Archive for the 'Parenting' Category

What I know but often forget

When we had one kid – our outwardly compliant, brilliant, over-achieving one – I thought, “We must be doing something right!”  And I gave myself a pat on the back.

When we had two kids – including our super-diligent, extremely extroverted evangelical one – I thought, “Not only are we doing things right; since we are having such great success with two kids who are clearly quite different, it must be our great parenting!”  And although it was a bit harder to reach, I gave myself a pat on the back.

When we had three kids – including our highly distractable, dyslexic, bipolar, gifted, learning disabled, curious one – I worked really, really, really hard to get and/or give him the many and varied helps he seemed to need, while I watched him in some ways spiral horrifically down and in other ways do tolerably well.  But I could no longer even reach my back, and I just prayed for him to become a responsible young man who would live for God and do what’s right and marry a great wife and lead his family well – and in the meantime remember to brush his teeth and turn in assignments on time.

When we had four kids – including our maximally social, gymnastic, defiant, craving-acceptance-at-any-cost, dramatic, continually challenging, musical one – I realized that although we were still fully committed to do our very best to parent all four of them as well as we knew how, even if we did do everything perfectly right (which we clearly didn’t and surely couldn’t), even that would not guarantee the kind of outcomes we as parents yearned for in our kids.  I wasn’t even sure I had a back any more, and I learned, both through instruction and experience, that I am not big enough, strong enough, energetic enough, creative enough, or wise enough to even plan – much less control – who my kids become or how they live their lives, because our great (or not so great) parenting is not the only factor involved.

They. Also. Get. To. Choose.  Just like I do.

Their wills are involved.  Just like mine is.

They are products of ALL the people and situations and difficulties and joys they have experienced, just like I am, and they are most especially products of the choices they have made, just like I am.  Yes, our great (and not so great parenting) plays a role, but it’s not their only outcome-determining factor.

And so, while I don’t get to take full credit for their accomplishments (although a portion of that credit may be mine), I also don’t have to take full blame for their failures (although a portion of that blame may be mine, too).  Actually, I really just need to give God credit for the grace he’s given them (and me) to accomplish some things, and I need to trust him to carry them (and me) and keep working through their (and my) successes and shortcomings.

Grace and trust seem to go together.

As I am in a season of several transitions right now, I’ve been thinking through all the above, and then this morning I read this blog post by a mission-minded mom of eight (Wow!!!).  I don’t know her personally, but I have followed her blog for about eight years. She’s the kind of mom I would like to be.  I’m not like her, but she’s just so solid and such a great example to me.  I follow her as she follows Christ.

I believe there’s a lot of truth in her post.

Teen parenting tip

How to get your newly licensed teen driver to arrive home promptly at the agreed-upon time?

Institute the ACME tried-and-true “Vacation Rental Guest Departure Plan!”

One item on the rental agreement our guests sign says that if they are not out by 10:00 AM, they will be charged a dollar a minute for every minute they are late.  We do this because when it’s a quick turn (one set of guests leaving at 10:00 AM and another set arriving at 4:00 PM), our very capable cleaners – of which Andrew is one – have only six hours to immaculately clean every detail of a five- or six-bedroom luxury home, and they need every possible minute to do that.

Well, when Andrew had an hour and half to shower, get dressed, eat, and arrive at church (six minutes from home) by 9:50 AM, and he showed up at 9:57 AM, I simply told him that since he was late and didn’t call, I’d treat him the way we treat our guests, and he owed me $7.00.  He didn’t argue.  He just said, “OK.”

And when I told him the next day that he needed to be home from work (cleaning one and-a-half vacation rental homes) by 5:20 PM at the latest in order to shower, change, eat, and go to his school’s pre-semester open house, he said he’d be there, and he arrived at exactly 5:18 PM!

I like the ACME plan.  = )

In which I drive

It’s been a very full month since last I wrote a blog post.  Highlights include:

~ Andrew getting his driver’s license!!!  (He will always remember to set the parking brake when parking on a hill and to turn his wheels away from the curb.)

