Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge. Proverbs 23:12
I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with the whole “back to school” thing. I LOVE that my kids have the opportunity to grow and learn under the guidance of some pretty amazing teachers. I HATE that summer break is over. I LOVE that my kiddos are social butterflies…it’s good for them to be with their friends in the classroom and it takes the pressure off my role as “entertainment director.” I HATE that we have to wake up early. I LOVE having the house to myself for a few hours a day…and I HATE having the house to myself a few hours a day…you get the picture. So this morning as my daughter was packing up for her first day of 5th grade…something tripped my panic button hard–this wasn’t just the first day of 5th grade…no…, this was the first day of her last year in elementary school! I HATE the panic button 😦
As luck would have it (I’m saying this sarcastically,) we walked to school this morning…thus giving me plenty of time to think and let the panic button go to work. Was she prepared? Was she nervous? Would this be a good year? What really makes a school year good? It wasn’t long before my panic attack became a full blown list of “did I tell her….?” So for my sanity (because this “back to school” thing is all about me,) I’ve come up with a few thoughts to share with her (after school, of course.)
- School is about learning. Sure you go there to learn the “school” stuff, but you will learn so much more. You’ll learn about yourself. Each day you’ll grow in discovering who you are, what you stand for, and all that you’re capable of accomplishing. You’ll find out what you like and what you don’t like (and you just might be surprised how the categories break down!)
- No one said you have to know everything…so give yourself a break. Some things will come easily. Other things will make you work (hard.) Both are good.
- Relationships are tough, but worthwhile. Getting to know a new teacher will take time. Building friendships take time. Discovering who to avoid…well, that takes time, too. Not everyone will like you and you probably won’t like everyone. Either way, be kind. You never know what someone else is going through. If you want a friend, be a friend. It is far better to be remembered for being a “good guy” than a total jerk.
- Pay attention. Learning requires focus. Don’t assume anything. Ask questions. It’s okay not to get it the first time. Practice, preparation and performance are related. Don’t get behind. If you need help, say something.
- Trust your instincts. God gives us that little voice for a reason. Tune your ears and your heart to it. Remember that peer pressure can be a trap. Comparing yourself to others is never a good idea.
- Think before you speak. Words can hurt. Offer grace and understanding at every turn. Compassion for others goes a long way. Be a helper.
- Even good kids make mistakes. You’re not perfect, none of us are. Making mistakes goes beyond the classroom. You know where I stand on drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. Likewise, you should realize that lying, cheating, and disrespect will also not be tolerated. At the same time, I love you and together we can work through anything.
- It’s okay to pray at school. I’m not telling you to get on the loud speaker and lead a revival, but don’t be afraid to ask God to guide you throughout your day.
- School is your job right now. As your mother, I will be on you to do your homework, study for tests and remind you not to take short cuts. This is important for you now and in the future, but school performance is not the sum of your worth.
- Attitude is everything. You get what you give. You will have bad days. Life is unfair. How you navigate through the good and the bad says a lot about your character. You can do this. I believe in you no matter what.
So my LOVE/HATE relationship with this time of year continues. I LOVE that I have the opportunity to share these thoughts with my daughter. I HATE that she’s growing up so fast. I LOVE watching my kiddos move forward on this journey toward adulthood. I HATE that tomorrow morning my son will have his first day of eighth grade. I can hear the panic button gearing up now….
Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. –Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
So, I’m thinking about putting my 2015 mommy neuroticism on hold for just a bit and going with the flow this summer. Way? WAY! You see I was totally inspired (that’s “totes” inspired for you millennials) the other day by this clever blog about creating a ’70s style summer for ours kids. While I could absolutely relate to the writer’s top 10, the bulk of my childhood actually took place in the 80s…complete with jams, jelly shoes, Hypercolor t-shirts, mix-tapes and some of the best movies/television EVER! Thinking about that place in time brings back memories of super rad summers…chillin’ with choice family and friends, no grody schedules bringing us down, livin’ it up with totally tubular fashion, and maxing out with non-stop gnarly fun 🙂 Back then we turned our nose up at bogus rules and wigged out parents that just didn’t understand the 80s way of life. Dudes and dudettes, the 80s were BOSS and wouldn’t it be totally righteous of me to share those good times with my kiddos? Agreed? Cool beans.
