Parenting. So many tips on it. So many books written. Everyone has the answers. Only to find out that a few years or maybe a few minutes after birth, we have no idea what we’re doing & no answers whatsoever.
We do our best. Our very sacrificial best. Some days can be a literal act of survival.
We try to stay hygienic. Most days we eat their scraps. We moms could buy an island with the amount of money we’ve spent on dry shampoo & leggings.
It’s the best calling & gift in the world, yet it leaves us every day wondering if we’re messing up an entire generation or molding one.
I decided to add some things to the already *475 trillion books & blogs that already exist on parenting. (*made up number)
This is not sage advice or a means to the end. This is not all the answers or even any of them for some people. Just a list of
my junk tips I guess you could say. Still in progress, still being written & revised. This comes either by mistakes made by me as a parent- awesome results as a parent on some occasions- or maybe ways that the grown up me wishes she would’ve been parented through my own adolescent journey.
Whatever the foundation for this info, the list comes honestly & lived out in one way or another.
If you’re like me, your lists are always written from either the trenches or mountain high. Seems the middle, where we do the mundane, gets the least attention. I think once we realize THIS is where our greatest work is accomplished, we’ll ride this thing out differently; so I hope to poke around on reminding you of the importance of the intermediate work.
Quick intro of myself in case you’re new to me & wonder what I bring to the table of parenting: I am the mom to an 18 year old Freshman named Chase, who is away at college building his future, while I miss him & gnash teeth remembering days when I would hang his hot french fries out of the car window to cool them, so his sweet mouth didn’t get scalded.
I am also the mom to our 5 year old Kindergarten Super Hero Miracle Daughter named Grace, whose story of life & journey up to the right now is nothing short of amazing. She keeps me humble, young(er) & most days exhausted. Parenting smaller people in your 40’s is a much different scenario than your 20’s. It’s no joke people, but man is it ever beautiful. (you can catch up on her back story & ours, here: https://fearfullywonderfullymadeblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/this-is-my-story-this-is-my-song-this-is-my-testimony/)
If you can add or do simple math, you will have noticed I have 13 years distance between my kids. Even though it’s a tremendous blessing, I never dreamed how difficult preparing myself to deal with 1 child starting college & 1 child starting Kindergarten on the SAME day last August would actually take its toll on me. (to note that day was also my son’s 18th b’day & the 1st away from home) The whole transition almost emotionally killed me dead. One of THE worst depressions I have ever experienced in my entire life. Even though I am much better, I still have waves of emotions washing over me many days & always wonder how the adult part of the future will look for them, based on what they experienced in their daily voyage with me.
In the months leading up to & following these new transformations for my kids, I started to write some things down about parenting them when those thoughts came to mind. They really started to pop up as I prepared to type up Chase’s college goodbye letter. The ideas really reared their head as the days to move him were closer & I pondered every parenting choice I had made over those 18 years. (FYI- that happens before your send your child into the world.)
I’d love to share the lengthy list with you. I hope you’re blessed by it. Lots of love, tears, sacrifice, & laughter went into the moments that are inventoried here. I am certain there will be many more to come, added some day down the road.
In no order, just as my mom brain recalled & as I pieced together all the paper towels & scrap paper they were jotted down on:
- Before you try to fix your children, young or older- fix yourself first. They are smart, they are feelers & even if they are 4 years old they will see right through you.
- If you want kids who are selfless, who serve passionately, who are kind & patient, who love Jesus, who study & apply God’s word to their lives, or any other grandiose moral plan you have created for them when they’re 6 months old- I have 1 bit of advice: BE THAT FOR THEM BEFORE YOU EXPECT IT FROM THEM. Children learn & are taught by example, not expectation, empty words or demands. You can’t wish or pray them into a life they’ve personally never seen modeled for them. People ask me constantly how I ‘got my son’ to graduate high school with over 1400 community service hours, that we could even sit & try to recount. I never ‘got him’ to do any of what he did because he had a heart for it & he still has a heart for it. We either served together or he still witnesses our family serving others in some way steadily. He didn’t just pop out of bed one day with a heart for missions or the homeless. His heart was turned & trained toward such when we did things for others starting as far back as his elementary years. Consistent service will change their hearts & lives, but someone has to grease the wheels to get them turning.
- Love them with the passion & sacrifice that you have when they are sick or when you are fighting a battle on their behalf. I have never felt the spirit of parenting rise up harder, stronger or more naturally than when my kids have truly needed me. Exhaustion, plans, everything our minds get fixated on daily, goes right out the window when they really need us. But here’s the thing, they always need us. Try to train yourself to remember how your love rises when a fever does- or how your cape snaps around your neck when someone does them wrong. And on the most challenging days, just remember to pray constantly to be the kind of person you needed when you were growing up or maybe still need today.
