I read an article a few days ago that was absolutely BRILLIANT. Now, as you’ll come to see, I don’t happen to agree with 90% of what the writer is suggesting, but it was FABULOUS, because often I don’t have occasion to set intentions. Until I saw this laundry list of philosophies, I hadn’t really stopped to consider my own. Like the normal human parent, I just sort of DO parenting, according to a deep philosophy that is playing in the depths of my soul, sort of like background music at a Johnny Carinos. Like Tom Cruise, I needed to see a system that someone proposed that didn’t sit well with me, in order for me to write a mission statement for parenting. At least for parenting my three kids.
If you know me well, you know I struggle with order. I know exactly what I think and why I think it, but to present that to someone who is a logical thinker, can leave said smarty pants completely muddled and frustrated.
- Me: Husband, dairy is bad. I’ve been reading up a LOT on this subject. I’m very concerned about all the DAIRY.
- Husband: But why exactly? What’s so bad about it?
- Me: Lots of things. Just trust me. Extra snot. Inflammation. Baaaaad stuff.
- Husband: Can you give me some facts?
- Me: No, well, YES, but I’d have to go look them up, and can’t you just take me at my word?
- Husband: No.
- Me: You are so logical.
- Husband: It’s like you are accusing me of something.
- Me: ….if the shoe fits mister.
Some people, huh?
But, for the purpose of the Mission Statement, I will throw my gypsy soul to the side for a moment, and tell you what I’m thinking, and I will back it up with solid reasons WHY I think it. And furthermore, members of the jury, I will prove my case and …oh wait. So, I probably need to take it down a notch. When you aren’t used to being logical, it’s easy to get carried away.
This is the portion of the piece where I let you have the option of reading the article in its entirety. Completely up to you-I’ll warn you-it’s fancy. If you go to this website, you may be pulled in. It’s like my place is a cute two bedroom downtown, and HER place is a sprawling mansion in the country. Please don’t get lost. But do feel free to ooohhhh and awwwww. I would never deny you that. The author is very authory and apparently has written some books. Impressive, and I really do not intend any sarcasm here. Here you are, since you seem to be insisting.
Let’s dive in. Eight things that the author suggests we parents STOP doing for our teens:
- Waking them up in the morning
- Making their breakfast and packing their lunch
- Filling out their paperwork
- Delivering their forgotten items
- Making their failure to plan your emergency
- Doing all of their laundry
- Emailing and calling their teachers and coaches
- Meddling in their academics
1.Waking the teens up: I love waking up my children. My mom always woke me up. She was the first voice of cheerfulness and HOPE I heard in the morning. She often rubbed my back a bit, and started chattering away about everything under the sun. As a teen, I forgot to tell her how much this really helped me to get a jump on my day; instead I most likely groaned and carried on a bit. I do this for my children. Could they get themselves up if they needed to? Of course. About twice a week, I’ll be toodling around the kitchen with my coffee, and be shocked to see a kid coming out of their room fully dressed and ready to go. I’ll be like, whooa! where’s the fire? and they’ll be like, Got a project today-love you! Byyyeee! And so. I feel a bit cheated on these days, since my favorite thing ever is to turn the tables on my children after years of them waking me up. I’m just saying, if this is causing you to think about you and your own teens, or kids about to be teens, maybe establish that they CAN do it. My favorite way of doing this is to be a tad disorganized. Forget a few times. Be super involved in writing a blog and completely forget to wake them up. This will be hard for some of you totally organized parents. If you need some tips on being bit more discombobulated- I can help you there.
My point: I get them under my roof for 18 years. Maybe more during breaks in the college years– if I’m lucky, and soon enough they will be waking up to their day on their own-with no corny jokes, or singing or back rubs. It’s the smallest of things, really, but I hope they will remember that mornings are a good thing, and the best way to start them is to do it with a smile, surrounded by people who really love you no matter if your breath smells horrible and your hair is worthy of laughter and pointing.
2. Making their breakfast and packing their lunches. Now, here’s the situation in our house: one teen has decided that he feels a bunch better if he does NOT eat breakfast (gasp) and that gave me some serious stress, until I read an article about intermittent fasting. And then I looked at my hunky, totally in shape boy, and realized he was listening to his body, and supported him in his no breakfast ways. The other teen, does eat some breakfast. Some days, I’m preoccupied with my 10-year-old
or Facebook, and she makes her own. Other days, I’ll say, Hey honey! Can I get you something for breakfast today? And she will sometimes take me up on it gratefully. I love this. I love putting a whole bunch of love into her breakfast. I remember that high school can be challenging. I can recall the stress, and I enjoy imagining that good food sparkling away in her body at least until lunch. It’s a kindness that I hope will carry her far into the day. Lunches: I have to claim Not Applicable here, since both my kids eat school lunch. However, I really feel the same way about THAT. It reminds me of one of my good friends, who made the same lunch for her teen for all four years of High School. When asked what he wanted for his graduation party, he said, “Mom? Can we have THE lunch you always made for me?” And she did it very cool and themey, down to the last detail. COOL. Right? And that boy won’t ever forget any of that. Maybe he will decide that someday, when he has kids, he will make them their very own special lunches, too.
