The End of Parenting As I Know It

So, it happened. My youngest son just graduated from high school. I didn’t think this would be a hard day for me. I mean, my older son graduated three years ago. I’ve been there, done that. Or so I thought.

Noah graduating on June 4 2017

Noah received his diploma from Mr. Marcus, his elementary school principal and now assistant principal at Sharon High School.

I didn’t expect to tear up upon seeing so many familiar faces that I haven’t seen in 12 years: All those parents and students that I’ve known since Noah started kindergarten. Some of the parents I barely recognized as the hair color has changed or the hair is no longer. Wrinkles have set in. Time has taken its toll. The students, on the other hand, are mini-adults, about to start their new journeys. Yet, beneath the wide smiles and bright eyes, I sensed a bit of fear as leaving a tight-knit community and making your own way in the world is well, scary.

As I sat through the graduation, I realized that I too was feeling fearful of the unknown. Noah’s graduation didn’t just mark an end of an era for him.

It is the end for me. It is the end of parenting as I know it. And that scares the crap out of me.

Where Have My 40s Gone?

Ethan and NoahLast week I asked my husband in all sincerity: “Where have my 40s gone?” As my 50th birthday fast-approaches, it occurred to me that this decade has flown by at light speed. It seems like just yesterday that I turned 40 and dropped Noah off for his first day of 3rd grade. He answered without missing a beat: “You were raising your boys, driving to dance classes, on the road with Noah, going to improv shows. You were being a mom.”

Yes, I was. I mean, I am. Right? But wait. Yesterday, as I sat there watching the graduation ceremony, the past 21 years of collective parenting for my boys sort of flew by me at warped speed. At times I teared up and couldn’t even pay attention. And then, at the end of the ceremony, as I hugged my son and congratulated his friends and the other parents, it hit me square across the face: I just graduated too. I’ve done my job. It’s time to move on. Huh?

I get it, you never really move on from being a mom. But yet, you do. Your parenting role

Me and my two boys

21 years in the making right here

changes the second your youngest child graduates from high school. You might think it changes when your oldest graduates and you creep closer to the empty-nest stage. But that’s not the case. It really changes when you recognize that the curtain has closed on the last two decades of your life. You’ve done the best you can do to raise your children and lead by example. Now it’s their turn to make their mark on the world. Sure, you may be there to offer guidance, pay tuition bills and even let them move back into your basement when they can’t afford to live on their own (or can’t get a job). Yet, it’s not the same.

What Happens Now?

When your youngest child graduates high school, not only is it his turn to craft a new life. It’s your turn, too.

Yup, all those speeches delivered yesterday drilled home the importance of living an authentic life and following your own path. But what happens when your path as a mom just ends and so abruptly at that? Why didn’t anyone make a speech about this? Oh yeah, graduation is not about the parents, it’s about the kids. Or so I thought. Until it became about me too. And then I thought, “I’m being selfish.”

Noah's high school graduation

Noah about to graduate Sharon High, June 4, 2017

Then this occurred to me: I’ve spent the past 21 years of my life wrapped up in my boys’ lives, intertwined so tightly in their daily activities that there was no time to be selfish. So, now I’m feeling guilty as nothing is ever supposed to be about me. At least that’s what I thought.

But what about NOW? Is it finally ok to be a bit selfish? Isn’t the graduation of your youngest child as much about you as it is about him? I know this is turning the whole graduation life cycle event upside-down and inside-out. But, I have to be honest: I am deeply pondering where I go from here. And this can’t be much different from what’s running through my son’s head right now.

Graduating and Moving On

Moving on for me isn’t just a matter of downsizing and moving closer to the city (I did this last year). It’s a matter of emotionally figuring out how to live life on my own two feet, without my children. Huh? Just like they need to learn how to live outside the nest, I need to navigate life in an empty-nest. At the outset, this is exciting and I can’t wait to travel more, work on projects around the house, hang out with friends, go to museums, and navigate a new professional path.

Yet, I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit the fact that I just don’t know what to do next.  

For the past 20 years I have run my own small businesses: First a freelance writing business, then a yoga studio, and now Pretzel Kids along with The Write Move content marketing business. I do it all from the mother ship, aka my house. This was a great way to balance working while raising my boys. But now the mother ship is empty and lonely. I’m not sure whether I want to continue working solo without anyone home to interrupt me or ask for a ride. I also don’t know what else to do. I could get a job, but I’m not sure I want to give up my work flexibility and ability to travel at the drop of a hat. Secretly (and now the cat’s out of the bag), I also want to be available at a moment’s notice to help out my boys – even if it’s only once a month. I’ve toyed with starting yet another business. I have several ideas that have been floating around in my head for the past few years and I’ve had no time to execute on them. But, then I think better of this as I’m busy enough with my other two businesses. On another note, maybe I’ll use this empty space to get in kick-ass physical shape, meditate an hour a day. Or, maybe not.

Then it struck me: Parents have to forge a new path, just like their kids. And, it’s not selfish to think graduation marks our own personal milestones. We too have to figure out where we’re headed and follow our own internal compass – that is if we can figure out how it works. 

 

 

Categories: being a mother, challenges, College, get real, growing up, letting go, mother, musings, parenting, Philosophy, raising boys, raising sons, That's Life!, Truth | 10 Comments

When Your Child Decides He May Not Go to College

This is the time of year when kids go back to school and parents post fabulous Facebook photos of their children in front of the house or at the bus stop. I’ve posted these photos before as well. But this year I didn’t.

Ethan, my oldest son, started his junior year of college and moved into his first apartment off campus. I opted to let him mark the transition without a lot of fanfare. And, Noah, a high school senior, is choosing not to complete 12th grade in the traditional way.

He’s not going back to high school.

Angel2

Noah at age 12

This wasn’t an easy decision but it’s what he wanted to do. I didn’t feel a photo was appropriate for him either. For Noah, this year is a big deal – photo or no photo – and besides not joining his friends at high school, he may not apply to college. Noah is a trainee at Boston Ballet. It’s a two-year program, although many of the dancers leave at the end of this year to join professional ballet companies around the world. It’s a huge stepping stone for Noah and he was confronted with an important choice: College or a ballet career? He is leaning toward ballet.

