Parenting 101: the facts, as learned by me

I don’t have a degree in child psychology or education. My “facts” come from the wisdom of others and on-the-job training. This blog will share the opinions and experiences from me, a Midwestern conservative Christian. I will not necessarily bring in my faith except that our life is based on our Christian life. BUT…what I write could be followed by any person of any faith or someone without faith.

First of all, children should be conceived out of love, not lust, PERIOD! If a child is brought into this world because of lust, there may not be the commitment by both parents to see that their child is raised in a loving and giving family. Now, I am not saying that a child will not be loved when it is conceived due to lust (a one night stand, an oops on a vulnerable night, or a rape) but a child has a definite advantage being wanted, even before conception.

Even before the child is conceived, make sure the person you are with today, is the person you want to be with tomorrow, five years from now, 30 or 50 years from now. This means being truly committed, even during the difficult times. Our society is a throw away society but we need to realize that people are not things; people are not meant to be used, but loved and cherished. I know it is hard, but if you can’t see yourself with that person 15 years from now, maybe you should not be having a child with them. I have taught my children from the time they could understand, that marriage comes first and then children.

So you are now married and want to have children. Don’t forget that you were a couple first. My mom always told me to remember to be a good wife; Take time to be with your spouse. If you aren’t a good spouse, you can’t be a good parent. I know that your life revolves around your children for many years but they will grow up and leave the nest. If you do not stay connected with your spouse, then when they leave, your marriage will suffer. Your children are there because of the love you had for your spouse. That loves need to grow and continue throughout the growing up of your children.

Let your children know that your spouse is really number 1. Once, when my son was being disrespectful to me, my husband said, ‘Do not speak to my wife that way!’ Sometimes, the children forget that you are more than a mom (or dad). It goes back to remembering that before children, there was a different dynamic in your relationship and it needs to continue to grow and develop.

Wisdom from my grandpa, ‘Your life revolves around your child the first two years and then their life needs to revolve around you.’ What he was telling me, in my opinion, was that your child cannot take over your life. They need to learn that a child is not the controller of life but it is the parent who decides what will and will not happen. That doesn’t mean that you don’t go to the soccer games or dance lessons; it means that the parent is in charge, not the child.

Stand firm in your parenting. Say what you believe and believe what you say. As I said above, I have told my children from day one that you marry, then have children. I have not changed my stance. What my children decide to do is their choice, but I cannot change my morals and values because they are no longer five. In addition, I have told them if they are not mature enough to walk into Walgreens and purchase condoms, they are not ready to have sex. Purchasing condoms is easy, compared to raising a child.

Many years ago, my husband gave me a radar detector for Christmas. At the time, I was driving 1,000 miles a month for my job and he thought I might need one. Well, I was driving with him and speeding. He said to me, ‘Why are you speeding?’ I said, ‘You gave me a radar detector. If you gave it to me, I would only need it if I was to speed, so…’ That is why I will never purchase condoms, or put my daughter on the pill. It is an easy excuse to have sex before marriage.

I do not like the comment ‘I am not your friend, I am your parent.’ I am first a parent but that does not mean that I don’t want to be friendly with my children. Even though my daughter is 17, she is someone with whom I am most close. But I am still her parent and will always be a parent first. I am there to be the guide and role model for my son and daughter. I expect them to speak with me respectfully. While they may use language that is a little more loose than I would use with my mother (like saying crap and sucks), I do not allow them to swear in front of me or use any type of derogatory language.

Speaking of language, I have always told them that they should not tell stories or write things that they would not tell their pastor. I know that there are people who do not have a pastor, priest, rabbi, etc…so the point is to be careful what you say or post so it does not come back and bite you later in life. Because what you do as a teenager could affect opportunities when you are in your 30’s or 40’s. (That is another post about how my college grades came back to haunt me 29 years after I graduated!)

If you have the opportunity, take your children to museums. What they learn at a museum is sometimes more important that what they learn in the classroom. We had the privilege of taking our children to the Omaha Children’s Museum, the Lincoln Children’s Museum, the Henry Doorly Zoo, the Durham Museum, the Omaha Symphony and the Rose Theater on a regular basis. We gave our children a variety of experiences which have allowed them to communicate in a mature manner with adults. It also taught them how to behave in public.

Make them eat their vegetables. My daughter called herself a ‘Meataterian’! She hated fruits and vegetables. We would sit with her at the kitchen table while she refused to eat. My husband and I got to the point that we would do the ‘one for one’ game. We would get a spoonful (or forkful) of fruit or vegetables and we would eat one for one with her. While it may seem cruel, it is important that our children have the proper nutrients through food. It cannot be achieved through junk food. I would always tell her that I felt sorry for her children because they would have such a limited diet if she only fixed the food she liked. She now eats all kinds of fruits and vegetables. If we did not make her try a variety of foods, who knows what she would be eating now. I had to tell her that there is an in-between love and hate. I would say that if the food would not make her throw up, she needed to eat it.