3. Filling out their paperwork: I never filled out any paperwork as a teen. And yet? I seem to have filled every bit of paperwork out successfully as any other adult, even our passports, which were trickier than tricky. I put this particular thing in the category of potty training. I worried and worried and WORRIED that we would have the last children on the block to be out of diapers. Until my husband said, “Lis. Seriously. Do you really think we are gonna have 12 year-olds walking around in diapers? Whether they are using the potty at 12 months, or 15, who cares?” I think it’s totally fine to involve them, but to me, this is putting up a gate where there’s no need for a gate.
4. Delivering their forgotten items: Well, we’ve reached the BIGGIE. This is a huge one. You may not agree with me. It’s ok. On paper, this looks really reasonable. It seems to make a lot of sense. But remember, I’m often not wired that way. I do tend to FEEL things first. So, here’s my thoughts: When I forgot stuff as a little kid, I knew I was screwed. My Mom was working her tush off. She could no more of ran something to school, than flew to the moon. I forgot stuff, some big stuff sometimes. And I had no one to rescue me. I still forget stuff. I’m a constant work in progress in this area of my life, and I suppose my friends and family shouldn’t help me at the ripe old age of 45 to “teach me a lesson”. But man, I’m sure glad they DO. I have been so immensely grateful for this so many times in my life. When my kids forget something, I help them….because I can. I made a decision to stay home these years for a bit, because in short, I have 4 family members who are all REALLY BUSY. In a house where everyone is running, I like to stand still. My very responsible business-running-veterinarian husband knows, that if he forgets something at work 25 miles away, I am here, and able to help. My children know, I am here. I can help. I won’t tell you that we aren’t constantly helping them to remember and plan.
We are constantly helping them with this, because, well, we are their PARENTS. It feels like the right thing to do. If I were working, and couldn’t get away from work, like I was a year ago-if they sent me a text like the one the author used as an example, I would have had to say, “Sorry Charlie! I can’t!” …..but I absolutely will not get this text, while at home doing laundry, and say no, for no’s sake. If I did, when I text my child, Helllpppp!!! can you get Quinn from school? I’m in the city and wasn’t watching the time!!!…I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if they said, sorry mom. no. you need to learn to be more responsible. In this house, we love and support each other. The world is straight up crazy, my friends. We gotta stick together. As I write this, my son is running through the house looking for a fish food container. His sister has asked him to get her some more, otherwise Wanda won’t eat tonight.(Ya, she has a Fish called Wanda. My kids seriously rock. ) He’s happy to do it for her. This is how we roll.
5. Making their failure to plan YOUR emergency: Well, this is a bit like the previous thing. I won’t say much, other than this: how do you want to be treated when you screw up? how do you want your CHILD to treat others when they screw up? If we can help our children because they made an honest mistake, we will. Period.
6. Doing all of their laundry: my kids do not complain about their laundry. They may have a special request, and I do try to honor that, if I can. They can do laundry, because I’ve asked them to every so often. Will they do their laundry as adults? I hope so. Otherwise I suppose they could consider a nudist colony. At which I won’t be able to visit them, but that’s neither here nor there. I do like clothes. Thank God for clothes.
7. Emailing and calling their teachers and coaches: Can parents get too involved here? Yes. Oh YES. I have a husband who is a coach. I’m very aware. However. There are times when it’s needed. Why? Well, because they are kids. It does take a village, and as a schoolteacher myself in a previous lifetime, I can tell you, there’s much to be gained by conversation. On both ends. I guess the thing I continue to ask myself while reading the article this post is about, is why do these kids have parents? why are we here? to help, is my answer. When my children are in college, I certainly won’t have access to their teachers. I do right now. And everything I do, is for them to be successful when they are NOT under our roof. To treat them like they are ALREADY, I believe, is doing them a great disservice.
My own mother remembers being on her own at the age of 16, because she graduated early, and was given the opportunity to play professional basketball in the big city far away. Her parents dropped her off, and she had to figure everything out on her own. Did she? Yes. She is fierce and independent. Do you know what she says about that whole thing? I felt very alone. I felt like my parents didn’t care. I vowed to never be that kind of parent. And she is 82, an age that generally adds a lot of soft focus to one’s past life. And she wasn’t that kind of parent. All of us girls know that we have a strong home base-one we’ve had to each call on at points in our lives. We are so loved and cared for. And home feels so safe, even though we can’t physically be there nearly as much as we like–but because it’s there? We can fly strong in this world. (Note: For the record, my grandparents were amazing folks in many aspects as parents, and doing the best knew how to do.)
