and saw a valuable opportunity to reinforce an important lesson about getting along and working with people. He explained to Austin that most importantly, it is having people want to work with you. Social graces and manners are needed and so important to promote yourself and open some previously shut doors.
Austin summed it up by adding, “Politic-in is working with people and getting the people to work with you.”
He then looked up at me with a honey-dripping smile and asked, “How do you learn how to politic then?” I informed him that some people have this gift naturally, some people have to practice and cultivate it, and sadly, some never grasp it.
“Well, if they don’t figure out how to politic, it must be hard to get things done.” Austin surmised.
Somehow it just seemed appropriate for me to say in a mock southern drawl, “Why, bless their hearts.”
Jamison is a natural at “politic-in.” My youngest son is easy-going, polite, and always seems to have things work out his way. He smiles a wide smile and will carry on a conversation with nearly everyone, especially if it is about his favorite subject, Legos. Since Austin’s sudden ‘politic-in’ realization he looks at the way Jamison gets things done with a new found respect.
Recently we had the opportunity to go to Brunch at the Victoria Country Club. Both of my children handled themselves very nicely. It was interesting to see them talk with people they ran into, smile, and introduce themselves. I noticed Austin was paying extra attention to what Jamison was doing and saying. After they finished talking with a woman, she kindly remarked about their “such nice manners.” Austin looked over to me with a smile as wide as the famous Chesshire cat, a twinkle in his bright blue eyes, and with a new bounce in his step, he went on his way.
So I decided