Teach your children how to live in the world. We homeschooled for six years but kept them involved in the community. I always said that we needed to teach them to be strong, confident and faithful to survive in a world that will challenge them daily to compromise their morals and values. While it would be nice to have a compound for our family where we could protect them, the reality is, they need to live in the world.

Teach your children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I know it is old-school but boys should open the doors for a young lady or an older woman. Both men and women should have a firm handshake and be confident enough to have eye contact when speaking.

At least when they are young, limit their exposure to electronics. When we were homeschooling, unless they were doing school work, anything that had to do with electricity (except lights) were off-limits until 4:00. And that only was in place a few days a week because we had many activities which took us out of the home for educational purposes.

Teach them that there are consequences to their actions. Whether it is as simple as not following simple instructions to breaking the law, let them know that they need to own their actions and be willing to pay the price for their error(s).

It is important for your children to know that the world is bigger than they are. They need to learn that their community and world is only as good as what they put into it. Volunteering and giving service is very important. Giving to those who are less fortunate humbles a person to appreciate what God has given them.

Always be grateful for what they have. They may not have the nicest home, or the current fashion, but you need to teach your children to be thankful every day for what they do have. It may not be much, but to even have life is a miracle and something to be thankful.

Be an example for your children. Show them that working hard and being the best you can be will be a prize in itself. You may not be a millionaire, but being proud of what you have and what you do to contribute to the family and society is worth more than anything. Not everyone can be a millionaire. Not everyone can be the valedictorian but that does not mean that you shouldn’t be proud of what you do or what you have. Work hard to own what you have. It is probably the best feeling in the world to know that you are not beholden to anyone; that you do not live off of the government but you help others when they are struggling.

There is so much more I could write about being a good parent. I feel I have hit the top ‘facts’ for parenting. By far, the most important thing is to love. Loving is giving your children rules and sticking to them. It is giving them expectations and helping them reach their goals. Provide them all of the opportunities you can, while you can and be there when they struggle. Be a good parent and part of that is being a loving a forgiving spouse.

My children are still growing and I am still evolving as a parent. But I will tell you that my children are intelligent, respectful, courteous, kind, educated and a joy to be around. While there are many things that may have not gone as planned, there is so much more that has gone according to plan. What you put into your children is what will help be their future. Don’t you want their future to be bright?

Don’t think that parenting is simple. I had pretty good parents and I am sure they wanted better for me. Well the same goes for me. I think I am a pretty decent parent but I want more for my children. I want them to learn from my mistakes and my rules, lessons and life experiences to be a beacon in this world. I think their future is bright!

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Love at first sight.

For nineteen years I have held this secret; a secret that, for many years, I thought defined me as a parent. Here goes…I did not have an outpouring of love when my first child was born. There, I said it! I was a total wreck after labor and delivery and I was too spent to feel anything but exhaustion.

I am, in no way, saying my labor and delivery was difficult. Compared to many, it was easy. Sure, my blood pressure was elevated, which precipitated my being induced. Because I had high blood pressure and was hooked up to the pitocin drip, I was not allowed to get up and walk around to ease the labor pains.

I was at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. and the IV line was put in at 7:30 a.m. By 9:00 a.m., I was having full-blown contractions, three minutes apart. My husband, bless his heart, would look at the monitor and let me know that “a big” contraction was coming! Thank you very much, I think I was aware of the upcoming pain. The pains became so intense that during the down time of the contractions, I began to hyperventilate. By the time I regained my regular breathing, another contraction was coming on. There just was not enough time to recover from the onset of the contraction, through the hyperventilation and on to the next contraction. By 11:00 a.m., the nurse said it was too difficult for me and I needed to consider an epidural. I WANTED TO DO THIS WITHOUT DRUGS!!!! But the nurse was right; there was no way I could continue labor this way.

Our son was born at 1:16 a.m. If you do the math, I had between 350 and 400 intense contractions during the time that labor was induced. I had told the doctor that I wanted to avoid a C-Section at all costs but it became very apparent that I was not going to be able to deliver him without help. Out came the forceps and with a little help that way, he was delivered.

After his delivery, I was given oxygen because I could not catch my breath. Looking back, I am pretty sure my body was in shock. I was not in good shape at that time. It had been a hard and grueling day.

I had envisioned the birth of our first child so differently. I imagined my new baby being placed on my chest and being filled with love. NOPE, that did not happen. I was so tired, I just wanted to sleep. I felt guilty that I wasn’t overwhelmed with love, that I didn’t feel that immediate bonding. I feared that my first foray as a mother was going to define me forever.

