I am not sure if anyone is in the same predicament as me but with two jobs and grad school, it has become quite hard to spend as much time with my children as I would like. I spoke with my pastor about this and she had some really great advice. My main issue was that I needed to spend more time with my teenage daughter and as anyone knows teenagers can turn their backs on parents and shut them out; mine hasn’t done this and instead has been trying to connect with me more often. My son is a handful and usually takes up most of my time when I am at home and not grading papers or writing papers.
So, I was told to send my four-year-old to bed an hour early. Simple but great advice! Why didn’t I think of that? Well, that is why I am sharing. I probably didn’t think of that because I am running on autopilot and didn’t step outside of the situation to take a closer look. Within that hour my daughter gets 30 minutes to herself to relax without having to help with her little brother and the last 30 minutes are for us to share and do whatever it is that SHE wants to do.
When I told her about the idea she was excited. She even helps me get her little brother in the bed earlier for his storytime and kiss goodnight. So far we have played monopoly (her favorite game) and 8 ball (a game that uses our cell phones). We even answered questions from our “Coke or Pepsi” book (great book to get for girls middle school and up). She loves our time together and so do I.
When I think of my mother, I think of a strong woman whom worked hard all of her life until she retired on disability. This is the same woman who had two children early in life and then was surprised by another (myself) in her late thirties. Needless to say there was a lot of adjusting that needed to take place. With an 18 year gap between myself and my sister and a 20 year gap between myself and my brother, my mother and I have always struggled to bond as she wasn’t used to children any longer.
Now don’t get me wrong, she was the best mother she could be but, she, herself had grown up with a mother whom did not show love in the emotional sense, but through her ability to provide for and take care of her kids. The emotional piece had been missing for generations. I’m sure the fact that my grandmother growing up in the south and experiencing racism to an extent that I never had probably contributed to the hard demeanor that she presented. I am also sure that that was passed on to my own mother.
Now, as a parent myself I find it easy to show affection to my children while they are young but not so much as they get older; please do not beat me up for saying this. I currently have a 13 year old whom is going through her own hormonal changes and in need of emotional support of which I am not familiar except by the examples set forth in the family sitcoms I watched growing up.
I am thankful that I noticed my waning emotional support immediately (thanks to being a teacher and experiencing it firsthand with my students and their parents) because I was able to dig deep and surface the source and then research ways to remedy it.
I am happy to say that it is possible to break generational strongholds. I believe in purposeful parenting because you can never get back the years lost with your children but you can make a significant change for the better at any stage that will positively impact their lives. I am constantly searching for opportunities and creating opportunities to provide that emotional support to my daughter. I can’t say that I am an expert or that I am doing it correctly, but I am trying.
- Purchased Groupons to brunch in the city for just her and I
- We read a good book together or talk about whatever she wants to freely
- We have created traditions that are unique to us and will be different for myself and her brother once he gets older
- I purchased a devotional geared towards mothers and daughters to read with her every night
- I do not allow electronics at the breakfast/dinner table to allow for conversation between her and myself
- I have recently looked up more volunteer opportunities that we can do together
I am constantly looking for ways to create the emotional support that she needs as it is vital to her self-esteem and self-awareness. Recently, I read a book called How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and my goal is to fill her bucket daily with positivity. I recommend reading this book and also StrengthsFinder 2.0. Just because something has been a certain way in your family for generations doesn’t mean that it can’t stop with you (and I am referring to something negative). You must proclaim that it will be different for you and yours. Purposefully parent!
Let me preface this by stating that I may change my mind and add to this list but as of now, I feel that if I had to give both of my children (especially my son) a few words of wisdom it would be:
There are two things in this world that can determine your path in life:
- Your peers (the circle you are in)
My original wording was that there are two things that can shut doors and ruin your life, where it would take an extraordinary effort to get it back on track.
- Not getting an education
- Dealing with the wrong people
Since the original wording wasn’t as optimistic, I decided to lighten it up for this post (but believe me, my kids may get it either way). The reason that I chose the two is because both can open doors and provide opportunities but only one can ruin everything that you’ve ever worked for. The second trumps the first because education opens doors and dealing with the wrong people can shut them. It is imperative that young adults know this. I have watched some of my middle school students on the right path academically, let their surroundings and friends get in the way of everything that they’ve worked hard for. I have seen the brightest end up on house arrest, pregnant, addicted to drugs, etc. When I mention this, I always receive the snide remark “well I guess they weren’t that bright.” This is absurd. They are still children, learning how to navigate this world and some are doing without parents but guardians and grandparents trying to fill the role. To this remark, I reply “well, I guess all of the stupid mistakes that you’ve made in life, make you dumb as a doorknob.”
When these students return to me broken and embittered, I tell them these two things. I have them go over their particular situation and those of others that they know have gone down the wrong path. I ask them what do they see? Is there a common denominator? We explore their emotions and accept that its alright to feel this way but we must move on. They search me for answers when the answers are inside of them but they are too young to know that now. It is our job as adults to provide wisdom and not just be “the cool parent” or “the cool adult”. This generation is looking for guidance and formula that they can follow when there really isn’t one. So, I give them what I know to be true. Learn, whether it be the traditional way or an untraditional way. But, learn, read, explore. And if you are going to do these things to better yourself and open doors, then do not slaughter your dreams by dealing with the wrong people. We all make decisions in life and the old adage still holds true: Birds of a feather flock together.
Sometimes we think that staying “down” with others will inspire them and lift them up but, it does the reverse. What inspires greatness is walking in your own light and excellence and when those who want the same for themselves are ready to obtain it, they will come and follow you!