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Sometimes children know best

Dennis and I were sitting around the kitchen table one morning talking with our son, Noah, who is home from college for the summer and working full time for the Diocese of Albany. Although he lives away more than he lives at home these days, when he does return for visits or extended stays, Dennis and I tend to revert to the parenting mode we favored when he was younger. Read more

9/11: Remembering like it was yesterday

Here’s the Life Lines column I wrote 15 years ago, in the days following 9/11. So much has changed since that time. Our world has changed. My family has changed. And yet, for me, this column still resonates with things that feel very much in tune with our world right now. Here’s wishing all of you, all of us a future of peace — peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace on our planet. Read more

Holding my breath and letting go

My latest Life Lines column, running in the current issue of Catholic New York:

Fourteen years ago this month, I wrote my very first Life Lines column. It focused on my then-4-year-old son, Noah, and a summer nature program we had attended together and how in his own little way Noah was forcing me out of my comfort zone and teaching me new things about myself and the world around me.

This is what I wrote back then: Read more

Entering the ‘Twilight Zone’ of parenting


Noah headed out on a winter camping trip tonight. The angst leading up to his departure made it clear, once again, that we have definitely entered the dreaded teenage years. And that reminded me that I had not yet posted this recent Life Lines column about this new adventure in parenting. So, without further adieu, here it is:

By Mary DeTurris Poust

Just last month, Dennis and I entered the Twilight Zone of parenting, also known as the Teenage Years. Noah, our first-born, reached the magic age on New Year’s Day, giving us the chance to ring in not only a new year but also a new era.

Fortunately for us, it hasn’t been a total baptism by fire. Noah has been kind enough to ease us into teenage life. For the past six months or so, he’s taken to glowering at us from under half-closed eyelids and responding to just about everything we say — from “Hi, Sweetie. You look nice,” to “What happened to that permission slip?” — in the same annoyed tone. I figure right about the time Noah starts pulling out of this semi-permanent funk, Olivia will be moving in and then Chiara right behind her. We’re looking at 15 straight years of teenage angst here, people.

Of course, not everything having to do with teen life revolves around the teen (despite what said teen thinks). A lot of what will happen in the coming years, already is happening right now, has to do with how we respond to our teen and what kinds of freedoms and limits we give him.

It’s Noah’s job to test boundaries and to pull away, even as he secretly wants our affection and attention. As I roll my eyes and sigh with exasperation every time he growls his morning greeting, I know in my heart that this is how it is meant to be. For my part, I have to do a little letting go while being careful not to leave him in a free fall. He has been very sheltered for 13 years. Now it’s time to trust that what we’ve taught him will get him through some difficult growing pains. I vaguely remember those early teen years; they were no picnic.

And so we enter into this new era together, albeit from different perspectives. As Noah wrestles with the responsibilities and decisions that come with being a teen on the way to adulthood, we wrestle with the choices and reactions that come with being adults in the midst of a new phase of parenthood. It’s uncharted territory for all of us.

Just this week, we talked to Noah about ending the piano lessons he has taken for more than five years. He just doesn’t seem that interested anymore. Rather than the simple responses we may have had as parents of a toddler or young child – time out, for example – we have to find a new way to make an impression. So we asked Noah to think about why he wants to continue lessons and why we should continue to fund them and then tell us without shrugging his shoulders or saying, “I don’t know.”

We got a two-page written response, proving that he can present quite a persuasive argument when he puts his mind to it. The three of us approached the piano problem as adults and near-adult, talking instead of lecturing (on our part) and listening instead of ignoring (on his part).

We know the next few years will be fraught with difficult decisions for all of us. There will be times when we will have to tell Noah he cannot do certain things no matter how ready he thinks he is. And, there will be times when Noah will prove that he is ready despite our fears and hesitation.

As I look ahead to the big events in Noah’s life – driving a car in only three years, graduating from high school in five – I realize that a lot of what will happen in our relationship over the next few years will hinge on my ability to accept that my baby isn’t a baby anymore and on my willingness to step back and watch him spread his wings, even as I am quietly waiting in the background, ready to catch him at a moment’s notice.

To read previous Life Lines columns, visit my website by clicking HERE.

Noah plays Green Day

Here’s Noah’s performance of Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from today’s piano recital. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you may have seen it already, but I have to post it here too. Just doing the proud mom thing.

May the force be with you

Noah asked me to put a photo of his creation up on the blog today. He spent the past two days putting together the Rogue Shadow — all 482 pieces. He’s in his Star Wars phase these days. Now, I could try to do some sort of spiritual Star Wars analogy thing here, but I think I’ll just let you enjoy the photo and not worry about addressing the good vs. evil aspects of this epic.