Things didn’t get better. I just wanted to get home to my own bed, the new nursery, the comforts that made our house a home. Our son was born on a Saturday and by Sunday afternoon, I was on my way home. I felt great! I had rested some and I was ready to tackle my new role as mother.

Sunday, December 31st, I was home to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I don’t even know if I had sparkling juice, but it didn’t matter, I was home. Then came January 1st! I woke up and was in severe pain. I thought I would be a trooper but I couldn’t get passed the pain. I needed to get the pain medication prescription filled. My husband went into town only to find all of the pharmacies were closed. Luckily, he saw a car in the parking lot of our pharmacy and knocked on the back door. The owner (head pharmacist) was doing year-end inventory and was more than happy to fill my prescription. (Remember this was 19 years ago, 24 hour pharmacies did not exist)

January 2nd my husband had to go back to work (no Family Medical Leave Act back then either). That meant my mom would come out and spend the week with me. She was a blessing when things were tough.

On January 2nd my son had his first visit with our new pediatrician. In 3 days our son had lost over a pound in weight and I was frantic that my breast-feeding was not going well. He was supposed to be eating every 2-2.5 hours and that just was not happening. And then to find out he was losing weight. I was going to be a horrible mother! For the first few months of his life, so many people said he looked so thin. I was struggling with breast-feeding and then people were telling me how skinny my child was. There seemed to be more and more evidence that I would be an inadequate mother.

January 3rd, I made an “emergency” visit to my doctor because my right breast was bright red and there was a huge lump forming. A biopsy was performed to see if it was something more than a clogged milk duct. To this day, I see that scar every morning and it is a reminder of how rough things were in the start. In general, I was still in really bad shape. (Sometimes, to this day, it can still be painful.)

Things did get better, but my son weaned himself from the breast at four and a half months. I felt I was such a bad mom as I couldn’t even provide my child the nourishment he needed. He preferred formula over me. It was another indication, I thought, that I would not be a good mother. Transitioning from formula, to cereal, to baby food, to “human” food was a challenge.

We went on to have another child, a girl. And while I wanted more, God had other plans. We are so blessed to have the two we have. And I try to think that I have been a good mother. I have been open to conversation about anything and I try to be understanding in all situations. I am a mother, not their friend. I have expectations of their manners in public and at home and I hope that their core values will help them make an impact in the lives of the people with whom they associate.

I love my children more than life itself. I am glad that I did not allow the first few days, or the first few months of my first born’s life, define who I am . If I would have allowed that, I would have not seen the potential in the gifts I have to offer, or the future I see for my family. I would have wallowed in the pain and inferior sense I had as a first time mother.

Do not let a few things define who you are. As we get ready to start a new year in 2015, find what you do well and excel, find a cause or a hobby which you want to learn and participate, take time to drink good wine, eat good food and love those around you. Don’t let your past define you, but let your future guide you to be the best.

I did not have that love at first sight experience with my son. But every time I see him now, which is few and far between as he is at college, my heart swells with pride as to the man he has become. My eyes fill with tears of joy at his future. I know that I had a part in helping him be who he is now. I know that my love is deep, for both of my children. And I know that I have done all I could for them to have a bright future.

Bless you and your family on this final day of 2014.

Where have all the manners gone?

As I wrote last week, I was visiting the southern states of Florida and Georgia with my daughter. The metropolitan feel came out of our Orlando and Tampa ventures. But there was a drastically different sense when entering the city of Savannah. Even though it was the celebratory “season” of St. Patrick’s Day, it was different from the party scenes in Key West during New Year’s Eve celebrations or Florida Spring Break festivities.

We were graced with the genteel nature of the south in our visit to Savannah. You could feel the embodiment of aristocracy in the stately buildings on Whitaker Street or the elegant lifestyle on Bull Street. Even the Spanish moss cascading off the tall oak trees evoked a sense of curtsying maidens and tuxedoed gentlemen retiring to the smoking room.

Oh, the days when manners meant something. If we could go back to, or move forward to a time when manners meant/mean something; where our elders were treated with respect and civility, temperance in speech was practiced and virtue was a badge of glory.

I am a dichotomy in terms. I am a very independent woman. If I were childless and single, I would be very successful in my career as I am outgoing, determined and intelligent woman.  But I am married with children and I love the aspect of being a wife and mother. I would love to be at home baking, cleaning, sewing and volunteering with my time. I miss being flexible for my family now that I have a fulltime job outside the home.

I am old-fashioned and yet if I weren’t married, I would be a very modern woman. That seems strange but I love being married. I love my focus being on a house in order and a family in order. I want my family to be courteous, kind and a good example to others. I want them to be good stewards in the community by making sure that we give back both in community service and in an active church life.

