Parenting - Begins & Never Ends

A friend and I recently had a long in-depth conversation about being a parent and what it has come to mean to us. We discussed over tea what we have come to learn over time. If I were to elaborate, in writing, on some of our thoughts, it would be something like this:

Being a parent is not a title. It’s not being simply a sperm donor or producing an ovary. It is more than just applying band-aids to boo boos. Paying lip service to needs and wants of children does not qualify as taking care of a child, addressing reality. Being a parent is hard work with limitless rewards that cannot be quantified or qualified if you are fortunate enough to have a child that makes good choices with their life. Let’s face it, all children, all of us are born into this world and given the gift of free will. Even in the best of homes and with wonderful parents, some children go wayward and make bad choices. Some never get back on the right track. Being a parent is, when they do, trying many measures to turn things around. It also means, when a parent makes errors in judgments, seeking help needed to right a wrong, no matter what age a parent is to rectify the issue(s). Parents are not perfect either; God didn’t make them that way. Parents grow and learn much as their children do.

Having children entails an endless list of tasks, especially during those early growing years that seem to pile up with a life of their own. About the time a parent thinks they can’t possibly add one more thing to their weekly schedule, here comes another school project during a crowded week, an extra sports tournament over a holiday weekend they must attend, or a new club they decide to join. They even sometimes pick a brand new sport you are not familiar with and decide to give it a try. And then, lo and behold, they are short coaches, and without you volunteering, the team won’t have a coach! Being a parent is sometimes holding your hand up when it is the last thing you want to do! You then find yourself forced to keep your sense of humor in check and deal with unreasonable parents of children that are convinced you have future Olympians on your team.

Kids get sick requiring time off of work. Parenting is taking those days off of work instead of using those sick days for themselves. Leaving work early not to soak up the sun but to run kids to either soccer practice or for allergy shots. Children forget homework, forget gym clothes and forget lunch money all requiring a trip home from work and to the local school, but this is part of being a parent. And then there is the inopportune time they take suddenly ill and you have your annual review and/or meeting with your boss. Of all days, it would have to fall on this day!

Yes, being a parent is holding a child in your arms when their heart is breaking from school mates picking on them or a broken romance. Being a responsible parent is insisting homework is done, taking an active interest in what they are doing at school and how they are performing verses just assuming they are performing up to par. Supporting the need for a good education is as important as letting a child know they are loved. Maintaining discipline and teaching consequences is an important responsibility of a parent. It is a unique way to show love, though often does not come across to a child as sending that message! It prepares children for a world full of rules and regulations that they are expected to obey and if not taken seriously, they will be punished in one form or another. This lesson is essential for responsible parenting. Will your child or teenager thank you for this lesson? Probably not, but none the less, it is an invaluable one that needs to be taught.

Arguments will ensure over restrictions and punishments probably more than anything else in the home with children and parents. It is a part of being a parent and goes with the responsibility. As children grow older and learn about our founding fathers strive to develop a government built on democracy, children will demand that form of leadership in the home. Being a parent means saying no; explaining rules are made by those in charge. It means days will go by when your child will hate you. They are permitted to but they must do so with respect, and the parent will know this too shall pass. Even when they are adults, this cycle of love and hate could continue, in some relationships. There may be weeks, months or years in the extreme cases, where the communication is nonexistent. Yet some adult children and parents get along splendidly. Favor ability and popularity is not part of the equation for parents. So even when their adult children hate them, being a parent means accepting the silent treatment, the anger and the wall that is up until the adult child remembers the steadfast parent and lets it back down one day.

Parents are there to answer the tough questions; why is the sky blue? Why does God not answer every prayer? Why isn’t my daddy more involved in my life? Why did my mommy give me up? Why do bad things happen to good people? When they can’t come up with a satisfactory answer, moms and dads search for one.

Being a mom or dad is trying to meet the needs of your children if you can, sometimes with overwhelming obstacles. Sometimes it means giving up your pride and asking for help when you can’t and need assistance or searching for that aide. Having a child that may never walk, never talk, has lifelong health issues, may not live till adulthood, and entails a parent be a cheerleader for a cause. It requires a parent be informed, educated constantly to ensure good care and the voice of knowledge for their child and others in the community. These parents are the chosen ones that have a child that is destined to make a difference, truly, in the world by their very nature, their special need. They must raise their child to be stronger than others so that they can rise above and not be a prisoner of their misfortune.