While Noah makes his decision, I sit here day after day tossing away college application invitations from the likes of UCLA and USC on the West Coast to Northeast powerhouses like Harvard, Brown, Dartmouth and Princeton. Each time an application invitation arrives, I show it to Noah. With a knowing look, I toss them in the trash (a few I save just for the memories). It’s a look of:

“You’ve worked hard, achieved academic success and now it’s time to follow your passion.”

Face to Face with Parent Choices

Once upon a time I was a young mother and made the choice to move to a town with a high-ranked public school system – the same choice countless parents make all over the nation. Would I do it all over again? Maybe. But if I knew then what I know now, I may have stayed where I was as my children both had passion and drive. They would have excelled ANYWHERE. Instead, the academic environment in our high school is intense. You’re probably familiar with this story in many high schools: Kids study hours upon hours to get the best grades, take as many AP courses as possible and even cheat their way to the top – all to get into the best colleges so they can basically repeat this cycle all over again. I get it: It’s a dog eat dog world out there. But through my own children, I know this isn’t necessary, nor is it the only way to succeed in your career or life. There are other choices, albeit not as conventional.

Noah, you see, chose to stay in high school for his junior year and excelled in all of his honors and AP courses. And now that he’s top-ranked in his top-ranked high school, he may be setting aside a college degree to pursue his passion: Ballet. Some would say he worked hard in high school for nothing. But I say: He worked hard for the right reasons and not because his parents pushed him. Or because he felt peer pressure. Or because he had to get these grades so he could get into the best college.

He did it for himself. And it makes the whole high school experience that much better.

Now, some parents have said to me:

“Really, he may not go to college? What about all he achieved in high school? Are you sure that’s a wise move?” My answers: #1: “Yup, he may not go to college.” #2: “He worked hard to learn.” #3: “Following your passion and pouring that same academic drive into your dream career is the wisest thing any high school teen can possibly do.”

That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes think:

“Should he just fill out a few college applications and see what happens?”

But I know that this is parental peer pressure kicking in. This is what kids usually do at this age. It’s also what raising children in a highly competitive academic environment does. It points kids and parents in one direction: This way to college.

 

Encourage Passion

I would perhaps feel differently about my son if he had no other plans for the foreseeable future. But this isn’t the case. And this leads me to consider how stressful the high school environment is for teenagers today. In fact, kids are so busy jockeying to get into the best colleges that many don’t have time to pursue a passion. I realize this is just my opinion, but based on what I saw happening with my kids’ friends, many teenagers cram in as many activities as they can as this makes them seem well-rounded (and of course there are about 10 spots on the Common Application to list activities and who wants to leave blanks?) In many cases, going straight to college is the right answer. But not always. What would happen if every one of these kids decided to follow ONE passion wholeheartedly while in high school? I don’t know the answer to this but it might make the high school years less stressful and more enjoyable. It might also create new pathways and opportunities.

This is the Time

So, as this back-to-school season kicks into high gear, I invite you all to consider the potential your children have and help them discover their passions. This might change their course entirely. It might not. But, leaving the door wide open will allow your teenager to cross the threshold on his own and discover what’s on the other side.

About the author: Robyn Parets is a personal finance and business writer based in Boston. A former writer for Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) and NerdWallet, Robyn is also the founder and owner of Pretzel Kids®, a children’s fitness brand and online training course. You can find her on Twitter @RobynParets, follow her musings at Away From Om, or reach her via email at robynparets@gmail.com

Categories: being a mother, challenges, College, growing up, letting go, mother, musings, parenting, Philosophy, raising boys, raising sons, That's Life!, Truth, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The Ganesh in the Room

If you teach yoga, you’re probably familiar with the phenomenon of the yoga audition. And if you don’t teach yoga, this may sound a bit disconcerting. But it’s a “thing” and yes, it flies in the face of what yoga is supposed to be all about in more ways than I have room to write about.

A friend of mine recently “auditioned” to teach yoga at a popular upscale fitness center in a major city. Her story is about as close as I’ll get to being a fly on the wall as I’ll never go to one of these cattle call auditions myself. She had three to five minutes to give it her best shot or rather, performance. She also had to participate as a student in everyone else’s auditions as well. This was part of the deal.

Am I alone in thinking that this is a messed-up way to find the most skilled yoga instructors? To that end, what other industry subjects job candidates to sit through other prospective employee interviews? But this is indicative of how upside-down the yoga industry has become. Pun intended.

I know a lot of professional actors and auditioning is a necessity if they want to land a role. But think about it: Yoga teaching is not acting, although it’s helpful to keep students engaged and entertained. It’s teaching.

What’s going on here? How did teaching yoga become another ego-filled offshoot of the entertainment industry?

I’m not just talking about the ludicrous way yoga teachers have to strut their stuff to land a teaching gig. I’m talking about the whole kit and caboodle. The entire yoga industry has run amuck and I’m not afraid to say so.

Let’s take a closer look at the general state of teaching yoga, keeping in mind this isn’t how we all roll:

  • Yoga teachers are expected to work their way up to prime teaching slots at coveted studios. This means “volunteering” aka working at the reception desk, sweeping floors, cleaning up props and more. For free. If you’re a studio owner you may balk at this saying that your studio offers “work-study” – meaning your volunteer labor can take classes in exchange for work. This isn’t entirely awful, if you are made of money or perhaps a college student who wants to take a couple of classes a week as a hobby. But, barring those circumstances, if you’re aspiring to teach yoga, why not “volunteer” your services at a needy charitable organization versus a for-profit yoga studio? And to studio owners: I suggest paying wannabe teachers, even at minimum wage. This way they can decide how to spend their discretionary income.

A starting out yoga teacher is akin to a starving actor. It’s time the industry stops preying on these newbies.

