What the Heck

A story on NBC’s Today Show yesterday highlighted an area in which I believe so many of us are falling down –  it’s as if we’ve forgotten that it’s our job, our responsibility, to teach respect, honor and integrity to our kids.

Here’s the story, an Oklahoma high school valedictorian, Kaitlin Nootbar, submitted her written graduation speech to her principal for approval. In the speech she had this line, “They’re gonna ask us what we’re gonna be and we’re gonna say, who the heck knows”. The problem is she was pretty sure she was going to say “Who the hell knows” (a line from the Twilight movie, Eclipse). She said in the Today Show interview that she discussed this with her partner with whom she wrote the speech, and then again with classmates right before giving the speech, all encouraging her to stray from the written, and approved, line. So she did, and now the principal is holding her diploma certificate until she apologizes ~ a reasonable request.

In the Today Show piece Kaitlin says she won’t apologize; she says she’s not sorry and that she doesn’t really need her diploma anyway. Matt Lauer turns to her father at one point and says that he (Matt) is a parent and was wondering what he would do; would he want her to give in to the school, or would he want to teach his child the lesson of standing his or her own ground. (Personally, I don’t think it’s either of those lessons) He then asks the father how he feels. The father said he wanted her to stand her ground, that he is a veteran, she has freedom of speech and why should she “bow down to this man”, and give her rights away.

Oh my goodness. “Bow down to this man”, really? How about a lesson that goes like this, “You were under the authority of the school, you purposely used a word in a commencement speech you knew you shouldn’t use, but you did. You knew this would cause a problem, so now, show some level of respect, go apologize and move on with your life.”

Instead she gets to fly to New York City and be highlighted on a national news program where many people applaud her for “standing her ground”. The ground that supports her decision to defy the authority over her, because she wanted to swear at a commencement ceremony. No wonder our kids believe the world revolves around them.

Kaitlin says the lesson from this whole thing is to “always stand your ground…that whatever is in your heart you should stand up for it…” (Unless you’re the principal, I guess she doesn’t believe he should stand his ground.) NBC conducted a poll and 88% of respondents said she should not apologize, 12% said she should. Really, a poll was conducted for this?! But the results are revealing.

Some will say this a freedom of speech issue, I believe it’s a character and lack of self-discipline issue. When we glamorize and jump to the defense of the kids in situations like this, we just cannot be surprised when they function as if they are the center of the universe, or when they have a hard time with authority in their lives, or when they come to job interviews and ask questions like “How long can I be on the internet before I get in trouble” (This question was actually asked by a college student during an interview at my husband’s company).

There is such an emphasis in our culture about doing what you want, when you want, no matter what, and then defending it. I just believe we should also be emphasizing building integrity and honor, within our kids. What do you think?

You can see the interview here.

Another First Day of School

Another summer comes to a close and a new school year begins. This is the rhythm of our lives – at least for a few more years.

At the end of anything, ultimately, I hope to have no regrets, at least no major ones! As we all talked about our summer at dinner the other night, I knew I didn’t. We had a really wonderful summer with some memory making family time, so I’m grateful for that.

I have to also admit that I’m looking forward to some uninterrupted time on my hands – its only 9:30 AM on the first day of school and I’ve baked a batch of cookies, started dinner, made a loaf of bread, done some laundry and the dishes. I’m also looking forward to attending to some matters during the day hours that don’t revolve around my home, or my kids, yet my heart is heavy as I soak in the reality of this passage of time.

Zach left this morning to begin his senior year, “My last first day of high school!” he proclaimed. Right, next year it will be college. I saw less and less of him this summer as he got a job, had football conditioning, camp and practice, and he’s pretty social as well. When I think about what is to come next fall…I will just miss him so much…well…I can’t think about that today.

Erin began her sophomore year – how is it even possible that this baby of mine is a beautiful, so mature, intelligent young woman, whose company I have absolutely adored this summer and whose companionship I will miss during the day.

 

Courtney is home for a few more days before I bring her back to college for her junior year. We’ve talked this summer about the dose of anxiety that comes along with being on the last half of your college education – she’s getting closer and closer to having to bear all the responsibilities of grown-up life, I feel for her, and I’m excited for her. We also may have just experienced our last summer with her home – so there’s that too that sits in my heart.

Kyler had a pretty rough summer and I’m just gonna be honest – I’m grateful that he’s back in school. I do hope this next passage of time brings him to a place of greater maturity, confidence and self-control.

All of the above indicates we are moving forward and are on track. We are raising future adults after all, and adults move on to live an independent and productive life…separate from us. But in the journey there are moments when I see and feel the separation more acutely. This is simply one of those moments.

