Sunday, May 2, 2010

The 10k of Childhood

I think I've said this already, but I really like the toddler stage over the teen stage. I'm trying to embrace each new stage of development each of my children goes through, but sometimes it's hard to hug a porcupine. We discovered at a young child's amusement/animal park that porcupines don't throw their quills when in danger, as all the cartoons show. And if you can pet them in the right direction their quills are quite harmless. So it is with teens. They threaten to "throw their quills" and they put on a very believable show but they still need to be approached and hugged and cuddled quills and all.

I was faced, this morning, with a dilemma. One of my daughters had dressed for church in something that wasn't quite appropriate. It wasn't risque, but it wasn't quite church attire. When I told her to go put on leggings she got a little huffy and, in fact, got a bit smart with me. I found myself apologizing to her and then stopped myself. I wanted to express myself correctly here. Could this possibly be one of those moments? Those wonderfully teachable moments? I explained that I was sorry that she was disappointed about having to alter her outfit, but I wasn't sorry for the rules we have in our home.
Nope. It wasn't one of those moments after all. She was still frustrated and twerpie. She still stomped to her room and, being the passive aggressive person that she is, changed her outfit in a huff but not her attitdue.

I tend to second guess myself a lot, especially with my oldest daughter and oldest son. I'm going through all of this the first time with each of them. My eldest daughter is my first try as a mom, my poor little guinea pig. When challenges present themselves in her life or she feels the need to test the boundaries it's really often with a song and a prayer...or a yelp and a prayer, that we proceed down that dark scary parenting ally way. Sometimes there are dead ends and the methods we've chosen don't work. Other times it opens up unexpectedly into the patio of a nice little bistro we didn't know existed. You'd think it would be easier with our oldest son, given the vast experience we've obtained from our eldest child. But no! He's a completely different creature who thinks and feels and processes things so totally opposite of what we've come to consider the "norm" in our home. You see, the younger girls have learned much of what not to do and which buttons not to push from watching the interactions between us and our eldest daughter. Our eldest son, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be reading the same play book and has concluded the rules don't apply to him. Then the two younger boys...if I can call them boys, they're more like little crazy destructive monkeys, haven't reached that developmental stage that helps them notice or acknowledge the world around them yet. They're still running into walls and trying to see if they can fly by jumping out of trees while flapping bits of cardboard they've tied to their arms.

But there must be rules. I've seen too many parents lose the respect of their children because there weren't rules. They were too busy trying to be their buddy. There have also been the parents whose rules are so constricting that the children break away from the family simply because they're searching for oxygen! There has to be a balance and I can't say with any certainty that I've reached it, but that is my goal. It's like tightrope walking over dog poop. It's an extreme challenge to begin with and when you fall it really stinks! Don't get me wrong. I want to be friends with my children. I want them to talk to me when they have struggles and tell me their dreams. I want them to know we can just hang out. But I also want them to feel the security of the boundaries. They test them over and over (AND OVER) again, but we try to keep them in place. We offer opportunities to express themselves if they don't agree with one of the rules or if they have more information that could lessen their sentence.

I don't know where I'm going with this. Perhaps this is just a note to myself to "just keep swimming" as Dori would say (I so relate to that blue fish!). It's all been worth it and with my oldest children that finish line is quickly approaching. I hope when they finish their race in our household they will feel energized and ready to take on whatever the Lord has for them. I hope they will understand that sticking to our house rules required perseverance on our part a s well. It's tough to jump those hurdles of inconsistency, let me tell you! But through faith, with trust (and a little pixie dust...ahem...where did that little Peter Pan moment come from?!) perhaps we'll run through that finish line together. If not, at least we can be there to give them the Gatorade and orange slices before they begin that marathon of adulthood. :)

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