I admit that I have not been much of a blogger lately, but I have been thinking about a few things that I hope I can communicate here. I guess in some ways blogging has forced me to be somewhat introspective and yes, even morbidly so. It is just that I do not want to be a fraud. I want to talk to real moms about real life and not the idealized life I thought I would have. Because of that I have been forced to face areas where I failed as a parent. Oh, my goodness that is painful, especially since I went at parenting with my whole heart and soul. And yet when I look at each of my children and my grandchildren I am so proud!
The truth is I did fail in so many ways and to this day I am not completely sure which of the things I did were right and which of them were wrong. How utterly frustrating is that? If I could get that all straightened out in my mind I could write The Little Book of Perfect Parenting and we would all be saved.
A lot of what I did right, I did accidentally, and a lot of what I did wrong, I did on purpose. Today I thought I would share a few of the things I accidentally did right with my children.
1. I let them play outside a lot. I mean, a lot, a lot. When I hear stories now of what they were doing from beams of barns and with snakes and frogs I am horrified. We lived in the country and they played and played and played. These days, I have a sneaky little voice in my mind that tells me that this play was far more important to their growth than what curriculum or method I used. Please, I am not saying that because it sounds good, I mean I truly am beginning to think it was key.
2. We read and read and read and read. Some school years that is all we did because in the olden days I used to be pregnant a lot.
3. We argued. Humans have opinions, even little humans. Sometimes it is ok to disagree in a family. Sure I had the final say, and I used it, but they could have an opinion.
4. They paid their own way. We would have paid every cent they ever needed and then some but we couldn't and because of that they had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and trust God. Turns out this paid off.
5. I didn't hover because I couldn't. This inability to hover is a great benefit of having a large family. It is also true that I used the concept of 'tattletales' to my advantage.
Did you see The Middle this week when they took Axel to college? I GOT
that episode. I wanted to be one of THOSE moms with the matching dorm
quilts and scrapbook ready photos but when our boys left for college, I
didn't even take them to Walmart! I didn't see THE LIST and I did not
help them buy what they needed, not even shampoo. I may have bought a
few snacks for them to take. I didn't know whom their roommates were
going to be and I didn't even communicate with the college. THEY did all
of that. Like I said, I wanted to be THAT mom but I didn't have the
money nor the time with other children still at home. I made sure they
had an official looking transcript and all their shot records
(which was harder than it sounds since we had not vaccinated our kids).
It did help that the first two college boys only went 2 hours from home and then we
ended up following them to Chattanooga, the world's best city, but that
was just coincidental (providential). Pretty sure I would not have been this hands-off with Emily except out of necessity.
Sometimes when I am talking to parents these days even I feel claustrophobic. In trying to be good parents they treat their children as if they were vestigial appendages. They hover and plan and manipulate and generally ride roughshod over the lives of their children as if they were playing Moneyball with their human offspring. They do all this in the name of good parenting. We have Frankenparents working with their own little Abby Normals and wondering why the heck they never grow up. Some of your kids will let you do this until you despair and some of them will have only one choice: rebel.
Kids can't get dirty, or cold, or hurt, or sick, or even make a b and as a consequence they aren't learning the real lessons they need to succeed in life. Don't play your kids' lives. Play your own and let them see you do it with joy.
Because I was too busy to hover and control my children, they grew up. They knew their lives and their choices were their own and that ideas have consequences. Sometimes I still try to be THAT mom (I have more time on my hands now that I am not always pregnant) but now at least I know it is a mistake.
Charlotte Mason called this 'wise letting-alone' or 'masterly inactivity'.