The cookies I made earlier
are ready for our traditional
time when they arrive home
from their first day of school.
You can read about that here!

 

Goal: Avoid the Child

A parenting strategy – avoid the child who is causing you the most aggravation. How’s that sound coming from a former Young Mother of the Year? Let me explain…

Kyler has been making progress these last five weeks, and one way I believe I can support that progress is to drive him to school each morning. I tried driving him to school at the beginning of the year, but he wouldn’t have it. He wouldn’t get out of bed, was defiant and ornery – so after a few days of that, he was back on the bus. Neither of us needed to begin our day that way.

But after the Christmas break, in which the door to healing seemed to open, I decided to try again. I asked Kevin to ask Kyler if he wanted to take the bus or have me drive him. He said he wanted me to drive him. I thought if he made the decision to be driven maybe it would go better. It didn’t. He didn’t get up in the morning and had a rebellious spirit when Kevin did get him up. But I had a plan – I stayed in my room – cozy in my bed – until it was time to leave.

At 7:06, I got out of bed, put my slippers on, grabbed a cup of coffee, my keys and at 7:08 said, “Let’s go.” About half way to school, I turned off the radio and prayed for him – out loud. A heartfelt, prayer to my Father to use His Holy Spirit to protect and guide my boy through-out the day, against every temptation to think and do wrong. By the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in submission, truth and freedom. To remember he is loved, forgiven and strong by the name of Jesus.

That night I asked Kevin to ask Kyler again if he wanted me to drive him – Kevin was surprised as he figured Kyler was back on the bus since he didn’t get up that morning. But I explained to Kevin that I had determined in my mind to drive him every day for a week, no matter what he did.

My strategy was to completely avoid Kyler each and every morning until it was time to walk out the door so that I would not become overwhelmed with frustration towards him. So that evening Kevin tucked Kyler in and asked if he wanted to be driven again or take the bus. He said Kyler was very surprised by the question, but said he wanted to be driven.

Day 2: I’m sure you’re thinking he got up. He didn’t. When Kevin did get him up he was ornery and rebellious in his spirit again. But the strategy was in place; avoid all interaction until 7:06. Coffee, keys, “Let’s go” drive, pray, drop off. Check.

Day 3: He got up – 10 minutes late, but independently.
Day 4: He got up on time.
Day 5: He got up on time.

I am now into my fourth week of avoiding, getting coffee, praying and dropping off. It’s working. The mornings he is ornery and not pleasant, Kevin deals with it and then I enter fresh and ready to go.

I share this because I am guessing I am not the only mother who has a child who challenges her every last nerve. I am certain there are some trigger points during the day for others as well and maybe hearing this might spark an idea for you to try in that situation. Is there a strategy you could try, or is there a source of reinforcement for you?

I thought I was weak because I struggled so much with Kyler’s attitude and actions each morning. But now I feel strong and fortified, and Kyler is beginning his day with a prayer from his mom, who is a warrior, with a cup of coffee.

The strategy to avoid is working, and now…we are coming together.

Wanting to say No…but having to say Yes.

Picture this: It’s New Years Eve and my nineteen year old (home from college) has left our home  for a small gathering at a friend’s house. Before long she returns with her friend Kelly ~ it ends up that it’s just the two of them for the evening, so they have decided to accept an invitation for a party at the apartment of a friend – three hours away. She and Kelly stand before me asking if it’s OK if they go on this road trip…on New Years Eve…at 6:00 PM.

“Ummmm….NO. It’s not OK with me. This is the most dangerous night of the year to be on the road.” (Bold and italicized to let you know how that actually sounded out loud – because it is what I said.) The girls say they will understand if we say no, that Kelly’s parents weren’t exactly happy about it either. But in the end, they said that their daughter was twenty years old and ultimately would have to make her own decision. Well, thanks for that. (Said in my head.)

So I head to the garage to talk to Kevin about this, his reaction is the same as mine. (Good.) I tell him it does feel tricky because she is nineteen, and when she’s at college we don’t even know about decisions that maybe are not the most wise. Regardless, I just don’t think it’s a good idea for her to head out. He agrees. No way, not a good idea. I ask him if he’ll come in and tell her that.

As the conversation unfolds, the next thing I am hearing is that she will have to make her own decision. WHAT??!! NO!! What is happening??!!

I tell her I will pay for her and Kelly to go to dinner and a movie if they will stay in town. (Desperate, I know, but I don’t care.) Courtney looks at me and asks if I will be mad if they go. I say yes. I also tell her that I will get over it. (As long as they return safely the next day.) She thanks us for our wisdom, input and the discussion; then she says they are going to go ahead and go on this road trip and she ran upstairs to pack a bag.

