All of us are holding out for a hero. In real life we admire the people who go above and beyond. In our fantasy realities (whether film or book), we expect the good guy to save the world while showing us the mud on his face.
What amazes me is that we are surrounded by everyday heroes. These people don’t get the applause of the media or the acclaim of notoriety. Which is probably the way they like it.
Sometimes they make the news, though. It might only be a thirty-second spot in between the tirade about political mudslinging and another stormy weather report, but it makes me want to watch the news.
But I don’t. I read one newspaper. And I trust that media group to shuffle news stories they think I might enjoy into my email inbox.
In Colorado, two boys played outside. You know, like most kids used to do back before video games and other electronics warped their minds. (Whoops! Not the subject of this post. *reels in ire*)
When the screaming began, the mom who was busy working on maintaining her home and feeding her family (a full-time gig) rushed outside.
Did her legs buckle when she saw a mountain lion on top of her youngest son? Maybe her heart tried to long jump out of her chest. Her stomach plunged toward her feet.
And then she roared.
Because that’s what mama bears do when someone messes with one of their cubs.
And this one-hundred percent heroic all-human mother rushed the cougar. The beast probably outweighed her. It’s massive claws wreaked havoc on her son’s clothes. And those teeth? And they were snarling not smiling.
With her bare hands she beat the wild animal off her son. Not with a frying pan or a baseball bat. This angry mama put her OWN claws out and let that cat have a taste of her personal brand of martial arts.
I can picture her screaming at the fleeing backside of the wild cat, “Don’t mess with my cubs!”
Because if you’ve seen a mama bear in protection mode, it’s enough to send most other wild animals running.
Motherhood takes Heroics
While I’m in awe of this true story, I admit I’m pretty impressed with most moms. Even if they don’t destroy wild beasts with their bare hands.
Moms know that love is about sacrifice. They’re willing to take the gift card meant to buy them something nice at the department store and spend it on new shoes their kid needs for soccer. If there’s not enough chicken to go around the dinner table, mom’s not that hungry anyway.
When their kids need a ride, mom dons her chauffeur’s cap, even if it means cashing in pop cans to afford the fuel. Cupcakes are needed for school the next day? In the old days, mom would stay up late baking them from scratch and making thick homemade frosting to slather on them. These days, such a request means another trip to the grocery store. (Didn’t I go there yesterday?)
Sleep goes away when a child is sick and needs monitoring and soothing and another dose of ibuprofen.
Showers might be short and cold when mom takes the last one of the morning (and for this reason I love my tankless hot water heater-no end to hot showers).
This sounds mundane next to the mountain lion story, I know. But have you seen a soccer mom transform into a mother bear when someone bullies her kid?
And those are the sort of moms kids need and deserve. A mother who puts the child’s welfare above her own.
And Lord help anyone who tries to hurt her babies.
The dress code at your school isn’t about sexism. Enforcing those rules isn’t a form of discrimination.
Click here to read my personal rebuttal to this piece of propaganda. Today, I’m going to address the girl whose school day was interrupted by a trip to the office.
Dear Teenage Girl-
I’m sorry you won’t be able to wear your Jennifer Aniston slip dress at school today. I know that seems so unfair.
Let me direct your attention to the Student Handbook, page 8, section IX. It clearly states that undergarments can’t be showing.
I understand that you aren’t wearing any (yes, this actually occurs at middle school), and because of that you’re violating the next bit. Let me point out the phrase about “skin-tight clothing” that reveals too much of the anatomy.
I hope a boy wouldn’t show up wearing that dress, but just yesterday, Jim Smith had to change into pants that wouldn’t drop below his hips because his underwear were showing. This isn’t a discrimination issue.
It’s about a dress code.
School is your job. Jobs have dress codes. If you don’t follow those dress codes, you get written up. You might even get fired.
This meeting has nothing to do with your choice of clothing. It has to do with the fact that you chose to disregard the rules of this school.
I see you have gym this quarter. I’m happy to escort you to the locker room so you can change into your gym clothes.
Oh? You have jeans and a t-shirt in your locker? That’s interesting.
Let’s get those clothes and see if they meet the requirements.
Your School Administrator
The chances this principal will get a call from an irate parent are high. Which underscores the problem with posters (such as the one above) that claim enforcing a dress code is sexist.
What would you say to this girl? Or maybe you’d like to address the administrator.
Next week, I’ll finish this series off with a letter to a teenage boy about this matter.
In the past, I’ve blogged about the empty nest syndrome. Many of my readers commiserated with the heart-wrenching transition to this phase. What about the refilled nest syndrome?
Yes, I just made that up. It could be the no more silence syndrome. Or the where did all my food go syndrome. Perhaps the overflowing laundry basket syndrome suits it even better.