- Teach them you can be scared AND brave at the same time. Bravery doesn’t exist because you were/are absent of fear when you approach(ed) something difficult. Courage arrives in your character when you push through & keep going despite the dread or panic. We need to raise our children to remember that. They’ve been falsely convinced that boldness is a natural trait & if it isn’t your 1st nature to be fearless, then you were skipped over in the line when bravery was being handed out. This type of thinking raises adults who are in their 40’s still unable to accomplish their callings. They live the same lives year after year. Always posting & talking about what they are going to do & never getting past the idea of actually doing it. Why? Is the call too hard? Too impossible to develop the passion? In my opinion it’s the inherited lie that if you aren’t absent of fright, you aren’t brave enough. Why not raise our children & if need be, raise ourselves to remember fear is natural, but over time it becomes a liar and living off it is a disservice to the greatness of what we were created to do in order to change a piece of this world? Our greatest contribution to this planet continues to happen long after we’re gone. What is your legacy going to be known for paying forward because you decided that despite being horrified to keep going, you were going to do it anyway? That’s the bravest brave of anyone I’ve ever admired in my life & without a doubt how I want my children to be seasoned.
- Support their gifts. Not your tarnished dreams reincarnated into convincing them these are their gifts. You may have been the best dancer or the best football player this side of Juilliard or Division 1 sports. It may have all ended because of an injury or life event. You have high hopes that Jane or Timmy will rise up & carry your dream to fruition. One word- No. Establishing goals are awesome & fundamental, but let them develop into who they were created to be. You’ve already happened, they are not you/us. Your Jane may love to dance too or she just may love soccer & basketball. Timmy may have your tremendous sports potential, but he may very well love to play the guitar or act. Support THEIR gifts. I cannot reiterate enough the joy you will find seeing them happy & bonded with you because you have trusted their hearts & their choices. I am the mom who made sure, still makes sure, that my kids always had something to plug into because it keeps them out of trouble, it teaches discipline & focus, but it was & is always their choice & their idea of what that investment will be. To become the best them, not the best miniature version of me or my husband.
- Pray 24-7 for their future spouses. This is something that I started doing when Chase & Grace were both babies. It is one of the most forgotten prayers I feel the majority of parents accidentally exclude when they start in the intercessory devotion over their kid’s lives; to me it’s one of the most significant. You can pray for that future person however you’d like. My list is long & extremely specific. They will be your children’s future forevers. The people who will play the most important piece of their future happiness. The man or woman who will parent your grandchildren. You better make mighty sure that you are prayed up beyond measure in this area. Otherwise the holidays & every other time you are around your grown children you may lament over who & what they ended up with. I will tell you something from experience, having an unhappy marriage is not the normal & divorce is a heavy burden on young children. The majority of the world may love to act like unhappiness with a spouse is the expected- it may be the 1 common denominator many men & women have when they poke jokes about marriage. Often leaving spouses at home to go do life separately. Couples screw themselves & their children out of a life of laughter & true love because they’ve settled in & allowed the years to turn them into grouches, complainers & roommates. People who may fantasize in their mind about someone or some other life greater than what they’ve been blessed with & I’ve seen social media wreck more marriages that it should have ever been allowed. I ask you this, is your marriage the type you would love to see your children in when they are adults? If not I urge you to fix it. If you are single, I urge you to remember this when you are filling your space from single to taken. And to anyone with the heart & ability to pray & believe, I definitely urge you to pray for the future marriages of your babies. It will be your reality far sooner than you are mentally prepared to face it happening.
- Get Over It- you will be a much better parent when you stop taking things personally & you just learn how to ‘get over it’. See past emotion, see past problems, see past the smart mouth or the tantrum, so you can see right into the heart of the individual who is spilling out these behaviors. Our children do not wake up with an agenda or a plan to ruin the day or our lives. When our kids are young or in the event like my family, have an EXTREMELY emotionally sensitive child due to her sensory issues, many times these kids don’t know how to express what they are feeling. So they use emotion to get it out of themselves because communication is too difficult or depending on age, impossible. If you have older kids who are acting out or making horrible decisions, or acting totally out of their element- take it from teen me, the root of that behavior is much, much deeper than the desire to just be a rebel & argue with you. These reactions & choices are always hinged on something much more painful & often come to fill a void because they don’t see another way out. Fighting with your older child never heals or solves. Being a dictator doesn’t either. Trying to discipline your littles for behavior they can’t control will send your entire home into a tail spin. There are many avenues to take in conditioning, supporting & loving your children through their thing(s). I urge you to get over how you feel personally, get over the unsolicited advice of those who don’t understand your kids actions & start a plan to support how you can change their core. It isn’t a who’s right or wrong competition or who rules the roost & is in control; it’s equipping your kids to learn how deal with crisis & emotion overflow to prep them for their adult self. You just may be surprised how much of your own imbalance gets healed in the process.
- Try not to discipline or give a life speech when you are raging pissed. You will definitely feel like a total moron when you cool down & extinguish your flames. Tell them to leave your presence until you dial yourself down or run around the house for air, go for a drive or pound a glass of wine, but do not let a stadium full of emotions drive your mouth, then expect them to act differently when the shoe is on the other foot. Just trust me on this one, please.