  • A skilled yoga teacher isn’t necessarily a marketing maven. Yet, owners of studios, gyms and fitness locales can’t seem to differentiate between the two. Either that or they just don’t care.

 

Those with the most class groupies, the highest numbers of “followers” on Instagram and Twitter, as well as thousands of Facebook friends, often win by filling their classes. Meanwhile, the best teachers out there – the ones who actually know their stuff and would never think of posting Instagram pictures in a one-handed upside-down pose – don’t get hired because they can’t attract swarms of students and it doesn’t make financial sense for the studio. I get it. But how do we reconcile it when students leave classes wondering how they too can achieve a one-handed upside-down pose or lose weight to fit into those skinny yoga pants?

 

  • 200-hour and 300-hour teacher training courses have proliferated – some good, some bad, some ugly. As a result, our industry continues to spit out teachers who practice their most impressive poses in order to audition for menial wage teaching jobs. Oh, did I mention that the yoga industry is unregulated so the onus rests on students to figure out where to go to earn a quality education that will prepare them to teach this ancient healing practice as well as land teaching jobs.

 

  • Then of course there is the issue of whether yoga class students can sort out the riff from the raff in a regular class setting. I don’t think so, at least not when you’re new to yoga. Just think about it: If you’re a new student who attends your first class at studio XYZ and the teacher offers a kick asana workout and you’re looking for a new fitness routine, you may think that this is the be all and end all of yoga.

 

Since When Is Teaching Yoga Like Starring in a Broadway Show?

Once you’re done mulling over the above points, let’s pause for a moment and talk about the Ganesh in the room, er yoga studio.

Yoga has become all about the ego. Some may even go so far as to say that modern day yoga actually promotes the ego. I know, it’s tough to swallow. Yoga teachers and studios thrive off having the biggest classes, most popular workshops, and teacher trainings with waiting lists. Some teachers walk around with headsets on because without these contraptions, no one can hear them say, “Leave your egos at the door.” You may argue that you need a headset because your classes are too crowded. But, I say to that: time to limit class sizes. This way you can actually see all the students in the room and do your job: Teach them instead of shouting poses and commands into a microphone.

But this is a tough one as yoga teachers often earn their income based on the numbers of students that attend their classes. Students might as well walk in the door holding up dollar signs. Teachers need to be popular. It’s part of being successful in this industry. It feeds the ego, not unlike getting a lead role in a Broadway show or movie.

It’s enough to make your head spin as this ego trip is about as far away from yoga as we can get.

Stepping Down from the Soapbox

This may be ruffling some feathers out there. But I speak from experience as I was part of this circus act until recently. I ran a bustling yoga studio for 10 plus years. I offered a 200-hour teacher training course for eight years, hosted scores of workshops featuring nationally known instructors, led retreats, guest taught at prominent resorts, and hired dozens of teachers  – alas never any “volunteers” to sweep the floor.

However, I am opting not to run my studio anymore by choice. It was time to step off the hamster wheel as I didn’t like what was going on in the industry around me. I still teach two classes a week out of my space but I no longer run a studio. There’s a big difference.

I have moved onto other things, yet I love yoga and consider my practice a vital part of my life. To that end, I’m now focusing on expanding my online kids’ yoga teacher training business, Pretzel Kids. I’ve also gone back to writing and my journalism roots.

What’s to Come of the Yoga Biz?

Meanwhile, other studios and teachers – and there are some darned good ones everywhere – are still fighting to succeed and to do so, they need to retain students, have an audience, and market like crazy. Doesn’t sound much different than any other industry, right? Yoga teachers and studio owners deserve to earn a living too, right?

Trust me, I understand and support this. But, here’s where the buck stops: Yoga is VERY different from other industries. Other businesses, you see, aren’t all about teaching others to drop the ego. If we could just figure out a way around the ego, there would be no issue. But, here’s the contradiction: If we really wanted to banish the ego, we’d get rid of conventions, festivals, podcasts, posing on Instagram, lululemon, and the list goes on. What should we do? Close down all the studios? Stop teaching? Stop attending classes, workshops, yoga events? Make a mass exodus and turn to other careers and income streams? It’s a big dilemma. The industry is changing and it’s up to you to decide if you want to be part of it and how.

Find Balance

Here’s an idea. Maybe it’s time to stop and find balance – in the name of yoga. Everyone’s idea of balance is different. Find out what works for you and try not to get caught up in the yoga rat race. For me, I focused on developing the Pretzel Kids online yoga training course. It seemed the right time to move this exceptional course online for a low price point. This way aspiring yogis and non-yogis alike can move their teaching aspirations in another direction – take it to the kids and out of the adult yoga studio. Pretzel Kids helps those taking the course learn how to teach children’s yoga and market classes where kids congregate: schools, camps, daycare centers and more. I resisted the online yoga world for a long time, but ultimately, this was the best way for me to reach masses of adults worldwide who want to teach a quality kids yoga curriculum. This experience has taught me that you can find balance by teaching yoga in an ego-free way with the help of modern technology and tools.

Find Truth

Maybe the yoga community should just be honest. Isn’t truth a big part of yoga? Let’s all fess up: This industry is where it is today because, generally speaking, looks and appearances have become more important to yoga than the practice itself. The ego is winning. But you can change this – for yourself at least.

So what to do? There’s no one answer but here’s a good start: Try spending some time alone on your mat. Move any way you want to. Get quiet. Wear pajamas. Learn not to care about who is teaching you, who is listening, and what studio you go to. Be your own teacher. Be creative and figure out new ways to hone your skills.

As a yoga teacher and yogini, my wakeup call came when I took time off from teaching adult yoga classes and taught myself. Give it a try. The Ganesh in the room will appreciate it.

Robyn Parets is a journalist, business writer and retired yoga studio owner based in Boston. A former writer for Investor’s Business Daily and NerdWallet, Robyn is also the founder and owner of Pretzel Kids (http://www.pretzelkids.com), a children’s yoga brand and online teacher training course. You can follow her on Twitter @RobynParets or @Pretzelkids, and keep up with her musings on her blog at http://www.awayfromom.net.

