To my son’s first girlfriend 

I wasn’t ready for you. I was just getting used to him driving and working. He’s not even close to being independent. I know that is supposed to be the goal, but deep down I have to admit I don’t want it. 

I have always told my kids they are growing too fast. I imagine most parents feel that way. Those feeling are purely selfish. The goal of every young person is to have the freedom of being independent, even if they don’t understand the responsibility that comes with it. 

He seems to think I don’t like you. That’s not the case at all. I don’t know you very well, but what I know is a sweet, likable girl who happened to catch the eye of my first baby. That is hard for me to swallow. 

 

Wasn’t this just last week?

 
My job as a mother is to protect and nurture my kids, and teach them to be responsible, caring adults who love God and family. So far I think I’ve managed to do that, even if my ways are not the most conventional. Yes, things have happened that were beyond our control, but I was there to pick up the pieces when our world was turned upside down. 

Of course, I want to guard my son’s heart. It’s only natural. It’s hard for me to let go and allow him to make his own choices. I’m trying very hard to offer advice without telling him what to do.

I’m glad he is comfortable enough with me to talk about you in ways most teens wouldn’t share with their parents. He knows I won’t judge or jump to conclusions. He also sees the value of lessons I learned by making bad choices when I was young. 

I hope I have a chance to spend time with you soon, just the two of us. I would like to get to know you myself, instead of just hearing what he thinks of you (which seems to be all good, by the way). If you’re lucky I may tell you some of the cute things he did when he was little. I may even show you some of those embarrassing pictures every parent seems to have. 

Advertisements

I parent, you parent, we all scream at our kids

No two parents have the same style. They shouldn’t. What works for me isn’t going to work for everyone. I have always tried to keep the lines of communication open. My kids know they can come to me with anything and I won’t yell or have a knee jerk reaction. I may not be happy, but I always try to get the facts before getting upset. The more severe the offense, the more time I take deciding how to handle the situation.

I am also open with them about my past, in the hopes they won’t repeat my mistakes, but learn from them. I make a point to try and adjust the things my parents did with me that clashed with my personality. If one technique doesn’t work I don’t keep beating the dead horse, I try a mule. Or a carrier pigeon. Or…you get the picture.

kids5

My favorite picture

I have friends that take a quite different approach. They manage the details of their kids’ activities, monitor their social media, keep a tight rein on their schedule and do their best to keep them away from bad influences. That works for them. It would never work for me.

With all the medical and emotional challenges we face, I don’t have time or energy to micromanage my children’s lives. I trust that I taught them well enough they can be responsible. I have gradually given them more autonomy, remembering how I was when I no longer had my parents watching my every move. I don’t want my kids to suddenly have freedom without the experience and judgment to handle it.

If you have teens, do you trust them? It will only be a few short years before they have to make their own decisions. Will they be ready? If you aren’t sure, it might be time to ask them some tough questions. Questions about sex, drugs, alcohol, choosing friends, being responsible with their time and money, all those things that teens and adults face.

Do your children confide in you? Do they know it is safe? Are you sure your teens feel they can talk to you about whenever is on their mind, without you judging them or dismissing it as trivial teen drama? Do their friends see you as an adult they can trust?

I’m not so naive as to think my kids are perfect. I know there are things they keep from me. I spend plenty of time praying that God helps them through the consequences of their choices.

But they know I am safe. Their friends know I am safe. They can call me in the middle of the night for a ride home without the Spanish Inquisition on the way home. They can confide in me when they aren’t sure how to handle something their friends have shared. And I keep their (and those friends’) secrets, unless it is something I absolutely believe the parent needs to know. If that happens, I discuss it with my kids before I go to the parents, so they understand why I have to break that confidence. They usually agree with my decision.

I encourage you to ask your kids, wherever their age, some open ended questions and then listen to the answers. Really listen. Don’t judge, don’t try to tell them why they are wrong, don’t jump to conclusions or tell them how they should feel. Ask. Listen. Love them for who they are. Let them see your humanity and imperfections.

And above all make sure they know you are safe. Nobody should be afraid of their parents.

