The Strong Willed Child (A Parent’s Reflections Part II)

The musicians on stage were seated as they quietly played while the pastor was finishing his final thoughts for the day. All I could see were Mychal’s hands as he played the bass, so like his Dad’s and like his Dad he has played in a worship band for most of his life. I was taken back in time to the day we were sitting on his bed in his room with one last football game left in his junior year of high school. He had dislocated his shoulder horribly at the beginning of the season and been out all year while it healed, that week he was released to return to normal activity but the doctor warned us that if his shoulder took another hit like that one he could lose a lot of his mobility and use in that shoulder and arm. There we sat trying to decide what to do about this last game, should he play or not and of course he wanted to and I wanted him to play too I had missed seeing him on the field but when your values are to raise children who will pursue passions that glorify God you must look at the big picture. So, with tears in my eyes I reminded him that playing the guitar was something he could do for the rest of his life in church but he wouldn’t play football forever and we needed to think about his whole life not just this one moment. We agreed with broken hearts and a little sick to our stomachs that we should let that shoulder heal and he would light it up on the field as a senior.

And now as I sat in this service I realized I was living the results of that choice and the fruit of doing the hard things you must do as a parent. I had been enjoying a lot of those feelings this weekend of passing the crib and dresser to the next generation.

As we sat at lunch with Mychal’s boss and family I laughingly said what I have often said about Mychal “He is going to be an amazing adult if we can all survive his childhood.”  He has made me a prophet and it occurred to me that I could write a note of encouragement to parents who are raising strong willed children. For those of you in the thick of the battle, who are looking for hope and wonder if you are going to survive this kid that you know is full of promise but also just makes you want to take a nap…

The kid that tests everything you say.

The kid that tests the authority of every adult in their life to see if they are up to the challenge.

The kid that says exactly what they are thinking to the one person whose feelings they can hurt the most, completely unintentionally.

The kid who staged a revolt in his kindergarten class.

The kid who fired his 4th grade teacher because he thought his Dad was “the boss of her.”

The brilliant kid who earned poor grades as an elementary student because why did he need school? Someday he would have a secretary and she would take care of all of that.

The kid that drove me to prayer, generated many journal entries so I could process my feelings and created deep and abiding gratitude to Dr. Dobson who offered hope to my anxious heart.

Sound familiar? It is going to be worth it? Yes, I promise! But you must stay the course. Don’t let up with all that you are doing even though you are exhausted. And I know you are…EXHAUSTED!

Keep shaping, guiding, and supporting that kid.

Keep setting limits with realistic consequences when they test the boundaries.

Keep having conversations about purpose, calling and what God has design for them.

Keep enlisting the help of grandparents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors and other key adults in their life.

Keep helping them adjust to disappointments, difficulties, unfair outcomes, and the hard in life. Don’t change the world to make things easier for them that will not give them the tools they will need to handle the realities of real life.

Keep using your own mistakes as good teaching tools for them.

Keep growing as a parent, seek advice and help when you are unsure of what to do.

Keep teaching balance. I used to say to my kids “We work hard and then we play hard.” Not using play as reward for hard work but that in life we need both work and play to remain emotionally healthy. If any child needs to learn balance it is the strong-willed child they tend to do everything hard, or all out or with intensity use whatever colloquialism you choose but doing things in balance does not come naturally to these types of kids.

Keep praying and seeking wisdom from God, He loves your kid more than you do anyway.

Keep celebrating the victories of good choice making, of striving to reach goals especially relational ones. Verbal affirmation is a must when they have chosen well, and compassionate instruction is necessary when they have not.

When we walked into Winchester Glass INC, everyone greeted us with smiles happy to meet Myke’s parents. Winchester Glass INC is owned by the Reisner brothers (pastor’s kids also) and they hired Mychal for computer design for their very high-end business, they do most of their work in Beverly Hills. Cory grinning from ear to ear told us all about how far Mychal had brought them in just a short time. How his work ethic had changed the work dynamic in their company. How grateful they were to have him. His brother also came to meet us and he was also full of compliments and gratitude for the gift Myke has been to them. It is one of those moments in the life of a parent that you just step into and enjoy.

Mychal had basically taught himself the CAD program that the company had purchased as a thank you to someone who had blessed them incredibly. The 2 employees that filled the job before Mychal had never really been able to truly figure it out. Mychal had done it by reading the manual and applying his other computer knowledge and in a matter of days was utilizing it in a way that the company had not yet experienced. The remaining employee left of his own volition and Mychal will be working on his own now with opportunity for over-time when a project needs it. He has already earned a bonus and a substantial raise. But what really matters is he is utilizing all his talents and abilities to create things. What I personally love is that he is lending his talent to people of integrity who look for ways to employee people, give back to others and who run their business with dignity. All Christ followers living Christianity before those who need to see it most.

I have not shared these things to brag about my kid but to highlight the fact that the very attributes that make a strong-willed child a challenge to raise are the very attributes that they need to change the dynamic of any environment where they plant their feet. It is the tenacity, the ability to question and challenge, the ability to look outside the box for the answer that will help them accomplish all that God has created them to do and craft who they are to be.

A strong-willed child is going to create, it can be chaos or it can be constructive contribution and that is dependent on a combination of how they are developed as a child and their own adult choices.

