Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

49 Years of Parenting

This past weekend I joined my family in celebrating my parent’s golden wedding anniversary. To say that we have been blessed is obvious to me, and to anyone who knows my parents and my family.

As my family gathered over the weekend, we had opportunities to talk about some of our favorite childhood and adult memories. Some of these memories were related to trips we took or holidays we spent together.  But, there were many more memories shared that related to the day-to-day occurrences or times when each of us kids had gotten into trouble. This made me think that not only have my parents been married for 50 years – but they have been parenting for 49!

Growing up my sister, brothers and I had our share of successes and challenges. We were not “bad kids,” but definitely had times in which our errors in judgment led to upheaval and disappointment. But regardless of what we did or failed to do, we always knew that our parents were in our corner to help us get through whatever crisis or celebrate whatever high point came our way. We also knew – and still know – what is expected of us, the values that are important and the ways in which you show generosity and concern for others. For my parents, I think that their children knowing they were loved and supported and trying to live by the values and expectations they set are indicators of their success.

As parents, it is my opinion that they mine did two specific things that had this type of lasting impact: One was that they were consistent, the other was that they were available.

By being available, I am referring to my parents being present in our lives. Not only did they attend sporting events, art shows and recitals, but they knew what was going on in each of our lives. They knew our friends, they knew what was important to each of us and they listened.  Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely arguments and times we disagreed. But we were allowed to express our feelings and “speak our mind.” They were open to hearing what we had to say and supported our opinions – when they could. They also recognized our talents and strengths and were present to teach perseverance and encourage success.

By being consistent I am not only referencing consistency in discipline or routines, but also that their actions and words matched their values and their expectations. As children we knew what mattered to our parents, not just because they said it but because their actions supported it. Values were evident in daily routines – for example praying before dinner and getting our allowance only when our chores were complete. Expectations were supported by actions – for  example, we were expected to work hard in school.  This meant we did our homework, we listened to teachers and we studied. My parents made sure that homework time was a part of our home routine; they helped us study, checked our work and there was no television until homework was done. When we did our best in school and fell short, we were not in trouble. But if we hadn’t tried our best and got bad grades there was a punishment.

How my mom and dad parented seems simple and practical – their values and expectations matched their words and actions. This style of parenting requires intention and commitment, but it is not complex or costly. As parents we can choose to ensure that our messages come through in our words and our actions. We just need to make sure the messages we send are the ones we want to give!

– Carolyn

Photo courtesy of Melchier.

A Time for ‘Thanks-Giving’

In the blink of an eye the holidays are here again, and the hustle and bustle begins! What is on your list to do this week?  Bake a pie?  Roast a turkey?  Travel out of town?  Visit family and friends?

Well, whatever is on your list, I am hoping that you will find the time for Thanks-Giving.  Time to truly be thankful for your blessings, your challenges, your hopes and your failures,  for it is all of those things that set our path and make us who we are: for ourselves and for our children.  As parents, there is often so much to be thankful for, things that we may pass or miss as we hustle and bustle about.  Somewhere in the midst of the busy-ness, try to slow down, be present in the moment and…

•    listen to your child’s chatter, really listen
•    soothe your child’s worries and frustrations
•    watch your child delve into the desserts
•    hold or hug your child a couple of times throughout the day
•    and lastly, make a memory

One of my favorite things now is to share memories with my brothers and sister.  Holidays seem to always be a part of those conversations.  We talk about how my dad and uncles always fell asleep on the floor after dinner, my aunt getting us kids to play “cemetery” at the end of the night (a game where all the kids had to lay still on the ground and not move – little did we know the trick was that half of us would fall asleep) or the time my cousin asked my brother to “pass the butter” to which my brother said, “Did you say pass?” as he launched the butter like a football to the other end of the table.  My list goes on and on.

As a kid, I always loved the holidays and the time I got to spend with our large extended family.  I remember as a kid having fun, but I think it is as an adult that I began to feel grateful for those times and those memories.  And it is interesting, but the memories that mean the most – the ones I focus on – really were not about money or “things.”  They were about the people I was with, the things we did and the things that made us laugh. And I am guessing that you have a list of memories as well… and I am hopeful that you have the kinds of memories you want to keep versus those that you would rather forget.

And so, for this Thanks-Giving, what are the memories you want to help create for your child?  What are the traditions you will do each year as a family?  What activities will you intentionally involve your child in?  What will you do similar to last year, or differently?  And if you do have regrets about last year’s holidays, learn from them and let it go!  None of us can go back, so move on to this year, who you want to be to your child – be that person and create the memories you choose to create.

So, what is on your list to do this week?  Bake a pie?  Roast a turkey?  Travel out of town?  Find time to be grateful?  Make a memory?

Photo copyright © 2007 sean dreilinger