~ Andrew flying alone (through a total of six airports) to and from Michigan to spend a week’s vacation with Katie and Josiah.  THANK YOU, Katie, for inviting Andrew to join you, for paying his expenses, and for doing what it took to make it happen!

~ Scott’s and my long weekend at Creek’s End, in which we went double-tubing in the spring pool in JULY!

~ Katie and Josiah’s adventure in the canoe on the lake.  Two admittedly directionally challenged people trying to find their way back to the rental house. . . well, they did get there eventually!

~ Andrew and Josiah’s wee hours run to an unknown airport after nearly running out of gas.

~ The very many extremely interesting events involved in Josiah moving to Niger for five months.  These included, but were definitely not limited to – the cash, the prescriptions, the Bible, the underwear, the toothpaste, and the Childs’ address and phone.

~ My leading a Life Group discovery discussion.

~ A really good visit with my folks in North Little Rock.

It was the drive back from NLR today that reminded me that instead of getting easier, parenting actually gets more difficult as the kids (and parents) age.  At the time, I had thought the early years were tough, but I was entirely wrong!  Those years were actually a piece of (carrot) cake, compared to parenting this particular sixteen year-old male!  Some things – things like unhooking my concept of success as a mom from my kid’s performance, and coming up with consequences that penalize the kid and NOT the parent, and following through on those consequences no matter what – are truly much harder with teens than with toddlers.

Today’s case in point.  Andrew has repeatedly informed me that everyone he knows, or at least every adult he looks up to, drives too fast.  “EVERYONE speeds, Mom.  Everyone except you and Ms. Tracy.”  So he and I were on this trip to NLR, and he was driving, and I was enjoying having four hours to get a lot of work done.  On the way there, I wrote six ministry thank yous, did a lot of computer stuff, and took a short doze.  That was all wonderful, but even though I had told Andrew to drive the speed limit – and that if he refused, I would drive – every time I glanced at the speedometer, he was doing about ten over.  Sigh. Several times I reminded him of what I had required (not requested), and he would sometimes slow down for a little while.

On the way home, however, it seemed that he was purposefully disobeying me, so when he was doing 78 in a 70 on the freeway, I told him to set the cruise to 70 and only speed up when he needed to pass.  But when we got on Hwy 65 and he kept doing nearly ten over, my bag was over with telling him to drive the speed limit; I told him to set the cruise to 55.  I made a few other minor comments in those first 45 minutes of our drive, and when we stopped for lunch in Greenbrier, he informed me that after lunch, I was going to drive.  [Note that I am not fond of having my child tell me what I’m going to do.]

Me:  Huh?  Why?!?  I thought you wanted to drive!

Andrew:  I do!  But you keep telling me how to drive, and I KNOW how to drive!

Me:  I don’t understand.

Andrew:  You never stop!  It’s constant.  “Check your mirrors.  Set the cruise.  Use your turn signal.  Do you see that car?”  It’s just as bad as when I had my permit!  The whole reason I got my license was so that you wouldn’t, couldn’t, control me.  Since you won’t stop telling me how to drive, you can drive.”

Me:  OK.  That’s fine with me.

(He then gave me that deadpan expression that seemed to communicate, “I really can’t believe I’m being forced to lower myself to dealing with such an insignificant humanoid,” but – thank you, Holy Spirit – I managed to avoid reacting to that rather hefty non-verbal barb.)

Me:  I will say that I am disappointed because I had planned to get a lot of work done during this drive, but I do understand.  I’ve told you that if you won’t drive the speed limit, I will drive, and since you won’t, I will.  But please know that even though you do have your license, I’m still your mom, and I still have a right to say how you’ll drive when I’m in the car.  Since you refuse to obey me by driving the speed limit, I’ll be glad to drive.

Andrew:  That’s fine.  I won’t be controlled by you.