- The behavior you allow, condone, look past & accept when they are little or younger, will become your biggest parenting demon when they are older. Fix it now & don’t be a pushover. There is a beautiful friendship to be had when they are more mature, trust me, but it is not to be established in place of parenting. They need discipline & structure, not bff’s who always end up giving them handouts or allowing them to be a pile of themselves because you are afraid you’ll hurt their feelings by saying no. You do not want your kids to be in their 20s & 30s under your roof & you still paying their way because they’ve always been provided for & have no idea how to do it for themselves. I remember feeling so sorry inside for my son when his dad & I separated, eventually divorced, right out of Kindergarten. I almost bent my parenting rules in half because I felt bad for the condition of his heart. What I realized instead was that his heart needed strength & his heart needed to keep some type of normalcy, not coddling. I raised him to work hard & to be independent but that may not have happened had I felt guilty because of the situation of rebuilding our lives. We’ve had beautiful years, he’s never needed or wanted for anything, but everything of true value in his life, even getting himself to college minus debt, came from his effort & hard work, not me opening all of doors. I am ALWAYS here to support him when he needs that hand up but I am not his plan B if he decided he just wanted to throw his hands up in the air because adulting is too hard or blow these beautiful opportunities because of foolishness. Fortunately, I know I don’t have to worry about that with him, but it took years of trying my best to keep him on the right road. Be firm, stand on your rules for your kids. They may not mirror your friends parenting, but your children are not them. I remember when my son pitched A FIT in 7th grade, was totally out of his nature. We were in the middle of Best Buy & this altercation occurred because I wouldn’t let him use his money to buy 2 rated T & M video games; even though ALL the other boys were playing them. Even though my friends told me numerous times I was too ‘strict’. He still wasn’t allowed to buy the games & many other things. When he became the age of maturity years later to go purchase those on his own, he wasn’t interested. And when those other kids allowed to do whatever they wanted in those middle years, were in high school, they had low grades, were smoking pot & drinking, while he was an Honor Student, an athlete & working 40 hrs a week at a job & saving his money. I am just saying this from my perspective because it’s the only one I have, whatever gets deposited young because you’re the yes man or want to avoid conflict, will be the same seed that grows into a thorn in your side if you are not careful.
- Watch your words. Your mouth is your biggest weapon. Your outside voice helps develop their inside voice. Proceed with much caution. You will be a much different parent when that sweet little toddler is 14. You can say you won’t lose your lip control, but ask any parent who said they wouldn’t either; you absolutely can & will. You will be shocked at some of the things that can fall from your mouth. Again, trust the little girl version of experience & the grown up me on this one.
- Reward with things that aren’t materialistic. When I was a young & financially struggling mom in my early & mid 20’s, I couldn’t reward with monetary items. All of the gifts of reward came from things that were time & recreational driven. I mean, moving here to south FL from AL when Chase was 2 & being surrounded by beautiful beaches helped fill that time gap many weekends & those memories were & still are priceless & much more meaningful than material gifts. You may not have a beach around & that’s understandable- other times when money was low we did crafts, we planted flowers, we used our FL residency to go to museums for free, we swam, etc. Even though the finances look differently now, the intention doesn’t & I have learned to do these same things with Grace. She nor he earn(ed) money for chores; I tried that & it was an absolute fail. If you live here, you pitch in, bottom line. I am not the maid. However, I do feel that our kids need(ed) to learn the benefit of the earning process. I developed a plan for Chase based on age over those yrs & now Grace. She has 5 different goals to meet for every day of the week & every goal she accomplishes daily earns her a star sticker. At the end of the week if she earned a certain number of stars, she receives the goal that she chose for that week. For example, she chose 1 week to go to an ‘extreme’ playground. 1 week she chose a trip to play games at an arcade. Another week was bowling. The week before Christmas was to just to stay on Santa’s good list. Even though we would still take her to movies or the park or the beach, it gives her a sense of accomplishment to feel she worked hard to earn those things. And trust me, many of her stars are based on things that were challenges of the past. Through the help of OT, PT, Speech, Classroom & 5 yrs of prayer, you wouldn’t believe the list of miracles & trials something as simple as a little chart have helped her overcome just in the past few months. Life changing stuff. Handing her or Chase dollars or a toy for a job well done, would never have accomplished what this type of reward plan did & definitely would have created a lot less memories.
- Don’t expect teachers, the youth pastor, coaches, program directors, or anyone else to do your parenting job & perform miracles with or through your kids. You are their 1st line of everything. The other people are supplements. Don’t just be a ‘drop off parent’. Be involved. Be a team mom or dad, be a class helper, be chaperones, even when or even though they say they don’t want you around. They don’t get to decide that, you do. There’s a great difference in being a clingy, helicopter parent vs an involved, tuned in parent. When your kids see that you are on the same support team as the adults around them, they generally don’t try to push their luck at school or in other areas of their endeavors. You will also be surprised how bonded you become, how well you get to know their peers & the families of their peers when you are active in their routines. They may think they don’t want you around but when you are there, it usually isn’t the case. Over all the years of my husband’s teaching & coaching on the high school level, I am always saddened by how many students upon graduating will tell him that he was the only support system they had. If it weren’t for his concern, advice or care, they wouldn’t be who they are or want to be. Even though that’s a beautiful thing for him to hear year after year, it makes me ache because their parents just seemed to have checked out on them. Not every teacher/coach/leader is like my husband & this leaves many kids cut off from their potential due to lack of a support unit. Parents may expect the youth pastor to use the 1 or so hour a week to lead their kid & 30 others to Jesus, while never reading scripture or praying with them a day in their lives. Expect coaches to make them into NFL or Division 1 level athletes, while never throwing a ball or practicing with them during the other hours of the week. Teachers get blamed for failing grades & discipline issues while parents don’t even ask about assignments & definitely never show up to open houses or conferences. So from a parent who’s always been a part of the 20/80 group- 20% doing 80% of the work- & as a wife of an educator & coach, work as a team with the people in your kid’s lives. Put in your part of the development & effort, please. You have no idea how detrimental it is to their future & the hope for one. Especially in areas where the demographic of teens becoming a statistic is much higher than their cashing in the ticket to get out & succeed.