No more silence
My favorite sound is silence. I know. I’m strange. Silence soaks into my soul and opens my mind to creativity.
Computer games, friends and girlfriends, movies until 2am – none of these promote peace and quiet. They can make falling to sleep difficult as well.
I especially loved hosting friends when the boys were younger. I loved knowing where they were and what they were doing. I enjoyed interacting with the people who filled the kids’ lives. I’m not saying that’s changed, but I’m older now.
When I’m tired, I lock myself away in my room with a book. Mostly because I want to wear PJs after 9pm. No one wants to see me in such attire.
I won’t even mention the brotherly arguments (they both can’t be RIGHT – but each of them is certain they are). I will say they’ve gotten less frequent.
I can only pray for an internship for my youngest. Then I’ll at least have the daytime to permeate myself with solitude and get my creative work accomplished.
Where did all the food go?
Men eat. All the time. It’s hard on the food budget and requires more menu planning on my part.
“There’s nothing to snack on” is the phrase I hear most often. My response, “Go buy something then.” Yeah, that goes over like a Nerf ball in a vacuum.
I am a leftover for lunch kind of gal. I was raised on leftovers and this was before the invention of microwaves (which make reheating so much simpler). I will cook extra so I can have lunch for the next day or two.
First off, the more you cook, the more these men think they need to eat. You make six pork chops for four people (there should be two left), and the bottomless pits absorb those extra two. “That was my lunch for tomorrow” does little to curb their appetites.
Secondly, those late night game and movie sessions work up an appetite. That extra plate of chicken and rice – ready for the microwave – passes for a midnight snack (in the absence of chips or crackers).
This one is irritating because I never discover it until I open the refrigerator at lunch time, dreaming of that plate of leftovers, salivating in anticipation. Where is it? There isn’t even an empty dish (until I check the boys’ rooms).
Overflowing laundry basket
It’s amazing how quickly I adapted to running two loads of laundry every Saturday. Yep, only two. Except when I changed the beds.
Four people translates into a minimum of six loads. Six loads that only I can move to the dryer and only I can fold. I’m not sure how this works. No one else hears the musical chimes signaling the end of the cycle, I suppose.
No, I haven’t folded their clothes for a decade or more. I put them back in the laundry basket and set them in their rooms. My oldest folds them and puts them away before he goes to bed that night. My youngest uses the basket as a dresser and his dirty clothes get piled on the floor beside it.
Needless to say, the door to his room remains closed.
And there’s more
I personally love the “Are you making us lunch?” query on Saturday afternoons. You can imagine the response when I answer with, “I thought you were making me lunch.”
My oldest son will take me to Taco Bell if he thinks I’m serious. The younger one looks at me like I’ve lost my mind and cooks something disgusting – Top Ramen noodles, for example – with a blithe offer to make me a package, too. Yeah, if I wanted to load up on fat and sodium.
I know this sounds like I’m complaining about having my boys living with me. I’m not. I love having them around, and I’m glad they feel comfortable enough to spend so much time with us.
They bring energy to the house. Translation: peace and quiet get exchanged for stress and activity.
For those of you on the other end, the kids moving home for a while, what’s your take on the situation? Parents, what other changes did I forget to mention?
Some readers might have given up on my series regarding expectations for young people. After all, it seems like a diatribe against education, government or parenting. Aren’t their some expectations we should have for our children?
Duh. Lack of appropriate expectations has damaged our youth as much as unrealistic expectations. Maybe even more.
We all need a standard set before us – a model to follow. For generations, parents modeled standards for their children. In more recent years, I see parents willingly submitting this duty (really an honor) to government and educators.
This is one of the biggest problems in our society. Whether parents want to be the role model for their children or not, they are being watched. Many children will follow their parents’ example without consciously deciding to do it.
So, it’s past time for parents to step up. If you had a child, you have some responsibilities to that child. Uncle Sam isn’t responsible to teach your child anything. (Do you really want the political system of the day deciding what your child needs to know?) Your neighborhood school should be teaching reading, writing and mathematics, but we all know there is so much more to life than those things.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on four areas where we should have solid expectations for our young people: work, responsibility, accountability and respect. These areas (and I would personally add values, but I won’t open that can of worms) can guarantee young people develop admirable character.
A Work Ethic
You don’t have to tell me; work is a four-letter word. Many people try to avoid it as much as possible and it’s beginning to show in our younger generation.
A simple homework assignment that might take 15 minutes is too much work for many kids. Rather than researching a topic, they will Google an already completed paper on the subject and turn it in as their own work. Gaming, texting, social media hangouts and pursuit of other interests monopolizes their free time.
What happened to a list of daily chores? I know, kids scream “child abuse” and so parents back off. Who wants a confrontation with a mouthy teenager anyway? Not any sane person.
