Let Them Go- A Pep Talk for Parents

It’s the first day of the first week of September. Which, in many places, means kids have gone back to school for the first time this fall. For others, this is their first day of school ever.  Or their first day of high school, first day of college, first day of university or tech school.

In our house, this is the FIRST time in 17 years I have only one kid in secondary school. We are now  a household of 3 graduated kids. That really did come faster than I imagined it 20 years ago. The days are so so SO long when the kids are in school but the years start to fly by when they all hit junior high.

We are also rookie parents of a college kid.  Our 3rd born, the one who just graduated in June, is starting school in BC today. We are so excited for her and her journey. EXCITED, not nervous, not stressed, not sad, not lamenting the years that have flown by….just excited.

Listen moms(and dads), I get it. These precious ones are your babies. You nurtured them and held them when they were sick. But the day they were born you KNEW you’d have to let them go at some point.  You knew it because you’ve lived it yourself. No one wants to be their mama’s baby forever.  No one wants to be coddled and hovered over for life.  Our babies were born to live. And living means they HAVE to grow.

None of us are really living if we’re not growing.

So ya, I get it, your little muffin let go of your fingers today and ran straight through the doors of that brick and concrete building today and a part of you thinks you’re not ready. But you were BORN READY.  You can do this.

We had a couple of weeks to say goodbye to our daughter who we knew was going to drive herself through 3 provinces to a new city, new surroundings and new school.  But I wasn’t really prepared for the shock, sometimes horror that people shared with us when we told them our 18 year old daughter was going to drive by herself in her little car.  People couldn’t wrap their heads around how we could ” let her” do that.

Pardon me if I’m a little confused but didn’t we just invest 18 years of teaching, molding, encouraging and preparing her to do just that? We have always taught our kids to be self-confident; able to trouble shoot and make wise decisions. I’m so happy each of our 4 kids have oodles of confidence. We have done a lot of things wrong but we have managed to get that right. It didn’t occur to us that she couldn’t. It didn’t occur to her that she couldn’t. Was she nervous? A little. But she was mostly excited. On Friday, a few hours before I knew she needed to get to sleep so she was fresh on Saturday morning, I quietly asked her if she was scared to drive that whole way (1600km) by herself? She said she wasn’t. She said she just really wanted to get going. So I didn’t press the issue. If I would have- If I would have said ” it’s going to be scary”  or “you’ve never driven in the mountains- I don’t know if you can handle it” ….I would have been planting within her the seed of doubt. And we all know that one tiny seed of doubt will triple in size before you get your feet off the ground.

 

She drove herself. The first day was hard- she said mostly because it was so boring. The second day, the one we were all a little worried about, was easier because it was all new. All new, all beautiful, all exciting. She had to stay focused. She stopped when she needed to and let us know where she was. She paid attention to signs, didn’t fall  into the trap of speeding like so many others were. She let them pass her, drove what was comfortable for her and got to her destination before sunset. That was the goal. Yes, she did admit the last 3 hours were hard as the highway was difficult. But you know what? She did it!  My dad said that was the best thing for her. It’s the true pioneer spirit of our forefathers. You go, you do what you have to do and you don’t worry about the details.

Speaking of my dad, he was 15 when he left home. Took a bus and then a train to the far north to work hard, hard long days.  Very little to eat. He was FIFTEEN. No cell phones. No phone to call home. He wrote letters to his mom. He was homesick. He was so young. And it made him into a self-reliant, self-confident, trouble-shooting, capable, reliable adult.

I feel often that we as parents are holding our kids back from their natural, God-given abilities. They are meant to grow and thrive. When a baby begins to walk, they don’t worry about falling down…they keep going. When they are pre-schoolers who want to read they inquire and pretend until they begin to learn and develop a life-long skill of reading language. How marvelous and miraculous is that? It’s really amazing!

When we walk our little ones to the gate of the school on the first day, we willingly let them go into a classroom FULL OF STRANGERS for hours and hours every day and week! Guys! Think about this! We have been doing hard things as parents for all the years since that first pregnancy test came back positive! WE have been letting go.

We as parents are hard-wired to let go. It may not always be easy.  The first drive with a rookie driver is a little bit of white-knuckling, hold your tongue, try not to scream tension.But then, 3 weeks later we are sitting there on our phone scrolling through FB memes because our kid has this and we’re just a passenger.