As I sat watching his hands glide across the bass on Sunday, I realized that what often helps a strong-willed kid find their way are activities for which they become passionate for Mychal it was football, guitars and technology. Of course, the path to finding those things will not be easy because often they try a lot of things before they find the right fit. It is highly likely that there will be lots of stops and starts on that journey but don’t stop helping them look and be grateful for websites that let you resell used items, probably going to need those. A day is coming that will give meaning to all the hard work you are doing now…I promise!







Pajama’s and my Mom’s Slippers

I am wearing my pajama’s again and my Mom’s slippers and I feel justifiably grateful that it is storming and cold outside so that I can stay in my pajamas for the rest of the day because I was going to anyways. I have been in them all weekend except church this morning and I have been in them every day after school.  When I am at school all I want to do is get through the day so I can go home and put on my pajama’s. I have been so grateful for the cold and rain it fits my mood and I can wrap up in my grey robe-wrap as I sit and watch TV or just sit. When I do get up I shuffle through the house in my Mom’s purple slippers, the last new pair she ever wore.

I know it is a new year and I should be embracing all the new possibilities but I don’t want to. It feels like too much most of the time. I think I need to write a blog about our little miracle rental house, I should write a blog about my Mom, I should be starting Diet 1,000 and I should be walking again to get ready for my grandson who will arrive in the late spring. I think I should be dreaming dreams for our lives and taking the next step and moving forward. I should be embracing the new year.  I should be helping my sister take care of my Dad more. There are a lot of “shoulds” at the beginning of the new year. But when I think these things I come to the same place… I just really want to put on my pajama’s.

Saturday after cleaning the house, I got in the shower with the intention of going to the grocery store and running a few of the other errands that need to be done before the work week but I just started crying and realized I could not face getting dressed to run those errands. So, I called for my husband who had just returned home from speaking at a men’s breakfast and said I can’t go to the store…I just want to put on my pajama’s. I was crying and dripping wet at the same time pretty much. Of course he would go and of course whatever I needed and its OK honey…You don’t have to do anything. I got it. So, I put on my pajamas and after I dried my hair I made my way to the living room to try and articulate these little bits of thoughts that I had been thinking and connect them with other things I had already told him because I knew I needed to say some things out loud before I never leave the house again and pajamas become my only reason for living.

So, I started with this…I think part of me finally feels l have  come to the end of a very long road, that there is at last some stability. But the last 3 months of this 4-year journey have just about killed me. That the quiet solicitude that this darling little miracle rental house (which is in every way an incredible miraculous thing that I would like to describe in glorious detail but I just can’t find the creativity to do it) has allowed me to stop clenching my stomach due to the anxiety of facing each new horrendous hurdle that had to be faced and overcome. Like I have finished a long and arduous marathon.  A lot of other things spilled out too… they were words I needed to say

I told him I couldn’t understand how I have moments of tears but  I don’t have that anguished longing for my Mom. I had said out loud the unthinkable, the most secret of truths but I needed to say it. I explained that when I talked to people about the night she died I always get teary and that I have worn her slippers nonstop since my sister gave them to me but I don’t cry when I put them on or any other time really. He reminded me that grief is personal that everyone’s journey is different. He spoke truth to my heart because he knows my journey. I felt better and it allowed my thoughts to clarify what I had been thinking and helped me process more about my Mom.

 The truth is that I feel relief, deep abiding grateful relief about my Mom’s death because:

·        She never had a day when she did not know us. Her Alzheimer’s had robbed her of her short-term memory but she still knew my Dad and all of us.

·         She was not going to have to stay in a rest home, she had always hated the thought of that sooo much.

·        We were all there with her when she died. My Dad sat next to her and all 6 of us her 3 biological kids and the in-laws who have been married to her children for so long that they now were hers too. For so many years my sister and I lived far away, but we were here to stand at her side as she left this world for Heaven.

·        That although she did have cardiac arrest for the most part  her passing was peaceful.

·        The Mother that had been there for me when I became a Mom had been gone for a long time, I had been saying goodbye for a long time.

When your Mother dies, there is an expectation of anguished sorrow, and I have seen that in others that have lost their Mom but I have not had that sobbing moment, that horrified realization that she is gone for good. What I feel is a deep overwhelming sense of gratitude that her suffering is over that she died the way she wanted too, before my Dad and with all of us around her. I guess shuffling around the house in her slippers is my own form of grief.

The last 3 months have been overwhelming, moving during Thanksgiving break, finalizing my permanent CA credential, grieving with our Son over the loss of his job, overwhelming issues at work on behalf of others, my Mom’s death, the holidays and all the political stuff has just made me long for my pajama’s, my little house and my Mom’s slippers.

I realized that I need to ease into this new year, I need to give myself permission to just be, to give myself the space I need to exhale.

It is good to know that the Mom in me still has some sense of purpose because I did start my commitment to green tea, I was talking alone with Taylor and he asked me in all seriousness to start drinking green tea in place of diet coke that he needs me to be around for his baby and that I need to take care of myself. He also asked me if I was OK when we were sitting on the beach and because he is a Man and wise beyond his years I told him the truth about some things…Mom to Man Son. It felt good to do that, it is what perhaps kept me out of my pajama’s until after the holidays, well and my older Man Son walking alongside me hugging me and holding me close.

 And so, I have 2 days a week switched out my Diet Coke for green tea, I think that is all the movement forward I have in me currently but at least it is something.

Happy 2017 to you. Enjoy your brave new horizons, new goals and all that moving forward. If you need a break from all of that  come by my house I will fix you some green tea, and let you borrow some pajama’s but I won’t be sharing my Mom’s slippers.