Understanding why kids want name brand clothes and shoes, to fit in with their peers is important as a parent, even if you can’t provide it. Children need parents that will try to understand their world, in spite of the age differences, their voices need to be heard. Communication begins in the home. Kids prefer contacts at a certain age, over glasses, even if you longer do. Teenagers want to be dropped off on the far side of the parking lot, even on a cold day and to pretend they don’t know you in public even though you are proud to be their parent. This is part of the nature of being a parent.

Being a parent is being there, allowing children to grow, and being a stable support system. It means allowing them to make mistakes. It also means allowing yourself to make them as well. It is explaining to children no one is perfect and perfection is not the goal for anyone. This support, as they grow older, should turn more mutual in nature and less one sided. The bond should stay intact if not grow stronger, as the years go by. The memories live on forever and build, one on top of another, overflowing.

Being a parent also means you are the only one that can get a child to stop crying in those first early months on this earth. It means you had the joy of that look of unconditional love when they were an infant. Being a parent is being cooed at in the middle of the night, it means you were the one that double checked they had ten fingers and ten toes. It can mean you were lucky enough to read stories at bedtime, tucked them in and were able to look in on them each night before they went to sleep, and saw them looking like angels snug in their bed. You were the one they ran to each morning to begin a day anew and they were so excited to see you each and every day.

Seeing a child light up on their birthdays is a joy to a parent like no other. Being a parent means experiencing moments like this over and over again. Holding a camera and seeing through the lenses a child’s look of fear as they sit on Santa’s lap or the Easter bunny. A parent gets to smile to themselves with delight knowing these moments are special and will pass all too quickly but are precious times. Being a parent is feeling a loud thumb in your chest when your child walks across the stage to accept an award, a diploma or simply their name is announced for anything at all. It takes little for a parent to feel a sense of pride and yet, a parent gets to experience it like no other. When the marching band takes the field, a parent is the only one that can spot their child in the group or their child on the football team huddle because they alone have a sense of where they are when they are in the midst in the area.

Being a parent is sitting with other parents on sunny warm days and watching your child contribute to the success of team sports or dance recitals or individual talents and knowing you are a strong proponent of who they are. Hearing the thousand times a parent hears I love you from childhood to adulthood is a gift unto itself. Having a collection of handmade keepsakes that show thought that went into artwork is mementos for parenting. And knowing that prayers were answered is the joy of parenting also.

The hope for parents is that their child will become a happy well adjusted adult. Knowing that parents have to make unfavorable decisions that are in the best interests of their children, though hard at times, is a small price to pay for the end result. Even if the child does not understand it, parents have an obligation to try to put their children in the safest surest path in life to lead them to happiness and well being.

When they reach adulthood and begin to make their own decisions, the light switch does not come off; you do not stop becoming a parent. Yes, your children want more independence and truly deserve that. If you have done your job well, they will be fine. But the bond is still there.

When kids reach adulthood, they make their own decisions pretty much exclusively. Parents’ feelings do not dissipate though. These emotions and love are not like light switches, just flipping from the on position to the off position at a certain age. When a parent has put all the work, and love in to developing this adult, the relationship should continue. There very well may be new disagreements during adulthood and differences of opinions but the relationship should remain intact. Throughout childhood, adversity was par for the course so even though adult children and parents of adult kids may have their differences, the beauty of the connection is that it should truly be full circle. It should remain unbroken.

Yes, being a parent is hard to define. Perhaps many parents would have their own individual spin on what it means to them but, overall the commonalities would outnumber the differences. My friend and I shared similar experiences as parents with our children during the growing up years. Our relationships, now as adults with adult children, appear to be, on some fronts, similar and then, in other ways, quite different. Perhaps it is how it is meant to be. But, at the end of the day, we are in agreement, there is no greater blessing.

Ah, perhaps one comes close in comparison though. Sharing a wonderfully warm splice of time with a special friend. What could be better than a warm cup of fennel tea to reminiscence about the past, celebrate the present and anticipate a future full of a friendship continuing to evolve with more precious memories?


Who Can't Sing a Christmas Carol?

My neighbor has a beautiful singing voice. Eileen is from Ireland and sings like a songbird. When I have heard her sing in the church choir, which consists of no more than 4 to 5 women so her voice, is clearly audible, she is always beautiful to listen to. She tells me when she was younger; she was an even better singer.