Categories: business of yoga, challenges, Etcetera, get real, letting go, musings, Philosophy, That's Life!, Truth, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Summer of Tough Love: 5 Things I Learned

After months of planning, our August trip to Europe, a first for our family, was coming together. Until it unraveled on the day I was supposed to depart. Completely.

No trip. An injured son. A critically ill dog. And my father-in-law Paul passed away. Not the summer we had anticipated. Yet this was what we got.

At about this time, you might be feeling bad for my family. Don’t. This was how things were meant to be. This summer tested my ability to change and accept things that I can’t do anything about. I learned more than I could have imagined and I thank Paul for his part in this. Here are my summer takeaways:

  1. Be grateful – every minute of every hour of every day. You are on this earth for a limited time. You’ve got one shot. Make the most of it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you are unhappy in a relationship, leave. If you live in the country but always felt more like a city gal, move. If you love your family, hold them tight and spend more quality time together. Be outdoors. Take long walks. Eat healthy food. Love big.
  2. Trust – that your difficulties help lead you to clarity. I dealt with heartache, pain and monumental stuff this summer – all at once. But, this forced my family to come together. Not only that, it caused me to pause, re-evaluate my priorities and make some tough decisions. I may have ultimately made these same decisions, but not this quickly.
  3. Have faith  – that things happen for a reason, usually. Sometimes this won’t be apparent immediately and other times you’ll know the reason right off the bat.
  • Many examples of this occurred this summer. Here are a couple: I was supposed to be in Europe August 6-23. Joel arrived in London one day earlier, on August 5. We got the call that Paul was going on life support in California on August 6. As stressful and expensive as it was, Joel was able to immediately book tickets from London to LA, and I never got on a plane to Europe. I booked a flight to LA instead. We arrived hours before Paul passed away, and Joel got to say goodbye to his dad. Joel had a feeling that his father, who had been ill for more than a year, would pass away during our trip or right before. He was right (listen to your gut: another blog post, another time.) But, here’s the kicker: This was the first time since I’ve known my husband that he blocked out two and a half solid weeks for a vacation. He parceled out his work, had no projects pending. Didn’t even take a computer with him. Now he had two weeks with his slate clear to say goodbye to his father, spend time with his mother and deal with his grief.
  • The day after Paul died, I had a bit of a meltdown under all the stress. I decided to book a flight home two days after the funeral even though Joel wanted to stay in California longer. I just felt a strong feeling that I needed to get home. Ethan picked me up at the airport. The dog was in the car and she wasn’t acting like herself. She hadn’t eaten all day and was lethargic. I took one look at her and knew something was wrong. The next morning, I took her to the vet and found out she had severe anemia. The vet told me he’d call the next morning with her test results. Three hours after I got home, the dog looked worse. I made a gut decision to take her to the animal hospital. She was diagnosed with immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), a critical and rapid-onset autoimmune disease of the red blood cells and marrow. She was hanging on for her life. Nine days and two blood transfusions later, Phoebe came home. We’re giving her six meds, including three powerful immune suppressants. She is weak and has a long road to recovery ahead of her, but she is improving and getting stronger daily. If I didn’t come home that day, my dog would have died. I am sure of it. And, if we had gone to Europe and the dog was in boarding, she would have died. I am sure of this too. I believe that Paul passed away at a time when Joel could be fully present and when we could be home in time to save Phoebe’s life.

4. Believe – that it’s ok if you don’t understand why things happen all the time. Choose to see the good and know that your situation is meant to point you in a direction that you never would have taken otherwise. Here’s an example:

  • Noah was looking forward to focusing on his dance training this summer at Boston Ballet. But he broke his ankle in July and instead had to sit out for the better part of the training. He was going to need surgery to remove the broken bone and we scheduled this for the end of August. With his type of break, he could walk – just not dance. So, this way (or so we thought), he could go on the trip to Europe and have surgery after that. Instead, he ended up not dancing, not going to Europe and waiting all summer for surgery. He also grew – a lot. I am convinced he needed a break, his body needed a break. Not only this, he is more determined and focused now than ever before. He will return to Boston Ballet in a few weeks and I have a feeling he will dance with renewed energy, focus and commitment. I also know that this injury will open new doors for him. I’ll just have to wait for those doors to appear so he can open them.

5. Change – is the only constant. Know that there are some things you can control and others you can’t. Know the difference. I learned this big time this summer.

Oh, tomorrow is September 1. If you live in New England, it’s the unofficial start of fall. Hallelujah.

Categories: being a mother, challenges, Etcetera, get real, letting go, musings, Summer, That's Life!, Truth, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

And One Day It Happened……

About a month ago, I was talking to my oldest son, Ethan, on the phone. He was nearing the end of his freshman year at Northeastern University as a journalism and film studies major. Usually our conversations consisted of something like this:

Me: How are you?

Ethan: Fine

Me: What’s going on?

Ethan: Not much. Same old: school, improv

Me: Do you think we can get together soon for dinner? I’ll be in town next Wednesday.

Ethan: Maybe. I’m pretty busy. Can I let you know next week?

Me: Sure. Well, just called to say ‘hello’. Talk soon?

Ethan: Sure. Bye mom.

But this particular conversation was different. Ethan was working on a particularly challenging story assignment. We spent about half an hour discussing the story, his angle, his interviews, how difficult it was to find the right people to talk to, and how he came up with his idea to begin with. THEN, wait for it……he actually listened to my advice. Now, granted, I am a journalist and sometimes actually know what I’m talking about. But still, this was MONUMENTAL. And, then….we had a two-way conversation about a common interest.

Flash forward to two weeks ago: Ethan was about to leave for a five-week journalism semester in Spain. I was leaving the house before he would be picked up for the airport, so we went through his check-list to make sure he had everything for the trip. As this happened, my young adult college journalism life flashed before me. I was in Spain this exact time my freshman year in college and I did a similar journalism semester in London as well (albeit with typewriters and no cell phones). I said goodbye to Ethan and saw his eyes welling up with tears. He gave me a big hug and then, a second hug. I told him how proud I was of him and he promised we’d talk via Face Time and chat via instant messenger (which we’ve done several times). I said goodbye as I left the house, holding back my own tears of pride.