I am left standing with frustration, anger, fear and prayers in my heart.

I hug them each, look Kelly in the eye and tell her to make wise driving decisions and to not play the radio loud. (Full on mom talk.) Courtney did text several times on the way down, advising me of a stop for gas as well as a restroom break, and then with their arrival. I also received a text at 3:30 AM telling me “Good night”. She then sent a text in the morning to let me know they were on their way home and of any stops along the way. All good stuff.

This situation was a hard one for me. I did (do) not want to let her go. I wanted (want) to say no and have that be the right and final answer. It used to work that way. But in order for her to grow and for our relationship to grow, I am learning to let go in new ways all the time. It’s a never ending exercise in restraint, relinquishment and reality. I want her to value my input and seek it, trusting that ultimately I will step back and let her decide. This does not come naturally for me but I am willing to adjust, move and grow. I love her so much that I hold her close and let her go.

Things that make me say, “Really?!”

In random order:

The story this week about a high school girl who submitted a racy photo to the yearbook staff for her senior picture. When the photo was rejected she, and her mother, said they are considering legal action against the school. Really?! Please spend your time and energy filling out college or job applications, going out with friends, or even playing Tetris. Yearbooks are not meant to be seductive and sexy. And, how did we get to the place in our culture where this story is on a national news program?

The “controversy” about Tim Tebow. Controversy…really? I appreciated this article, especially because it was not written by a Christian. Yesterday I heard this on MSNBC, “Is Tim Tebow the next Michael Jordan for marketers? Or does his faith make him too controversial?”  Lady Gaga isn’t too controversial, but Tim Tebow is. Huh.

The challenge to FCC filters on profanity and nudity. There are already plenty of T.V. stations that allow profanity and nudity, can’t we just keep a few for the family? A few that we can count on to be free of profanity and nudity? Please? And let’s be honest, even these stations aren’t exactly “safe”. There are more programs that we don’t watch due to content – and language – than we do, and that’s with restrictions. It’s a slippery slope that we are on, and the potential landing place is a cesspool.

Seems rather gloomy. But I will do what I can do…continue to teach my teens about modesty, appropriateness and not encourage legal battles for frivolous means. I will live by my faith, and encourage my kids to do the same, no matter the uproar…or the silence. I will continue to screen programs and watch TV with my teens, and then talk about the issues that sometimes come up.

I will stay engaged in what’s going on in culture. I will remain hopeful for the future. Really.

The Answer is No

It isn’t easy telling my kids no, in fact sometimes it’s really hard when it comes to bigger issues. Such was the case in the beginning of Courtney’s freshman year at college. “You are responsible for a portion of your college tuition and so yes, you must get a job on campus.” That was just one of the more difficult conversations we’ve had with our oldest…
Read more here.

5 Things I Appreciated about My Parents this Summer

There were a lot of things I appreciated about being home for the summer – the calm atmosphere, being able to hang out with my siblings whenever I wanted, and of course the delicious meals. Some things, however, I knew that my parents worked on to make sure that I enjoyed being home. Some of these things were:

1) They let me be independent about maintaining my things.
It’s common knowledge to those who know me that I am not necessarily the neatest person alive. As my mom mentioned earlier, I initially left my dorm stuff all over the living room… for days. I did appreciate that she didn’t mention it at first, and by the time she did finally tell me to do something about it, the advice was well-deserved. Throughout the summer, she didn’t once tell me to clean my room (that was Erin, who lives in there too). I appreciated the acknowledgement that I was old enough to take care of my own stuff. (Erin might disagree).

2) They didn’t put me on the chore chart.
As simple as this one was (and much to my siblings’ chagrin), I thought this one meant a lot. I wasn’t just mooching around the house all day – I had a full-time internship- so this gesture of “I know you’re working” made me feel respected. In turn, I was willing to help around the house when it looked like it would help a little bit. Not that our house is ever dirty, mom!  :)

3) They showed me they were happy I was there.
The entire summer, my family made me feel loved in different ways. They told me they were happy to have me home; they took me out to lunch or dinner; they wanted to go on walks or to the mall or to go get ice cream; and they spent time with me. It was so nice to spend so much time with them after virtually 9 months away from them!

4) They also gave me space.
As much time as they spent with me, I think they were also careful that it didn’t seem like they were monopolizing my time. I never felt like I couldn’t ask to go hang out with friends – they were very permissive in letting me go out or invite people over. I also never felt like I never had time to just be alone, and they were very clear that I was able to make choices in which activities I wanted to go to.

5) They trusted me.

