Saturday, August 26, 2006

This one's for stay at home parents

Ever meet a stranger and ask her what she does? Notice how she stammers, or looks for the words that expresses the importance of her work, or how she says what she used to do before she had kids. She is a stay at home mom, and there is a relatively new creature joining her ranks The stay at home dad. These are the people who, for a variety of reasons decide to hold off on a career in order to raise children. And they do not get a whole lot of support from society, or sure they may be admired but they often do not feel respected. There are too many voices out there who claim that raising children doesn't challenge all of brain cells or years of education. Worse than that, the message often states "You are not contributing to the good of society as is your duty!"
Whether these words are spoken or implied, stay at home parents feel the attitudes that surround what they do. Add to that, the monotony of changing diapers, doing laundry, breaking up sibling squabbles all without a paycheck and a stay at home parent will often start to doubt themselves. Stay at home parents are often isolated, and worn out and in desperate need of a healthy dose of encouragement, someone to stand up and say. "What you do is important, what you do makes this world a better place. What you do has significant ramifications that carry on through the generations. Now, pick yourself up by your bootstraps and prepare yourself for the most significant meaningful challenge of your life. Raising your kids.
But you need vision. You need hold a picture of what you working toward in your head because you will not be rewarded every two weeks like the guy who gets his paycheck. This picture/goal will keep you focused on your reward. Imagine great things for your family for your children and hold on to that image when things get rough.
Want to know what your job description would look like if someone were to hire you?
If someone were to actually list all of the wild and wonderful things you do and skills you need. I tell you , brain cells are most definitely needed. Education-a bonus. And contributing to society... Dear SAHP's you bring more to society than anyone could even imagine. I shudder to think what our world would look like in your absence!

Wanted- person with strong leadership skills available to work 9-5 plus early mornings, late nights, weekends and, okay all night long, but you can sleep (sometimes). Need to commit to this position for at least 18 years. Must be willing to accept unconventional pay and benefit package
Qualified individuals will be well organized- need to organize self and persons under your leadership, Need to make all activities and appointments in a timely matter, gets persons under your leadership to bed at appropriate time and up and ready in the morning fed a healthy breakfast and sent off with all necessary homework, supplies, and probably lunch for the day
-Must be creative (and possibly silly) as you will need these skills to tackle boredom in long lines and waiting rooms, plan birthday parties, stop child from crying during portrait sitting and get persons under your leadership to eat variety of vegetables.

Must work well under pressure- Person will need skills to handle tantrums (usually in public; lost shoes with no time to spare; he said/she said kinds of conflicts, must bandange wounds calmly and lovingly without getting hysterical (no matter how much blood is involved or how strange the limb looks in that position). Keeping up with the ever changing requirements of the Redcross first aid handbook is a plus.

Person must possess good conflict resolution skills, will come in handy when dealing with sibling squabbles in vehicle in crazy traffic, and not sharing toys on playdates.

Must possess strategic planning skills and also be spontaneous- in other words must be able to plan and set things up to work out a certain way but be prepared for Murphy's law at all times.

Must be both firm and nurturing- Must develop rules for running the "company" hold to consequences when rules are broken, and dole out lots of hugs when consequences are completed.

Must posses an unprecedented amount of love for the subjects under your leadership.
If you've got that, all the other skills can be picked up through on the job training. Many more skills are needed but if you've read this far and still have a flicker of an interest, you are hired. You are desperately needed. Your fulfillment of this job will affect your family, your community your world in ways your could never imagine.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Leaving A Legacy

I was watching one of the episodes of America's Got Talent the other week and noticed that there were a few acts where family members performed together. There was one family in which everyone danced and played the fiddle at the same time. Talk about talent, not just one individuals talent but an entire family's talent.

It started me thinking about how families leave a legacy. Sometimes the family legacy can be a negative one. For example alcoholism that makes it's way down through the generations. Sometimes, however a family legacy can be a wonderful thing to pass down. Consider a family with several generations of doctors, or military service. I started to think about the legacies that were passed down to me and to my husband. And it occurred to me how intentional we need to be about passing down our legacies, lest they die out in one generation. Both Tod and I had similarities in our background. We were taught the importance of our faith in Christ and to make that the center of our lives. Both of us were looking for that as a priority in a marriage partner before we even married. It was a given that that legacy would be essential to pass down. Both of us came from families where our parents ran a business that involved the family. For me that was helping my parents with their garden center every spring. Learning to count back change and operate a cash register when I was 10 years old. Tod's family ran a chicken farm and the family spent their weekends gathering eggs and taking care of the chickens. Both of us grew up selling produce from our garden. My parents loaded my sister and I up with a wagon of peppers and tomatoes and corn and sent us door to door to the neighbors house. Tod sold produce at the end of his driveway at a little produce stand.
Tod's family is also a family of runners, his cousins, uncles, siblings all are excellent runners. His dad ran triatholons until his death at age 63. And his uncles run in their 60's and 70's. Tod has participated in running since high school and picked up triatholons after his dad's death. He even had the kids doing kids triatholons at some of his races. This was one legacy that was foreign to me. I was not a runner. Tried to run but my little legs only had one speed...slow motion. I remember shortly after my oldest daughter was born, training with Tod to run a 5K. The race was called Run for the Animals and the t-shirt that the runners got was so adorable I had to have it. So Tod helped me develop a training schedule and cheered me on and coached me. And I proudly ran a 5K. When Tod's dad died I found out that he had kept a picture of me at my race right on his desk for several years. Proud I think that his legacy had transcended immediate family and would no doubt be passed on to the grand children.

