Thursday, November 19, 2015

Preparing your children for life

If there was one phrase that I have heard a million times over the years, it is “train up a child in the way they should go.” Most times, that meant whip their tails so they don’t act a fool and get into bigger trouble than they could get out of. But now, the focus is less on disciplining and more on sheltering…less on training and more on protecting. I think the new word for it is “helicoptering.” Being a mom of three, I can understand that. That last thing I want my children to ever experience is hurt or pain.

But how realistic is that? And, as parents, are we doing more harm than good?

I was thinking about this as we were nearing Grandparents’ Day at my kids’ schools. My mom passed away last year and, honestly, she wasn’t able to attend many times before that. My dad, while a fun guy, has not always been the grandfatherly type. He will show up for the kids’ function, but there’s always a feeling of relief when he makes it. So on several occasions, I have asked family friends to fill in with my kids.  And then there were times when the kids have to go it alone. They went, sad face, some tears and made it through the day.

As happens every year, there were some parents who allowed their children to miss school rather than subject them to a day without grandparents. Now, don’t get me wrong, whenever my kids had no one to show up, I think my feelings were more hurt than theirs. But then another old school saying started playing in my head. “ If we don’t teach them, who will?

Teach them what, you ask? Teach them about life. Things won’t ever be “Even Steven.” Life won’t ever really play by the rules. Instead of allowing our children to bow out, why not take this opportunity to teach them that yes, things won’t always be fair, but you will be fine. Hang in there and, before you know it, you will be on the other side. And what better instance than Grandparent’s Day because, let’s face it, this is one of the easier lessons and environments to learn it in.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to let them get hit by a car to prove you need to look both ways before crossing the street. I am saying that the hard lessons are usually the ones that stick. Life can hand out some doozies. When your child is able to rely on his/her own strength to persevere, you will be amazed at how proud you will be. Better than that, your kiddo will be proud of himself.

We can’t always provide the shelter against disappointment, heartbreaks, and mean girls. We can, however, illustrate how to deal with life when it gives you lemons. That’s the legacy we should be thinking about. Leaving our children with a way to keep their heads up in the face of adversity.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The New Normal

What do you say to your small children about same-sex couples? It’s a question I’ve asked myself lately because the scenario has come up. 

Both Reese and Westley have friends and classmates who have same-sex parents. I know the couples and they, along with their children, are awesome. I just wonder if there is anything I need to be prepared to say or any question I need to be prepared to answer if the kids see or hear something that they consider out of the norm?

Now, let me be clear. I am not homophobic, anti-gay or any of those other popular descriptors. Most of you who know me know I am a church girl, but I am not of the holier-than-thou variety. Everyone has their opinion, but I would never judge anybody for being homosexual. Lord knows I don’t want anyone judging me for things that I have done as a heterosexual. Yet, I do want to be ready for inquiring minds.

Why? Because I have been blinded-sided before with questions like:

Hard question? Yikes!

“Why do boys have penises and girls don’t?” 

That prompted a stimulating yet confusing conversation about pee-pees and wee-wees. I'm not even sure I understood what I said. 

Then there's my personal favorite, “How did the doctors get the baby out of your tummy?” Luckily, their dad was close by as the bus was approaching, so I threw him under it. 

"Ask your father!"

Those type of silly retorts will work on some topics for a while, but for same-sex couples, I want to have an educated, thought-out response. 

There is no topic that builds up as much steam as the discussion about sexuality. It sits right at the top of the taboo leaderboard with with politics and religion. Am I to leave the discussion for the locker room at my son's all-boy school? Or maybe let the littles pick up their views from just plain ignorant commentary that tends to follow this topic everywhere it goes? I want kids that care, not kids that crucify.

What about things they might see on a play date? No, I'm not thinking they would see anything inappropriate, but more like wedding pictures or the term "Mom" being used for more than one person. 

Am I over thinking it? Be honest. 

Maybe I should stay away from any detail-oriented explanations and tell them what I know to be true, what I have experienced in my own life…that different families have different dynamics. Some families have two parents, while some are divorced.  Some families have just one mommy or just a daddy, some have two mommies and two daddies, some even have aunts, uncles and cousins in different family roles. But most importantly, God loves all people, and so should you.
I’m hoping that if I stick with the basics, it will leave room for them to make their own judgments based on their own experiences. Maybe that is enough for now. What about when they are older and require more information? I think I will cross that bridge when I get to it. But kids will be kids and, sooner or later, they will want to know. I want to be thoughtful in my delivery because my hope is to raise children who are, while firm in their beliefs, understanding and loving. 

Any suggestions?