Here’s my take on the ULTIMATE 80s summer. Grab your shades, fetch your fingerless gloves, style that hair sky-high…and prepare for AWESOME. It’s going to be a tripendicular good time…major.
- Wear what you want…how you want. Have you seen some of the styles from the 80s? Hideous, sure, but fun and unique every time. I don’t remember my folks saying, “cover up” or “that’s too revealing” because in the 80s it was about funky layers and mismatched everything. So Mom didn’t do laundry last night? Whatever, kid…you’re living in the 80s now and your faded gym shorts look good with that yellow button down shirt…just remember to pair it with your converse sneakers and a backwards ball cap. K-RAD.
- Watch TV…a lot of TV…actually the same shows over and over. Back in the day nothing new came out in the summer on television. It was rerun city, baby, and I LOVED IT! I didn’t mind hitting the couch, remote in hand and settling in for rerun episodes of Three’s Company, The Facts of Life and Family Ties. So you’re replaying them during the show’s regular time slot? Still must see TV for me! Get hooked on my mom’s soap operas…there’s nothing else on, why not? HBO is showing Sixteen Candles for the third time today? I’m glued anyway. While I’m not on board with letting my kids get hooked on soaps, I see no harm in letting them binge watch some retro goodies like Boy Meets World, The Sandlot and Goonies. Excellent!
- Drink Kool-Aid ALL DAY and eat your weight in Popsicles. They always tell you to stay hydrated…especially in the heat of summer. I know it sounds like a lot of sugar (and it is,) but that doesn’t mean anything to the 80s kid. Orange Kool-Aid (same color and “flavor” as juice) was perfectly acceptable at breakfast with a bowl of cereal and toast. The punch version was a staple at every birthday party I ever attended. Lemonade Kool-Aid was just as good as fresh-squeezed and PINK lemonade Kool-Aid was the beverage of choice for the uppity, preppie set. When you’re not sucking down this sugar-water, head on over to the freezer for a frozen treat. Popsicles are inexpensive and unless you want to risk brain freeze, they can kill a lot of time. Hands down…there is nothing like working on a grape popsicle while sitting on your front porch during a scorching hot, summer day, my friends. Go ahead, kiddos, enjoy (to the max!)
- Sunglasses are a must…even indoors and ESPECIALLY at night. That’s right. Wear your shades, like all the time! Your specs speak volumes about who you are and what you stand for…sporty, goofy, cool and if you can pull off the flip-up sunglasses look…all the better! The coolest kids I knew during childhood had a pair for every day of the week (probably mallrats.) So come on kiddos, grab your plastic eyewear of choice and get your spec-tacular summer started.
- Baseball and sunflower seeds. This pretty much sums up my existence during my childhood summers. This duo provided evening entertainment as well as a pseudo dinnertime meal. In the 80s we didn’t have all the fancy flavors they do now…we ate our salted sunflower seeds until our lips were swollen and we lost all feeling in our tongue. When we were done…we begged for more! This vicious cycle is never so appealing as when we’re camped out at the baseball diamond. Sure, you have those who prefer peanuts siting in the stands, but nothing really fills a hole (or maybe burns one in your throat) quite like sunflowers seeds. Bonus points on your 80s summer if you can score some Astro Pops at the ball park (those bad boys look soooo much cooler than they taste!)
- Stargazing…oh, yeah. I can’t remember if we borrowed the telescope or if it was just handed down to us, but either way we were the luckiest kids on the block (even if we didn’t really know how to use the silly thing!) We spent countless nights outside on our back porch just checking out the moon and trying to spot planets among the stars. We looked for constellations and laid flat on the picnic table in our yard to take in all the night sky’s wonders. It was peaceful and totally stellar at the same time. Come on kids, put down your technology and open your eyes to something so much better! Shooting stars and meteor showers are just as mind-blowing today as they were in the 80s.