Since Ethan has been in Spain, he has started his own blog, written his first article for the NU Journalism Abroad news site, (a brilliant story on the controversy surrounding an abandoned bullfighting ring — you should all read it!) and is now en route from Barcelona to Madrid where he will work on more stories and blog posts. Since he’s been gone, we’ve talked about his stories and blog posts as if we were peers.

And then it hit me: My son is an adult.

Not a young teenager who has some mature thoughts and seems like an adult sometimes. He’s a real, bona-fide adult. How the hell did that happen? Yes, he’s 19 years old and at some point I knew he’d be a grownup. But, like most parents, there comes a time when it hits us smack in face. That time has arrived.

As parents, we try to raise our children in the best way possible. In our family that meant, above all else, teaching our kids how to make wise choices, pursue their passions, be kind to others, and engage with the world. I understood that my kids may grow up to be like their parents, or turn out to be nothing like us.

But when you see yourself in your adult children, even a little bit, it’s both eerie and enlightening.

Ethan, you see, did his best to defy everything that I was about. Yoga and health food topped the list. Although there were likely other reasons for his aversion to yoga and vegetables, I think he wanted nothing to do with my choices because he didn’t want to be like his mother. I’m sure you can all relate. I mean who wants to be just like their mother, especially teenage boys?

Up until Ethan was about nine years old, I was a full-time freelance journalist. He was young so I doubt he remembers much about what I was doing locked in my office writing. What hits more close to home for him is my second “career”: a yoga studio owner. This consumed most nights and weekends of his childhood. So, reflecting back on this (and the fact that he probably thought it was a little strange that his mom also practiced and taught yoga while his friends’ moms were lawyers, bankers, and doctors), it seems well, a bit normal, that he would steer clear of my career and interests.

This, my friends, makes it all the most fascinating to me that my son is choosing my other passion as a possible career: writing. He didn’t witness me working in a newsroom or burning the midnight oil writing stories on deadline (I did most of this before he was born). I never pressured him to go this route. Yet here he is. And here’s the uncanny coincidence: As I watched Ethan make choices for himself, I started making new career choices as well. Our discussions about writing caused me to pause and realize that I truly missed writing. So, as Ethan discovers his path, I am creating a new chapter for myself.

Could it be that I am following in my son’s footsteps?

Categories: being a mother, College, Etcetera, get real, growing up, journalism, letting go, mother, musings, On the Road, parenting, Philosophy, raising boys, raising sons, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Post No.3 — Everyone’s Favorite Birthday Boy

Raw honesty through words. A rare talent. Give it a read……

Ethan Parets

I’ve never been the biggest on the whole birthday thing. I don’t usually ask for tons of things or want huge parties thrown. What I usually want is to just hang out with my friends and have fun. For the first time in my life, my birthday was to be spent abroad, in a country with a language  of which my comprehension level is (on a good day) maybe equal to that of a Spanish fourth grader, with 20 or so people I have known for three days. Not my ideal birthday, and that was tough for me.

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Post No.2 — Space Log 13.5.15

Well, another blogger in the family who is a brilliant wordsmith! Here’s my witty son’s humorous blog post on his first 48 hours in Spain (and plane!) And it’s his 19th birthday today so give it a read. Well worth it!

Ethan Parets

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To say that the last 48 hours have been exhausting would be a gross under-exaggeration. But here’s essentially how they went:

Monday 2 p.m.: Arrive at Logan International. Alright I’m breathing, very nervous, but OK.

Monday 3:30 p.m.: Seated at the gate. Now I need some food before relegated to a metal tube flying 500 miles per hour over the Atlantic. I guess Sbarro will do.

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Careening Down a Dangerous Path

So, I’m perusing through my Facebook feed the other day and I see this post:

“Sometime soon, we may reach a point where half the women in America will be teaching yoga to the other half…”

An interesting quip from a man I worked with at a California newspaper in the early 90’s.  To my knowledge, he’s a PR executive and not a yoga teacher. Hmmm, even non-yogis realize things are out of control and there’s no end in sight.

I touched on this in late 2013 when I wrote an article that evoked much discussion in the yoga community. My honest reflection resonated with many, ticked off some, and got people thinking.

Icicles on studioSo, here I am watching the snow fall outside my window in Massachusetts. It’s been about two years since I traveled to 40 cities in the US and Canada in the course of 15 months. I got a realistic pulse of the yoga landscape in America and hit classes in strip malls, YMCAs, intimate settings, large chain studios, gyms, and pretty much every place in-between. When I returned home, I reassessed where I wanted to go with my studio, Breathe Joy Yoga, which sits behind my house in the woods.  After witnessing the state of the yoga industry, I knew it was time for a change. I was done operating a full-blown studio where part of the job was competing for yoga newbies who are more concerned about sweating, low prices and convenience than immersing themselves in the practice. So, instead, I focus on teaching two to four classes a week at Breathe Joy Yoga. Everyone is welcome and every class is engaging and unique as I never have a yoga pose playlist prepared. I also oversee Pretzel Kids® trainings and classes, and I have returned to freelance journalism. Once in a while, I offer PR and marketing consulting services to other yoga professionals trying to navigate this rocky landscape.

So why revisit this topic? Well, because we’re no better off than we were two years ago. In fact, we’re much worse off. And this, my friends, affects how and where we practice yoga, as well as the integrity of our community as a whole.

Today, I would guess 30-50% of yoga studios offer 200-hour yoga teacher trainings. It’s no surprise as these courses generate fast cash and help pack studio classes. Now, don’t get me wrong. Studio owners deserve to earn a living and hopping on the teacher training gravy train is a sure-fire way to ensure that they do so. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. But, here’s the problem: As long as students continue to drink the Koolaid served at the closest yoga studio, teacher trainings will multiply like bunnies in a highly unregulated industry. Seems a little harsh, I know. But let’s peel off some more layers here.