On a phone call recently, she asked me if I ever sang when I was younger. I told her I had but not all that often. She asked me if I was any good. I said that I was alright but I had a lot of sinus trouble so it caused me to have a lot of difficulties with my voice being consistent so I never really sang that much. She then wanted to know if I was ever in a choir, perhaps to see if she could recruit me into hers at church. I told her I was in middle school. I left out the part about how we were forced to as part of our music class. It was far more impressive to say simply yes. I made sure to utter something about not enjoying it all that much so that she wouldn’t ask me to join hers. Not needed as she never asked me! I also did not mention to her that I tried to lip sync in choir long before that term was coined. Or that I dreaded any instance when I had to sing and be clearly heard. I think it is safe to say I was not born with a singing gene.

But at this time of year, Christmas, being in tune is not where it is at. Having the spirit matters most! Oh yes, the angels they heard on high sang sweetly and were blessed by God with the sweetest sounding voices. But, let’s get real; it would not have been a true blessing if everyone sounded like them. Many of us are not so lucky. We have those voices that sound more like a fog horn and that are only legendary in our minds. They are star quality when the karaoke machine is loud enough to drown us out. We are the last to raise our hand to go up and sing on those nights at karaoke and it requires huge intakes of alcohol to get the nerve and lose all sense of sensibilities.

I love Christmas carols. But tunes like O Holy Night, with lines that go up as high as the pitch that nearly breaks glass, oh really. Who can hit that note and hold it? You almost have to wonder if the person that wrote it had an odd sense of humor and thought they would write this with an ungodly high note, sit back and laugh while everyone tried to hit it. Oh how funny it is to see folks strain their vocal chords with little success all to reach that one note. I do not attempt to reach that high chord; I simply stop singing, prior to that point and just pick up the song afterwards. I refuse to be laughed at trying to hit something I know I can’t achieve. Besides, I have too much fun listening to others try!

Every year the same wonderful tunes are played and sung repeatedly. They are the standards everyone loves and associates with Christmas. And yet, every musical artist feels compelled to capitalize on their popularity and release an album with these songs on their custom CD. They then tout it as their NEW Christmas release. Funny how the songs are still the same and often times, even the arrangements seldom vary. I think it is in good taste for all royalties from Christmas CD’s to go to charity. Why not, tis the season of giving, right?

The other day I was singing along with one of my current favorites, Michael Buble. He has a new CD out but with a voice like Frank Sinatra he is a tad different than many. His good looks are not hurting him either. Anyways, as I approached a light, I thought I was sounding pretty darn good so I turned down the volume to just get a good close earful of my sound. See, I was blessed with an ear for music. I can detect quality of sound extremely well. Maybe, I thought to myself, in my later years my pitch has improved some. I even went so far as to funnel my hand around my mouth so the sound came right to my ear and was not as distorted. Perhaps the sound would have been better distorted. All I can say is the way I sounded, wow, pretty raw. I took a real bite out of White Christmas!

But, when carolers come a knocking, who cares how they sound! Just the joy of seeing a group of folks outside your door, singing in unison for the season is wonderful. Most of the time when we have several folks outside of our door, it is either to sell magazine subscriptions, hand out religious pamphlets or ask for donations for the police/fireman ball. To have someone out there not asking for hand outs is wonderful. I just wish our dog would recognize that they are not holding doggie treats! He reacts like it is the mailman and does not respect them enough to stop barking while they are singing. We are forced to close the front door, go around through the garage door, literally walk outside and stand in the front yard with the carolers. At least we live in the south where in the month of December it is not blistery cold, usually. I think maybe this year, we should just let Charley go with them and ask them to bring him back when they are done. Unless of course someone wants to keep our 125 lb ball of energy under their Christmas tree!

When you hear Christmas tunes, I challenge you, sing, sing loud and hard. Put your passion into them, even if you do not sing well. I think God hears us, even those of us with a bad voice and His sense of humor is lit beyond compare by hearing us sing badly. Plus it truly is in lifting your voices in song that your spirit is lifted also. You do not have to have a heavenly voice to be touched by music or impact others. I love listening to others sing of Christmas tidings, Santa, the birth of Jesus, snowfalls over the holidays, etc… All these tunes remind me of Christmas’s long ago, the joy we are experiencing and what Christmas is all about. Who cares if we are just abit out of tune? The spirit of Christmas is found in the sounds of the season not in the quality of the sounds of the season!


He Has Fun!

