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Entries in Parenting (71)

Wednesday
Jan072015

In my day, we walked to school uphill both ways...

It's pretty cold all over Canada at the moment, thus fortifying the stereotype that we are a frozen world. In Manitoba, last night, the wind chill values were -45C (-49F). That's pretty darn cold.

Here in my town, the school buses have not been cancelled (yet) despite Environment Canada having issued a snow squall warning earlier. It's pretty clear now, but cold. That school is not cancelled is going to tick off a lot of people. Whenever there is inclement weather these days, people get polarized over whether or not schools should be cancelled. 

When I was going to school, closures of the school were rare, but I seem to remember some pretty harsh winters. There are those who disagree with me. Last winter, someone told me that she was quite certain that there had never been a winter like last winter. Well, since temperature records don't go back to the beginning of time, I'm not sure it's safe to say that. I went to public school here in Ontario from 1975-1978, and then high school in 1982, and we had cold weather. My husband grew up here in southern Ontario, and he has some pretty vivid memories of a very bad storm in 1977. I remember it, too.

When I was in fourth grade, I attended a school in Winnipeg, and my brothers and I took the bus. It was about a fifteen minute ride. One afternoon, a nasty blizzard blew into Winnipeg. The temperatures had plummeted, and the visibility was almost zero. Many of the buses could not make it back to the school to pick up the students that afternoon. Quite a few parents had already come to the school to pick up the kids. We only had one car at the time, and my father had it. My brothers and I stood wondering which bus we would get on because ours was cancelled. 

We were finally directed to one brave driver who allowed just about every stranded kid onto his bus after conferring with the principal. It was not nice driving weather, and I was scared. The driver had the radio on, and I can still remember hearing Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle," as we plunged onward through the drifts. And of course we made it home. It was well after 5:00 when we got there, but we made it. That kind of thing would not happen today. 

I have mixed feelings about how quickly we say it's "too cold" for kids to go to school. For small children, I have a little more sympathy, but what about a kid who is in 12th grade? If today is "too cold" for him to go to school, what will he do next year? Right now, all over southern Ontario, there are first year university students who have to go to school. There are people who have to go to their jobs. Are we sheltering our kids too much? Is this just another manifestation of "helicopter parenting?" 

The world can't stop for the weather. If you had a doctor's appointment and was informed when you arrived that the doctor felt it "too cold" to go outside, how would you feel? Maybe the manager of the grocery store had a long drive and didn't want to open the store, and you needed milk. Would you want him to stay home? Last year, during the infamous Polar Vortex, I had a vet's appointment, and I knew my vet was an hour away. I was sure she would cancel. She didn't. She was there.

It is certainly important to protect small children, but the irony is that they are usually better dressed for the weather than the older kids. I understand not wanting to take kids out in the cold. I didn't like it, either. One day, in Regina, when our daughter was in kindergarten, we had -50 windchills, and I couldn't open my front door. She did, indeed stay home that morning, but that was a rarity.

We live in Canada, and life goes on, even in the winter. I think protecting our young kids from the cold is wise, but honestly, this morning, if one of my kids was still in high school, he'd be getting up going to school.

Friday
Dec192014

When they tell you their secrets

My kids are beginning to arrive home for the holidays. I love to see how insanely happy the Beagle is when they come in. She was so happy last night that she sounded like she was being disemboweled. It's like she was saying, "Where have you been? I've been waiting."

We had dinner with all of our kids together last night. Our daughter will be home on Monday, but we were in town where she lives, and we ate together. I love to hear my kids laugh with each other. It's so much  nicer than when they were younger and just filled the dinner table with bickering. It's a blessing to see my adult children be friends with each other. It's not always the case. Of my three brothers, I really only have anything to do with one of them, and that's kind of sad.

Inevitably as they talk together, snippets of things they've done while being on their own come out. My brothers used to do that to my mom, too; share a story of some gross infraction she would rather not have known about. She didn't like it, and I could see that. I sympathized with her, and I sympathize with her more now.

