My first baby is now 17. When he used to sit behind me in his car seat kicking the back of my own seat I used to get very irritated, but he made up for that as we sang songs together waiting in traffic, or planned his future as a firefighter. The thought of a teenager was so far away. I had no clue.
And then as middle school came and went I remember dreading the thought of him actually driving one day. But now he is driving and it is awesome!
Although, I was reminded by a friend that when your teen starts to drive you lose that array of conversations able to be had while driving from one place to the next. This is true. I value that time.
But it also means potential for increased responsibility, freedom, growth, experiences, and gained confidence.
As I teeter back and forth from my driving, 6 foot, 17 year old who just arrived home from school unassisted, to my 3 year old who insists I help him pull up his underwear, yet not dare flush the toilet for him, I am reminded that everything about parenting is just a phase.
Each family has its own Family Culture. As a parent it is up to us to help develop this culture, because whether it is intentional or not, our choices and actions associated with our family will create the culture that ultimately molds our lives.
In our family, the Commander and I are very intentional (although we do have our unintentional moments) to create a family culture which will nourish and strengthen our children in ways we believe important. One way we do this is through Family Night.
For us, Family Night is decided on a rotation. Each week one of the five kids will be the one in charge. We aim for Fridays because it is an evening that most often works for us. Whoever’s turn it is for the week has the opportunity to decide on the dinner and an activity. For the most part the options are limitless. Meals are usually predictable kid favorites and afterward we do something together which always varies.
Ironically though, family nights are not always as smooth and happy as they seem. Honestly, there was a time I even wondered, “why bother?”. Often there is someone who hates the dinner choice, doesn’t like the movie or stomps off because he didn’t win the game.
About this same time I was attending a parenting seminar. It was a video course where teens were interviewed regarding their family experiences. Overall, of the teens who regularly spent time of some sort with their families, they expressed that even though not each event went smoothly, or was their favorite, the time spent together was absolutely worth it and because of the consistency of this time together they felt much closer and more loved by their parents.
With this in mind I now see that even though not every family night is a complete success, it is still worthwhile. Some Fridays we may laugh and play games until midnight, and other Fridays we may have tears and someone that chooses to go to bed early. But this is normal. It is life. Not everything is going to go your way and you have to choose how to deal with it. Who better to learn this lesson with than your own family?
Not long ago I recognized an old acquaintance’s car as I left the grocery store. Before I was really even able to process it all I found myself thinking, I hope I don’t run into her. And then before I could even finish that thought it was as if I stopped to yell at myself in disagreement.
Don’t worry I was thinking all of this quietly to myself.
In the parking lot unloading my groceries I realized I have no clue what to say to someone who has lost a loved one, especially when that loved one was their child.
Sure, I could say something. And I am sure I am not alone in my ineptitude, but what can I say that is kind and helpful to this person who is suffering?
My first thought was to not say anything at all and avoid the possible conversation all together. I must admit I was very angry with myself for even considering this option. And since this moment I have been thinking a lot about grief and how I can best be a friend to someone who is grieving.
I suppose because of my increased awareness of the topic I have been more attune to others and their need to discuss things like death, loss, hurt, and overall extremely difficult situations. Recently I have noticed these topics are far more common than I used to recognize. Unfortunately, I think part of this inability to recognize is more of one’s choice. Difficult situations are not something new, but very likely something I and others avoid, ultimately diminishing the impact and knocking it off of our radars.
I have made a point to be more aware, and in doing this I have learned two very important things when speaking with others who have suffered.
- It is very important to recognize the loss or suffering and not attempt to belittle it through comments like, “This is all part of a plan,” or “They are in a better place.”
- It is often more important to be a good listener than to have something to say.
This morning I found an incredible post by another mother who lost her daughter, Natasha. This mother explains what she and others who have lost a loved one really wish you would say. I encourage you to read this incredibly honest and humbling post. I did and am very grateful for what I have gained.