- Brush up on your gaming skills, dude. No, I’m not talking about video games…I’m talking about real games…as in the type you gather around a table to play! Growing up in the 80s we took our games pretty seriously. Bragging rights were always at stake, occasionally money was involved, and sometimes a stupid dare was the prize. Either way, we played to win. All night Monopoly games, vicious games of Sorry and Battleship, and my favorite–card games. Nothing says summer like a knock down game of Spoons! This is definitely on my list for this summer. My kiddos need to learn this throw back game and maybe even how to throw a few elbows in the process…I said we play to win, remember.
- Fun…on the cheap, duh. Ahhh, yes…the 80s were a good decade for America. As kids, most of us didn’t know that we were average middle class and that was okay. We didn’t expect new cars, designer clothes or the latest gadget. We were content with simple things and made the most of our days with basic, cheap fun. For example, we grew up without Supersoakers and Nerf water guns. The sprinkler and the garden hose provided all the fun we needed. Water balloon ambushing an unsuspecting friend walking into the backyard was good for a million laughs. I can remember neighborhood water wars…and when our rinky-dink water guns weren’t enough to win the battle we repurposed 2 liter soda bottles to soak each other to the bone. Make-shift water games and activities are the absolute best…and my kiddos have already started creating their own water fun with friends this summer. No pool required. For added inexpensive fun, check out free zoos (yes, they do exist,) state parks and road side attractions. You have not lived until you’ve had your photo taken with an extreme size, concrete animal or the world’s largest something or other! Homebodies can make a whole mess of fun with a good, old-fashioned watermelon feed…complete with seed-spitting contest. Go ahead, invite the neighbors.
- Summer music playlist…for sure. In the 80s, a mix-tape took time and skill…and usually involved a pretty hip friend. Getting the hook-up on the latest songs sometimes meant that you had to listen to the radio and quickly hit the record button when your favorite jam came on. I remember countless tapes where I missed the first few beats of a song, you could hear the commercials or maybe even a little of the the DJ talking (pretty amateurish, I now, but whatevs.) I also remember the awesome feeling that came with getting a “real” mix tape, where someone with an elaborate music collection or DJ skills put together only the best. Rockin’ out in your bedroom with your boom box full blast…there’s nothing quite like it. A close second would be toolin’ around town with your Walkman in tow. Poolside fun requires just the right set of jams, too! When we were old enough to cruise Main Street the perfect mix tape could make or break the night. Today’s kiddos love music just as much and here’s where their technology could actually come in handy. With the swipe of a finger, kids can create their own, FREE summer music playlists or tap into ready-made lists on music streaming services like Spotify, Amazon Prime Music or Pandora. It amazes me just how much 80s music they already know thanks to pop culture, but the best part is when I pull up the old music videos for them to see with their own eyes! Thank you, YouTube. Let’s just say it’s good for a lot of laughs 🙂
So take a chill pill and relax. After all, savoring summer isn’t privy to just one decade. We can all take part in this bodacious ride! Summertime is where we write some of our best stories. It’s where we create many of our favorite memories and cement those relationships we will always treasure. This is where best friends are made, family road trips take place, where crushes and first loves are experienced and we collectively have a chance to breathe and reset. Take in the warm temperatures, go places you’ve never been, laugh a lot and when you run out of things to do–start the list all over. The rules are different in the summer…and the 80s rules…well they just RULE! Parents, say hello to what just might be your best summer yet. Totally (to the max.)
The question isn’t “what are we going to do,” the question is “what aren’t we going to do?”–Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled. –Victor Hugo
Remember the good ol’ days? Footloose and fancy free? Not a care in the world? I do…and what I remember most about them was that everything that I truly NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand. Gone are the days of tucking cherry-flavored Chapstick into my pocket and heading out the door. No more securing a dollar bill to the inside of my sock…you know, just in case. Forget about making room in your shoe to save that last piece of gum for later (seriously, forget about that–it’s a bad idea.) All of these good times ended at about age 16…the year where freedom (a.k.a. driving) meant that you had to carry proof that you were indeed legal behind the wheel! Thus one enters the era of THE PURSE….
