As Tales of an Empty Next pointed out to me the other day...lots of us in blog land have GREAT kids. They're not perfect by any stretch, but they have made it to young adulthood without falling into peril (that we KNOW about) related to at-risk behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse and other promiscuous behaviors. I agree with Tales..., that some of us more mature (OK...older) parents might have some good advice to share. I'm going to give it a try...
First and foremost...know that things DO happen in our house that aren't all joy and sunshine. Both of our sweet darlings are a tad bit spoiled. If' I've heard them say, "that's not fair" once, I've heard it 500 times. Legare went through a phase of wanting to drive too fast. He also went through a phase when he was younger of being sulky and sullen. He made the Christmas holidays close to misery his freshman year in college because he was going to be at a mock trial competition in California when they handed out the fraternity bids and, in his own words which we heard 1000 times, "THAT IS JUST NOT RIGHT." Once, when he was in 4th or 5th grade...around the time boys and girls start calling each other on the phone...he was VERY rude to a little girl who called asking about something at school. I made him call her back and apologize. He never was rude on the phone again...at least not when I could hear him.
While Lorelai has had a great summer, we've had our share of angst, including a battle of wills surrounding her adjusting back to our at home schedule after having been so independent at college. She can be VERY sassy. (She got that from me...I used to get in trouble ALL the time). Last week, we got a notice that her checking account was overdrawn...WAY overdrawn. My blood pressure went WAY up, but she learned a valuable lesson. (We were just a phone call away, but made her go to the bank and get it all worked out by herself.)
As parents, Hank and I get irritated and we fuss and nag... and then we pray with all our might that this is as bad as it will ever get. Face it...these are minor irritations compared with what a lot of people go through with their children, but the minor irritations cannot go unaddressed.
We have always held our children accountable. They know right from wrong, and when things get a little off kilter for whatever reason, each of them has to put their big boy/girl britches on and deal with it. They might get mad with us, but there is never a doubt that we love them more than life itself. (I believe that there are some kids out there who DO doubt that their parents love them more than life itself...that's one reason why they get into trouble.)
Lorelai has worked with kids over the past couple of summers and is going to be an educator. We were talking yesterday and she said, "You know...some people ought to have to pass a test before they can become parents." It's very clear to her, even at 19, that a lot of kids haven't been as fortunate as she has.
We encouraged our kids made decisions about what they wanted to be involved in, but also pushed them outside of their comfort zones at times. Legare says that he detested every minute that we made him play Upward Basketball at church when he was in about the 6th grade. He needed to try and he wouldn't, so we pushed him for that one season. We made Lorelai take piano lessons for a couple of years, and while she played well, there was no joy in it for her so we let her stop. Each continued to try out new activities until they found their "thing." For Legare, it was mock trial, cello, and extra-curricular activities at school around student government. For Lorelai, it was interpretative speaking, cheerleading, softball, and extra-curricular activities at school similar to what Legare did. Hank and I were always there, cheering them on every step of the way.
We took our kids to Sunday School and church. We pray for their success, safety, and welfare constantly. Our kids DID watch TV...they each had Ipods and computers. (For some reason neither was interested in video games). We said "no" to a lot of things, but never said no to buying a book, and checked books out of the library in stacks. We read to them every night until they were old enough to read by themselves. We traveled, taking both kids to visit a friend in Europe about ten years ago. We took them to nice restaurants so that they would know how to behave in nice restaurants. I still remind them of their manners. Good manners are critical in this world and some people ain't got 'em. (Oh...and don't say "ain't")
Getting an education was not an option for our children. We believe that it is our obligation to provide that for them. I realize that not everybody can swing college for their kids from a financial standpoint...but it doesn't take a dime to set high expectations, encourage, and provide emotional support and praise. My heart goes out to children whose parents are not equipped for whatever reason, to at the very least, give encouragement. I know kids Lorelai's age who are not in school and do not have jobs...they just live at home with their parents and do who knows what. I do NOT get it.
(As an aside, the educator in me feels compelled to clarify something...Our kids chose paths that are taking them through four years of college and beyond. That's not for every student. Some students are able to get certifications through apprenticeships and career and technology programs in high school. Others get what they need from an associates degree. The point is that we as parents must make sure that our kids have the information they need to make these decisions that will chart the course for their life's work. You can't leave all of that to the school system...parents MUST be involved.)
Whew...I HAVE been preaching, haven't I? As I've mentioned before in posts, Hank and I agree that nothing we've accomplished as individuals has ever made us as proud as the accomplishments of our children. Legare just came away from three job interviews in New York City and three in Washington, DC, for his 2L summer next year. He may or may not get call backs, but the mere fact that he was chosen to interview makes us SO very proud. Lorelai went on two church mission trips this summer and her change of major from nutrition to early childhood education has been approved. She wants to eventually be a guidance counselor. The world needs more educators with big hearts and level heads (even if she can't balance a checkbook). We could NOT be more proud of these two blessings that God gave us.
Have your told your kids lately that you're proud of them? Run as fast as you can and tell them right now. Stay tuned...a few posts from now when I'm done answering questions, I'm going to issue a challenge to all parents out there. It's going to be interesting.