So Emily and Jenny and I decided to do this Month of Posting experiment to motivate ourselves to post more.
To our surprise, my posts about conscience and respecting beliefs got shared a couple dozen times on Facebook, and then Jenny's hastily-slapped-together post featuring her Mennonite Disney outfits went crazy overnight, hit-wise, and suddenly there was a new scent in the wind, a whiff of competitive fever.
And it was my turn to post today before the day was done.
Knowing how we all click on how-to's, and on parenting articles, and on numbered steps, well, there you are. A shameless gimmick, sorry. But maybe you might actually find it helpful, who knows?
I have a bunch of amazing children. If you read my posts and column at all, you know that. Or, at least, you know that that's what I think. In my Amish background we didn't get praised much for fear we'd be proud. You know how ex-Amish ladies sometimes go a bit crazy with colors and prints and belts and earrings and heels and glammy purses, all in one outfit, because they can, at last, and between you and me it kind of looks like a rummage sale exploded? Well, I can now brag about my kids without being accused of sinful pride. If people hear me talk and think about verbal rummage sales exploding--or sinful pride--that is not for me to worry about.
My children are no longer little children, of course. They're young adults out there learning and making friends and doing wild creative things. They are clever and responsible and oh so witty. They pay their bills and cook and brush their teeth every day and do not hit people and I think they apologize without being told to.
It is astonishing.
None of my children are in prison! I think that is just so wonderful, because back in the day I would lie in bed and cry because I was sure that one in particular, and maybe all of them, would end up there. And if they weren't in prison they might all be lawyers, the way they could argue, and I wasn't sure which was worse.
I don't have a clue how we did this. As Paul says, "I'm not sure it was anything we did." Honestly, sometimes I was so sick with the next pregnancy that I couldn't mother to save my life. Sometimes I was depressed and hormonal and I got angry and I made them cry. I was stressed a lot. We didn't have much money so they did without a lot. I have so many regrets.
Other parents around us were just so exhaustingly INTENTIONAL. They read Shepherding a Child's Heart and scheduled the baby's feedings and used the Only Right Way homeschool curriculum and knew why they did what they did. We kind of groped our way through, befuddled and overwhelmed, and whatever we figured out for one child seldom worked for the next one.
But our kids turned out fine, so far. Here are my best guesses how this happened, bearing in mind that this is one of the Great Mysteries and I really don't know.
Oh--and if your children are in prison, I don't know why and I'll bet you don't either and you have my sympathy. It is terrifying how children make decisions for themselves, and young parents want Guarantees and Lifetime Warranties.
Well, sorry, ain't gonna happen. They are people, not L.L.Bean boots.
But anyway, here we are, and these are a few things we did, and you can take this as 8 simple steps, if you want.
1. I chose a good man to be their dad. And by good, I mean he was steady and responsible and he was faithful to me and he worked hard. That is the minimum. He was a lot more of course, but he was never one to say the deep spiritual feely things or do the fun pranks that the cool Focus on the Family dads did, but believe me when I say that steady and unselfish and responsible WINS THE PRIZE. My children never questioned his love for me or them. He was and is a solid rock of security in their lives.
2. We read to the children. Paul read bedtime stories to them for YEARS. I read a lot to them otherwise, especially before they could read for themselves. I admit that sometimes I got so sick and tired of their favorite books that I thought I would rake my fingernails down my forehead and scream. I recall that Big Bird Follows the Signs got quietly dropped behind the couch when I couldn't take it any more. But hey, it all worked out, and it was great incentive for me to teach them to read. At a very young age.
3. We were the mom and dad. The mom and dad are the ones who are in charge and make decisions and pay the bills. They decide when the kids are old enough for their own decisions. They expect the children to do the right thing. They don't endlessly bribe and negotiate about going to bed or jumping or not jumping on Grandma's couch or eating marbles.
4. We made them work. They washed dishes, packed their own school lunches, folded towels, mowed the yard, and peeled potatoes. I sometimes (often) felt guilty about how scattered and inefficient I was, and how much I needed their help, when all the cool efficient moms did everything themselves while their lucky daughters played with American Girl dolls in the bedroom. Well. In recent years I've started hearing comments about how my kids, especially the boys, [since people don't expect this from boys] are so capable with housework. So I saw God's redemptive plan there. And Matt, who reaps praise for his work ethic in the Navy, credits me with teaching him to come back and say, "What shall I do next?"
5. We let them ask questions. Oh my word, the discussions they had. Like I said, I used to think that if they didn't end up in prison, the whole lot of them would be lawyers. I often let Paul take over the conversation because I found it so intimidating. And sometimes their friends couldn't BELIEVE we let them openly question church and Biblical and parental doctrine. But believe me when I say you want to send young people into the world who have thought through what they believe and can defend it.
6. We let them know we loved them. My family wasn't much for affection [see above about Amish and pride] so I went through my childhood always wondering if I was really loved. My children never seemed to need as much assurance as I gave them-- "YES, Mom, I KNOW." But at least I knew they knew and it made me feel good.
|Amy always had an unusual way of looking at the world.|
|Here Emily and Ben are being divers. Yes. Divers. This phase lasted surprisingly long.|
And there you have it.
Actually, I could think of at least that many things you absolutely should not do, ever, and I still wilt with regret at the thought of some of them. Dear me. We should have asked for help. We had a lot of issues.
And yet, there they are, six young adults, loving and clever and successful, all of them, and they talk to me and indulge my foolish whims and we laugh a lot and God's mercy just overwhelms me.
It's going to be ok, you young parents. Just chill, ok? And love them. You have what it takes, and so do they. If you worry about anything, worry about the fact that just as you are becoming shockingly like your mom already and this will reach alarming levels after age 40, your children are most likely going to turn 40 and be JUST LIKE YOU!!
Quote of the Day:
Me: I need ideas for my column. I want to write about praying for Sophie's cat but I don't know where to go with it.
Emily: Well, "Animals are people too," might go over well.