At first, having a purse made me feel all grown up. My purse contained nothing but the necessities, right? This is sorta funny because at the time I remember searching my room frantically for items to fill my purse. You know–a comb, lipstick, gum/candy/breath mints (sometimes ALL three), a pen. perfume (I know…I’m sorry,) a stylish journal (for all my important thoughts) and of course a wallet for money…plus that prized driver’s license (the reason I desperately needed a purse in the first place.) In the beginning the purse was pretty small…always messenger style so I could wear it across my body. This is important, because when you’re new to carrying around a purse you need one that you can’t lose…just saying. The purse and I became sympatico and a love/hate relationship was established.
By the time college came around I had to re-evaluate the whole purse thing. Life was changing–big time! I found that college life required a backpack and not necessarily a little messenger purse. The school that I attended was situated on top of a hill, so a lot of walking was a given. Fortunately, I found an item that I refer to as a wallet-keychain. This nifty little gadget became my best friend for four years. It tucked nicely into the backpack, held the bare essentials (license, student ID, money, and bank card) and was attached to my keys! Genius. I wished I had discovered it in high school. This would make everything better…or so I thought. But the purse would eventually have its revenge.
After graduation I ventured into a career path that required some “primping” to say the least (I am only slightly embarrassed to say that I wanted to be the next Connie Chung 🙂 ) Carrying a make-up bag, a brush and comb, etc. was just the norm for this girl with big dreams. Add onto that the things I needed for work: a pen (a back up pen,) a notebook, tapes (and back up tapes,) and HAIRSPRAY! Then there were the snacks (you wondered when I would get to this point?) You see, when your lunch hour varies (or doesn’t necessarily exist) you need more than gum to sustain yourself. Small packages of crackers, cookies and even instant coffee started entering the picture and filling my (now bigger) purse. My shoulder aches just thinking about those days.
I wish I could say that changing career paths meant less stuff and a smaller purse. It didn’t…and mostly because I moved to California. You’re probably wondering why that matters, but it does matter and maybe not for the reasons you might think. It wasn’t that I needed a big purse so that I could keep up with the Kardashians, but rather I needed a purse filled with survival supplies. While California is amazingly beautiful, it’s also a jungle! And jungle life meant that you had to be ready for your 11 mile commute to take as long as two hours. If you had to cross a bridge, someone else’s fender bender might have you looking at a 3 hour delay. Traffic is ridiculous there and so you had to pack ridiculous things in your purse. Water was just as big a deal then as it is now. Carrying around water bottles was not only in vogue, but it could save your life on a warm, Cali day if the traffic was particularly uncooperative (especially when you AC goes out!) Food in your purse was a must, but because this was the Golden State you felt obligated to have “healthy” food. Fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers were the standards–and “fresh” food meant carrying a cold-pak, too. I pity the person who got busted stuffing their face with Cheetos on the California freeway! (Really, you should know better!)
But never was the purse’s revenge as terrible as the day I become a mother. It’s like I could hear the purse saying, “You will never, EVER go back!” I tried making my purse into a diaper bag and when that didn’t work I asked the diaper bag to do double duty as a baby-things-carry-all and a purse. Either way you look at it, I was carrying around a bunch of nonsense. Okay, you’re thinking…”Well, your kids weren’t toddlers forever, right? Eventually you went back to carrying around a plain old purse.” Well, yes AND no. Now that I was a mom I discovered this unwritten rule where you are forced to carry things for your kiddos. This form of servanthood is sneaky, even to the most savvy mother. So many times I have told my children that if they brought it, they had to carry it…only to find my purse a little heavier and their book, toy, or gadget safety tucked inside while my child proceeded to run and do hand stands all over the place with their newfound freedom.
My migration to the extra-large purse didn’t end with just the kids’ stuff. My purse also doubles as a medicine cabinet. Bandages, Neosporin, allergy medicine, etc. all make their home here as well. I am the keeper of Kleenex, keys and bubble gum (of various flavors nonetheless.) My purse houses accessories for cleaning glasses, and extra contact lenses as well as a portable hair salon equipped with fashionable hair-ties for my daughter. Need to write something down? I have pencils, pens and SHARPIES (assorted colors) in my bag! Not to mention lotion, hand sanitizer, post-its and a small magnifying glass (BTW I’m aging and my eyes were the first things to go.) I have ear buds, sunglasses and occasionally pizza crumbs (don’t ask.) These are just the staples, I could go on (and on….)