- When or if your kids ever get in trouble, do not always assume that your kid is the innocent party or the world/school has it out for them because they told you their side of the story, that side is obviously the sole truth. There are times as an older student that I went to bat for Chase. Like big time. When he had the final straw of being cursed & I mean abusive cursing, not just football rhetoric, but extreme cursing in his face by a belligerent coach & totally unqualified head coach on his football team, he walked off the team on Homecoming night, his Senior Yr. That was cause for us to fight. I knew he was in the right despite however these grown ups tried to justify their months of behavior. Even though there was admittance of guilt, our admin failed him by administering no punishment to these people. We fought, then we had to make a decision how much farther we would take it. Any behavior after the fact would’ve been on us & we wanted to teach him character despite wanting to scorch the earth. I’ve seen instances where kids have been caught cheating, bullying or even destroying property- there will be copious amounts of proof, but because they have the water works falling from their eyes, parents will condemn & blame everyone around them instead of accepting the fact their child may just not be the angel they’ve created in their minds. There will come a time when they will show a different side of themselves. In those moments you have to resign yourself to the reality that your kid is capable of wrong doing because they are human despite being your baby. If not, you have a long road ahead for everyone involved in their lives. Grace, as mentioned, has been in several therapies for speech, physical & occupational due to her low muscle tone (per thyroid disease) & also sensory issues from the extensive medical walk. What she doesn’t have is a free pass or an excuse to misbehave. We know & her people know, when her actions are justified & when they are punishable. In the event you are the parent of a child with any outside conditions, never accommodate to corrupt behavior because you feel sorry for them. They need the same structure as any other child. Your parenting will obviously look differently depending on your child. Just remember they won’t be 6 forever, so establish a plan now, not when they’re 17. There are some areas we have to be less particular over with Grace, but whatever we do, we do it with her older self in mind because we want her to be successful socially & function within her self control areas more than anything else.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. I remember when Chase was little, roughly 4 years old I think, he was really into Harry Potter books. Well, I should say he really wanted to be, but he had no access to them. He had always been a gifted reader like Grace, starting to fully read/comprehend right before 3 years old, so I knew that growing that portion of his vocabulary & intelligence was something that had to happen on a deeper level at some point. The hard thing with having a young person so intelligent, is monitoring the content of what you bring to them. Their IQ may very well be genius level, but their maturity level still screams elementary. At the time I was pondering investing into the novels to read along with him, the Christian somebody or another group, came along & started the biggest protest of protests against Scholastic Books & nationwide schools since they were allowing these Harry Potter books to be sold at book fairs. They were claiming demonic worship, satanic undertones, that Rowling was an atheist therefore trying to swoon little children with voodoo mind powers to lure them to the dark side, etc. etc. Every talk show, news article, news clipping & update was regarding this topic & the terror it was implanting into our schools & young minds. All the hype was based & centered on the release of the 1st Potter movie & the foundation that most people have nothing else better going on than to start controversy. Sadly, I drank the Kool-Aid. I was new to the Internet & obviously new to being the mom of a boy I wanted to protect, so I bought the bull. Chase’s dad did not however buy the bull & snuck behind my back & took him to see said demonic inspired movie. Even though I was furious, it had already happened. Chase loved it, he was intrigued & so I went & bought the 1st book, secretly read it myself 1st & realized, this was amazing & an amazing way to grow him in verse. Ironically, it’s part of what helped him mature into such an imaginative & gifted writer through the years. We became so hooked on HP books & movies that in the years that followed, new releases became our traditions & both of us got to grow up together with that in common. The point? You don’t have to cash in a ticket to ride on every band wagon train that rolls through. At some point you have to evaluate your children, their age & their maturity. You will have to ask yourself, “Is this genre of music really a big deal & why does my child love it so? Or my child is 16, I think it’s time to bend a bit on the approval systems since they can drive a car alone & do much worse than play a rated M game.” They won’t always live under your care, so learn to give them freedoms before they leave your nest. Allow them to make mistakes, extend the curfews, & give them some room to grow, before they go. The last thing you want is a kid running wild in the after high school lifestyle because they feel like a caged animal set free. Ignore the hen house that tells you how Christian, parental & disciplinary you ought to be. You know your kid, you have invested in them, trust your judgment not everyone else’s. Set parts of them free slowly, in advance & drop the control freak parenting. It’ll be one of the best securities you’ll have when they are spending time on their own.
