Suit Up Parents…Our Kids Are Worth It!

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Ahhhh…..the lazy days of summer. Well, not so much lazy as they are relaxed. The mornings begin around seven, but instead of the obnoxious blare of the alarm clock, we wake at our leisure. We would be heading out at 7:30 a.m. for swimming, but, thankfully, it has been rainy and cool so we have skipped it. There have been no lunches to pack nor planners to sign. It feels so good to not feel like I have to be “on the muscle” making sure this assignment is progressing or that vocabulary list of words is understood.

How refreshing it is to not feel distracted by a lengthy laundry list of to-dos, but to actually feel present in conversation regarding the myriad of interests about which my ten-year-old randomly chatters. I can still hear the conversation with my own mother when I was about her same age. I would be rambling on and on about who-knows-what before realizing that she was tuned out. Indignantly I said, “Mom, you aren’t listening to a thing I am saying!” She’d say, “Lauri Ann, you haven’t stopped talking for twenty minutes straight!” It’s so nice to get a little glimpse of what it will be like to be a grandparent who gets to put life aside and enjoy nothing more than the sweet simplicity of their company.

There must be something about sleeping in a parent’s bedroom that makes it extra special. I must admit after three consecutive movie nights in mom and dad’s room, I have declared it to be a Kid Free Zone tonight. I will say that I do enjoy watching a movie laying on the bed, as tight as sardines (yes, after his big sigh, even the 56-pound Portuguese Water Dog snuggles in with us), with everyone laughing together at the funny parts. What I don’t enjoy is when my husband reverts to his younger alter-ego and hands out “monkey bites” where he takes great pleasure grabbing the fleshy part of your thigh and squeezing. The kids do much better than Mom at laughing during this torturous exercise…I get mad. It hurts like the dickens, and this self-proclaimed delicate flower finds no humor in pain.

Though I welcome the break from supervising her rigorous academic calendar, there are still parenting responsibilities that can’t be disregarded. I was reminded of the importance of those details when I was at my daughter’s voice lesson yesterday. Her homework for the week was to read the lyrics of a song on which she is working and articulate them as well and as clearly as she could, both reading them aloud and singing them. We used the dead time driving in the car to go through the exercise.

I told her voice teacher about this and he thought it would be very impactful. I said, “In our culture today, good articulation isn’t stressed. Kids aren’t talking to one another, they’re texting. Sometimes you will see them all sitting at a table together and no one is having a conversation. They could be texting the person sitting next to them. Worse yet, it is even happening at our own dinner tables and parents don’t want to battle their children about their phones (I will be doing a post on kids and cell phones at a later date). If they are talking, they think it sounds hip to say “yeah” instead of “yes” and “What up?” instead of “How are you?” He said, “Kids feel uncomfortable articulating clearly amongst their peers.” I agreed, and told him the same applies to table manners and modesty.

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In our house, bad table manners aren’t an option. There is a level of expectation even if the television is on. We have repeated the rhyme “Mabel, Mabel, strong and able, get your elbows off the table!” so often that all we have to do is say, “Mabel” and it works like a charm. Sometimes all I have to do is clear my throat for a little unspoken “Heads up…your chewing with your mouth open.”

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Recently, my husband had a great opportunity to show an example to our daughter when they stopped at KFC on the way home from swimming a few nights ago. Some muscle-head from the gym across the street got his food and sat at an adjacent table. He tore into his food like a ravenous bear and Grace literally pointed at him and told my husband, “Dad, look at his horrible table manners!” Of course, then my husband had to correct her on not pointing at others because it TOO falls into the bad manners category, but it was good for her to see first hand how bad table manners look to others.

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As for modesty, the boys’ shorts have gotten longer, while the girl’s have gotten shorter… WAY shorter! I have seen shorts and wondered if the inseam was any longer than an inch. Why not wear underwear? They give a whole new meaning to the hot pants of the sixties. Historically, hemlines don’t get longer. It makes me shudder to think about it. I think many parents just get tired of battling their daughters and relent to these fashions. I say suit up! Here is what a concerned father did to discourage his beautiful daughter from wearing her shorts so short…love it! (For the record, I am not married to the man pictured below. I think my husband is the Best. Dad. Ever.)

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Though it is nice to have a reprieve from our usual harried schedule, I will continue to fight the good fight, because one day she will be interviewing for a job and will need to articulate clearly. She may someday have to take a customer to dinner to land a big deal and will be able to feel comfortable in the most refined of settings. When she goes to meet the parents of her future husband, she will know that they will be more likely to welcome her to the family if her undies aren’t spilling out of the bottom of her shorts! I guess it’s official…I am old-fashioned!

