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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dear Teen I am your Mom AND your friend

This blog post may not be popular with everyone and I may get some push back on it.  We may have to agree to disagree.  And, like with so many parenting issues, there is always the chance I'll get some more experience under my belt and I'll change my stance.  But, right here, right now, in THIS moment with a 16 year old daughter, I have very purposely chosen to be her friend.

Don't get me wrong.  She knows the boundaries and she knows that look on my face or tone in my voice that tells her I'm not kidding around anymore.  See, all those boundaries were set up long, long ago.  I'm a firm believer in allowing kids their consequences to their actions and we've spent a good 13 years on setting limits, allowing consequences, etc.  (I say 13 and not 16 because she's my oldest and it took me a few years to find my groove in the discipline area!!)  I know that a child's values are set somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12 and I concentrated on those years pretty hard.  We've been through groundings, loss of privileges, and many many conversations.

This girl knows my stories.  Within age appropriate timelines, I've told her my tales - yes, even the ones I'm not too proud of.  Oh, my goodness!  It is a humbling experience to look at this child who adores you and tell them how you messed stuff up really good at times.  But, if my children can somehow not have to repeat my same mistakes (although I know they'll find their own!) and learn from my life experiences, then choking on my pride is worth it.  

So, I guess you could say we're friends.  If you ask her, she'll tell you we are.  I was fully prepared to lose her.  I braced myself as she entered her teen years for her to dislike me, pull away from me, and decide I am completely dumb and out of touch.  But, I also have done my due diligence to NOT be out of touch.  I Snapchat!  I Instagram.  I tweet.  I listen to music that is not always my favorite.  Why do I do these things?  Because I want to be a teenager?  Not even a little bit.  (I wasn't even great at being a teenager when I was one.)  I do these things to stay in touch with my child - to read what she read, hear what she hears, and stay informed enough to help her navigate this crazy digital world our kids are growing up in.

She is now 3 months away from 17 years old.  We. Have. Raised. Her.  She knows what we do and do not expect.  She knows what our family values are.  She knows what is okay with us and what is not. We are not going to back track on that now.  I look to God as an example of the ultimate parent.  He sets out the guidelines for us, he allows us to suffer our consequences when we need to.  But, he is also the dearest, dearest friend.  So, why would I think I need to try to be different to my children?  I want to parent them and I also want to be their friend.

Why?  Because, please God let my daughter come to me if she messes up.  She is going to mess up.  How do I know that?  Because she is human.  And, because as a fellow human (for just a minute I'm pulling out of the parent role) I know what it means to be faced with temptation from every angle.  I know what it means to have every good intention but still blow it.  So, if she slips up and drinks at a party, Oh please let her call us instead of getting a ride home with one of her fellow party-goers.  My daughter's stance on purity is firm.  I pray she can stay true to that.  But, if she were to slip up and give in to satan's snare in that area one night, it breaks my heart in two to imagine her crying in her room alone.  I'm never going to say to my children, "It's okay.  Go on walking that path."  (God doesn't ever tell us that!)  But, I am going to say to them what I'd say to a friend in those moments.  "It's okay.  We all fall short.  How can I help you move past this?"  

The consequences to any of these actions are going to come at this point!  We are so far past simply grounding or shutting down the phone.  Not that there would never be reasons for that to happen.  We still have to discipline and we still have to parent.  But, as far as molding their character and instilling their values... that's pretty much done at this point!  Now it is about supporting them and helping them navigate.  There is a season for everything.  And, this season of parenting - at least for me and for this particular child - is about lying on her bed listening to her latest story at the end of the day.  It's about dancing like fools in the car.  It's about very frank (sometimes sort of uncomfortable - mainly for me) conversations about real issues.  It's about reserving judgement on the things that aren't moral issues so she will still come to me and share with me.  It's about staying plugged in to the issues these kids are facing in the here and now.  It's about being an authentic version of myself and displaying authenticity with my faith - admitting my past mistakes and my current ones.  

My ultimate goal for my children is that they have a real relationship with Christ.  It's bigger for me than saving face, it's more important than being right or keeping my pride intact.  It's the cornerstone of everything for me.  There are times God has allowed me my trials, there are times God has rescued me even when I was drowning in my own sin, there are times he's gently prompted me, and there are times he's downright gotten in my face and given me a little bit of "what for."  He knows me.  He knows what I need and when.  But, through it all, no matter what, he's been closer to my heart than any friend.  That's how he knows the what and when!  Why would I fashion my parenting after any other model?       

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holding Hands in the Rain

The puke was all over the front desk and entry way of the IHOP where we were waiting for seats. IHOP is the morning after date night tradition we started years ago on that one anniversary early on when we fought the whole next morning and Trav spouted off a hilarious retort to me that has become legendary (and often quoted) in our relationship.

I knew my hubby wouldn't handle the puke scene well and I watched his face as the poor kid's mom finally walked back out of the restaraunt with a trail of "chunks" down her back. (We've all been there!) I stood there for a minute as NO ONE came to clean it up and I finally went to him and asked, "How set are you on eating here?" "You want to go?" He asked. And just like that, we were in total agreement and walking out of the restaraunt in perfect unison.

