Letter to my teenage children

 

It’s a precarious tightrope that parents walk: wanting to keep you safe and needing to let you go.

I need to give you enough rope to wander away, but not lose sight of home, yet still enough to pull yourself back home without getting tangled up in the process.

I want to guide you and help you with the circumstances that cross your paths, but I want you to use the tools we’ve given you to try to solve your own problems.

I want to give you freedom to experience things in your young life that will help form your opinions, your relationships and your joy. I want them to be your opinions and not mine, even if they are different from mine.

I can’t be there all the time. The world is a big place. It’s a place of wonder, a place of amazing sights and sounds, and, unfortunately, a place of danger too.

So how do I protect you without smothering you? How do I wait patiently by while you may not make the choices I would choose for you? How do I let you go and hope that you remember everything we’ve taught you? How do I know that you will come home when you get in over your head? How do I know you’ll seek wise counsel, even if it isn’t mine? I have to have faith.

I know you’ll try things you shouldn’t because, like you, I was young and curious once too. I know you’ll make mistakes, because I have, and still do. I pray those mistake can be reversed.

I hope that you find love, but not at the expense of your self. I hope you find success, but not at the expense of love.

So here’s where I have to trust. Here’s where I have to let you make your own decisions, and hope that I’ve equipped you well.

Here’s where I begin to set you free into the world, and hope you remember that you can always come back home.

The door will ALWAYS be open, the table will ALWAYS be set, and I will ALWAYS have the time.

Love,

Mom

When competition is too competitive

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I’m a mom who believes in healthy competition. I believe in 1st, 2nd & 3rd place trophies. In the right context competition can spur you on to want to do better. Some people even thrive in that environment. But not everyone.

Somewhere along the way, my kids have managed to surround themselves with really smart kids, to which I’m thankful. I consider it a blessing to have them being influenced by kids who want the most out of their education (or at least, the kids’ parents want the most for their education).

But it comes with its disadvantages too.

The wrong kind of competition.

It can be horribly damaging to a person’s ego and self-confidence, especially when you find yourself comparing your abilities to those of others who seem smarter than you are, or who feel the need to remind you they’re smarter every chance they get.

When my kids get down on themselves for not “measuring up” to their peers (according to their own eyes, because of course I think they’re geniuses), I have to remind them that first and foremost, the only person they need to compare themselves to is…well…themselves.

And second, if they want to be “smarter,” they have to work for it.

They forget that their “smart” friends probably weren’t born that way. They work to be that way. I can bet that their friends’ parents are much stricter than we are, and their friends’ lives are probably filled with many more extracurricular academic activities. “Minecraft” is probably not first on their list.

But my kids, like the rest of us, want it both ways. They want unlimited computer time AND they want to be at the top of their class.

They also need to remember that many “smart” and successful people failed numerous times. But they got “smart” and successful from learning from their mistakes, and learning to ignore the nay-sayers and others who tried to keep them back.

So I’ll keep encouraging my kids to strive for 1st place, as long as they remember what it takes to get there, and to remember that if they reach 1st place, not to lord it over others. It’s okay to be proud of your self, but it’s a whole different animal to be arrogant about it.

The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.

Teaching My Son About Beauty

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So often we hear about “body image” and what is true beauty. It’s usually directed towards our young girls.

One night, while watching TV with my son, there seemed to be countless commercials for Victoria’s Secret, and Macy’s Bra Sale…you get the idea. The advertisers seemed to be focused on ONE audience…or maybe not, depending on how you look at it.

That led to a conversation on “beauty.” My son commented how the women were all so skinny and pretty. My inner alarm went off.

I realized that, though I’ve talked to my daughter about realistic beauty, I haven’t really talked to my son about his expectations of women. #letsgetreal

For my daughter, I showed her something Dove did regarding how models are “created.” The video has since been taken off of their website, but I found it on YouTube. You can watch it here. I highly recommend showing it to your children.

But I realized that maybe I had been remiss in not showing it to my son.

We are NOT a very “high maintenance” family, meaning “beauty” is not really a focus. I don’t get my hair done, I never wear makeup (much to my husband’s chagrin), my husband doesn’t wear Lucky jeans (unless I find them at Marshall’s) or have a designer watch, and I don’t buy name brands for my kids (again, unless I can find them at Marshall’s). “Beauty” doesn’t really cross my mind much. I don’t feel pressure to compete with the women around me, or the women in magazines, and I don’t want my kids to either.

