Friday, February 17, 2012

You Can't Tell Them

We were watching "Blue Bloods" tonight, and the Police Commissioner was talking about raising children.  He said, "That's the hard part -- all the things you do for them that you can't tell them about."  That's profound!  He hit the nail square on the head!

My husband and I were talking about the hundreds of conversations we had about our kids when they were growing up  -- the strategies that were mapped out to make sure that each child had the best opportunity to be the person they were meant to be.  They are all adults now, and I'm quite certain they all think they need therapy because we were such lousy parents.  Head bang!  So I'm giving them some advice while their children are still young.  TAPE RECORD THOSE STRATEGY SESSIONS FOR YOUR OWN KIDS!  Twenty years from now, they won't believe how hard you tried to be a good parent.  You need proof!

Countless discussions occurred for our oldest daughter.  She had lung surgery when she was born, which caused her to have very low endurance for exercise.  We decided to treat her as if nothing was wrong.  She is a very intelligent person (grew up to be a rocket scientist -- no joke), and we were afraid that if we coddled her, she would just give up on herself.  Year after year we took her to swimming lessons because the doctors said that was the best form of exercise for her lung.  When she had trouble making it from one side of the pool to the other, we didn't tell her anything except to keep trying; practice makes perfect.  I remember going outside the pool area at the opposite end of the pool, standing behind a tree where she couldn't see me, and crying when I could hear her struggling for breath.  We didn't tell the swim instructors there was a health issue either, because we didn't want them to coddle her.  This was not easy, folks.

There were literally hundreds of conversations about our children's education.  Teachers wanted us to put the kids in special advanced programs, but we wanted them to be kids, while still getting a good education.  With each child, the discussions were repeated because not every child is the same.  None of my children are alike.

Our second daughter is only 20 months younger than the first. We agonized to make sure that she didn't feel overshadowed by the first.  Our first has a very strong personality, and our second is very laid back and easy going.  We knew she would have to stand up for herself and be counted, even at the risk of the parents having to adjust to constant familial bickering.  We wanted to make sure that our second child developed self-esteem.  Again, this was not an easy task.

Our third child was a boy, who would later be followed by another girl.  Our son needed lots of male role models in his life to counteract growing up with sisters.  We had strategy sessions to pull males into his life.  We surrounded him with men.  When we had a choice, we requested male teachers at school.  We were blessed that he had several male teachers in church.  We put him in Little League baseball.  I even had a coed Camp Fire club and took on a father as my co-leader.  We made sure he had options for socializing with boys--like a basketball hoop that we couldn't really afford (and which eventually put a leak in our garage roof from the bolts).  That Christmas we spent more on the basketball hoop than we did on the three girls combined, but they had more gifts to open, so I tried to even things up.  He had a couple of bells that he liked, so I went to thrift stores and found various bells for him so that he would have gifts to unwrap.  To this day he thinks all he got for Christmas was bells.  Head bang!

Hundreds of sessions focused on our youngest.  We were older when she was born, especially my husband. We worried that she would feel she was being raised by old people.  We tried very hard to stay young for her in spirit.  She had a health problem that we dealt with, which was the source of countless sleepless nights of worry over whether we were doing the right thing.  Self-esteem was a huge issue with this child, and we did everything in our power to let her know she is a good person, at the same time making sure the boundaries were clear.  This was also a child that absolutely no form of discipline would phase.  More strategy sessions.  How do you give a child self-esteem when you're always yelling because that's the only thing she comprehends?

So, yes, Mr. Police Commissioner on "Blue Bloods," that's the hard part -- all the things you do for them that you can't tell them about.  They don't have a clue.  If you told them, they wouldn't believe it anyway.  No matter what you do, they are going to be in therapy anyway, and you're going to be a lousy parent.  It's a thankless job, but somebody has to do it, right?

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