The solution is to give kids chores at a young age. I’m not recommending child labor. A four-year old can pick up their own toys and dirty clothes, though. If a kid is old enough to go to school, he can make his bed. Setting the table, unloading and loading the dishwasher, cleaning the toilet and washing dishes are other chores that can be completed by anyone at least seven years old.
Will they do an excellent job? Not if you don’t teach them the right way to do it. This doesn’t involve yelling at them to rewash the dishes if you find a dirty spot. It means the parent stands beside them demonstrating how to do the chore correctly.
I think one chore per day is plenty for younger kids. By the time they’re teenagers, they think they should be free to do what they want. Sure, once they finish a list that involves a few more chores. And their homework.
After all, who’s going to do their dishes when they’re adults? You? It’s in everybody’s best interest for them to learn how to do basic housework.
How do we earn money? By working. Sure, it might be sitting at a desk or driving a truck, but whatever your job, you must be industrious. The harder you work, the more valued you are to your employer (or should be – another rant altogether here).
Finger pointing abounds. This is because no one wants to accept responsibility when things go wrong.
It’s a major flaw in “free” society. Every person needs to carry their weight. Imagine society as a huge wheel and every person is a spoke. Break a few off, and the wheel is too weak to work properly.
How do you teach your child to be responsible? You give them a set of chores and forfeit their rights to do anything else until they’ve done them. And done them to a satisfactory standard.
Lack of responsibility hurts everyone around you. It makes a person undependable and disloyal. Who will trust them with the smallest task if they are irresponsible?
Schools are designed to build this trait into children. What a student is responsible for increases as they age. In kindergarten, they’re responsible for putting their coat and backpack in the correct cubby. By middle school, they’re responsible for that and turning in their homework when it’s due.
This doesn’t mean parents have no part in teaching this trait. Believe me, people in education can tell the parents who have let this slide.
Another reason for all the finger pointing in our society is the lack of accountability. Being held accountable will make someone more responsible. After all, if they can do a half-hearted job on their chores and still head to the movies and a sleepover with friends, what’s the big deal?
As my kids aged, I trusted them to be accountable. “Mom, can I go to my bro’s house?” My response: “Is your homework done? I see you didn’t sweep the kitchen yet.” After the kitchen is swept, the inquiry is issued again. “If your homework is done.”
This bit my youngest son in the hinder parts his freshman year of high school. I expected him to do his homework, study, turn things in on time. When I went to the spring conference and talked to his Spanish teacher (he had an F) and his art teacher (he had a D), his life got pretty ugly.
The thing about accountability is that the parent needs to be the party kids answer to about whether they’re meeting their responsibilities. I realized that my son had lied about his homework (actually he turned in much of it but it was subpar work). Outside of school and church activities, his social life ended. Oh, and you can bet that included access to computer games and the internet.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get the Spanish grade up. He reaped the consequences. Grounded from technology for the summer (that was his big thing) and he had to retake the class in order to get the credit for his college applications.
People must be held accountable because there are consequences for actions and inaction. Yep, there’s plenty of whining about “life’s not fair” but the reality is, we need to learn to deal with it. Being accountable is a good start.
Biggest for last. Lack of respect in young people disturbs me. It isn’t just their disrespect toward adults. Many don’t respect property or even themselves.
“You respect me and I’ll respect you.” I actually had an 8th grade student say this to me once. My reply was, “Who starts? You or me?”
The truth is respect must be mutual. One reason kids are disrespectful to adults is because they hear their parents dissing authority. No surprise when these kids turn and rail on those same parents. Remember: our kids are watching us. We are teaching them – for better or worse.
I happily respect everyone I meet. When they scorn me, I turn the other cheek. I’m an adult. I was taught to hold my tongue by a pop on the mouth when I didn’t. My husband forbade me to do this with our children.
It made teaching them when they misspoke more difficult. Nothing gets our attention more quickly than pain. Arguments and power struggles wore on me. Eventually, I won and my son’s learned I would always win. Even if we had to wait until dad got home.
Have I left any important expectations off this list? Did I misrepresent any of these items? Let’s discuss it.
In accordance with my monthly hobby goal, I’ve spent several hours with pictures, paper and glue since February 1. Leafing through the photos, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia, I did more than walk down memory lane. I renewed my sense of motherly pride.
When I was growing up, I wanted both of my parents to be pleased with me. I spent years following instructions, doing chores diligently, and conforming to their will. Then my dad left. The sky crashed down. Rather than be a casualty, I put up a shell and pushed my mom away.
How many times did I get straight As in school only to hear something like, “But what’s this A- in Geometry”? I could always be pushed harder. Whatever I achieved, it wasn’t the top. There was no basking in one moment before looking for the next mountain to climb.
I promised I would never do that to my kids.