- Your kids are not your life coaches or therapists. Ever. And if you’ve found yourself whoa is me-ing & always dumping your complaints & issues at their feet, you need to redo this thing. I don’t think we realize how much complaining we mutter around our kids & I am the world’s worst at times. I will be puttering about the house cleaning, rushing & complaining mildly under my breath until I realize my daughter can hear me. She doesn’t need to hear that. My 18 year old doesn’t need to hear about our finances, or my back pain, or anything else that’s unrelated in conversation that turns the tables back to hearing me or you vent. There are many things our children do not need to know about us & they definitely do not need to hear. Watch your phone calls & watch your conversations in passing. Kids can absolutely retain every word that drops from your mouth even if it appears they are distracted by something else. They are listening. Over the years I have seen many young people suffer depression, anxiety, social issues, etc. grown off of the parent in the home who is always struggling with the same. Always low, always down, always feeling bad, always upset, always mad, then wondering why their children are expressing those traits in their own personalities. If this sounds like you, even if those things that cause you to feel this way are justified & true, please find a friend or better yet a counselor through your church or community that you trust. They can help you to help you, in turn taking that pressure & oppression off of your family, especially your offspring.
- Never compare your kids to each other or to other kids. The ones that came from your womb (or your heart if you adopted) are not alike. Even my friends who have twins & triplets will tell you this as well. I believe the Bible & I absolutely believe that each of us are by a unique design, that we are wonderfully made & that we each have been given personalities & gifts so great & so unique that only we were supposed to be who we are- I truly believe that. Maybe you do to or maybe you do but you don’t. Here’s what I mean, if we truly believe in the individual nature of ourselves & our children, why are so many people trying to live as a carbon copy of things, ideas, talents, personas, that have already been done? We live in a world of comparison, in a world that has decided what success & purpose is & if you are not all those things ‘they’ have decided, then you are obviously losing at life & going nowhere quickly. It’s why parents start the violin at 2. Start competitive sports at 4. Beauty pageants at infancy. You’ll hear over & over again, “My child LOVES doing this. My child asked to do this.” Here’s the thing, I am not knocking activities. My son did many over the past 18 yrs, we have planned to start slowly incorporating something with G this year, but the rule is this, you choose 1 thing that YOU want to do. You still have school, you still have church & that’s all we’re doing. I can understand that your 3 or 4 year old said they wanted to do competitive sports or the beauty circuit when they were toddlers, my toddler wanted a mini pony & to be a magician & was destroyed when I told her she couldn’t be a unicorn- so I get that you were honoring your kid’s wishes, but I doubt your kid asked for the 20+hr week commitment, eating dinner in the car at 9 pm & never having free weekends to enjoy what a relaxed, laughing family chilling & watching cartoons feels like. I again, am all for activity, but think the comparison & expectation game has far exceeded fun activity & has decided to remove the joy & instead look to create the next star. We end up by late elementary school, early middle, having kids checked out & stressed out with their schedules. When my friends started to sign their girl’s up for dance, singing & sports a few years ago, I didn’t. I was questioned as to why not, like I was some alien mom. Grace was not ready. Aside from her having the OT issues, she was simply not ready to handle that type of commitment & time structure- to be honest, having a child who was college planning & playing grown sports, plus my husband’s job endeavors & my volunteer stuff, WE were not ready for that commitment either. Now, 2 years later we can wiggle it in. You see, if God’s plan is for Grace to be a talented singer or dancer, if He has blessed her with sports gifts or to be a talented artist, those gifts will be there & they will be grown as she matures. 3 years old is not the age where we were going to see that manifest. Had I again allowed myself to jump on the mom band wagon, because ‘everybody is doing it’ I & we would have all been miserable & far more exhausted. In the event you are the parent feeling like your kids(s) are not measuring up to other’s abilities & schedules, listen, they aren’t supposed to; there’s enough awesomeness & talent in the universe. We haven’t missed the mark because our toddlers aren’t juggling multiple classes. Not conforming to expectation allows us all to click into our design & help click them into theirs. I urge you to please, take what each of your children show you about them & grow that when the time is right. My girl would much rather build with Lego’s, watch science videos, wear a cape & play in the dirt before ever sliding on a Disney Princess dress & heels and I am one thousand percent in love with that unique side of her. She isn’t a toe shoe ballet dancer but she reads like a 3rd grader & drafts/illustrates her own books & I am into orbit over it! Never say you love individuality & then sell them short so they can blend in. Being the firefly surrounded by butterflies may be hard for my girl at first, but when I help her understand she has the ability to light the way with her set apart gifts, she will soar. So will yours.