[I honestly couldn’t believe he had said that, but – perhaps just to make sure I had heard him? – he repeated himself very firmly!]

Andrew:  I won’t be controlled by you.

Me:  [deep breath to stay calm before speaking]  I understand that, too.  There are some areas where I, too, have deeply held convictions, and on those matters I absolutely refuse to bend or budge, so I get it.  However, for clear communication, from now on, if the two of us are in the Honda or the Durango together, I will drive.  If the two of us are together in the Toyota (“his” car), you will drive. . . but I’d really prefer us to not ever even be in the Toyota together.

Andrew:  [with a sight shake of his his and a frown in one corner of his mouth, softly]  That is my goal.

Me: I do have one question.  If you were driving with Dad in the car, and if he were telling you to drive the speed limit, would you resent that as much as you resent me telling you?

Andrew:  Yes, I would!  It’s not who it is that bothers me; it’s being told how to drive when I know how to drive.

So we went into Subway and ate our sandwiches, and then I drove home from Greenbrier, with Andrew watching a movie in the back seat.

O, how I hope 17 is a little easier than 16. . . and how I wish I knew what to do/change/be to make that a reality.

Something new and different

Scott and I are sitting at the dining room table, side by side, on our laptops.  = )  It is very quiet in the house, because this week, Andrew and our nephew, Christian, are gone to camp.  What a concept.  Home alone, two.  We are both pretty sure that the last time we were at home for a whole week with no children at all would have been the week before Katie was born!

We are sure the guys are having fun, being a blessing, and being ministered to by God and his people.  We will be glad to see them again, come Saturday.  I will be glad to do fewer clean-ups, trash chores, etc.  The feeling of peace, freedom, and flexibility is almost exactly the same feeling I had the very first time I drove away from the house and left all the kids (9, 7, 5, 0) there.  That time, some fifteen years ago, it only lasted some 45 minutes.  This time, it’s lasting 8,370 minutes.  Times have changed.

Standing firm

I listened to a great radio broadcast yesterday with Drs. Cloud and Townsend talking about their book, Boundaries with Kids.  It reminded me of a number of things we’ve done well and a few – mainly with Andrew – that we’ve done poorly, and it gave me a big shot in the arm to keep doing the right things, no matter how much resistance I encounter.

Today I’ve encountered a lot, and that’s putting it mildly.  All I will say here is that we have a family policy that if one is in debt, one cannot spend money own’s one money on “fun” things until one had paid off one’s debt, and even Obama Care is not being attacked as relentlessly as that family policy is today.

I will, however – by the grace of God – stand firm.

What means the screen?

This morning, I was greeting at church, which means that for the better part of an hour, I stood in front of the glass doors and welcomed people as they came to church.  At about twenty till, a friend of mine who’s probably in her sixties, came in.  We greeted each other, hugged, and I gave her a bulletin.  As she walked past me toward the sanctuary, she paused, looked around the foyer, looked over her shoulder at me, motioned back and forth with one hand palm up, and shook her head.  Then she went on in.

At first I didn’t realize what she was getting at, but a few minutes later I put it all together.  As more families arrived, many of the adults headed either into the sanctuary, to the bathroom, or to one of the children’s classes where they’d be serving, but the kids were, for the most part, hanging out in the foyer where I, the woman at the door, got to be a fly on the wall observing youth behavior.

Of our own children, Katie and Jessica live out of town, and Josiah is away at college, so Andrew was the only Roberts offspring present at church this morning, and he was in the sanctuary for worship practice while I was made the following (disturbing to me) observation.

As I briefly turned my back to the door and scanned the foyer, I saw that two five year-old girls were seated on the floor heads bent over an iPad that was plugged into the wall.  Three boys – eleven, thirteen, and fifteen years old – were seated in a row on the pew along the wall, each fully focused on his own handheld device.  A fourteen year-old boy came in and leaned on the information counter, intently touch-padding his phone.  A nine year-old boy wearing ear buds walked past, holding his device in front of his face.