DSCF0442Yoga in America isn’t what it used to be and we, as a yoga community, should stand up in Tadasana and take notice. It was only 11 years ago when I opened Breathe Joy Yoga. I offered a comprehensive teacher training course as much out of need as desire. There were simply no programs in my area. The market wasn’t saturated and skilled yoga teachers were in high demand.

Flash forward to today: If you throw a ball out a window in any major US city, it will hit one yoga teacher on the head and bounce onto another instructor’s asana. Taking classes and teaching yoga is the “in” thing and many students wear rose-colored glasses and think that, if they become a yoga teacher, they too can open a successful studio (just find an empty corner, start a Facebook page, and viola!) or at least teach a few classes a week (good luck finding a studio without a two-page list of subs). The plot thickens. Many still think they can quit their day jobs and make big bucks teaching yoga. Now, I know…..some of you are thinking I sound cynical or this is just sour grapes. But, let me tell you right here and now: I sure as heck don’t have sour grapes. I love to practice and teach yoga. And, I enjoyed the challenge of turning a small, community-supported studio into a thriving business. I wouldn’t have chosen any other life or livelihood for the eight years I ran a yoga studio full-time.

Here’s another thing: I love that yoga is now readily available. I just wish we were more responsible about this mushrooming growth. One of the pitfalls of working and practicing in an unregulated industry is that many businesses offer yoga classes and have no idea whether their own yoga instructors are skilled. A certificate from a crash course is sometimes all a health club needs to hire a teacher. It’s even become commonplace for prospective teachers to “audition.”  Here’s a common scenario: A club owner sits through a slate of “auditions” and then, regardless of whether this “casting director” knows the difference between yoga and Pilates, a yoga teacher who fits the “part” is selected from the lot.

And then there are master classes. What defines a master class? Well, nothing really. At least not anymore. Any newly-minted, recent 200-hour graduate can throw together a workshop and call it a master class. Scratch that. No 200-hour certificate is necessary as anyone can teach a master class. It certainly sounds impressive and many students take the bait, especially when they see this so-called expert on Instagram striking a perfect pose. Our industry has run amuck here. In my opinion, there are only a small handful of teachers who should be considered “masters” in any field. Yoga is no exception.

About now I’m probably pissing off some of you. But, put your egos aside for a moment. I’m saying it like it is. Satya for ya in its truest sense.

To that end, I’m going to tell you a story that may help illustrate where our industry is headed. I’m warning you: It’s a doozy.

A couple of months ago I received a pitch for a workshop from an out-of-town teacher whom I had never met. I usually only offer workshops taught by experienced teachers I know. This way, I feel comfortable about what I’m selling and confident that my students will take away something valuable from their time and financial investment. But, it sounded good so I decided to give it a go. The teacher sent me a description of the workshop for beginners, which would include backbends, arm balances and inversions. She then explained that the inversions would encompass variations of headstand, shoulder stand and maybe handstand. Further information indicated her method will help students reach happiness faster. Ok. Let’s stop right there. Reach happiness faster? By doing a headstand? Wow. Now you really got me going.

Call me crazy. Call me responsible. I don’t care. I had to put my foot down and question her proposal. Here’s our email chain:

The “teacher”: “Regarding inversions, I am skillfully trained to teach them in a very safe and attentive way. I realize that not a lot of instructors feel comfortable teaching them (and thus they go untaught which I believe is a shame), but I feel that if proper alignment is taught, modifications are given and safely precautions are taken, inversions are not only extremely beneficial but tangible to even the most beginner of yogis. (INSERT HERE THIS TEACHER’S STYLE, PURPOSEFULLY LEFT OUT) places a strong focus on inversions and without them, I wouldn’t stay true to its homage….”

I agree that inversions are beneficial, however, kicking our egos to the curb: Even with modifications and the best instructor in the world, my experience is that it’s impossible to watch everyone at the same time in a large room filled with upside-down beginners who you don’t know. I was getting squeamish just thinking about the possibility of someone falling over on my hardwood floor. I also wasn’t feeling too warm and fuzzy about a teacher who felt that, without teaching specific inversions, she was not staying true to her yoga lineage. I mean, c’mon, really? Aren’t there plenty of other asana choices out there? Um, yes.

Here’s how it ended peacefully as I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt:

Me: So, here is my position: From a liability perspective, I feel it’s not responsible or safe for me to offer this at my studio.  I understand that you would prefer to stay true to your homage but I need to stay true to safety and health. Are you able to offer rabbit pose, basic tripod and/or modified shoulder stand with legs up in an “L” (like legs up the wall without the wall) as alternatives? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks again.”

She wrote back: I understand your concerns. Yet on the other hand I ‘respectively’ [sic] disagree.

That was that.

So let’s talk a little about homage and lineage. What does that even mean? Back in the heyday (meaning hundreds and even thousands of years ago – long before lululemon pants graced our yoga classes), yoga teachers were taught by true experts to pass down this ancient tradition.

Take my primary teacher, Diane Lagadec. Diane is the real deal. About to turn 71, Diane runs Maha Yoga Center in Bridgewater, Ma. and you can often find her in a safe backbend or inversion. She trained with Shri Khanna, who was one of the yogis who came to the states in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s to learn and teach.

“He came to Boston to complete a doctorate and while he was here he created a small ashram in a home in West Newton. He was friends with Yogi Desai, Dr. Mishra (also known as Swami Brahmananda Sarasvati), etc. We got to meet and learn from wonderful teachers. Shri was from the Maha Ananda Ashram in Simla, India. I studied with him for years,” said Diane.

I realize there’s no one path to anything, but I am fairly certain that enrolling in a 200-hour teacher training for a handful of weekends or taking classes in a hyped-up studio with packed classes and hotshot teachers is not going to help you reach nirvana faster. What to do? For starters, do your research.

If you practice yoga, inquire of yourself: Why am I choosing this teacher to guide me? Maybe you have no idea whether he/she is skilled. Maybe the time works for your schedule. Maybe the quality or safety of the class doesn’t matter to you. You still should ask.