So why am I telling you all this? Because I want it to stop. REALLY. I am over the purse thing. I want to be the kind of person who just goes with the flow (sans the “luggage.”) The kind of person who doesn’t need a million accessories just to go to the grocery store or to watch my kiddos play ball. I want to go back to the days when everything I NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand. I am craving simplicity and I think the reason all of this has to come to a head is because physically AND spiritually the purse is weighing me down. Stop. I know that’s a pretty big leap, but hear me out. I finally understand the reason I carry around the equivalent of a briefcase everywhere I go, 365 days a year. It’s because of fear and control. Every time a situation has come up in the last 20+ years and I DIDN’T have the tools I needed to handle it, another “something” was added to the purse. This is a pretty big revelation for me. While feigning having it all together, what was really going on was a lack of trust. I didn’t trust myself, I didn’t trust life and in someway I was also saying that I didn’t trust God (at least not completely.)
After so many years, it’s going to be hard to change this pattern…to fight the urge to cover all the bases, at all times–EVERY time. The desire to be superwoman, superwife, supermom, etc. is so very strong. Listen, I know this isn’t the biggest problem on the planet, but I feel convicted to make a change. I want to trust more…to put myself out there. In some suburban-housewife-kind-of-way…this is my next faith test. So here’s where I am–I purchased a wristlet (which just may be the grown-up version of the wallet-keychain that I loved so much in college.) Full disclosure–right now the wristlet resides in my purse (along side a million other items,) but I am making a plan to downsize to this little dandy. Just the NECESSITIES! Those of you who know me, know that this is a tall order! I think I’m up to the challenge. Don’t worry, I’m not going cold turkey…I will still have a large bag (NOT a purse) for sporting events, kid-related activities and church projects. So what if I don’t have a bandage for every boo-boo or a just the right flavor of gum for my kiddos? I have a funny feeling (and a whole lot of FAITH) that we will survive…and it just might save my shoulders, too!
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. Luke 22:35
Don’t try to make children grow up to be like you, or they may do it. –Russell Baker
The idea of being in charge of small people always seemed overwhelming to me. Babies need constant care, toddlers keep you running, then come the tantrums…and all this during a child’s cutest phase! And please, don’t be fooled by the false hope of the elementary school years…while the child is certainly capable of handling many tasks independently, elementary school is definitely a whirlwind all its own. If questions and comments your child picked up from preschool friends had you blushing…just wait! With a better vocabulary and dedicated lunch/recess time to “share,” your child is sure to come home with a couple of doozies! I am just now treading into the tween and teen years of parenthood and I’m anticipating even more hurdles and embarrassing conversations. I mean, these are the years they actually WARN us about 😦
In reality parenthood is everything they said it would be…good, bad, frustrating and rewarding. We love our kiddos and I’m pretty sure the cycle of life isn’t going anywhere! However, it’s come to my attention lately that dealing with my kids is getting a lot more complicated. When they were little they exemplified typical “little” people behavior. The moments of defiance and cuteness along with the awe of learning new things were just part of a normal day. And newsflash–probably none of our children were truly exceptional at this point. In fact, I’ve read several studies that suggest that most of our children all level out in kindergarten. That means despite being the product of a stay-at-home mom, single-parent household, working parents, or daycare (home or otherwise,) all of our kiddos have reached the same milestones at this particular crossroad in life. The differences become evident after our children enter school and not necessarily because of school itself. It appears that a child’s personality begins to develop and solidify all within the first few years of elementary school (barring any huge life events, of course.) I am not a psychologist, but I think the stats hold up. An even-tempered child at age 6 likely maintains that even temper. A selfish child at age 7 probably has selfish tendencies throughout life. A sensitive demeanor at age 8 means the child has a good chance of maintaining that sensitivity well into adulthood.