- High academics do not equate nor promise long term success. Hard work, time management, focus, joy, contentment, does. There is a big picture to the academic successes of our kids, not just one puzzle piece… hundreds. And if 1 piece from this track is missing, it doesn’t matter how gifted the child, they will not find academic comfort. My son was IQ tested in Kindergarten per teacher request & came out with an astonishing 157. He was immediately given a federal gifted number & I was promised that no matter what state I lived in he had to be in placed in a full time accelerated program, 8 hrs a day & if that school only provided one of those classes you visit once a week vs full time advancement from 1st-12th grade, then he would be required to jump grades. Now, being 27 years old at the time, I was honestly flattered & I was absolutely clueless about what that all meant. So over the years, I made sure that the academics, the requirements of them & his future were all going to be secured through this advanced gift he’d been given. He made tremendous goals for himself young, he had awards & accolades by the hundreds over the years. He had several universities throwing monies at him. But somewhere around the end of Junior year, into Senior year, it had all started to take its toll. There was tremendous pressure for test scores. Tremendous pressure for GPA & to earn his International Baccalaureate Diploma. Tremendous pressure at 17 years old to choose the career he’s supposed love, enjoy & still be doing at 50. He wasn’t sleeping because he was up til 4 am writing papers or scholarship apps. He was knocking out college credits in high school so those extra monies could go to other classes & he could graduate college early if he wants. It was piles upon piles of work-work-work, only to come to the screeching of all screeching haults 2nd semester of Senior Year. Many of the ‘powers that be’ in the school he was a part of decided to change rules, to change guidelines & buck the system of traditions, awards & scholarships that had been his goal since he entered 9th grade. Many of the things he had literally busted his ass over for 4 years, was taken from him & many other kids due to good ole boy politics. This was again another one of those things as mentioned above, that you go in & fight over. Many of the kids unfairly chosen, stayed locally, don’t live on their own, maybe take a few classes at community college & they spent the monies handed out to them on trips & non educational things. My son & many of the others who were treated terribly left the area. They are at a major university trying to keep themselves afloat, without loans. He/they still serve the community. He’s been elected to several leadership roles at college, he’s in a nice fraternity & he just passed all of his 1st semester courses while still maintaining a good GPA. Here’s the point- in the event the last sentences sound bitter, maybe they are- but refer back to sentence 1- even though he had high academic success, even though he had over 1400 community service hrs, was a multi sport athlete, a great person, active in church, always helping teachers, worked a full time job, was top 10% of a class of over 300, was only 1 of very few to actually earn the IB Diploma, had hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships offered to him, was the only one in the ENTIRE school to be honored with a state & community level award & I could go on; that point is, despite ALL that hard work & all the effort, politics decided to change on a dime & it altered everything about his financial course on certain scales. You will see it in schools constantly. I am not saying do not encourage your kids to excel academically or any other level, but I am saying that if you put all of your eggs in one basket expecting, you could end up with an exhausted child or like us, with an administration that ruined his Sr Year & failed him in the home stretch of his process & he got hosed. Other kids also got hosed. Parents are still livid. It sets a tone that says work hard but when it comes time to honor that, we’ll do it for those who’ve done a good 3/4 less than you & just got by. There are many college preparation habits that Chase acquired through his years of hard work, but had we known better, he never would have spun his wheels in certain directions. It did not & will not ever benefit him in the least bit regarding future success. The only thing it taught him was a life lesson, that people abuse power, that not every man who claims to be a Christian is & that people deep down at times really do suck. The Gifted track has now been mentioned for my daughter. Same age, same grade as it was when offered with Chase. I know she’s a knockout. In many ways she far surpasses Chase’s intelligence at that age, but guess what, we’re gonna wait this one out. We’re going to see how she handles things. Despite her reading level or math skills, she absolutely hates doing homework & her train of thought is quickly lost if she is on a task too long & it draws out or bores her. That’s not something that flies with gifted curriculum. Maybe she will take the road Chase did, & maybe she won’t, but either way her success won’t be based on it. Large lesson learned the hard way, especially when your child’s livelihood & scholarship potential was in someone else’s hands you trusted. Please do not smother them with academic expectation. You never know what lies ahead. They will end up exactly where they are willed to be. Work hard but drop obsessing over it all. I can tell you it isn’t worth it.
- Don’t raise them in church, raise them in Christ. One will always be there for them no matter who or where they are & the other will not. Teach them young that relationship with Jesus & his instruction preached through his sermons & life, is in my opinion, all they need to know & apply to having a spirit filled Christian life. The church is a place that will hopefully provide the love, prayer & support they need, but many times it sadly will not. And before they find their church home or their prince as I like to refer, they’ll be let down by the amount of frogs they’ll have to kiss to find their permanent spot with their spirituality. It’s always changing because life is, so make sure their hopes haven’t been placed into a building or the people who attend. Their hope & ours need to be raised in Christ alone. He never fails.