If you’re considering enrolling in a teacher training, ask yourself:  Why do I want to take this course with these teachers at this studio?

If you’re a yoga teacher or studio owner, ask yourself: Why do I want to teach? Why do I want to run a 200-hour course? There is no right or wrong answer.

The point is: We should all be digging deep. Or, as we yogis say, it’s time to practice self-study, a.k.a. Svadhyaya.

I may be going out on a limb here but we are careening down a dangerous path. Literally. Yoga students are blowing out hips and shoulders regularly. I’m thinking Patanjali didn’t have this in mind. Take a look at the Yoga Sutras. Depending on your interpretation, only about five of the 196 sutras (II: 29 and II: 46-49) discuss anything to do with asana. Let’s sit on that for a while.

Robyn Parets, a journalist and yoga teacher, is founder of Pretzel Kids® and owner of Breathe Joy Yoga studio in Massachusetts. A former writer for the Los Angeles Times, Inc. Magazine Group, Investor’s Business Daily, and many other publications, Parets turned to yoga and meditation in 1999 after her life was interrupted by a neurological disorder. Bedridden for nearly two years with two children under four, Parets credits her dedicated practice with helping her gain back her health. She recently traveled across the country, documenting the changing yoga landscape along the way. Parets is now focusing on blogging, reconnecting, and creating her next chapter! Find inspiration at: www.awayfromom.net

 

Categories: business, business of yoga, Etcetera, get real, humor, journalism, Philosophy, That's Life!, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Joining “The Club”

The initiation process began in May 2014.

There were events left and right: Senior prom, spring musical, last Improv show, parties, graduation and more. I attended Ethan and I graduation dayevery single one – apparently prerequisites for gaining entry into this “Club.” Then the initiation phase was over and I moved into the quiet phase. Those in the Club know all about this: The summer after graduation when reality sets in. I barely saw him. I was away with his little brother; he was working at a summer camp. I was in bed by 10 pm; he got home long after I was sleeping. We were like ships passing in the night but I still knew where he was.

Next week, I become a member of the Club, like it or not. I didn’t ask to join but my membership is not an option. I never understood this Club before or even knew it existed. Until now. I know members who have already been admitted but never understood what made them so different from the rest of us. I never understood how they felt or why. Until now.

My welcoming party will consist of a bunch of strangers moving their kids into a college dorm. They are joining the club, too. All of us will likely be feeling the same way and albeit from different walks of life, we likely had similar initiations.

I will officially become inducted into the “Where Have the Last 18 years Gone” Club on August 31, when I give Ethan a hug

Ethan's 6-year old soccer photo.

Ethan’s 6-year old soccer photo.

good-bye and drive home without him. I’ll be part of a Club I never knew was out there. Other members might feel the same way as I do: Sort of lost, like a ship without an anchor. But yet, haven’t I been the anchor? To make it more confusing, Ethan is my first to go to college so I still have Noah at home. So, I’m not an empty-nester – yet. What gives? Why am I feeling so sad, so lost at sea? It doesn’t make logical sense, but yet fellow members of the club understand.

Reminders of my new membership just won’t stop pouring in.

* I stopped writing this just now because Ethan walked in with a packet for me. It is from the Northeastern University Parents Association. An enclosed “Handbook for Parents and Families” welcomes me to the NEU Parents Association. It comes with a membership card valid August 2014-2019. I guess my Club membership comes with an adjunct membership too.

* On August 2, my boys and I went to see the movie “Boyhood.” Besides knowing that it was about a boy’s life filmed over a 12-year span, I knew nothing about the movie. Probably a good thing or I may not have gone to see it. Why? They might as well have filmed Ethan growing up, starting when he was six in 2002 and ending when he was 18 and on his first day of college – next week. Ethan is the same age as the actor in the movie and it was filmed over the course of the exact years of Ethan’s childhood. It was an extraordinary movie about an ordinary life. From both the boy and his mother’s point of view, the 12 years encompassed moves, divorces, marriages, new families, job changes, alcoholism, new schools, lack of money at times, plenty of money at times. Growing up. The years just sort of fly and as parents, we don’t often take a block of time to reflect upon all the changes that have occurred in the life of our child. Instead, it sort of sneaks up on you. Ethan and I walked out of the movie speechless. I am sure there were too many moments that rang true to him. There were certainly many for me. I think nothing hit me more than when the mother was sitting in her new apartment – after selling the house that was too big – and started crying.

* And then there is the flurry of photos all over my social media feed: Some of Ethan’s friends in their dorm rooms and others of MY high school friend’s kids in THEIR dorm rooms.

Maybe joining this Club was easier before social media existed. No matter. I look around this big house and I see memories: Ethan in grade school, running around the yard, his messy room, parties at the house, a couple of girlfriends, his friends since junior high and even kindergarten hanging around…. Come next week, I won’t know where he is, how late he’s up at night, who he’s hanging around with. I won’t be a part of his everyday life.

I know, I know. This is what is SUPPOSED to happen when we join the Club. It’s all part of growing up. I mean, I did it and I Ethan Senior portraitwent way far away to college – 2,600 miles, not 26. So it should be much easier, logically speaking. But when you join the Club, all reason goes out the window. I am now a web of feelings, collective feelings that took 18 years to accumulate. I didn’t realize how much of my life was tied to Ethan’s life. Yeah, I’m his mom. That’s the way it usually goes. Even when I was working ridiculous hours for most of Ethan’s childhood, I was still there for him. Even when we didn’t see eye to eye during his high school years, I was still there for him, always. Last year, I made sure I was there for every event. I saw every choral performance and play at high school (well, except for the concert chorus in the spring which I totally forgot about! Sorry, Ethan). Come fall, I will have no reason to go to the school. It will leave a strange sort of void.