Rather than worrying what a year of college had done to me or my values, they trusted the responsibility I had gained. This was evident in big and small ways. They let me go visit friends at IU for a weekend, and when Phil and I wanted to go to Chain O’Lakes for the day, they waved us off with a cooler and towels. This wasn’t lost on me – I realized that they trusted me (and him) to go where we said we were going and come back when we said we would, and we lived up to their trust.

This summer took work on both ends – my end, and my mom’s end. (And of course my dad’s end too, but this is my mom’s blog.) I think it worked out wonderfully – I had a great time with family, with friends, at my internship, and now I’m back to college, full from my summer break. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for putting such effort into making my homecoming as smooth as possible.

Needed: Boundaries

I am very aware of how prevalent pornography is – I know it comes into our homes through our computers and gets caught in spam. I know with smart phones, kids are looking at it while sitting in class and on the couch. I know that both boys and girls in our middle schools and high schools send text messages with both inappropriate words and pictures.

I know our culture seems to be moving  has moved us in the direction of accepting more and more sexual material in more and more arenas, and consequently we are becoming more and more desensitized to inappropriate material.

But I am not so desensitized that I didn’t notice the cover of this month’s ESPN magazine. ESPN magazine comes to our home because we ordered it for Zach (our sixteen year old) as a gift last year. But he won’t be receiving this month’s magazine – The Body Issue.

Some will say I’m a prude, some will say I can’t appreciate the strength and beauty of the human body. But the truth is, I am a mom trying to help my son keep boundaries.

I would never put a magazine in my son’s hands with naked women and men in it; I throw away Victoria’s Secret catalogs as soon as they arrive in the mail. We are known to talk about pornography at dinner and during family devotions (I’m still not comfortable with these conversations, but culture is very comfortable pushing every envelope, so the way I see it, I don’t really have a choice except to talk to them). We are teaching our kids how, and even more importantly why, to protect themselves from images such as these.

I know the magazine is out there and Zach may have friends who have it. He certainly could purchase it himself. We may even raise his curiosity by keeping it from him. The same is true for the computer – although we have ours in the kitchen, there are others who have them in the bedrooms, though he doesn’t have a smart phone, he knows many others who do. We know we can’t keep our kids from all material that is inappropriate, that actually isn’t our goal, what we are shooting for is to help them understand what happens when you become desensitized and what happens when you allow culture, or even your friends set your standard.

I asked Erin (our fourteen year old) why she thinks we do all that we do in this area. She said it’s so they are very clear about what is right and what is wrong, that they have an understanding that is black and white about what is expected, and that by living by example, we help them keep purity.

That tells me we are making an impact and having an influence. It doesn’t mean they will always choose wisely. It doesn’t mean our job is done. There are marketing firms and a pornography industry spending millions trying to influence my kids – but I am a parent, who according to research, still has the greatest influence in my kid’s life, and I simply leveraged that influence today.

Stuck in the Yuck

I had an opportunity to speak to a group of young moms last week. We were talking about being Bold, Loving and Sensible, but before we could talk about that, we talked about some of the reasons we sometimes aren’t bold, loving and sensible. We came up with a list pretty quickly. Maybe it’s hard to be all that, because sometimes we moms are all this:

  • tired
  • lonely
  • not confident
  • angry
  • afraid
  • don’t know what to do next
  • alone
  • sad
  • isolated
  • overwhelmed
  • exhausted
  • confused, and more….

Although I was named 2010 National Young Mother of the Year, my early mothering days included all of the above emotions (and sometimes I still experience some of those feelings)!  It’s not uncommon for mothers, especially young mothers, to experience some, or even all of the above. It’s also not uncommon for us to NOT share these feelings with anyone, which can leave us with elevated levels of said emotions.

So what does a mom do when she is experiencing these unexpected feelings? I think it begins by recognizing and identifying what you are feeling. Then taking a step back to look at what might be causing you to feel tired, confused or whatever. Maybe it’s as simple as realizing you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks. Maybe it’s because you have no family in town and you just wish someone would “oooooh” and “aaaaaahhhh” over your baby like your mom or sister would.

Talk to a friend about your feelings, the odds are she has, or is, experiencing something similar. If you don’t have a friend (remember, if you have been transplanted, it’s possible you don’t have a friend yet, which easily adds “alone” or “lonely” or “sad” to the list), look around for a woman who may be past your stage in life and see if she might have lunch with you, she may be able to offer perspective, or at least an ear.

I remember feeling so mired in exhaustion, loneliness and anger that I didn’t see a way out at the time. And now….well, I don’t have all the answers, but I know I found my way out. Be kind and loving to yourself. Be sensible and patient with yourself. Take a deep breath, be courageous and bold and share your journey…it’s likely there is someone walking right beside you but she won’t see you until you reveal yourself.