Friday, May 05, 2006
Slidin' Into Home!

My oldest daughter Sarah has a saying regarding raising children - "Don't start what you can't finish." She could better explain this to you. I've learned it means, in part - don't let my grandson run in the mall because he can't run in church. Don't let him scream at the top of his lungs to hear it echo outdoors because he can't scream indoors. It's complicated. Mostly I realize I have new rules to learn as a grandparent. But it's a good rule. I should have followed it myself 30 years ago. I started a lot of things I later didn't want to finish.

My husband and I have spent 30 years raising children; after Sarah married, 7 (or is it 8?) years ago, we were still in the muck of it with another daughter and a son. A week from today our son, the last one, graduates from college. All three kids are married, all three finished college. I think it's just about a done deal. We're finished.

When they are young they need you to make them eat vegetables and do their homework, sing them to sleep, apply multiple bandaids (with designs of course.) Read their favorite books over and over, make costumes. Sit through their games, even when they don't get to play. Clean up throw-up, adopt stray dogs, braid their hair, wash their little league pants every single day in the summer. They need you to teach them how to save and give their money, to put up with difficult people. How to apologize to teachers, coaches, siblings, neighbors when THEY are the difficult people. How to draw customers to a stand selling warm, watered-down koolaide. (You will not only pay for this koolaide; you will be their best customer.)How to be on time for the bus, to study for the SAT, to sort through dates as a process to finding that someday mate.

They need you to introduce them to God. They need you to show them how to make Him part of their daily lives, through word and mostly example. They need you to love them when they are completely unloveable. When they don't deserve it. To love them when they push you away, and be there when they come back.

They need to be shown how to manage their time; how to deal with the consequences when they don't. How to know when someone is a good choice for a friend. How to say goodbye to friends when they move, and pets when they grow old. How to be brave enough to go to school the first day. They have no idea you're at home praying someone will be kind enough to ask them to eat lunch with them. How to like they way they look, how smart they are, what they are good at. How to accept what they don't look like, that they aren't brilliant, and that there are many things they will never excel at.

For those mommies out there who are sleep-money-humor deprive, I hate to be the one to tell you: When you're finished raising them, they will still need you. Just differently.

When they are grown they will need to use your cell phone minutes to "vent". They will need advice on buying cars, homes, and how to sell those cars and homes. They will ask for help identifying chickenpox over the phone, how to stretch holiday money, deal with in-laws. They will need advice on making career moves, and knowing when to make a change. They will need help when their spouse has PMS or wants to fish more than they think is necessary, or stay out late playing poker with buddies. Or buys too many purses, clothes, makeup, hair products. They need you to recognize them as full-fledged adults and enjoy them as such. Someday they will need you to help them say a final goodbye to you.

The great thing about grown kids is they also need someone to just be their friend. Someone to discuss favorite TV shows, sports teams, to go on vacation with and they actually look out the windows instead of reading a book or listening to headphones. They will spend their vacation money and days to come see you. They ask for your recipes, decorating tips, they admit they were difficult and laugh over it with you. They will miss you! And tell you so. They will call just to say "how are you doing, what's up?" Anyone with a 12 year old boy or 15 year old girl will be amazed by this, and hopefully encouraged.

When our first child went off to college we set a goal to have it all paid for when the last one walked across the stage. Dan graduates a week from today. I'm about to write the last check for the last loan for the last class for the last degree. We're slidin' into home and man, what a game it was! Now comes the best part - sitting in the bleachers together.


  posted at 10:23 AM

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    Girl Raised in the South

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