Moms….let go. Have a coffee with a friend, go to the bookstore, go to the fabric store. Clean out that closet you don’t want the kids to see so they won’t know all the stuff of theirs you’re throwing out. Just go do something. Your kids are okay. They’re doing what they were born to do.  They’re living.

Mama birds don’t mess around- the baby birds get pushed right out of the nest and they’ll fall or they’ll fly. But they were born to fly so they will fly.

Your kids were born to run, to grow, to learn to live.  You’ve done your part. Now let them go.

Happy first day of school everyone.  I just blogged for the first time in 18 months. So basically….I’m winning on this first Tuesday of September.

 

 

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We Don’t Live in Walnut Grove Anymore {The Social Media Generation}

If I talk to you about social media, what do you instantly think of? Facebook? Twitter?

I’m guessing most of you think of Facebook exclusively when it comes to your kids. But you would be wrong. In fact, a lot of kids are leaving Facebook and checking out SnapChat and in rapidly increasing numbers, Instagram.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I would like you to read this article from Hollee Actman Becker. She has absolutely nailed it when it comes to Instagram and our kids- especially tweens and teens.  Do You Think You’re Smarter than Your Fifth Grader? 

 

Did you read it?? Go. Now. Read it. The rest of this isn’t going to make sense unless you read it and I’m not dictating it for you. Go. 

 

Okay, so, now that you’re panic-stricken and mortified, let’s talk about this.

 

Unless you plan on moving to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee or the back woods of the Boreal Forest in Northern Saskatchewan, social media is not going away and it’s now a part of your life, like it or not.  Sure, you can ban your kids from ever touching a computer or cell phone. You can take away their iTouch and their iPads.  You can turn off the wi-fi in your house at 8 pm  and you can hold their hand through life.  OR you could talk to them and teach them about the proper use of social media.

Last week I got an iPhone after much prodding and peer pressure from my 18 year old son. Oh , he’s quite the salesman I tell ya. What got me convinced is the inter-connectivity between my two oldest who have iPhones, my husband and his iPad(he has since upgraded to an iPhone too) and my two younger daughters who each have an iTouch. If you’re not familiar, an iTouch is a glorified iPod which you might think is just for listening to music and watching videos but it actually has all the capabilities of an iPhone without being a phone. So anywhere there is a wifi connection, the holder of an iTouch is able to be on the internet, add apps like any iPhone user would and it also has a camera/video camera.  Very cool but for kids, definitely needs monitoring.   Now, I know my girls have been using Instagram for the past few months. Many of my friends also share  their instagram photos on Facebook and Twitter and I have to admit, I was a little sad when I learned that you have to have an Apple product to use that particular app. I have looked at my girls’ photos and I realized a couple of months ago that there is a lot more going on on Instagram than what I had previously thought. I too, thought it was simply a photo sharing application but with the ability to follow and comment, I realized it really is just another social media outlet.

Our rules on Facebook are as follows:

  • If you’re going to be on Facebook, you must have your parents as friends or you can’t have an account. (They have all figured out that they can customize statuses and posts to exclude us because we were “so annoying” commenting on things.)
  • At any time I can look at their friend list and suggest/demand deletion. We have had to do this a few times particularly with some “friends” who they don’t know well or who have potty-mouths and regularly post offensive comments, statuses or links.
  • At any time I can go into their inbox to see who they’re chatting with and what they’re chatting about.  I did this a lot in the early days and the threat of it now has kept everyone behaving(I think).  I do believe our teens need a certain level of anonymity and privacy. I had diaries and there were some things I wanted to vent about that I would never want my mom to hear or read. Growing up is a working through of emotions and thoughts and it’s okay for our kids to have someplace to do that. But I caution my girls that everything they type can be cut, pasted, shared, taken out of context for all the world to see so tread carefully.
  • Absolutely no bashing friends, acquaintances, family or teachers on Facebook or any other social media. I will not put up with cyber-bullying  or openly slandering another person.
  • Facebook is a privilege, not a right. At any moment it can be gone. And we have suspended accounts for several months at a time. Parents, be parents. Consequences for inappropriate behaviour must be followed through.
  • Anyone who you “friend” on Facebook must be someone you know personally, have an in-person relationship with and who is someone that you would not hesitate to have over in our home for dinner or sitting in our living room with the whole family.  If any one of these criteria does not line up then you cannot be friends on Facebook.  Facebook is an extension of our home and your life. It is a virtual living room. Therefore, we regularly check friend lists and purge as necessary. If someone is a FB stalker(they’re on but you never hear from them) then they’re gone.  If someone takes things you post and shares them with others not on your friend list or not on FB, they’re gone.  If someone makes any one of your friends feel uncomfortable or is chatting privately with you about what someone else said or posted, they’re gone.