Seven kids, and every single one of them head down and completely captivated by whatever was on his or her screen.

This made me sad.

It was a deep, inside kind of sad.

I happen to know all those kids and their parents.  They are great folks who are working hard to raise their kids well, but not everyone knows that.  It occurred to me that if a visitor came in and happened to walk from the front door through the foyer and into the sanctuary at that moment, he or she might think that screens are the preeminent priority for the kids in our church.  Is that really the image we want to portray to our first-time visitors?

More importantly, is that the truth?

I guess this is the pot calling the kettle black, because I use screens all the time.  I use my phone many, many times a days to make and receive phone calls and to send and receive texts.  I use my computer ALL DAY LONG, not only for “work” (dealing with financial matters, doing various kinds of ministry planning, administration, and contact work, planning, printing, and keeping records for Andrew’s academics, renewing library books, editing documents for myself and others, ordering all kinds of items and supplies), but also for fun (emailing friends and family, reading blogs, and – smiley face – relaxing and recharging by writing. . . like this!).

Do I have my face in a screen too often?  Yes.  Do I feel a compulsion to look at my phone every time it bleeps to say I have a text or incoming call?  Yes.  So, do I set a bad example for Andrew?  Probably so.  Obviously, I need to make some changes and do better at putting my screens in a box.  But I do want to say that I am extremely grateful to God that we were at least able to raise our three oldest in a culture where screens were not our gods and where their being relatively screen-free didn’t necessarily make them social outcasts.

It takes an awful lot of internal strength to buck the culture, and that’s especially hard to do when you’re 14, incredibly social, and desperate to fit in and be accepted.  Oh, God, give us more grace.  Please.

Real shopping

We spend a lot of our time and too much of our money at Wal-Mart. 

When I was a kid, there weren’t stores where you could buy everything imaginable under one roof.  We went to the grocery for food, to Magic Mart for non-food stuff, to JP Penney or Sears for clothes, to the hardware store for hardware, and I can even remember Tony’s fruit market and the butcher around the corner!  I grew up shopping for clothes in what were then called department stores.  I haven’t been in one of those for probably going on ten years, so I don’t know what they’re called now.  I end up buying most of my clothes at women’s clothing stores, and – true confessions – sometimes Wal-Mart

Our kids haven’t been in department stores much, either, although the girls shop in clothing stores, and Josiah may have a time or two, as well.  However, I’m not sure if Andrew had ever been shopping for quality clothes in a real, live clothing store before tonight, so we had a new kind of adventure.  He had been given a gift card to Van Heusen for his birthday, for the purpose of buying dress clothes.  That man LOVES to look and smell sharp, and unlike our other kids at that age, dress clothes are a really big deal to him.

So he and I went to Van Heusen. 

Andrew’s in that awkward age/size that’s really hard to fit.  He’s a bit too big (and too slim, thankfully!) for boy’s sizes, and he’s a bit too small (and way too slim) for men’s sizes.  His pant size is (today, could change tomorrow) 28.5-32 – and I double dog dare you to find a 28.5 inch belt.  The clerk today measured him for dress shirts and came up with 13.5-32.  14 is the smallest shirt they carry, and they don’t carry very many of them.  In addition, Andrew needs “fitted” dress shirts, because the “regular” cut ones are just way too big around.

We finally found a couple with potential, and I walked with him to the dressing room.  I quietly explained to him that these shirts would be full of pins and lots of packaging and that if he didn’t get all the pins out, he’d surely know it.  While he wrestled with plastic, pins, cardboard, and tissue, I wandered around looking for a 14-23 deep purple dress shirt that was also on sale. 

It was a neat moment when the guy stepped out of the fitting room.  I looked at him in his pastel purple pin-free shirt, and it hit very hard me that he is a man.  Of course, I already knew that, but it was just so darn obvious.  He’s tall and very handsome.  His hands are huge.  He’s working a sprouting some facial fuzz.  I have to look up to him.  And in a nice dress shirt, he just looked very sharp and manly. 