The night before I'd planned a getaway to a "Riverwalk" location about an hour from where we live. It's pretty romantic and you can just stroll around outside together by the river or catch some live music being played. We checked in to the hotel and as we headed over to the restaraunt we started to feel raindrops. You know, in the movies rain seems really sexy. In real life, rain is wet and cold. By the time we'd eaten dinner it was pouring outside. Travis grabbed my hand for the trek back to our room (no romantic river walks this night!) and we both just cracked up. We laughed about "our luck" the whole way back to the hotel and recounted all the ridiculous mishaps we've encountered during past attempts at nights away together. (They are many!) Early on in our relationship I would have been so upset about things not turning out like I planned, but 10 years in to marriage my thoughts were different. I thought about how much that moment in time mirrored our life together. I just kept thinking about my hand in his hand as he led me through the rain.

This world is trying and very rarely does life go the way we plan it to. It's so easy to get caught up in the negativity, the doubt, and the sheer exhaustion of it. But, at the end of the day, when my plans are "rained out," and I'm traveling down a path with stormy weather, my hand in his makes it so much easier to keep walking. Having someone to share the memories with makes them so much sweeter.  There are times when he has to be strong for me and there are times when I have to be the strong one. There have been times along the way when each of us has wanted to stop walking, but the other one has pulled by the hand and said, "Come on. We need to get out of this rain."

That's the beautiful part of this marriage thing, which I've found to be so much more about living life with your best friend than it is about passion and romance. Those things fade. What's real is coming back, rain soaked, from anniversary dinner and both agreeing (amidst lots of laughter) that you're too stinking full to move and being content with falling asleep in each others arms to a movie you've seen 100 times.  What's real is seeing the most flawed parts of someone and loving those parts as much as the good things. What's real is having someone see you - I mean really see you for who you are - and choose you over and over again. Real is walking through life's storms and knowing you have someone to hold your hand and help keep you safe.

Real is knowing who can clean up the puke and who can't - and never keeping score about it.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:13‭-‬14

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dear Standardized Testing: Sorry Not Sorry

Tonight I watched my generally laid-back, happy 13 year old son break down in tears over the stress of standardized tests administered to him at school. And, so, tonight I gave my son a speech that totally negated the validity of these tests. I'm not sorry I did.

I told him a secret none of us knew back in school. Not even those of us in the "smarty-great-test-taker" club (I was in that club). That secret is: unless you're a genius, when you grow up and join the work force no one gives two flying rips what you made on any of those tests in school. Being able to sit down and choose the correct answers on a test gives no indication of whether or not you have the grit it takes to make it in life.  And, honestly, even if the person next to you at work is smarter than you, if you're willing to outwork them that's what gets noticed.

School is already a struggle for my son who is basically a square peg trying to fit himself in the round hole of public education. I know he feels like he's swimming upstream every single day as he fights against ADHD, moderate sensory processing issues, fine motor delays, mild visual memory issues, and just the fact that he's a hands-on learner in a world designed for visual/auditory learners. He has nothing severe enough to qualify for an IEP. He has modifications that I doubt are even considered during test time because our poor public school staff are understaffed, overworked and just as stressed as the kids! So we take a child like my son, make him believe these tests are life or death, put him in a room where he has to be still for hours, with a brain that often processes the sound of a ticking clock like a pounding on the wall.  The result will not be an accurate picture of what he knows or what he's capable of.

A standardized test will not tell you what amazing adaptations his brain has made over the years to overcome his predominately proprioceptive sensory issues.  This test will not tell you that at 4 years old he randomly told me who the 26th president was on the way home from daycare or that at 3 he could differentiate the various types of trailer hitches on every truck someone he knew drove and match them to other hitches, from memory, while in public. These tests won't tell you that he intuitively knows when something is wrong with me no matter how hard I try to hide it or that he meticulously sees to his livestock chores every single day without a reminder. They won't measure his huge capacity for compassion.  They won't show you how amazing he is with small children or how he's had an uncanny ability to strike up conversations with much older adults since he was a toddler.  These tests won't tell you that while he may struggle with writing and sometimes at keeping up with his homework, if you put him to work outside with his hands he's relentless and quite the perfectionist.

So, today I told him I don't care what these tests say about him because they're not the whole picture.  We told him to, of course, try his best. That's always our expectation for our children. But, you can't measure my beautiful, unique, amazing son with a test.

Furthermore, you cannot measure his teacher's efforts with this test, either. They are dealing with hundreds of beautiful, unique individuals with equally unique learning styles and struggles. We can expect a standardized continuum of development for kids and we can set benchmarks, but we cannot teach them all the same way and we cannot measure them all authentically with these "standard" tests. I hear from the children, the educators, and the parents this system is not working. Preparing our future generations for adulthood and the workforce should be our goal. Are these tests accurately measuring our work towards that?  Can all our kids truly be on one "standardized" track towards that goal?  All of us in education truly know the answer to that question, and we've tied our teachers' hands, forcing them to be ruled by these tests and to take all these different shaped pegs and force them in to one shaped hole. Then we tell them their jobs are on the line.

At some point we have to wake up, look at the evidence, and change our system. We are going to pay the price for it later when our children end up without an authentic education. Just a "standardized" one that only truly works for a percentage of them.