This is not an exclusive rule list and it’s always changing. Social media has changed a ton in the six years that I have been on. An open dialogue is essential with your kids. Use it as a teaching tool. Someday your kids will be on their own and they need to have a good foundation for what is acceptable on the internet and what is not.  If you don’t teach them, they’ll learn on their own or from someone else. This is why, for the life of me, I cannot understand some parents who are NOT on Facebook but allow their children to be. You cannot monitor that which you do not see. And you cannot see that which you do not understand or where you are not present. Be present in your child’s life~everywhere.

 

So, back to Instagram. We had an episode a month ago. Potentially a scary episode. My youngest(who will be 13 next week) was having problems and I knew that but she wasn’t sharing much. I will not give all the details but I received a phone call from her friend’s mom on a Saturday morning. She was worried about my daughter because she read an inbox message from her, to her daughter. The word suicide came up. I was alarmed but I was more curious. I took my daughter out on a shopping trip and lunch. We talked about school and friends and all kinds of things. She didn’t give me any indication of a problem and her marks have been good. I had to tell her about the call and she immediately burst into tears. Instagram. Instagram had made her feel awkward and uncomfortable and vulnerable. Even though she didn’t say those words, that’s what it was.  A boy at youth group had liked a photo of her on instagram and her friends had blown it up into a big deal. Why? Because when you “like” something on Instagram it pops up as a heart. So here was her picture with a heart and this boy’s name.  It’s one of those moments in grade 7 when you are SO EMBARRASSED you just want to die.  You know what I mean , moms? You want to die. And that’s what this innocent little  inbox message had said.

When I was in grade 7 and I liked a boy, I didn’t tell anyone. It was my secret with myself. I told my daughter that as much as she loves her friends and they love her, teasing will always happen to the extent where you want to crawl into a hole and never come out. That’s why diaries are great. And that’s why, when I was in grade 7, I could run home, close the bedroom door, cry into my pillow and stress for a day and a night and by the next morning the girls were teasing someone else at school and the boys were just being boys.

Here’s the thing parents, we don’t live in Walnut Grove anymore(did you have to Google that to figure out what I meant?).  Nelly is still on the playground, but she’s carrying an iPhone and she’s using everything your little Laura says and does against her. She’s video taping and photographing and texting.  Albert and Willie have phones now too.  And they don’t mean any harm but they get caught up in the moment.  So what are you going to tell your Laura, your Mary, your Carrie?  What do you do? Do you pack them up in the wagon? Do you tell Pa to get his shotgun and show those kids who’s boss?

Nellie Olson still exists ~she just has an iPhone now.

No.  We live in 2013 and computers and cell phones and social media are a part of our lives. We have to teach our kids to protect themselves. We have to show them how to be friends but how to still keep their private life private. We need to be their safe place and their fountain of knowledge. But we can’t do that if we don’t know what they’re talking about. We can’t help them if we don’t even understand what “tbh” and “lms” mean. It’s time to get with the program.  Be a parent and be there for our kids.

Needless to say, we ‘ve adjusted privacy settings on Instagram for the girls. And now that I’m on, I can see what’s being posted and what’s being said. 95% of it is innocent. But the conversation is an open and evolving one. I’m not going to be the mom who says, “I didn’t know” .

 

 

We’re Still Here and With a Few Links for You!

We are , in fact, mothers. And that title alone necessitates that sometimes we’re……busy.  So our poor Mothering Well page may seem neglected but we are, actually, mothering well.  Melissa was in Hawaii and spent two hours on a blog post about their adventures only to have Internet Explorer eat it into oblivion. (I think she’s still ticked).

Kara has had bout after bout of flu, ear infections and sleepless nights all on top of her MS symptoms.

