Parenting Tips from Five Odd Sources
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A year ago, I wrote a blog called “Adulting: Like Folding a Fitted Sheet, No One Really Knows How to Do It.” A reader wrote and said, “I enjoyed this one immensely. I suppose it would take a much, much longer blog to discuss ‘parenting,’ another topic we have never been taught, but need to know about.” Ideas for a response have been percolating, and borrowing from two novels, a song, a school psychologist, and my son, here is what I know on the topic.
Before I begin, though, I offer a disclaimer. I got lucky in the parenting department. All my kids have been mentally and physically healthy. Beyond this, they graduated high school on time, earned at least one college degree, got married, had kids, and now live independently. To my knowledge, they have had no drug addictions, major run-ins with the police, or even major car wrecks.
And still parenting was hard.
My first child was a mellow fellow. Then came a feisty one, and then one with an attitude. I was glad I never took credit for my first kid’s demeanor, because then I would have had to take credit for the next two as well. The truth is, they are who they are. They were born that way. Though I played a role in the outcome of my kids’ lives, luck was always a part of the game.
That said, here are my five sources for parenting tips.
From Maria Doria Russell’s Book, The Sparrow:
This is the story of four Jesuit priests and four experts in various fields who journey to a newly discovered planet, Rakhat. There is a totally unknown species living there with whom they hope to interact. The last sentence of the first page was packed with foreshadowing and caused me to chuckle ruefully. It said, “They meant no harm.” Clearly, a lot was going to go wrong on Rakhat!
I start with this story because we all imagine we will be terrific parents – and then life intervenes. Invariably, I did many things wrong as a parent, but I tried my best; I sweat bullets over my kids continuously; I meant no harm. These are facts. I need to accept them as such.
From Kristin Hannah’s Book: The Four Winds:
This book tells the story of the Dust Bowl in the Great Plains during the Depression. The author says in an interview that she wanted the book to contain two female figures who were at odds with each other. She couldn’t figure this out, though, because at such a difficult time in US history, one would think adults would pull together, not apart. Thus, she had the idea of using a woman and her teenage daughter. Since the teenage years bring instant conflict, it was the perfect relationship to explore. The author then gives us four hundred pages that are fraught with mother/daughter struggles. Why? Because that’s the nature of the beast.
Spoiler alert: After traveling a long, hard road together (in this case, literally,) the daughter sees her mother with new eyes and appreciates her. This is encouraging! Perhaps time can heal some wounds.
From a Song Featured in the Musical, Camelot:
Camelot is the story of King Arthur and his Round Table. Ultimately there is a love triangle between King Arthur, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot. But even before that occurs, King Arthur is uncertain how to deal with his wife. As he sings “How to Handle a Woman” he convinces himself of the answer: “The way to handle a woman is to love her…simply love her…merely love her…love her…love her.”
The same goes for handling our kids. Steadfast love. Even on days we want to murder them.
From Jack Buckholtz, School Psychologist, Cincinnati, OH in the 1980’S:
Mr. Buckholtz’s philosophy was this: From ages 0-5 we teach our kids; from ages 6-12 we guide them; and after the age of 12, we pray. My apologies if I misspelled his name or jiggled his age ranges, but you get the gist. And as we do this teaching and guiding, it is important to remember that kids learn what they live. Therefore, if we want them to be kind, considerate, helpful, trustworthy, hardworking, honest, etc, it is up to us to model those behaviors.
Also on the topic of school psychologists, experts in child rearing, psychology, and mental health exist. If kids are troubled, perhaps they need to see such an expert. Possibly, the parent needs to see one too. In every case, seeking professional guidance is not a shameful thing. It is wise. (I have followed this advice successfully.)
And for parents who have children with major illnesses or other special needs, I strongly suggest a support group. I used one when I was a caregiver to a cancer patient. The group was helpful beyond words.
From My Son:
A couple years ago, I goofed and did something to hurt my son. Gratefully, we talked it out instead of letting it fester. He said in so many words what he needs from me: He needs me to have his back. On my end, I will try to do just that. On his end, I hope he will give me course corrections if needed.
But the point is, if he bothered to tell me this, I need to listen. I can’t undo the mistakes of the past, but I have today and tomorrow to work toward a great relationship.
Put it all together and this is what I know about parenting:
- Struggling with kids is the nature of the beast.
- But if we love them the best way we know how, have honorable intentions, and set good examples, we have done a lot.
- Making mistakes in parenting is a given.
- For big mistakes, perhaps see a psychologist.
- For smaller ones, time is a healer and it’s never too late to try to improve a relationship.
- And of course, a little bit of prayer can never hurt.
A Final Thought on “Parenting” Adult Kids:
Returning to the person who queried me on this topic, I know he has adult kids so I need to address that topic specifically.
Much as I would like to think that I am still parenting my kids – who are 47, 45, and 40 – the reality is that I am not. Of course not! They are grown. (Which is such a hard truth to accept!) But, I have figured out a way I can still nurture them. It is through their stomachs. I cook for them. Of course, in the homey surrounds of the kitchen table, I am physically present for them if they need me.
And in this manner, I try my best to love them, love them, love them.
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