Modern or old-fashioned, I do know that I would always have my manners; I would always have my “please” and “thank you’s” and I would address individuals as Mr., Mrs., or Miss when appropriate. I do see this as greatly missing in this society. I think that families are not honoring the etiquette that was so important in the past and they are missing many aspects of a time long gone. I think that the demise of the wife taking the husband’s last name has caused a confusion as to how to address adult women. I understand professional titles and my taking my husband’s last name had nothing to do with me losing my individuality. Believe me, even as a married woman who proudly took her husband’s name, I am an individual.

I am not a friend to my children. I am their parent. I am the parent that can speak about anything and everything to her children and they can say anything and everything to me. We speak about personal, worldly, out-of-the-box topics, but I am their parent. I expect them to respect my authority and I expect them to listen to me, learn from me, and take orders and guidance from me. We have a great deal of fun but when the fun goes too far, and they start treating me like a friend, I let them know.

What I mean by that last statement is, I don’t want to be talked to like I am their friend. I want proper and respectful English used, no swearing, no inappropriate words. Sometimes, my son gets carried away and I have to remind him that I am not his buddy and proper language needs to be used.

When I was growing up, I spoke to my friends differently than I would speak to my teacher, or parent or other person of authority. I would not use slang around my elders and would address my elders with the proper title. I knew that there was an invisible line that separated me from persons of authority. I was, and still am, okay with that. I believe that there is a pyramid and the higher you move up on the pyramid, the greater expectations people will have of you.

Let me go one step further, I don’t want to see my pastor out getting drunk. I am not saying that they shouldn’t do it; I just don’t want to see it. I don’t want my choir kids to see me getting drunk and I don’t want to see my president “yucking it up” on late night television. I know it is done to “bring them down” to the level of the common man, but let’s be real; many politicians in Washington D.C. are wealthy. And I don’t want them to be at my level. I want them to have a better grasp of things than I do. I am aware of this and I do not begrudge them. I applaud them for being successful enough in their business life that they are wealthy. I don’t want them to be on my level. I do not want to see them in a way that would not make their mother or pastor proud or would tarnish the position in which they hold.

That means, yes, I do have higher expectations of them. Because they were chosen to be a person of authority, I do believe they should act in a way befitting their position. Just like you would not see me in a mini-skirt or a string bikini; not just because I shouldn’t wear them with my body-type but because I am a 50+ year old woman. Mini-skirts and string bikinis are for those of younger age. I would say by your late thrities, you should start steering away from skin revealing clothing. Late night television is a lot of fun but not a place for politicians.

Don’t get me wrong, these thoughts came about because of my visit to Savannah, and I know that there is a lot of degradation, salacious acts, lying and cheating, just like many communities in the world. The difference is what happened behind closed doors, stayed behind closed doors. (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.) My grandfather probably said it best, “Don’t share family secrets.” What he meant by that, was family problems need to stay within and handled by the family. Problems are not meant to be publicized and become the fodder for gossip.

I don’t want to know the sex acts of celebrities. I do not want to know what my friends do behind bedroom doors. I don’t want to hear swearing in public places because you don’t know who could be walking by and you should always want to come across in a positive light, if at all possible. I love the parents that openly swear and speak of personal things in front of their children. I want my children to have respect for me. How can that happen if a bunch of trash is coming out of my mouth.

As we get further into the political season, we all get to hear the bashing that will happen amongst the candidates. Another great saying my grandfather had was, “Don’t try to raise yourself up by putting others down.” If you degrade someone, then others will feel they can do the same to you. It is a vicious circle.

I never heard my mom swear. When I was older she told me that she didn’t swear because she had too much respect for herself. Wow, what a concept to have respect for others AND yourself. I wish there were more people out there who could have that same respect for themselves.

I admit it. I have sworn in my life. I have even sworn in front of my children. I have yet to reach the level of respectability that my mom has for herself.  I am a work in progress and I do feel horrible when I say something or do something that is not to the standards that I strive to achieve.

Think about how you portray yourself. If you are a church going person, would your words and actions be acceptable to your congregational family? Would you be embarrassed to have your children speak with their teacher or principal about your words and actions? If you don’t care, then that is a whole other problem. If someone was describing you and you did not know it was you, would you be proud to know that person or ashamed?

Our world needs to think about the genteel South, even if it is an old wives tale, of their cordiality, their soft words, their proper manners.  I listen to a lot of old-time radio, so I do know there was a time when it was expected, not a surprise to have a door opened for a woman or a “please” and “thank you” regularly said. There was a time when children addressed all adults with a proper title. You don’t have to be uptight or a snob to use manners and be polite.

I have hopefully instilled in my children a sense of respect in their lives. Maybe they can be strong and continue on this tradition into future generations. Time tarries on and I must close for now and say, “Thank you for reading my blog. I hope your day is filled with love and joy.”