Over the last few days I have had conversations with more ‘seasoned’ parents about the journey their children have taken in life. These are professional, hard-working, honest, upstanding people who have worked hard to raise ‘good’ children. Some of their children have made life-altering decisions that, while unexpected, where choices they made and choices they will have to live with. A few years ago these parents would not have been able to predict the details of their child’s current story and some would have chosen to rewrite the narrative simply to protect them from the consequences of their decisions. But again, it is their story and their journey.
There is a saying about the ‘journey of a thousand miles [beginning] with one step.’ Hmph. Well if the journey is only a thousand miles, parenting must be a million mile
trek…better yet, a hike…through the mountains…sometimes uphill! I realize I am only 4 years into my journey- but, I’ve have had a little glimpse into what mile 30,000 and mile 560,000 could be…especially those miles during the teenage years! Having worked with hormonal pre-teen and teenagers for many years I already expect to have my plucking fingers ready for when Tre says something smart. Side note: He already has to get an occasional pop to the lips now so only God knows what we are in for!
The bottom line is that you really don’t know what your child’s life will be like when they are in control of calling the shots. I believe my job as a mother and ½ of Tre’s parental unit is to raise him with strong values so that when he is faced with making life’s tough
decisions he will remember what he was taught and use it to make the right decision. We want him to be a productive and positive member of society. Embedded in there is strong ethics, kindness, patience, the importance of education, the ability to laugh and have fun. For our household we want to instill a strong sense of self and family, of caring for the community, giving back to others, and living a life that is pleasing to God.
A few years ago, after meeting with a parent to discuss his child’s suspension, he said, “Mrs. Henry I know I have 2 children- the one I can see and the one can’t.” I have never forgotten his statement because I have found it to be true. I truly believe all parents want the best for their kids and work hard to instill sound morals and values, but when they are not in our presence the job is up to them. The hope is that they learn the lesson from each experience they go through. But if they don’t, once again, that is their journey.
So what can you do? Here are some of my ideas and ones I have shared with parents of older children.
Give some freedoms within boundary- Yes…freedom can exist with boundaries! If the circumstances allow; present options you are comfortable with your child taking. If you are an educator you know all too well how this can successfully play out in the classroom. Use the same tactics at home.
Allow some self-expression- Growing up I wished my parents allowed for more of this. But, hey, my journey led me to express myself in different ways and thankfully I am still here to talk about it! Being super strict can make kids feel confined. Again, if the circumstance allows, allow some self-expression. A little hair color or cut. The latest fashion trend…all within reason of course!
Open communication- while I think this term is often used and abused and highly
misunderstood, I have found it to be essential with kids. I mean it more developing a relationship where their is conversation between you and your kid(s), not just you talking to them. Ask them questions. Listen for their responses and be present during these times. Put the phone down and really listen.
Please understand these are some (very) brief suggestions that, if they can work for you, could be useful in your parenting journey. As you continue along your path remember to encourage yourself, build a community of supportive friends (parents and non-parents) who can be your cheering squad, and never forget that tough times are temporary. As with all things, you will be able to use your story to help someone else. –Krystal