Jenna is getting over bronchitis but she just posted a gem of a post on her TroubleFace Mom page which I will link below.

Darlene has been down south and back again.(She’s showing us what we have to look forward to, post-kids at home.)

And Michelle celebrated her birthday in Texas with East Coast flare and is now on spring break with her kids! We’re a busy lot!

As for me.…..I have my irons in many fires. Does anyone say that anymore? Do you even know what it means? Oh well, I digress. Back on track this week. But first, here’s a few links you might want to check out.

First up: The state of public schooling.  I have many woes in the school system and often get annoyed by the sheer stupidity. This article puts it bluntly : “the very people who are supposed to be teaching our kids how to think are largely incapable of critical thought themselves.”     Public School Insanity 

Next: Jenna’s blog on the Bully Bus Driver who almost made a sailor out of her. :p  The Wheels on the Bus or Some Crap Like That

And if your days feel kind of like this……

blog pic

 

…………..it’s all good. “Close enough” some days is just right. 🙂

Now go enjoy the day and maybe whip up a batch of these! They’re super yummy!!

unbaked

Unbaked Chocolate Cookies(Haystacks) 

For the Frustrated Mother~from Darlene

Do you have a mother mentor?  I did, and she taught me a simple lesson about how valuable and precious my children were, and how you can never love them too much.

Ione was the pastor’s wife.  She came from California and was the most “out there” kind of pastor’s wife I’d ever met.  She had a big laugh, a big voice, big hair, big shoulder pads, sparkly dresses, bold and outrageous jewellery, and a pair of dressy shoes with high, Lucite heels that my 3 year old daughter coveted for her dress up box.  You could hear her the second you walked into the church foyer on Sunday morning.  She was the one with the enthusiastic, “Well hello there!  I’m so glad you could be here today!”  She knew all the moms by name and remembered our children’s names.  She would gather you in for a hug and say, “I’m so happy you’re here!”  She sat close to the front of the church when her husband preached, and announced her hearty “Amen” when he got to a point she agreed with.  She would regularly invite about 10 families over at a time and feed them spaghetti.  You sat in the kitchen, in the dining room, at a card table set up in the living room…she just set places anywhere, and was the most hospitable woman I’d ever met.  She understood that people needed to feel connected and valued.  She was an absolute fascination for our calm little Mennonite church.   No one could get away from her, but truthfully, you really didn’t want to.

I remember telling her one day how frustrated and tired I was with my children.  She flashed her award winning smile and said, “But did you tell them, ‘I’m so glad God sent you to our house?’  You should tell them that all the time, because they were chosen just for you.”  Well.  Wow.  It’s hard to remain frustrated when you look at it that way.

Ione reminded me that my children were little vessels that needed to be kept topped up every day with love and acceptance.  She was a true believer that you can’t love someone too much.  When my children misbehaved, she taught me that sometimes you have to stop what you’re doing and just say, “Do you need a cuddle?” or “Do you need to just be held a bit?”  It’s harder to scold someone when they’re safe in your arms, and it’s easier for a child who is being held to tell you what’s going on in their busy little minds.

I’m glad God sent my children to our house.  I hope I told them that as many times as they needed to hear it.

~from Darlene, our resident grandma on duty. (she’s still trying to figure out how to log in and post her own blogs. ;))

Instinct, Expectations and Picking Your Battles

I was reading a thread on Facebook today from a well-known author/blogger/speaker.  She had simply stated last night some tough love for her son who wasted time playing a video game even though she asked if he had homework and then “suddenly remembered” at bedtime.  She sent him to bed and told him the consequences were a zero, staying in at recess and reaping the rewards of his forgetfulness.  I did a little cyber *high-five* because that’s pretty much how I parent.  But what followed was nearly 300+ comments from her followers about how she handled it wrong, her son was going to be a delinquent, he was learning to be rewarded for bad behaviour, he was likely to fail in life and a whole host of *advice* about how she could have dealt with it differently.

I am mortified.

First of all, she has 5 kids and this is nothing new to her. It was a small insight into her life which she didn’t need to share but she does regularly because she’s a regular mom like the rest of us, with kids who challenge and she chooses not to enter the battle field sometimes.  A lot of the comments were offensive and most of them were out of line. Continue reading