Some people truly make the world a better place, just by their very presence.
I can think of no better way than to start and pay tribute to a wonderful man I met several years ago. I walked into a Rotary meeting as a newcomer, feeling slightly out of place. I was greeted, at the close of the meeting, by a man with a smile larger than life and hand shake that felt like he came straight from Bedrock. I thought he must have worked in the quarry with Fred Flintstone with that darn rock hard handshake. And this big man that was slightly intimidating just emulated happiness and joy.

Over a period of time, I began to learn more about him personally. He seemed to take a interest in me which I found flattering. It was as if he took me, somewhat, under his wing. I secretly wished I had met years ago and that he had been a bigger part of my life. He was a good man through and through and I could have learned a lot of life’s lessons from him easier than through the hard knocks way. His life was full of some of the usual, and unusual, twists and turns but through it all, he maintained his love of life and his positive attitude. He could be mischievous and certainly his mantra was fun with life on earth; don’t take yourself, or anyone else, too seriously.

This fellow sees having fun also as serving others, putting smiles on other peoples’ faces, those in need especially. Every year, without fail, he arranges for the Rotarians to cover the weekends being the bell ringers during the holiday season. I think this is one of his greatest joys, taking his turn at it! It is as if he sees this as being Santa, collecting for the needy at a time when others see it as asking for hand outs. He is unique in that way, never letting others define who he is and letting others misjudge what is the right thing to do. This year, even in a weakened state, he will take his turn, ringing the bell, but from a wheel chair. If you see him, give. Not for him, but for those he represents, those hurting, those in need. That is what will give him joy. As long as he has breath in him, he will care for others. How many men are like this, will spend a few hours of their last days on earth collecting donations for others? Will you?

He is a proud American. His face lights up when he sees the American flag, noticeably. He knows what it stands for and if you forget, ask him! He will proudly remind you. Oh, that flag stands for freedom, for the land of opportunity, for men and women fighting for all of us and we should all be proud, unified and serve each other with joy. As he states with conviction, “We are blessed. “ Is there anything sweeter than the taste of freedom? If not, pray for our service men and women please, we owe them at least that!

As the seasons have come and gone, so has his cancer battle. There have been many successes and some major setbacks along the way. It is almost hard to gauge, by the look on his face, which end he is on because his face reveals so much life and love. He has never met a stranger, even when life has been the cruelest to him. And yet, he continues life, one step, one day at a time, all the while knowing and fully believing God will take him to heaven when his time is due. While here, he assures everyone he is blessed, we are blessed and let’s have fun!

I believe our destiny in life is to try to make the world a better place when we leave it than when we were born into it. We should aspire to touch others lives in a good way, even if it is simply by how we live our life. This friend to so many, he has created quite the legacy. He has healed many a discouraged heart or lost souls with his words of wisdom and his liveliness. If that hasn’t work, his quirkiness and unmistakable sense of humor have definitely done the trick!

When I spoke with him today, it was with joy in my voice and a song in my heart. At no point was there sadness in my words. I spoke with total clarity as I knew he is much nearer death than ever before. Time is short for him; I wanted him to hear directly that he has touched me. I was not surprised in the least to learn from him that many folks have said those same words to him. He told me that each time he hears it, it means even more. So many people do not realize to those approaching death, knowing you have left an indelible mark on this earth is spiritually healing. It adds to the serenity they feel towards facing their entrance into heaven. Take the time to let people know they have touched you. They do want to hear this. There is no right time to say this, so just find a moment period. This man, he earned the right to hear this, time and time again. He can enter heaven with pride and joy.

As he prepares his final preparations and waits for the final call, not knowing when it will be, he will enjoy every last moment he is blessed with. Are you enjoying your blessings like this special man? What if this is your last Christmas, are you trying to make this world a better place? At Christmas, what a perfect time to start.

In closing our conversation today, he and I discussed our faith in heaven. We both believe we will see each other again, there, therefore good-byes are really not needed. He asked me to look him up when I get there, to heaven, as soon as I arrive. I asked him, silly as it sounds, to please hold up the flag and wave it, which he said he will. I do think it might look rather preposterous in heaven for him to be waving an American flag. I am not sure how saintly that will look? But then again, he has always had a knack for doing the quirky things to make folks laugh so why not? Those that know him will not find the sight of him doing this with his angel wings on odd at all! He told me to not get there too quickly. I had to remind him I am on God’s plan also, just as he is. None of us pick our check out time. Make good use of your time while you are here…….

I thank God for the lesson of having fun he has taught so many of us that grew to know him! And most of all, I pray God continues to bless him with a smile larger than life and happiness that makes his cup overflow from here to his life everlasting!