- If you are tethered into your kids like I am, college drop off & goodbye will again kill you dead. I mean absolutely drop kick you in the face. I have friends who celebrated, clapped, & hoorayed their kids onto the future, NOT ME. As I mentioned above, I spiraled into the one of the worst depressions of my life. It has become easier, but I’m still a hot mess every time I have to tell him bye or take him back. Such a grief came to me because I realized that no matter how many roads lead him back to us temporarily; no matter how many summer or winter breaks land him in his old room, he is now a forever visitor. His permanent address will never be ours again. He’s flown & boy has he ever flown. The pride I feel for the man he is becoming is unreal, but the grief & hurt in my heart for the years we rushed through or the little moments I thought I was embracing, vanished like a vapor. I went from dropping him off at Kindergarten crying like a baby to dropping him off at college breathing into a bag from hyperventilation. The years between both events happened in the cliche’ finger snap & eye blink. They really did. Look, if you are the mom I am, you weep over the milestones, homemade Christmas ornaments & picture collages that compare how they looked in their football uniform over the span of those 8 yrs or on Christmas morning over the past 6. Who can’t sit through plays & programs watching them without bawling your eyes out. That’s ok. Do that. Breathe it in. Take 400 thousand pics & videos. Be the feeler. Nothing wrong with that. I heard mom’s say, you shouldn’t be sad, you should be proud. You should be glad he’s earned his wings & Grace is healed & they’re so outgoing & cool. You should be rejoicing over their future. Well no kidding. I was, I still am. But often times joy comes attached to great sorrow. You don’t have to camp out on the sorrow, but when the feelings of those days that have passed roll back in, it’s perfectly fine to miss them. It’s ok to cry your eyes from their sockets when they graduate or drive off in a car alone the first time. And it’s definitely ok to do it when they change their address & become their own responsibility. Don’t ever forget that. The world doesn’t get to put a time stamp on your emotions or processing of them. Whether you’re the rejoicing parent or the devastated one, find someone that can embrace how you feel too, but drop putting on trial the ones that are riding it out differently than you.
- When you do something absolutely stupid as a parent and you will, apologize for it. When you cross a line and you will, always own it & say you’re sorry. You’ll have apologetic & remorseful kids if they see you as a real human who makes mistakes like they do, instead of a know it all, because I said so, parenting robot. You don’t have all the answers to why your own emotions spiral any more than they do, so be tender when messy situations arise & if you junk it up then say so.
- If you don’t play well with others, neither will your children. If you are not nice on the internet, you are not nice. (read that somewhere recently, loved it) If you always have a negative approach to everything, they will also. Not much more to say about that except they’re always processing you. If you share online accounts with them, they are always reading you. Not everything you feel should be outwardly expressed, especially if it involves mistreating others– even if the others deserve it. Sometimes the best response is no response.
- Books-Books-Books-Books-Books- even if you do not like to read books, *gasp* & God help you, then just hold one in front of your face throughout the years & pretend. Teaching them young to have the attention span to sit & read a book, like a paper one, not an app, will be one of the greatest services you pay forward. My son was just home from college & after we family bowled, he wanted to stop by the bookstore to grab some new books. He read in the car the majority of the way to take him back to school. My daughter gets just as fired up over new books as she does over a toy. It’s just the best feeling! Encourage the reading. It does something so unique to exercise & grow the mind & vocabulary. Like I said earlier, it may be Harry Potter or it could be C.S. Lewis, it could start as a magazine- just don’t discredit or discourage the wonder happening inside your child or that could happen, through reading. (As an added here, we’re so blessed by the Goodwill Bookstores in our city. Maybe you have a consignment or thrift bookstore also & never realized it. A great outing & wonderful way to load up on awesome books for dirt cheap)
- Encourage them to work a job young & encourage them to spend time away or live away from you when they should. None of these events will kill them or you. They will not die without you, you will not die in return. They need to move on & parents do as well. If all of their friends live at home & stay in the cycle of such, please encourage them to spread their wings & open their circle a bit to encourage different friends, with alternative paths. There are plenty of opportunities young, that will help & teach them to learn to live on their own; for most that’s college. To learn to budget monies for food & housing. To get out of their comfort zones & meet new people. To seek out people who are in the same boat they are & find there is a whole group of others like them, adjusting. Others with the same interests & likes & they are feeling awkward about it too, but life is life & at some point you have to get up, get out & experience it. I see that even as Chase has been in college & it’s only been 4 1/2 months. Each piece of this journey is a piece preparing him for paying rent, having his own space, budgeting his own way, dealing with a lack of curfew & how that will fare down the road with career time management & doing it all without his momma breathing down his back. (Even though I am a religious texter) I recently had a friend who’s been through this all, chat with me. We discussed how it seems like they’re suffering on the road to finding themselves. They may not do laundry as much because they pay for it so they look a fright to us. They may or may not miss us. Their diet & sleep routines look horrifying. They feel all these new emotions & new feelings & at first they may be scared, many kids want to give up- but she said revel in these days he is away, don’t offer him a way out- because it’s easier to watch them struggle through those 4 years planning their future, than to have him home assuming he’s saving money & preparing, while what is actually occurring is that he’s created himself a high school lifestyle while expecting adult privilege. That is something she said, seems like a great idea at first, but becomes the most stressful & difficult cycle as the child gets older & older. No parent wants to tell their kid you have to move out one day, especially if they have no resources or motivation to do so. She had 1 child who wanted to do this after the 1st year of college. Her kid was miserable. She & her husband said it pained them to no end but they said no, you have to ride this out. They told their child it had only been a few months & asked not to come home so often anymore for visits. By Junior year they’d evaluate if the misery level still existed. The next year was a miracle, she said. When their child wasn’t allowed to constantly come back but push forward, the shell was broken, a new leadership emerged, new talents & new friendships…. even the college major was changed to fit something that made them happier. From there, their child went into a Master’s program in another state & while attending even met their amazing, current spouse. This person is now nearing their 30s. Married. Wonderful career & joyous life & she credits that to saying no, even when it almost ripped her heart out. If you are like me, dealing with the newness of partial empty nest, please know you & I will survive such atrocities known as college life. We are not the 1st. Universities are filled with millions of kids across the globe who get through every day without us. Keep pressing forward & keep encouraging them to do so as well. The benefit for them long term, far outweighs the lack of it for us in the early stages.