I'd love to say that now I'm competing in 10K's, marathons, triatholons you name it. But that's not the case. I do however, love to go running with my family at the middle school track near our home. We have started to attract other family members too. Tod's mom joins us. Sometime his sisters do, when his sister from Tennessee visited with her family we had all of the cousins running and racing each other. We could almost feel how Tod's dad lives on through that legacy.
Tod and I have kept the legacy of the family business model as well. While neither one of us are keeping the family business going that we worked at as kids, we are applying what we learn to our own little business renting our cottage out each summer.

The kids are involved with helping us clean it. Calalily has created flyers for it. Juniper loves to wash the windows and mirrors. Jazz sometime helps Tod with repairs. And they go with us when we check people in and show them around. Each week when we come to clean the kids love to read the guest book to see what our guests did while on vacation. We are teaching them to work together for the good of the family.

We enjoy exploring new legacies too. Through their own unique personalities our kids are introducing us to new things. Caly loves basketball, Juniper, music, and Jazz his love for numbers usually manifests itself in finding ways to make money. We find ourselves doing things as a family to support the legacies our own children want to leave on this world. And as they grow and develop and new opportunities open up to them their will be many other legacies to explore

I was reading through the profiles of my former (not old) high school classmates and thinking about the different legacies they were all leaving, legacies of travel, love of culture, music, athletics, education. I was thinking of how wonderful for the kids to grow up in these families and be exposed to the loves of their parents.
But leaving a legacy takes intention. It is about involving kids in the stuff you want to leave to them. And sometimes that involves taking a step back to where they are at to lead them to where you want them to go. Going back to the beginning of what you do well can be difficult. Our tendency is to want to move forward not backwards. But if you want your legacy to live on you need to be intentional about teaching. Tod learned that he needed to do his running at the track to keep his eyes on all the kids and motivate them. But his preference is to run alone at 10:00 at night down the shoreline of Lake Michigan. But he wants to pass down a legacy, so we make running a fun family event. And each child gets their own number of laps to run and a dad and mom to cheer them on.

What is your family all about? What legacies do you want to pass on to your children? Are you starting new legacies or passing them down through the generations? How are you intentionally setting aside time to keep your legacies alive? Families can leave all kinds of legacies, from music to sports, to giving or helping others, from setting up a charitabe fund the kids are involved in to going on family mission trips, or creating family service projects, from being the helpers in the community to being the business people in the community, families can leave a legacy of faith, it just matters that you become intentional.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

When Good Intentions Don't get the Intended results

I feel that before I get too far into this blog that I should address a very important issue and that is that kids are not computers. With computers, you can plug in the right kind of data and poof the computer performs as it should. Kids are human and you can do all the right things and the outcome can vary as much as there are colors on a moodring. My husband switched careers from pyschology to computers because he needed more certain outcomes when solving problems. It can never be that way with parents. There is no certainty.
I know of many people who grieve over children who have strayed away from the very things that their parents cared very deeply about and instilled in them; values, faith in God etc. So be sure that the articles in the blog are not meant to make anyone feel as if parenting is as easy as 7 steps to the kids you've always wanted. It's just not that way.
However, that being said, a parent should not feel nihilistic. Parents need a road map to follow. Values need to be instilled. Relationships need to be built and tended. And parents need to always cling to hope no matter where their children are at emotionally, spiritually, physically. And a parent who realizes that they have offered their children direction, values, a home filled with love, can rest more easily in that hope than a parent who looks back with regrets and can see how their behavior may have played a role in a child who has gone in a bad direction by the things they have done or the things they have left undone.

No one is perfect. But you can be a good enough parent. As parents I believe that we should be always adding to our parenting repertoire. Don't beat yourself up if you are suddenly made aware that you have been doing things ineffectively as a parent. Always be open to the many resources and support systems available and work hard to change things. When we recognize what we can do to change a negative situation with a child, we realize that the power to make things better rests in our hands.
So we have a choice. We can accept the power we have to change things. That might be hard as it might involve admitting we are wrong (yikes) and seeking forgiveness as well as changing our stubborn ways. But consider the other option- admitting powerless over the situation and blaming a child or waiting for the day our child will come around... A day that may never come.

But if a parent has done all they can to rectify a bad situation, waits patiently in love and maintains an attitude of respect, acceptance and love for a child through the hard times.. I believe that in many, many situations with time, healing will occur.

My kids are young, 12 and under. I almost feel inadequate writing about such things. I can hear some of you saying.. Just wait. And knowing the hearts of my children, I know that one of them needs to learn through experience and consequences and that child scares me. But I have interacted with many young adults trying to manage difficult relationships with parents and I have witnessed the grief of many wonderful parents whose kids "should have" emerged from childhood unscathed. And I know that prodigal children can come out of the best households. Not an indication of failure on the parents part. Just a need for Mom/Dad to cling to hope. All the love and care and support is instilled in those children and they need to find it within themselves in their own time and in their own way, but rest assured if you've been intentional about it, it's in there.