I really don't want to know the things they have done which are displeasing to the Lord. When mothers hear that, the guilt impulse automatically kicks in. When my kids persist on sharing details, I try to keep it light, and say, "Too much information," or "I don't want to know that." Because I don't want to know.

Mothers have one desire for their children; Christian mothers, that is. We desire our children to pursue righteousness. A righteous life is a blessed life. It may not be an easy life, but it's a good life. That's what I want for my kids no matter what their vocations are. We don't want to hear about the things they have done which are unrighteous, no matter how small. Hearing them say how they learned from a mistake is one thing, but hearing the details we can do without.

My mind is drawn back to an incident when they were younger and we were homeschooling. I had just started blogging, and I was typing away one morning and one of the kids was beside me, speaking to me, asking for permission for something. I was quite involved in what I was doing, and lo and behold, later on I discovered I had given consent for something, had I been paying attention, I would not have.

I wonder how many other moments there were like that. When they share some of their secrets, I feel like I wasn't paying enough attention, that I was too wrapped up in my own affairs at the time. There is a temptation when they are getting older and more independent that we don't have to pay as much attention. I wonder if my time should have been better spent. It's all water under the bridge, but every now and then, I feel regret for it.

I'm studying Psalm 56 in prepration for teaching in January, and in this psalm, David is running from Saul. He is surrounded by enemies. They are "trampling" him "all day long," (v.2).  Their thoughts are evil against him (v.5), and they "lurk" (v.6).

I feel sometimes like those things in the past are my enemies. They trample on an otherwise good day; they lurk, only to jump out when I least expect it. I don't have the kind of enemies David had, but things like guilt and regret can be oppressive in their own way. These enemies from within are stubborn to leave. They want to drag me down.

In the second half of verse 9, David says, "This I know, that God is for me."

What a tremendous thought! The God of the Universe is for me. He is for us. This season of Christmas reminds me what lengths God went to in order to show that he is for us. He sent his son who knew the glory of heaven to a humble stable. This is my comfort. No matter how relentlessly my inner enemies want to be against me, God is for me. That is my comfort and assurance.

Young moms who blog, take care. While there is nothing wrong with blogging, keep it in proper perspective. Don't get distracted with looking for the affirmation of the blog world. Be there for your kids. You're the only mother they have. There will be time for blogging later.

Monday
Dec082014

Don't wish their lives away

Many years ago, when my children were all 7 years old and under, and we were getting ready to go out to play, I wished to myself that they could all do their zippers up and get their boots on without me. I couldn't wait for a time when going somewhere didn't take an extra thirty minutes.

Similar thoughts frequently entered my mind: I'll be glad when they can all cut their own food; when they can tie their own shoes; when they can help me in the kitchen without making a mess; when they've stopped outgrowing their pants in two months. There are many scenarios. Of course, my own mother warned me about wishing their lives away, just as she cautioned me about wishing my own away.

Seeing our kids gain independence is exciting, but if we focus too much on wishing they were older, there can be some not so great consequences.

Impatience

Let's face it; many aspects of parenting quickly become monotony. When we get tired of the monotony, we may begin to rush our children and show impatience. Impatient parents can discourage a child from trying, and taken to an extreme, crush a child's spirit. Who wants to try when every effort it met with a "hurry up" attitude? When we get impatient with a perceived lack of spiritual progress, we can come across as harsh. I don't know about you, but someone who always greets me with impatience is someone I want to avoid. There were many, many times when I was so certain that my nagging would get the results, only to see my children embrace things on their own, and all my worry and concern was for naught.

Living in tomorrow rather than today

Wishing our kids were older may cause our gaze to be in the future rather than right now, and we may miss something. It may mean we don't take as much joy or show as much encouragement for little things in their lives. On the negative side, living for tomorrow may mean we don't see the problems of today, and the unresolved things of today can be very unruly tomorrow. Worrying more about when they're going to finally grow up and act like an adult when they're only 12 can mean we're not paying attention to the good progress they have now. It may mean we're not focusing on the heart as we should because that takes too much time and we want that end result to come quickly.