8. Meddling in their academics: So, this is a quote from the article: These apps and websites, where parents can go in and see every detail of children’s school grades and homework, are not helping our overparenting epidemic. So, I gotta say again: But wait. Now is the time to be involved, because as I’m finding out, these kids are about to fly the coop. If we aren’t involved NOW, I have a feeling we may have to be very involved later. When it’s not appropriate to be. You get me? Children are all different. I have one kid who naturally handles this on her own. I have another who has more of my genetics, poor thing. Did I need help organizing assignments and classes? YEP. And so does this one. It’s ok. Now is when we teach them, so that when it’s not appropriate (college, work, or Christmas at their in-law’s)…they will know what to do. Or not do. I love our school’s Parent Portal. This is how we, as parents, can ask detailed questions to our child who may not have any clue as to why their grades aren’t what they wish them to be. We can be their guide, who, like my husband just did last night, helps them to figure out exactly what might be going on. In this case? It was note taking. My super organized husband gave a very inspiring 15 minute talk on the value of really good notes. I was impressed. As it applies here, we used the tool of Parent Portal to help bridge the communication gap.
We have 18 intense years with these loves of my life. What do I want their TAKE AWAY to be? Because, honestly, 18 years out of 100, isn’t much. It’s .18 to be exact. That’s a short time for them and we need to pack A LOT of love and kindness into that space of time–is my thinking. It will have to last .82. Eight things I want my kids to KNOW and FEEL as they leave our little safe home and go out into the wide world:
- We’ve got your back, if at all possible. Always, even if you sort of don’t deserve it, because you were busy being distracted kids. You won’t always be.
- We are kind to each other. The world teaches some pretty tough lessons. We don’t need to manufacture any.
- We are thoughtful, and giving… for no reason at all.
- We take our children very seriously, as if they were are only real job, because actually, you guys are. If we fail at this, nothing we succeed at will matter.
- Home is always here. Always. If you can’t be home, you can remember that a huge source of love lives here and you are always connected to it.
- When you were a kid, we let you be a kid. We know and trust that you aren’t wearing adult diapers. (if you ARE, though, let’s look at DAIRY. You know how I feel about dairy.)
- We will treat you the way we wish to be treated near the end of our days..with patience and more patience and not consequences like lifelong tomato soup for losing our false teeth.
- We are your guides, who are trying our very best. If we weren’t hard enough on you, I’m sorry. If we were too hard on you, I’m sorry, too. We have very little figured out, except we love you more than life itself, and you are our best mission statement.
In the end, we all must decide for ourselves. We must do what is right in our hearts. I worry, sometimes, that articles like this one may make people go outside of their own hearts. I think now, how I read all of these books when my kids were young-how worried I was that if I gave them a pacifier for two seconds, someday we would have a big battle getting them AWAY from them. And so I rigidly said NO PACIES!! And then I just nursed them until they ate so much they would throw up and be instantly and genuinely hungry again, except I had the little problem of having no more milk and so we would take turns holding them while they screamed their little heads off for the evening. It made for a super sexy Saturday night. By my 3rd kid, I decided a pacifier might be ok. Oh sweet fancy francis. If only I had done that with the other ones, but it’s sort of how it goes, right? I rigidly made them “cry it out” because the books scared the hell out of me: They will be serial NON-SLEEPERS!!! I’m here to tell you, I regret that so much. And I think I will, until my dying day. Did it kill them? Nah. Of course not. Did I parent against my heart? I did. And I wish I could go back and tell my younger self not to worry so much. To just love and love and LOVE those babies up, and know that someday they will sleep like champs. Like it’s their one and only job. Stop the freak out momma. I wish I could say, Just stay in today, and stop projecting worries into the future. Today, just love, and guide. Guide, and love. Be a model of kindness and grace, forgiveness and patience. Because, someday sweet Lisa, these beautiful children will be beautiful adults, who would move heaven and earth to help you when you forget how to make the dishwasher work, or forget to pay the bills, or get arrested in Mexico.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Momma-writers, Glennon Melton Doyle:
Note: You very well may not agree with this post. Which is completely ok! If it causes you to be SO INSPIRED, as I was for the post that inspired MINE, please feel free to cite my blog post in you OWN blog post. Write your own mission statement. Good writing causes us to feel all sorts of feelings and think all kinds of big thoughts. I am extremely grateful for the author who did that for me, here. She is a thoughtful parent, KICKASS writer, and I’m truly grateful for her providing me with this great jumping off point. ♥