Just about the time you finally have some sense of how to do it, you’re done.
My thoughts turned toward the art of parenting again last night as I was on the phone with my wife. She is helping out our daughter who has a new baby. As we were talking, I could hear the other grandchild in the back ground throwing a temper tantrum. Since she isn’t my child, it isn’t my place to tell them how to parent, and yet…
“What makes you think I have anything credible to say?” You ask.
Now that is a great question! 😉
Especially since I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants most of the time. Those last years I was in survival mode.
And yet, I have watched our four kids enter adulthood, start families of their own. They love to come home to their mama and papa and, they get along with each other. That’s the end game. Work yourself out of a job.
I refuse to take credit for how our children turned out, which in itself is instructive.
Children are remarkably resilient.
I have been reading gardening comment threads on the Internet the past month. Spring is in the air. I was reminded again, just how many and varied are the approaches to gardening, and just how full of themselves are some of the “experts.” It is such a turnoff listening to someone tell a Newby how to “do it correctly.” (Especially when I come from a completely different school of thought.)
So that is the last thing on my mind when I talk about parenting. I do NOT have it “all figured out.”
The whole parenting experience (for me) came to a head when our oldest two hit their teen years.
One of the girls (age 14) decided to run away. If I remember correctly, she told us she was thinking about running away because we were too strict. She wanted to spend more time with another girl whose family wasn’t like ours. I told her to think twice, because if, on the outside chance DHS (State agency that works with families) got involved, you never know..they could even removed her younger brother and sister from the home.
Well, those words fell on deaf ears, and the next thing I knew, she did runaway. She was still in town, but thumbing her nose at us as a family. She was going to do just what she wanted to do, and that was that.
Well, this was all new, uncharted territory for me. I’d never run away myself although I had thought about leaving home when I was 16. I’d read the book My Side of the Mountain, and magazine articles by Euell Gibbons. I remember having a craving to eat cat tail root, catch crawdads, find a big old tree and live in the trunk. I had a hunting knife and a hatchet, a sleeping bag, and a pup tent (in case I couldn’t find a big enough tree.) I’d been in cub scouts when I was younger, so I was pretty sure I had what it took to survive….but that was about as far as it got.
We gave her two days, then decided it was time to reel her in. It was Summer. Baseball season. My sources told me she was at a little league game down by the fairgrounds.
I called our pastor at the time and asked him if he wouldn’t mind riding along with me to pick her up.
I went to the game. Saw her sitting on the end of the bleachers. She glared at me when she saw me. I told her it was time to go and to get in the van. She could see I meant business. We headed to our pastor’s house and sat down at the kitchen table. I told her she had two choices. Boarding school or two weeks at my cousins who lived several hours away. He was married, had a young family. He had a reputation for being VERY strict and the last place our kids would have chosen to spend the summer….
I told her (with tears) that I would not sit by and watch her or anyone destroy our family. I reminded her again about the very real possibility of DHS coming in and pulling her younger brother and sister out of the house, and that hadn’t mattered to her.
It was a watershed moment in our relationship.
She decided to go to my cousins, for two weeks.
When she came back, there was a change in our relationship, (for the better.)
You’ve heard about strong-willed children? Yep, she is one and I love her to pieces. The stories she brings to our lives now, well, I could write a book.
The challenge is to break that defiant, in your face, bad attitude without, breaking their spirit.
If you’ve bought into that siren song of being your child’s friend first and everything will all work out, then I wish you the best…I will have to admit, I bought into some of that, which in hindsight was a big part of the confusion. When they start telling YOU how it’s going to be, maybe you will think back to this post and drop me a note and we can talk.
I’ve taught Jr high, high school and college classes, as well as managed a construction crew, all of which has helped me tremendously on the road to be a wiser parent…it’s funny, many of the same principles apply.
Without respect (and it goes both ways) it’s only a matter of time before things get crazy (Home, school and work.)
There is absolutely a place to have “fear of consequences” in the back of a person’s mind, then being willing to deliver on them when you are tested.
When love, respect, clear expectations, and real consequences are in place, then you are at a good place.