I hope you’re having a great Easter week. Dennis and I will be heading to NYC tomorrow for Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s installation at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Should be interesting…

My birthday boy

Twelve years ago this morning, I was in labor and waiting to head to the hospital to give birth to my first baby. I knew I was in labor at about 1:30 a.m. and called my midwife around 5:30 a.m., something I’m sure she really appreciated on New Year’s Day, but we stayed at home until noon, taking down our Christmas tree and paying bills and cleaning the house. I even scarfed down an egg breakfast, knowing that I’d need my strength for the hours ahead. Things moved along pretty nicely until 4 p.m., when the pushing started and Noah got stuck. Three hours later — yes, three hours of pushing — at 7:11 p.m., Noah made his way into the world.

I didn’t officially know I was having a boy ahead of time; I wanted to be surprised. But I always believed I was having a boy, and when I saw that baby, I knew without a doubt that Noah was the only name that would do. My Noah. And nothing has ever been the same. When we brought him home from the hospital, and I was in the throes of the “baby blues,” I would dance around our living room with Noah to John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” crying the whole time. That song can still bring me back to those unforgettable days filled with once-in-a-lifetime moments. It feels like yesterday and it feels like a lifetime ago. How is it possible that the little boy who used to sleep scrunched up on my chest is the same boy who now stands as tall as my shoulders and can take my breath away with the strength of a hug? Life sure does speed by when we’re not looking.

So, happy birthday, baby boy. (Noah is a big fan of this blog, so I know he’ll be reading today.) As I always tell you, no matter how old you get, you will always be my baby. Thank you for coming into my life and allowing me to be your mom. My mother used to tell me that her children’s birthdays were her favorite days of the year. I never understood that until New Year’s Day 1997. Then, of course, it made perfect sense. Thanks for giving me one of my three favorite days of the year.

“Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
Life is just what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans,

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
beautiful boy.” — John Lennon

On my honor…


Well, Noah has been having a great time at Boy Scout camp this week. (That’s him in his tent above.) This has been such a good experience for him — hanging out with friends, working on merit badges, sitting around the camp fire, swimming in the lake, and generally challenging himself to do things he’s never done before. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to be away from home for a week. I know it wasn’t easy for me to have him away from home for a week, especially when the phone rings and Noah is on the other end asking for advice on his pocket-knife injury. Fortunately, it was very minor. Still, the thought of my boy in the woods with a knife on his belt or at the archery range with an arrow in his hand is a bit frightening. After all, this is the boy who used to fall down spontaneously while just walking across the room.

We were at camp for Family Night on Wednesday, and it was such a treat to see Noah looking so confident and content. I was the only one in our family wearing old hiking boots that night, so Noah asked if he could lead me through the woods — which is a mud pit after almost daily thunderstorms — to his camp site. I walked behind him, looking at the mud splattered all over his legs and the look of determination spread across his face, and I was so proud. Although the prospect of Noah taking on some of the more difficult or dangerous aspects of scouting (white water rafting comes to mind) sometimes scares me, I have nothing but good things to say about the Boy Scouts. They are opening up a world for him that he would otherwise never see and I can only hope that he continues to Eagle Scout, which is his hope and plan as of now.

Here’s the garter snake Noah found in the fire pit.

Here’s the newt he found in the grass. (I thought these creatures had better camoflage.)
Here’s Noah with a toad.
Here are Dennis and Noah at Camp Rotary. Dennis was a chaperone for three of the six nights and loved every minute of it. He said he misses the quiet of his tent and the big night sky full of stars, some of them shooting.
Meanwhile back at the ranch…I took the girls to Five Rivers Environmental Center, which is a wonderful nature center just a few miles from our house. As you can see, the perennial garden is in full bloom. There are hiking trails and streams and a lake. Plus, in the actual center you can watch a really cool one-winged owl munch on a mouse. We love this place.

Another big day for Noah

Today was Noah’s annual piano recital. He played “Potter Waltz” from Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. It was flawless, if I do say so myself. Sometimes, when I’m listening to Noah practice day after day (although that’s not as frequent now that he’s discovered the joy of headphones), it’s hard to see his progress. But sitting at the recital, listening to younger performers who are where he was just three short years ago, it dawned on me — for the second time in one week — how far he has come and how grown-up he is getting. Bravo, Noah. Take a bow.

Crossing over, moving on

Noah left the pack last night, the Cub Scout pack, that is, putting his Webelos rank behind him in exchange for his new rank as a full-fledged Boy Scout. As he prepared to cross over the bridge, his den leader asked him to remove his Cub Scout neckerchief as a symbolic leaving behind and looking forward. I found it all very moving. This was the first of many “graduations” that Noah will experience over the coming months and years. First he leaves Cub Scouts, then he leaves his elementary school years for the junior high years. I don’t need to remove a neck scarf to realize that I too am crossing over to a new place as the mother of an adolescent, even if Noah will forever be my baby boy. Read more