Thursday, January 15, 2015

To help? Or not to help?

“We’re almost done with our research paper,” my sweet friend told me.

The pronouns she used jumped out at me. She was talking about the progress THEY were making on her son’s assignment. She and her husband are intensively involved with homework for all of their children, which has resulted in near-perfect academic records.

The child she was talking about is in the same grade as my oldest. My daughter tells me that this young man takes home every single book each night and he’s visibly shaken whenever he doesn’t get an A on any given assignment.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important to help your children establish good study habits, provide ongoing encouragement, spot-check homework and dig in when the subject matter gets tough. Please know that this isn’t a case of sour grapes on my part. Neither he nor his parents flaunt his grades and he is genuinely a respectful, kind teenager. They are our friends.

Please know that I’m not judging this family, nor am I purporting to be an expert on parenting. However, I feel as though there comes a point when kids need to know that they can do it on their own. Otherwise, the child will come to rely on your intervention in ALL things and will believe that you think he can’t handle even the most basic tasks.

Ironically, I’ve also seen the exact opposite type of parental involvement when I spent a year giving classroom presentations in impoverished schools. It broke my heart to see kids who didn’t even have the physical basics, much less emotional leadership in their homes. I weep for these students and hope they have the strength to move beyond their situation.

So what is the answer? It’s different for every family. My husband and I try to take an approach that gives our kids the tools they need to succeed without smothering them. Neither one of them is a straight A student. And that’s okay.

There are times when they need extra help and we get them a tutor. Other times, we pow wow with their teachers to see how we can better support their education. And sometimes, we even let them fail. Yes, we even let them fail.

That’s because we’ve decided that we will do ANYthing for our kids, but we won’t do EVERYthing for them.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Smile (or Two) for Your Monday

“You’re not allowed to eat popcorn in the bathtub,” was the parenting edict that led me to start this blog.

As a parent, I’m often surprised at the words that come out of my mouth. While I occasionally spew forth timely wisdom, more often than not, I’m merely repeating things I’ve already said a million times before or I’m blurting out something bizarre and unexpected.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that being a parent isn’t always magical. And it’s not always fun. But, fortunately, it can be funny.

So, as you put one foot in front of the other on this manic Monday, hopefully these funny Facebook posts will remind you that you’re not alone.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Love and Laughter

At the other end of our fully-extended dining table, my 88-year-old father-in-law was laughing. And it made my heart swell.

Seated on either side of this widower were all four of his grown kids and many grandchildren who had gathered for Christmas dinner. He eagerly ate a full meal of his favorite holiday foods, including rich pumpkin pie. A similar scene has played out many times for our family … but this year was different.

While my father-in-law’s laughter was genuine, he probably wasn’t 100% sure what he – and everyone else – was joyfully laughing about. You see, over the last year, his dementia has been rapidly increasing, his eyesight continues to fail, his hearing aid had run out of batteries and he'd broken his wrist. Because of these extensive health problems, he’s been staying in a nursing home where he can receive the best possible care. And it’s caused him great sadness.

That’s why his full-on laughter brought such joy to my heart. Honestly, I don’t think he would have laughed any harder even if he had been able to hear every single sound. The sounds that he DID hear – and those that REALLY mattered – were the familiar giggles and guffaws of his family. He knew he was surrounded by love.

Tonight, exactly one week later, this dear man’s dinner is being served on a hospital tray, with two of his kids (and one granddaughter) by his side. He’s picking at his food, trying to get his son (my hubby) to eat it instead. He’s doing fairly well, considering he’s been admitted for flu and pneumonia.

For now, we pray for comfort and quality care during his hospital stay. And we remember the peals of laughter just seven days ago, knowing that being surrounded by his family was the best gift we could ever give my father-in-law.