So here’s where I stand with my now “complicated” kiddos. As a 10 and 13-year-old, their personalities are well-developed and those same personalities are not afraid to go head to head with mine! This is a good AND a bad thing. As nature would have it, my kids and I have some similar personality traits. For example, my son and I are suckers for comedies and enjoy wasting hours watching funny movies. We laugh at the same dumb things and for the most part “speak the same language.” My daughter and I both love organization, we approach problems very analytically, and LOVE to read and learn new things! All three of us are artistic. On the other hand, my kids are extremely social while I am an introvert. Their constant need to be with friends and have friends over just blows me away! They both enjoy sports while I threw out my hip playing kickball in my grandma’s front yard (no athletic ability here.) They both love video games and I consider video games to be the ultimate waste of time. None of this is a deal breaker, but we do spar over homework, practice time, and responsibility. I wonder about their commitment level, attention to detail and their desire to work hard. I have a tough time hearing them complain about problems that they can fix themselves, whine about situations that get a little difficult and sulk when things don’t go their way. It’s in these things that I have to stop and remind myself, “He’s not you, and she’s not me.”
It’s not an easy thing to maneuver. When I got into this parenting gig I never once contemplated the idea that these little beings could give me any problems or try my nerves. In a naïve way, I imagined they would be some kind of “mini-me” and thus, they would be perfectly reasonable at all times (feel free to laugh out loud here!) All any of us really have to go on when we enter parenthood are our own childhood experiences, the experiences of those closest to us, and maybe a couple of baby books. So basically, we might as well go into this blind…because this is what I remember from my early days:
I’m pretty sure I was not your typical child. In a lot of ways I was probably always a little bit of a grown up…or perhaps an old soul. I was thoughtful in ways that most kids never think of…weighing the pros and cons of many decisions that others wouldn’t even consider. I was very self-concerned and stubborn. I worked hard. By the time I was 8 I knew I wanted to go to college and I was driven to get there. I was shy and serious. I was afraid of failure. I WAS BY NO MEANS PERFECT. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I hated making mistakes and vowed to learn from them. I felt very safe and secure with my family. I was creative. I didn’t really care what other people thought of me. I believed in a God who loved me and would never abandon me.
This is how I “remember” my childhood, but this alone doesn’t garner enough information on how to raise a child…especially a child that in all likelihood would be very different from myself. Oh, how I wish I had realized all this earlier!
Possessing an awareness that there are and will be differences is key to navigating my parenting responsibilities now and into the future. This newfound credo of “he’s not you, and she’s not me,” might be the saving grace that I need to get over this parenting hump. Stepping back and realizing that we are all separate individuals and that our differences are okay (heck, we might even learn something from one another) could make these next years a growing experience for us all. I know that the head to head battles will exist (there’s no way I’m going to let them grow up without a sense of accountability and purpose,) but hopefully the battles will also include some level of understanding. I truly love these kiddos and I want to love them into being the people God called them to be…not a “mini-me” clone and certainly not the “ideal” person that lives in my imagination. Most of us hope to raise children to be more than ourselves…we seek to give them not only the things that we had growing up but so much more. We want them to have the benefit of all those who have come before them…us included. The long-held belief that each generation should be better than the one before drives us in so many ways, but it’s also a belief that can cause us to “run-over” our own children. A lack of understanding can stop them in their tracks before they’ve even had a chance to start…and we’ve all seen it happen far too many times.
My kids will not have a childhood experience that mirrors mine. Their friendships and relationships will look different from the ones I knew 30+ years ago. They will stumble and fall. They will let me down and they will find a strength that I never knew they could possess. These same kiddos will test the waters and sometimes they will get hurt. They will succeed in areas where I’ve failed and they will thrive in places I would have been too afraid to venture into. And really, the last thing the world needs is a “mini-me,” (because I am certainly not all that easy to deal with!) In the end, when they finally reach adulthood, I pray that I would have loved them through all of it. I know it will not be easy because I have high hopes and expectations (I’m still a mom after all!) But these years–the tweens and teens, the “home-stretch” if you will, are far too valuable to just endure. These are critical times. Love your daughter. Love your son. And remember, “he’s not you and she’s not me…” it just might make all the difference.
Childhood is a short season. –Helen Hayes