Checking out in the teen years

There is an erroneous assumption that when they are 12+ that they require less of us. I don't agree. Maintaining a connection to family can be a challenge in the teen years, because young people are gaining bigger social networks. When our kids are in their teens, and their independence is in sight, if we spend too much time wondering when we can convert their bedroom to an office, we may check out of what's happening right now. There is a lot of talk about young adults who walk away from the church. It doesn't happen when they leave home; it happens while they're at home. Kids who walk away from their faith start the process while they're at home. This is the biggest mistake I made as a parent: thinking that the right response from a teenager equated maturity, and therefore, I could relax. Too many times, I dropped the ball.

There is no "quality" versus "quantity"

There are hundreds of moments I wish I could get back as a mother. There are moments when I was too impatient, and too worried about tomorrow rather than today. It was selfishness on my part. I'm not saying that every moment must be spent with our children, or that we cannot have our own interests, but as our kids get older and schedules are so busy that even a meal together is an impossibility, the time we have with them is precious. There is a false dichotomy between having "quality" or "quantity" time with our kids. In reality, both kids of time are necessary. 

I have friends who have grandchildren. I watch their joy, and I hear their pride and love as they share their stories. I don't hear them saying, "I can't wait for junior to grow up." Grandmas have learned that children grow up much too fast, and grandmas have found the joy of loving the moment. I hope I will have that experience myself someday. And hopefully, I'll be an encouraging and patient voice, encouraging those young mothers not to wish their children's lives away.

Monday
Oct202014

Counsel from Ferris Beuller

On the weekend, I attended the wedding of a young lady whom I've known since she was four years old. That was a first for me. We've been to weddings in our church before, but now the young people of my kids' generation are marrying. It makes me feel old.

The father of the groom, when he made his speech, referring to the fact that his little boy was now grown and married, said poignantly, "It was quick."

They grow up so fast. It's trite but true. 

Ten years ago today, according to the archives of my blog, I was writing about an incident that happened during snack time, which fell around 10:00 a.m. during our homeschool day. I reflected about our first Beagle, Sally, and how she captured a stray Goldfish cracker:

She decided that there must be more than one way to skin a cat, and approached the table from the other side. I heard the commotion, but I finally came onto the scene to see her on the floor, attempting to get underneath the coffee table. The sight of that little beagle bum sticking out of the space under the coffee table was pretty funny, but it was serious business to her. I think she eventually got her head jammed in between the table and back of the couch, and her proficient tongue snagged the prize. Boy, I wish I had her tenacity. There's no lack of excitement when you have a beagle in the house.

What am I doing today? Nothing like what I was doing back then. I have another Beagle, but there is no hope of a stray Goldfish cracker in her day. The intensive part of parenting is over. In the famous words of Ferris Beuller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

In ten short years, I have gone from snack time at 10:00 am with three kids to a day ahead of me that doesn't include those three children particularly, aside from the possibility of a text message.

Parenting moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around at your kids, you might miss them.

There are a lot of things parents want to give their children. Some things, like new life in Christ, is not ours to give. And maybe we can't give them all the "things" we'd like to. But we can give them our time. Give your kids your time. Talk to them, listen to them (listen more than talk; that's something I wish I'd learned earlier), play with them, laugh with them, eat with them, dream with them. Be willing to sacrifice, even if it means you don't always get to do what you want.

Mothering is about a lot more than not giving up the second piece of cake. Sometimes, it means giving up a whole lot more. But it's worth it, because it does go by so fast. God gives us these precious lives for a season, and it's a privilege to bring them up for his glory. Loving our children as Christ loves means sacrifice. And we don't do it for the accolades or the standing ovation on Mother's Day. We do it because God has given us this task, and because we love our children.

