Monday, January 28, 2008
Puzzle Pieces Cont'd - Raising Hooligans
Clementine (no link) asked: were our kids awful to raise, did I ever want to throw in the towel, and did I ever seriously question if they would grow up to be adults who contribute to society as a whole? Her question was put in a much more entertaining fashion, but that's basically what she wanted to know. And Samantha (no link) asked me what was their worst moment - the biggest act of rebellion, and what was my most wretched moment as a kid. Kelly, The Feathered Nest, wanted to know about how Sarah started journaling as a youth, and was it about anything in particular, or was it a devotional.

Clementine, of course our kids were wretched - at times. Sometimes those times ran together for long stretches when I wanted to pull my hair out. Sometimes it was just moments but those moments always seemed to be in the middle of the grocery store, or at church, or when we had company. Our kids turned out well, but I don't think it was good genes. And I prayed like a crazy person, because it didn't take long for me to know I was in over my head, but still I didn't pray as much as I should have. I also suspect somebody was praying for me, because in spite of my fears I did survive the whole process. We all did, and some of those awful times make great Thanksgiving dinner conversation. But it wasn't very funny back then much of the time.

They were precious, it was wonderful spending those years with us, but we had temper tantrums (all of us), acts of defiance, sibling rivalry and knockdown dragout fights between them. Our house was NOT quiet! They were precious, sneaky, some loved school, some despised it. Some never met the principal except when he gave them the perfect attendance or good behavior award; others went there on a more regular basis and it wasn't to chat about their good grades. Some of them skipped a class here and there, some probably cheated on a test now and then. Some loved their teachers, some of them were probably their teacher's worst nightmare. It was amazing that each kid became a different kid completely now and then, right when we thought we'd figured out what made them tick. We had a deal with one that if that child got wet at any time during the day, it counted as a bath. Seriously. Each was allowed one "hate food" that they did not have to take a single bite of. We did not, to my husband's protest, belong to the 'clean the plate club' and they got dessert even if they didn't eat all their peas, but they did have to eat a bite. Hate foods were - eggs, black olives, and wet fruit. Not peas. One still hates olives, and one hates eggs. The other got over the fruit thing a bit. We came up with the 'hate food' method after one child threw up stuffed bell peppers all over the dinner table. That was fun.

We let them pick out their clothes, even when they didn't match. They went to school looking funny, but happy. They had chores, which they complained about and did sloppy jobs at, but all three of them now live in clean homes, and I think they have clean underwear on most of the time. They got allowances, had to save their money and give to the church. That's not to say they enjoyed doing so.

We spanked some a little, some a lot. We grounded some a few times, some spent several of their growing up years in their bedroom or the timeout chair at the bottom of the stairs. We disciplined the daylights out of them.

There were days I literally sat in the living room chair and cried, soft, quiet tears because I was not able to do the job. But I did. God knew I had it in me, with His help, but I sure doubted it at times. I was too strict, not strict enough, inconsistent at times. I read to them, kissed them goodnight and then yelled at them when they asked for an extra drink of water. I was the very best mom I could be, but I made mistakes. Mothering is so, so hard - I think you have to take it one day at a time, but have the overall picture in mind. They are not your children. Thank God that they are His kids! They are on loan to you for about 20 years, and you are to work yourself out of the job a little bit every day. That keeps you from holding on too tight, and from throwing in the towel too.

I read a lot on how to raise kids God's way - I'd highly recommend "Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours" by Kevin Leman, "Dare to Discipline" by James Dobson. We tried to err on the strict side rather than the permissive. We were very big on reality/consequences discipline. If their actions were wrong, they suffered the consequences of those actions.

Journaling? Sarah would tell you she was at that stage where I called her "a royal snot". We laugh about it now, but she was in 3rd grade, and at a sassy stage. I bought her a notebook or something like that and she had to write in it every single day. I don't remember much about what all the rules were except that she could write anything, and I would not read it. She did have to hold it up from across the room and show me she'd written in it. We came across that journal together once and laughed at it. The very first entry was all about her 'stupid journal' that I was making her keep. She has journaled for years, as does my other daughter.

Their rebellion? Honestly not one specific thing comes to mind about any child, and I would not divulge their names with the acts anyway. I will tell you we dealt with some skipping school, not being where they said they would be late at night, talking back to a teacher, that sort of thing, but nothing big honestly. We were strict, about most things, which included clothes. Our girls were fully dressed when they left our house. The thought of a teenage daughter leaving my home with a thong showing above her jeans is ridiculous. We didn't really fight about clothes - they knew what was okay and what was not. I wouldn't say they were rebellious, rather just the normal teenage attitudes now and then. Sometimes we tolerated them and sometimes not. We took the approach of 'pick your battles' and if you pick too many then you're at war all the time. What didn't matter in the long run didn't matter. They went to youth group, even when they didn't want to, and were in church weekly. I think you have to live what you preach, and that it will eventually make a difference.

My rebellion? My father was very, very strict. I would not have climbed out very far on a limb or the wrath of God would have come down on my head. I snuck out once at a slumber party in my pjs and we all went to a boy's house and danced in the basement in the middle of the night. I was 14 or 15. I got grounded for six months for that one! I also skipped school routinely, going to the 'little store' and spending my lunch money on cigarettes. When my father found out about it I was 17, and that was my last spanking, for smoking. I smoked off and on during my teen years, to fit in and look cool, then quit. I started again when I was going through a divorce. I quit forever the day I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter. I'm a middle child, so I tend to try to please. I wasn't really rebellious - just dumb sometimes.

Parenting - it sure isn't for sissies, is it? Hold on tight, you'll all live through the process, then come out a bit refined from it all. I always suspected anything our kids threw at me was mostly God doing some shaping and molding on me. If I hadn't needed some cleaning up, he would have given me perfect kids.


  posted at 2:00 PM

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