A Community in Anguish

Human society is built around communities. Most communities consist of either family, neighbors, or colleagues, or acquaintances who share a similar journey. One of my communities was rocked yesterday when we learned of the passing of an eight-year-old girl from complications of systemic juvenile arthritis.

Yes, that’s right. Arthritis killed a little girl.  Let that sink in for a moment.

My heart goes out to the family of that girl who had to make the agonizing decision to discontinue life support for their precious child. I have friends who have come close to losing a child, some on multiple occasions. I have watched fathers in tears describing the struggles their child has faced. I have held in my arms mothers remembering their battle with this horrible illness. I have nodded in sad recognition of the difficulties of other families. I, too have cried in unbelieving grief.

When I hear stories of other parents that have struggled to find a diagnosis for inflammation of the spleen or liver, fluid in the lining of the heart or lungs, high spiking fevers, strange rashes, joint aches, morning stiffness, or swollen lymph nodes, I realize how fortunate my family is. We have not had to deal with joint replacement surgery, eye inflammation that can lead to blindness, ridicule and judgment from family and friends who don’t believe the diagnosis, intolerant educators blinded by their ignorance, unavailability of trained pediatric rheumatologists, and a medical system that can make it almost impossible to obtain expensive life changing treatments.

Yes, we are fortunate. In spite of the loss of innocence of both my children, in spite of the dozens of medications my son has had to take in the last seven years, in spite of the hundreds of hours we have spent in doctors’ offices and hospitals, in spite of the thousands of dollars in lost wages, we are blessed. I have never wondered, although partially from denial, whether my son would live to see his next birthday. I have never had to choose between paying rent and buying medication. I have never lain awake nights wondering why doctors can’t figure out what is wrong with my child. I have never feared for my job because of too many medical appointments. Unfortunately, I have heard numerous stories of exactly these concerns.

There are other, less tangible ways we are fortunate. We have made lifelong friends in an instant. We have become stronger and more compassionate. Our family has become closer and more resilient. We appreciate the little things more. We don’t take our health for granted. Our faith has been strengthened.

Many people who learn of our situation feel sorry for us. While I appreciate the sympathy, it is unnecessary. I do not look at this as a curse. Yes, there are painful moments, such as this week. I and thousands of parents like me will never stop fighting for our children. But most arthritis parents have not lost a child. It profoundly wounds all of us when one does.

Tolerance? No thank you.

I hear people talk about tolerance all the time. We should be tolerant of differences. We should tolerate other races, religions, body types, abilities, lifestyles, etc. Well I don’t want to tolerate these things. I want to embrace them. These differences are what make us unique. Interesting. Human.

Do I wish everyone believed in Christ? Of course. But if they don’t I love them anyway. Do I wish people treated all races equally? Absolutely. I was raised colorblind and wish the world could operate under that paradigm. Do I think others should be accepted even if we don’t share or agree with their lifestyle choices? Yes. In spite of my feelings about their choices, it is not my place to judge. I am called to show them God’s love. I wish the things that divided us were not things that cause so much hatred and fear. I wish our worst arguments were about which baseball team was the best, or whether we liked the ending of a certain movie, or who should have won The Voice.

I have to admit, though, there are some things I cannot tolerate. I also must confess I used to do some of those things. Things like racism. Bigotry. Hatred of someone you don’t understand. Judgment of choices that don’t align with your beliefs. Condemnation of someone whose struggle isn’t apparent at first glance. Pushing your agenda on someone else. I try not to do these things and ask if you see me doing them, call me out on it. Preferably privately and tactfully.

I know I have a certain naïveté that others may not like. Some may think I am too trusting, or unaware of the struggles of those who don’t share my privilege. That’s ok. I probably have struggles they aren’t aware of. That doesn’t mean we automatically have to take sides. I am not “for” or “against” any group of people just because they belong to that group. Ok, maybe there are one or two groups that I hate what they stand for. But I don’t hate someone for who they are, especially if it is not something they can help. And that’s all I ask of others. Accept me for the creative, impulsive, melancholy, socially challenged, single mother and sports fan that I am. No judgment, no hatred. Hugs optional.