I'm not saying this because I feel particularly melancholy today. I've seen all my children recently, and we are fortunate to see them often. But I'm not going to assume that they'll be close forever. Even now, with all this free time on my hands, I'm careful to give them my time; to listen to them, to talk to them, to rejoice with their successes and sympathize with their struggles. Once our kids become teens, it's tempting to think we can just check out. We can't. They still want us there, even if they don't always articulate it.

Whatever you do with your time, if you have children, make time for them; as much as you can. Be there for bed time, dinner time, game time, recital time. Give them lots of time. Homeschooling meant we had a lot of time together, but I still wish I'd given more.

Friday
Oct172014

Children, not clones

I really don't like waking up to a dirty kitchen.

I don't like an unmade bed.

I find it hard to sit and read a book if there is unfolded laundry in a basket, or unwashed dishes in the sink.

Clutter in the house makes it hard for me to concentrate.

Nit picky

These are just a few little nit picky things that I don't like, but which my children have no difficulty with. In general, I don't like clutter. They are quite okay with it; I've seen their bedrooms in their houses. They manage to work among unmade beds, empty plates, laundry on the floor, and Coke cans piled up. Dirty is one thing; they have an aversion to that. Clutter, though, is okay.

Did I not teach my children to clean up after themselves? Of course I did. It was part of the larger lesson of stewardship, taking care of the home we lived in. When they lived at home, I asked them to pick up their things and they did so.

My children are adults now. How they keep their homes is their business. You can think I'm a failure as a mother because my children don't keep house like I do (yet), but the fact of the matter is that some people don't mind clutter. My children are among them. And they have a father who doesn't mind, either. Lots of people feel more creative in clutter.

They're big kids now

It's very tempting to think that correcting our children is simply a matter of asking them to stop doing something and then having them comply immediately and forever. We all have annoying habits, and we can all be assured that we as parents do things which annoy our children. Once they get out on their own, they can live as they want. They make their own choices. Every bad one isn't because we didn't "correct" them enough. There comes a point when they are teenagers when too much hovering and criticism starts to sound like "blah, blah, blah," to them. At some point, you let the child make a mistake and deal with the consequences. My three kids have all had to face such a situation at school whether it was suffering a bad grade because of procrastinating, or spending money they shouldn't have. 

Ultimately, we are raising children, not clones. They may live differently than we do. We want them to embrace the truth of God's Word, but they may not replicate the lives they grew up with. They may prefer to live in places we wouldn't live or have hobbies we didn't have. My husband and I watch hockey; my boys heckle us for it. They watch shows which I think are stupid, like Arrested Development. One of my sons likes to poke fun at me for enjoying British crime dramas. We are a family of readers, yet one of my sons prefers to draw instead of read. These things are fine. It's tempting to think that parental success means that our kids must do exactly what we want them to do as adults. That isn't true.

We have our own vocations

I have seen this become an issue with young women. My daughter, at the age of 25, is not a stay at home mother like I was. She has a different vocation than I did and do. At one time, I did not understand the principle of vocation and the fact that she didn't seem to want to embrace the things I did made me erroneously think that she was somehow rejecting God's plan for her life. If you want to frustrate a teenager, by all means, try to force her into a mold. I don't recommend it. Yes, I hope some day my daughter will have children, and I trust she will care for them when the time comes, but I'm not going to relegate her to the "bad girl" corner because she's not living my life. All I want for all of my children is that they love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, and minds, and love others as themselves in whatever vocation God gives them. To assume they can only achieve that with my plans is pride, pure and simple.

When our kids are at home and under our constant care, it's tempting to believe that they are always going to do everything we suggest. They won't. They will leave home and have the freedom to ignore advice and do what they want. While they are at home, then, our task is to teach godly principles and godly wisdom. Their lives may not look exactly like ours in the details, but if they are embracing wisdom and demonstrating a teachable spirit, that's a good thing.