I want my son to choose a mate the same way that I want my daughter to…based on personality and friendship first. Attraction is of course necessary, but I also want them to have realistic expectations. I want them to find the beauty within, the kind of beauty that lasts. #realbeautylasts

When it comes time for them to get married, I want them to picture their future mate with the opposite physical qualities that attracted them in the first place and ask themselves, “If this person lost those qualities, would I still be attracted?”

If the answer is “yes” then they’ve chosen that person for their inner beauty and not for what they see on the outside.

Most importantly, I want my son to understand what goes into creating the models he sees on TV or in magazines. I want him to know they don’t wake up that way, and they don’t go to sleep at night that way. And they don’t live their everyday life that way.

It’s never too early to start…they pick up on way more than we think they do.

Why I Shouldn’t Read the Comments

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When will I learn? Yesterday, I read a post that appeared at the side of my News Feed in Facebook, you know, in that “Trending” section. I really shouldn’t read those…I think Facebook has devised a way to only send me “Trending” topics that just make me angry.

The topic of this particular “Trending” post that I read was divisive and controversial to begin with. But I think the part that saddened me the most (aside from the topic of the article itself) was the CALLOUSED COMMENTS that were under the post. I couldn’t fall asleep last night because the part of me that wants to change the world wouldn’t stop writing (in my head).

But I wasn’t thinking critical thoughts as much as I was trying to figure out a way to stop the madness.

I am always shocked by how calloused and venomous the people who comment in an open forum seem to be. They attack one another, and criticize, usually without merit or knowledge. Fortunately, Bloggers don’t seem to fall in this category. Blog Commenters are usually supportive and thoughtful. #BloggingLove

But the comments in the public forums like Facebook, or at the end of an online editorial are different.

I think it must be a game to some people to see how much they can stir the pot and get people riled up. It’s like they only comment to get a rise out of people. They AREN’T trying to help, they AREN’T trying to solve anything, they’re just pouring fuel on the fire. And the media is egging them on.

I wanted to join in the comments, not to try to add to the fire, but to try to voice compassion, but I resisted. I even typed out my comment, but didn’t hit “post.” I didn’t want their ire to be released on me.

I try to stay informed, and we talk to our kids about what’s going on in the world. But sometimes, I just can’t take anymore. #mediabreak

So while I was lying there praying and trying to get the thoughts out of my head so I could go to sleep, it occurred to me that all of those commenters, all of those haters, are just a SMALL PIECE of the global pie.

No matter what the media tells us, no matter how they try to divide and terrify, I have to remember that the rest of the pie is probably more like me than I realize.

I have to find peace in the fact that people are human and, for the most part, want what’s best for themselves and their families.

We aren’t so different from one another. But the commenters…they’re what’s different. THEY are thpumpkin-pie-520655_1920e oddballs. They are NOT the majority. They are NOT me and my neighbors, friends, and family. They are NOT you.

Thank goodness blogs don’t have those comments, at least not mine. Thanks for keeping it real…and for staying in the bigger piece of the pie.

Leaving a Legacy – a tribute to my Dad

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I lost my Dad in 2007 to Alzheimer’s. I miss him everyday. The following is part of his eulogy I wrote for his memorial. Thank you for letting me share a little bit about my Dad.

We all hope to leave a part of us behind in this world when we move on to the next. We hope to leave something good, something tangible, something that brings a smile to another person’s face when they think of us.

My dad did more than that – he left a legacy.

He left my brothers and me with a strong moral fiber. Strong biblical morals. So strong, that when we learned them, we were too young to understand the significance of what we were being taught. Morals that were so ingrained in us that when we became Christians it seemed like just what we were supposed to do.

I never heard him curse, and rarely did he raise his voice. And yet we knew when we had done something wrong…like when I broke curfew more than once and the words “I’m disappointed in you” were enough.

He left a legacy of love. I don’t think I ever questioned his love for us – even in our rebellious teenage years when we made more than our share of questionable choices. He always let us know we were loved.

He left a legacy of good work ethics. He worked hard for our family and showed us the value of a dollar and how to earn it.

He left a legacy of appreciation. We knew how to appreciate the things of life. When we were young it was about appreciating our toys. Some of which still survive today. As we grew, we learned how to appreciate bigger toys…like our first cars.