Mentally, I flashed back to the scrawny six-pound fellow his foster mom handed me when he was 19 days old.  “Wow, God!  Look what’s become of him.  Look who he is today.  That tiny baby is a man.  WOW!” 

Then came the part where I had to hold firm.  One shirt was $12.99 but the other one he wanted was $24.99.   Would the $30 gift card plus his $10 cash be enough, once the $5 text discount he signed up for was subtracted and sales tax was added?  The clerk was quite gracious and patient while Andrew ran the various numbers in his head and debated between the two shirts he liked best and the two he could afford.  At one point he said quietly to me, “Well, if it’s over, you can pay it and take it off my pay.”  “No,” I replied.  “This is YOUR purchase and you’ll do it with YOUR money.  If it’s over, you may have to suck up your pride and ask the clerk to void something.” 

Then I stood back and let him handle the whole thing.  He did.  He got what he wanted for less than his total amount of available cash, and he was very courteous to the clerk, as well.  Way to go, Andrew!

Way to let him grow up, Patty!

Job description

Who would apply for this job?

* Provide full physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial care for Person for a minimum of eighteen years.

* Diagnose and accommodate food allergies, based only on Person’s incessant and inconsolable screaming.

* Change untold numbers of diapers, make untold numbers of urinary stops by the side of the road, and, until Person turns six, do untold numbers of loads of laundry.

* Invest an amount of money equal to the purchase price of a used luxury vehicle in meeting Person’s dental and orthodontic needs.

*  Plan, implement, and document Person’s entire academic training for many years.

Salary:  non-existent

Benefits:  infinitely wonderful

This I have learned for sure about parenting:  It is never easy, simple, or painless, but it does get easier over time.  Furthermore, in a truly cruel twist of fate, the time at which one feel somewhat capable and the joys outweigh the challenges is the precise time at which one gets terminated.  The reward, however, is that while one loses one’s job, one gains a friend.

I hate the phrase, “It’s all good,” because really, it’s not.  Much is not only not good; it actually makes like a vacuum.  That said, parenting is worth all that it takes.  It’s hard but it matters, and it is good.  Today I’m thankful for the growth I see in each of our kids, and for the growth I see in me.

The men are back!

Scott is highly motivated to do things that matter; especially things that matter for the kingdom of God.  Over Memorial Day, he decided to make a major investment into several men.

Some months ago, these guys all watched the movie, “Courageous,” participated in a 15-week “Resolution” study, followed up by a full-scale formal, public “Resolution” ceremony.  It was a BIG deal for those guys and their families.

One of the items in the “Resolution” involves calling out the man in your son and helping him transition from boyhood to manhood.  Scott felt it was time to invite the guys from the “Resolution” study to do that very thing, so he planned an overnight backpacking camping trip to the Falls at Hercules Glades.

They left Sunday after church – five 12 to 15 year-olds and their dads or surrogates – drove to the area, packed all their stuff some two and-a-half miles in 90 degree heat, and set up camp.  Over the next twenty-four hours, they swam, played, ate, and slept AND studied and discussed things like dating and marriage, responsibility, sex, pornography, and other topics related to manhood.

Evidently it was a very productive trip.  Scott summarized it by saying, “We took five boys and brought back five men.”

Fracture, no. Freedom, yes.

We’re pleased to know that Our Llama simply has a badly sprained left right ankle, as opposed to the fractured left right ankle he was concerned about.  He hied his own manly self to the Urgent Care today, dealing with insurance, forms, payment, etc.

I think it’s really nice to have younger mammals about who can handle all that stuff without needing a legal guardian present.  It’s the same feeling I had when Katie finally turned 12 and could take the younger kids to ride the balloons at SDC.  It was so wonderful that they could have fun without my having to be nauseous.  It’s also similar to the feeling I had when I first drove away from the house during the day, leaving all four kids at home.  I’m pretty sure  you call that sensation, “freedom!”

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