Monday, August 17, 2009

Goldie Locks and the Three Pairs...Plus a Tattoo

What sort of boundaries do you set for your kids? Are you the type of parent that sets no boundaries and lets them do whatever they want to? Or are you the type of parent that dictates and controls what your child will do? Are you somewhere in the middle?

I think I am somewhere in the middle.

Finding the right boundaries is tough. My goal has been to give my daughters the freedom to express themselves and figure out who they are, yet teach them what they need to know to be a productive member of society. My husband and I give them what we call freedom within boundaries. There are set guidelines until they are 18...and yes, we have had the "When you are 18 you can do whatever you want" discussion many times.

We give them some leeway on things like coloring their hair (at 15 they can as long as it stays in the realm of natural color.) No tattoos before 18, but they can pierce their ears and wear what ever earrings they long as there is only 1 hole in each ear. They are free to find their own style of dress, in what ever genre or mix of genres they want as long as they realize that mom and dad have veto power if it is too revealing. Overall we let them try to figure out who they are and where they fit within their peer groups.

There are things that we have held firm on. We have always expected them to be compassionate to others. We have always expected the to learn from mistakes. We have always expected them to do the things that are of good character such as taking personal responsibility for their actions, to give their best effort, and to honor commitments they have made. Now of course as kids, these things don't always happen - it's hard enough to get this right 100% of the time as an adult let alone as a child. But when they don't get it right, we have let them take the the natural consequences that come along with it, and help them to figure out how to do it differently the next time.

We are not naive....we know that at 18 they still have some self discovery to explore and the boundaries, regardless of where we set them disappear. That is how they create their own identities separate from us. So when our oldest daughter began an onslaught of hair colors (cherry red and black, black with bright pink, platinum blond, and countless others) we knew she was still finding herself. When her ears went from one little diamond in each to 3 or 4, still self discovery. When the tattoo came.....

Bottom line, no matter what anyone thinks of her hair color, her piercing or her tattoo, she is a successful and productive person. She is responsible, honorable, committed, compassionate, dedicated, loving, and faithful. She has become what we hoped for her to be- independent, self motivated, and able to function in the world we live in.

As a parent, I know that the boundaries I set, or don't set, are because I love my kids. I want the best for my kids. I want to shelter them from the things I can shelter them, yet prepare them for the world that they will one day be living in on their own. My duty as a parent is to teach them right from wrong. It is also to teach them to make good decisions, have compassion for others, and to be independent. Regardless of what they are, the boundaries are there to help my children discover and become who they are meant to be.

By the way...her hair adorable. The earrings.... beautiful. The tattoo.... it is of her favorite Psalm - inspirational.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The most wonderful time of the year....

t's the most wonderful time of the year!

When school bells are ringing, and no more kids screaming, "she's standing to near!"....

There'll be school grades a posting... and teenagers boasting and to back to school nights parents go...

Parents yelling to "WAKE UP", kids screaming "I'll make up... that test in the next week or so!"

It's the most wonderful time of the year....

Don't you love the return to school?

I have great memories of September - the month I returned to school each year. My parents would take my two sisters and I to get our new Ticonderoga pencils, new Peechee folders, and of course the new style of Dittos jeans to don on the first day of school - for those of you who don't remember Dittos...they were the jeans with the big horseshoe shaped seam across the butt of the jeans. (Wow...I am really dating myself!)

Along with the new school supplies, there was a return to the normalcy of a routine. Summer vacation was filled with non-scheduled, wake up when you wanted, leisurely days. There was little responsibility and little motivation to get anything done. Days rolled into each other like a continuous weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed summer vacation, but after a while, the lack of structure led to a household of irritable kids. All the free time on my hands lead to lots of boredom - and lots of fighting with my sisters.

But, when September rolled around, that all changed. Just like most other kids, I probably griped and complained about having to get up early and having my afternoons taken up by homework. But, the structure of getting up at a set time, the scheduled days at school, and knowing the daily expectations were a relief. The constant arguing with my sisters decreased (much to my parent's delight) and was usually confined to who got to use the bathroom to get ready. The new school year brought not only an end to the boredom but also a fresh new routine.

Now that I have kids, I still think this is the most wonderful time of the year. I love to take them shopping for their new no. 2 pencils, 5 star notebooks, and the latest new looks of fashion for the season. I am ecstatic when the return to structure comes and the bickering in the household ceases - at least for the hours that they are at school. I am even grateful that our days start off as a bit of a challenge as the kids get up several hours earlier than they did over vacation.

But those reasons aren't the only reasons why I enjoy this time.

With each school year, the kids get a chance at a fresh start. What happened the year before has usually been forgotten over the summer. They have an opportunity to blaze a new trail, take a new path, or make changes to better themselves in some way. With the start of each school year comes new opportunities learn and grow. As a parent, I am responsible to help them see those opportunities.

With some perseverance, a lot of determination, and my encouragement, this can be the most wonderful time of the year for my kids too.