He taught us how to appreciate one another…our families…our spouses.

He left a legacy of honesty. Of how to build a life based on love and trust and hope and kindness. I don’t ever remember an instance of rage, even when one could have been warranted.

He left a legacy of laughter…of family wrestling matches, and endless board games, and family vacations.

But most importantly he left a legacy of God. Through his actions he showed us who Jesus is and what Jesus’ love meant every day of his life.

So to my dad, I would say “Thank you” for leaving us a legacy that we can hope to pass along to our kids. Thank you for the years of patience and love. I hope I can live up to the example you set for me.

Thank you for being a strong example, so that when it came my time to get married, I knew what qualities to look for, and found them in my husband.

I love you, Dad. You will be missed.

Staying True to Myself

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For the past 2 years, I’ve entered our local library’s Short Story Writing Contest. And, for the past 2 years, I haven’t won…I haven’t even placed. But I have noticed something: all of the winning stories (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place) have dark and twisted story lines or involve blatant abuse.

I don’t write in that style. I write realistic women’s fiction about women in real life struggles. Sometimes their struggles are emotional, sometimes they’re moral, and sometimes they’re relational. But I try to steer clear of topics that involve blatant physical abuse, or demented lifestyles. There’s enough of that stuff on the news every day. I write stories to escape that dark world.

I write stories that women would feel comfortable sharing with anyone, even their teenage daughters, and not feel the need to tear out pages or be afraid their daughters would be shocked by what they read.

I don’t think you necessarily need that dark stuff to still have a good book.

So here I am this year, contemplating entering the Writing Contest again. Maybe I should write something that would appeal to the judges’ appetite. At least I might have a shot at getting out of the mini slush pile. But that would mean compromising. That would mean not staying true to myself. #authenticlife

How am I supposed to face my children and teach them that who they “say” they are, should “be” who they are, if I am not doing that myself?

Then again, if I don’t enter the contest, then how will I teach my children that a little competition is a good thing, and that losing is okay?

I wrote a rough draft of a story I might enter, but it didn’t sit well with me. Even as I was writing, it felt dark and depressing. Maybe I should start over and write what I’m best at, even if it isn’t what the judges are looking for.

At least I’m being true to myself. I have to remember that besides being a writer, I’m a parent, and someone is always watching the choices I make.

Any advice?

What Can I Do To Help?

help-1013700_1920“What Can I Do to Help You through This?”

That’s what I should have asked my daughter before the hammer of discipline came down.hammer-895666_1920

Kids respond differently to different kinds of discipline.

I remember when my daughter was a toddler, and I had a friend over who had a son the same age, and the two of them were wreaking havoc on the living room. When my daughter got to the CD tower (remember those?) and started to pull the CDs out, I called her name and gave her “the look” and she stopped, put the CD back and moved on to the next thing.

My friend was aghast and said, “How did you do that?”

I was oblivious…Do what? I told her to put it back and she did. I didn’t get it. I didn’t realize that I had the kind of kid that was just, well, easy. She was the type that when throwing a tantrum in public, all I’d do is get down to her level, and take her hands in mine and quietly tell her to stop what she was doing, and 9 times out of 10, she would.

And then I had my son. And the CD incident would all make sense to me. Yeah, he was different. When I gave him “the look” it was like I was daring him to take the CD. And 9 times out of 10, he’d take the CD.

Different disciplines for different kids. I don’t know how it happened, but over the years, I’ve forgotten that each kid responds to discipline differently. I think it came from wanting to be “fair” and “balanced” between the two of them. But the truth of the matter is, each responds to different discipline differently. Does that make sense?

The teenage years are just beginning with my daughter, and at times, I feel like I’m really screwing up. She doesn’t respond to grounding, and taking away computer time the same way that my son does. I don’t get the same outcome.

The other day, after I had time to think about things, I tried a different approach…kind of byaccident.

I asked her “What can I do to help you through this? How can I make this easier for you?”hammer-895665_1920

Suddenly, we were brainstorming instead of fighting. We were listening to each other instead of each trying to get our point across.

I went back to taking her hands in mine (figuratively), and speaking to her quietly, and within minutes, she had stopped what she was doing.

Now this was only a few days ago, so time will tell if it really worked, but there were a whole lot less tears this time around. And it ended in a hug instead of a slammed door.

Have you ever had to adjust your “parenting technique?”