Besides this void, moving Ethan to college is leaving me with this eery sort of “what now” dilemma. My decisions were intricately tied to Ethan and his brother: what’s best for them, what will make them happy. Even big decisions like where we moved to, my work, and the type of house we lived in. And now the house and location seems less necessary (but not totally unnecessary as Noah is still in high school here). I’ve tried to express these feelings to my husband of four years. On some level, he gets it. But not really. He’s not officially a member of the Club. He just knows I’m in a funk. Sad at times. Excited at others. My life keeps spinning around me. That’s because I can’t just watch 18 years skip away without reflection.

In 9 days (but who’s counting), we will pack up the car with all the crap we bought at Bed Bath & Beyond and Target (I saw a couple members of the club in these stores getting ready for their inductions too). I’ll get him set up. And then I’ll leave. Come home. Re-arrange his room.

And then it’s back to business as I continue on my quest to get rid of all the stuff I’ve accumulated for the past 18 years. All you Club members are welcome to come to my emptying out yard sale sometime this fall. None of this stuff seems necessary or wanted anymore.

Not sure why I’m on this feverish kick but I’m thinking it’s in the Club handbook somewhere.

Categories: College, Etcetera, get real, letting go, mother, parenting, Philosophy, raising boys, That's Life!, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Frozen in Time

As I drove to a yoga class earlier this week,  in a hurry to make it there on time, I slowed down to a snail’s pace when I got to the school zone for a local elementary school. Sure, I had to slow down to 20 miles an hour as this is the speed limit. But, for a brief minute, everything slowed down, not just the speed on my speedometer.

Ethan and Noah

Ethan, left, Noah, right at about age 7 and 4

For a brief minute, it was as if my life was frozen in time. I watched the crossing guards channel the children into school and the parents walking with their children, who looked as if they were going to topple over underneath the weight of those heavy backpacks. I stared at one little girl with bright red hair and watched her trying to walk tall and proud with her books in tow. And then, for no more than five seconds, I locked eyes — out of my left driver’s side window — with an attentive father en route to school with his child. I quickly looked back to the road in front of me and then glanced to my left again. He was no longer looking my way but, rather, looking forward as he continued his slow and steady pace toward the school. It was as if he knew what I was thinking: Where did the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I walked my once proud first-grader to school?

I was caught up in a trance-like state, only coming out of it when I realized I was no longer driving through the school zone and it was time to speed up again. But I wasn’t ready for speeding back up. I wanted to slow down again and walk my boys to school. My eyes got teary as I started to drive faster. When I hopped on the highway, I was back at the speed limit but I couldn’t let go of that father. Still can’t.

Today, I was on my way home and my eyes started tearing up again. I looked to my left and saw a large, bright orange sign: “Be Prepared to Stop.”  Workmen were on the street doing repairs. But I took it as a sign — my own personal sign. And, in case, I forget what this sign says, I can see it from my yard. Guess the universe wants me to keep seeing this sign.

Today, I drove past the parking lot at Sharon High School. I looked to my left and saw my son’s car (err, my car) parked in its usual spot, covered with dirt. My eyes teared up.

Ethan and Noah laughing

my little boys!

I looked out at the women in my yoga class this week and realized I have lived a whole phase of my life (their lives too) with them. When I started teaching this group, our kids went to Cottage Street Elementary school together. Now our kids are either adults or almost adults. We are empty nesters or almost there. And we sure as heck aren’t meeting at the entrance to school to pick up our children and talk about the upcoming school fair.

One could say I am turning into a sentimental mess. Or, going through a phase. Or, realizing that I’m not 30 anymore and time just sort of sped up while my eyes were closed. Or, all of the above.

Ethan Senior portrait

Ethan’s senior picture

In less than a month, my oldest son Ethan is graduating from high school. Next week, he turns 18 and I go get my grey hair covered.  He is taking AP tests today so I drove Noah, who just turned 15, to high school. We were talking and I caught him rolling his eyes at me. My first instinct was to say, “Why did you do that? Was that necessary?” But I said nothing. He’s a typical teenage boy and I am a typical teenager’s mom: I think I’m hip and cool (do they even say those words anymore?) but I am really a 46-year-old mom trying hard to hold fast to memories and my little boys.

In yoga, we all talk about “being present” and “living in the present.” Today, it hit home that the “present” goes by way too fast. We get one chance to do it right “in the present” and then that chance is gone, forever. All we have left is the past and future and we’re not supposed to dwell on that, right? But this week I am struggling to let go and thinking of all the things I should have done better. I know — that’s not productive or healthy. But I’m only human.

Here’s the truth. The gosh-darned human truth. My truth……I am afraid to let go. I am scared out of my mind. I write this as my eyes well up with tears. I am afraid to let my son go to Northeastern University in August. I am afraid for him to move out on his own and begin his adult life. And it’s not because I don’t think he’ll succeed or be ok. I know he will do just great in whatever he sets out to do in life.

It’s because I don’t know if I’LL be ok. There, I said it. I wrote it.

Up until this week, I thought I was fine with Ethan graduating and moving on. I couldn’t possibly be more proud of him. But now, I am reduced to a tearful mess. Ethan and I haven’t always got along in his high school years. Maybe it’s because we are so much alike — both headstrong and opinionated but yet we give 100% of ourselves to others. I’ll admit it: there were times when I couldn’t wait for him to move out. But now that this is becoming a reality, I know that I am just not ready to lose him to the world. I’m not ready to walk into his empty room (which will most likely turn into his room/guest suite next fall) and not trip over piles of dirty laundry. I’m not ready to have nothing to remind him about, all the time. I am not ready to be the mother of a college student.

I am not ready for how I will deal with the void.

Me and the boys in the snow

Frozen in Time

These next few weeks will be particularly challenging. I will cry tears of joy and sadness. I will do my best, even when it’s not good enough, to stay present and enjoy every moment. I will never get these moments back. That much I know. I will try not to cry hysterically next time I pass a group of elementary school children and their parents walking to school. I will always look for that father with the big brown eyes and all his dark brown hair intact.

He has “30” frozen in time.  Take care of that beautiful child weighted under that monstrous backpack. He will be 18 in no time.

 

 

 

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, letting go, mother, parenting, raising boys, That's Life!, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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