Monday, February 27, 2012

life lesson #347


“There is a time for everything…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

It easier—much, much, MUCH easier—to parent a child from birth to high school graduation than it is to help them navigate the years from graduation to complete independence.

With 6 children, we have every learning style and love language here.  We have strong will kids and compliant ones. Bold, in-your-face kids and quiet, reserved ones too.  Artists and architects, engineers and athletes.  Some are firmly rooted with much common sense, others are a bit more:::spacey, shall we say.  :)   There are kids who are too smart for their own good and those with significant learning and behavior issues.  But they all have one thing in common:  during childhood, all have had clear boundaries, high expectations, and appropriate consequences for misbehavior.  We’ve never had public temper tantrums or food thrown on the floor (not more than once per child anyway!).  They learn early how to behave appropriately, and there’s virtually nowhere we wouldn’t be able to take them.  It’s fun to have them able to share life with us in this way, and worth the effort it takes.  They learn early on here that ‘no’ means ‘no’ from Mom and Dad.  They understand that we expect age-appropriate behavior, and we will correct inappropriate actions.  They understand that while there are lots of ‘no’ in their world, Mom and Dad do their best to provide as many ‘yes’ answers as they can.  The ‘no’ are primarily for safety and protection—of themselves, others, and things around them.

When our big guys were small, someone in our life expressed concern that we were far too hard on them, that our expectations were just plain too high.  Our children would hate us when they were teens—they would be rebellious and nasty.  Over the years, though, a funny thing has happened.  That person’s children (there were none when ours were very small) are now approaching the teen years and ours are mostly grown.   And she wonders why her children are so difficult while ours were pleasant, delightful teens.  Ummm….you reap what you sow??

Anyway, although everyone here is healthy and (mostly) happy, this ‘early adult’ phase is challenging.  College decisions are hard.  Career choices can be painful, especially when it’s hard to figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be.   Catching a vision and finding the resources to pursue it isn’t easy.  Rejection hurts, whether it comes from a program you hope to study, a career you hope to pursue, or a person you hope to spend your life with.  The skinned knees and blatant outright defiance of the early years are a cakewalk compared to the heartaches and broken dreams that come in the early adult years.  Then, a kiss and a cookie (or some appropriate discipline!) took care of the issue.  Now, there’s very little I can do but listen and love.  Pray.  Be there.  Encourage.  Pray more.  Offer advice (cautiously.  And sparingly!)  Listen more.  Pray more.   Help them explore new dreams and catch new visions.  Remind them that what doesn’t kill them will make them stronger.  (Yeah sure!)  Grab their hands and help them hang on to hope…because sometimes that’s all there is. 

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father

There is no shadow of turning with thee…

..Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, and ten thousand beside.

(Great is Thy Faithfulness words by Thomas O Chisholm, 1923.  Music by William N Runyan, 1923.)


  1. Great post! I agree with so much of what you've written. I know that I've been viewed as being too strict, but my teen is now a well adjusted, polite kid. When he was younger he'd say, "So and so's mom lets him..." and I would answer, "I will never apologize for being a good parent."

  2. Please be careful when you talk about your parenting and the parenting of others. Every mother needs encouragement in this area, not comparison or judgment...

    1. True. Encouragement IS needed. Surprisingly, though, encouragement can come in the form of comparison or constructive criticism. Often, the hard words that feel judgmental or critical lead to honest introspection and motivation to make hard changes.

      No judgment here. I will be the first to tell you I'm not a perfect parent. We have certainly made (and still make!) our share of mistakes. There are lots of things we'd do differently. It doesn't change the fact that parenting the nearly-independent is FAR harder than parenting the birth to high school graduation set. Or that high expectations, clear boundaries, and appropriate, consistent consequences for misbehavior are sound parenting practices.