- Teach them how to win & how to lose gracefully & tactfully. To never rub a win in someone’s face & never treat others with disrespect because they lost. Always hold their head up & always congratulate others on a job well done no matter what position they’re in; they will always be on one side or the other & learning to stand tactfully will make the wins sweeter & the losses sting a bit less.
- Listen to anything they want to talk about, especially when little. If you’ve established this early on, you can trust you will be a go to & confidant when they move out. If they see they can trust you early, they will trust you later. They need that. They will need you. In their minds they may assume their friends have answers, until they see them making mistakes. You never want their girl or boyfriends or any friends giving them advice on big topics that you could have advised differently. That may happen at some point, but eventually your advice will be what they trust & apply first, so make sure that you are a place they feel safe coming. I have said before, I remember when Chase was small, he’d come to me with something SO important & SO exciting he’d want me to drop everything to come see or to listen. So I would. Many times with soapy hands I’d turn off the water & bend to his level to hear this little boy ’emergency talk’. I found conversations with this same boy at 15 sitting in my garage in the car talking about his life stuff. I find myself now talking about the REAL life stuff with that former little boy at 18- often wanting to plug my ears because he’s very blunt & open, but I am thankful for his honesty & trust. I am also thankful I never shewed him away. What a joy that I get to take this journey with G also & I pray I give her that established trust as well. We’re a house of talkers maybe like your family; loud & chatty, but when we need to become a house of listeners we do, & our children recognize their safe place falls wherever we drop to welcome them.
I know this was lengthy, so thanks for pushing through to the end. I hope you found something here that made you feel normal & possibly relate. Made you feel like you’ll try that. Maybe felt like I need to work on that. It’s not a place or an area for you to feel low about your parenting choices, so I hope if you are feeling such, that you’ll get out of your thoughts & know that every day is a new day to start over with a new plan. I start over constantly. This list isn’t typed out by someone who has it all together, by any means. I assure you.
When I was young it was dysfunction that drew me to certain friends; this was our common denominator. The absent parent in my life was replaced by other people in order to fill voids of emptiness. Eventually what was the innocent, subconscious choosing of friends or boyfriends, ended up spiraling into the most damning, destructive people & life choices I have ever made.
Many kids struggle with the absence of 1 parent, many don’t. Often times the absence your child feels has nothing to do with the fact someone isn’t physically present, it’s the effect of sitting on a couch with you & struggling because they feel like you’re a million miles away.
I surrounded myself back then with what I was inside; what I felt inside. An honor student with a bright future became a person who cared less & wanted to sleep until noon every day & have my dad allow me to free load. My friends & my boyfriend(s) got older as I did. Many of them were going nowhere, neither was I – all I did was make excuses & plans in my mind that never happened because I had the motivation of a snail.
It seemed like a great idea to get married at 19 years old because we were going to just “live off love” even though neither of us had ever lived outside a parent’s home or worked more than a dinky part time job here & there.
When I became a mother at 23, then again at 36, I promised them & I promised me, that although I cannot shield my children from the choices I made, I will do my very best to give them a home & a life they don’t have to run from. I will give them a home that motivates them, but a home that will never support the slothfulness & depressive existence that young me created for herself.
That my kids know all the awesome things I see in them & I praise them for such, because that is who they truly are, not because I am their mom. To believe it & walk with confidence & high self esteem knowing I would never waste their time or lives affirming untruths about their characters & abilities if they didn’t actually acquire that type of potential. I am not here to lie them into the future.
I want to make sure when they surround(ed) themselves with friends or 1st relationships, that unlike former me, their function would play the part in defining their crowd & lead their choices, not the dysfunction.
And last, if they chose or ever choose to step over the line of my advice & prayer & decide to experiment things for themselves that make me want to rock back & forth in the corner, those decisions are not from personal pressure. That their choices are not because they’re trying to flee from pain or hurt buried inside- that some things or mistakes made are just from a simple act of immature curiosity. They’ll understand how many things I said actually were a waste of time are & that of course… I was right more than I was wrong. However, they sadly never know you’re right about the advice you give until they have to experience that particular thing not working out in their favor. The I told you so thought in your mind is always shared with the heartache of seeing something disappoint them. That’s the forever struggle in parenthood.
What about you? Not sure what season of parenting, grandparenting, maybe aunting or uncle-ing that you are experiencing. Is there something you’d love to add to this post also?
I’d love to hear what has/hasn’t worked for you or maybe didn’t work for you when you yourself were growing up. Feel free to share.
Thanks as always for stopping in, be blessed on your journey! XO