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A Bittersweet Passage

This week, my daughter finished her elementary education, and it has reminded me that our children are really God’s children on loan. Starting out in the womb, every milestone is a step further away from us and closer to their independence. We carry them in our wombs and then give birth; we are separated. They are weaned; we are a little more separated. They begin to crawl, walk, and eventually run, all gradually increased stages of separation. I think with each of these stages come bittersweet sentiments that another chapter in their lives has passed and is written in the history books. We breathe a sigh of relief to see some of these stages end: the early days when they don’t sleep through the night, teething and drooling, the Terrible Twos, the days before they learn to swim when we can’t feel relaxed when they are around water. Other stages, we hate to see come to an end: reading them bedtime stories, holding their hands, girly dresses with ruffles and bows in their hair, T- ball and Tonka trucks.

I am very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom, so I kept Grace at home with me until one year before she went to kindergarten. Many times, I second-guessed myself because I didn’t put her into pre-K3 or pre-K4 because all the other moms were doing it. Would she be behind academically? Socially? It seems like just yesterday that I was shopping for her first pair of sweet little Mary Jane shoes and lace-trimmed socks for her to wear to school. I remember people asking me If I was going to cry on her first day. I said, “Really??? It’s a preschool! She is only going to be in school for two hours a day, three days a week! How ridiculous!” The big day came, and we were so excited! I walked her into her class room, and we were both grinning from ear to ear! We found her cubby hole where she placed her pink canvas tote embroidered with GRACE on the front. She turned to me, I leaned down, and she squeezed my neck as only she can do, saying, “Bye-bye, Mommy.” That was all she wrote! She bounced off, smiling, looking forward to her new adventure. I, on the other hand, blindly rushed to my car so I wouldn’t publicly fall apart. Who knew? It still brings me to tears as I think about it now.

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The next year, she started kindergarten. Again, people asked me if I would cry on the first day. “No way! It is only half-day kindergarten! Plus, I got that out of my system last year.” On her first day of school, I parked the car and walked her to her room. Her lovely, smiling teacher greeted us by the door. We went in to find her desk (she was so excited to have her first desk) and her cubby hole. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and walked out the door. Whew, that wasn’t so hard! Her teacher handed me an envelope that had a letter inside. SOOOO…..I opened it. It should have come with a warning! It read something like this:

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Again, I blindly raced my car to my car, and eventually, and thankfully, collected myself in the solitude. Thank the Lord for tinted windows! Now that I am entering the much dreaded menopausal state of my life, I have noticed that tears seem to hang out right behind my eyeballs, waiting anxiously to betray me without notice.

Last week, we attended my daughter’s Pathway celebration when the school commemorates the fourth-grade passage from Elementary School to Middle School. The Elementary School principal tearfully gave a tribute. My daughter kept looking at me for signs of any waterworks. I was really proud of myself to keep my composure. Regardless, I had the Kleenex at the ready. Each of the children’s names were announced, then they would hug Principal Past, walk under the archway adorned with green and purple balloons, continue toward the Middle School, and shake the hand of Principal Future. We ended the ceremony in the Middle School cafeteria where the kids enjoyed an ice cream social. This is a stage to which I am sad to say goodbye.

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One of my favorite things about the elementary school was testing children
on their Bible Memory Verses. Hearing God’s words in a child’s voice is beyond precious. Every Friday the children in Pre-K3 thru 4th grades would gather for chapel. Sitting behind 400 children not only singing songs about Jesus, but doing it in sign language as well was, more often than not, too much for this bladder-eyes to take. There weren’t many chapels that I sat through that didn’t require a Kleenex. I remember one chapel in particular, when the kids were singing and signing The Revelation Song (tears) before the showing of a video of a football team being taught a life lesson (more tears). I looked at the lady sitting next to me, and she also had tears streaming down her face. I gave her a Kleenex from my purse and asked, “What’s next….Brian’s Song???”

Gone are the days of the backwards 3s, 5s, and Es. No more new boxes of crayons to open up and deeply smell( I love that sweet fragrance…it reminds me of innocence and being a little girl). Left behind are the happy little smiley faces and “WOW!”s on her worksheets. Time to break out the scraper to peel off the old, stubborn tape remnants that were used to proudly display her sweet handprint art (turkeys, Christmas angels, and shamrocks) on the refrigerator doors.

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Now, we are off to Middle School. Hello, hormonally-driven mood swings, braces, and pimples! Here comes the girl drama, not to be outdone, I am sure, by the boy drama! It’s time to steel myself for the plethora of adolescent issues that will have to be addressed so I don’t go completely insane! I just hope there’s enough Chardonnay to get me through it!

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