You know what happens when you say you will never do something? Yep. That despicable thing is the first thing you do. (Never say never is a good policy. Of course, you said never…so)
My oldest son could read in kindergarten. He learned all of his multiplication tables in 2nd grade. He tested in the 97th percentile in math in third grade. He was an intellectual superstar and he wasn’t too bad at basketball either.
I had high expectations for him. He always met them. I praised him and let him bask in his accomplishments. Of course, I bragged about him until I’m positive people dodged me because they wanted to gag over my motherly enthusiasm.
Life was grand. And then…
My youngest son needed speech therapy in kindergarten. He needed occupational therapy because his handwriting was terrible and he held his pencil wrong (still does, BTW). His fantastic imagination and memory held academic shortfalls at bay in first grade. He didn’t learn how to read until late in his second grade year.
I was no less proud of him than my older son, but I despaired of helping him succeed. Suddenly, I was at the bottom of a steep learning curve.
All of this came back to me as I finished that same boy’s high school scrapbook. Seeing pages upon pages of accomplishments and awards filled my heart to bursting. He came so far. I always knew he would. He exceeded all my expectations.
The older got straight As and the younger carried a B average. “Still above average,” I told my straight-A-over-achieving self. The older was valedictorian of his high school class while the younger was a National Honor Thespian. Scholar athlete versus most improved band member.
Thankfully, I learned not to compare them early on in their lives. They are both extraordinary in their individualism. If they dream it, I believe they will achieve it. That’s not the mother in me talking either.
What makes me proud? Watching my sons grow into men who have convictions and live by them. Seeing them follow their dreams – whether big or small.
Am I proud that the oldest is a college graduate and the youngest made the Dean’s list last term? I’m not going to dignify that with an answer.
Seeing how far they have come gives me hope that they will continue on, surpassing their dad and me.
Isn’t that what all parents dream for their children?
A great irony greeted me. The source was flesh of my flesh. Traditions that had been acclaimed as unchangeable fell beneath the barrage of personal plans.
A son of mine was incensed when I mentioned to him last year in December that things were changing. The kids were becoming adults. Soon, the family Christmas traditions of his childhood would become a thing of the past.
One of the tragedies of adulthood – you have to let the childish things go.
“We will always get together on Christmas Eve. All of us.” His emphatic announcement of one year ago.
When you get married, I told him, you might discover that your spouse’s family has their own Christmas Eve traditions. Somehow, the two of you will meld these into a new set of traditions for your own household.
This is how it happened for me. Christmas Eve was born after my mom remarried and her husband’s parents had a mandatory Christmas Day gathering. Mom’s family gathered on Christmas Eve and the other family on Christmas Day.
Happily, this worked right into my husband’s family traditions. They had never really celebrated on the eve before Christmas. It became the time my mom, sister and I brought our families together to exchange gifts.
Every year, we added another item to the tradition. The kids performed a pageant of sorts every year. My husband and I shared a Biblical perspective on the holiday. Gathering around the piano to sing carols is the newest addition to the list.
This is what my son wants to continue.
Except this year he will be spending Christmas Eve “day” with his girlfriend’s family. What happened to the tradition being set in stone?
I’m sad that my son will miss most of the festivities. “I’ll be there by 4pm,” he says. Just in time for darkness to fall and gifts to be exchanged. After most of the other traditional happenings are finished.
Did I say “I told you so” to my son? Not in so many words, but I parroted his words from twelve months ago back to him.
Did he say, “You were right, Mom. Things are going to change”? *Falls on the floor laughing* That would be an emphatic “no.”
But we both know who won this argument. If there was an argument. Which there wasn’t because that’s not part of our traditional Christmas. Ha!
What traditions do you hope to hold onto as your children grow into adulthood?
Recently, four women sat around discussing childbirth. Once you’ve experienced that moment (or those long, arduous hours), there is no going back to the forgetful bliss of beforehand.
Not one of us would willingly exchange our children to avoid the pain. Little did we know, the delivery suite adventure was not the peak of our pain. It was only the beginning.
The real work begins when you have a dependent bundle of tears, wails and excrement that relies on you for everything. A deep sigh of relief doesn’t come when they can finally walk and feed themselves. No, there is more they need to learn. And you are the teacher.
I would have never made it past the first three years of my sons’ lives without the wisdom of my sister. She was a walking talking parenting manual. Later, I would be thankful that my husband had the patience to teach our Velcro-reliant son to tie his shoes and both of those boys to drive (yeah, I gasp and grip the door handle when my husband’s driving so I didn’t have the capacity for that stress).
Only now am I fully able to look at my sons and reflect upon my parenting successes. In the midst of it, the failures immediately announce themselves. We hustle to adjust and change our strategy. If it doesn’t seem to fall apart, perhaps we’re heading our children in the right direction.
The truth of this desire to see our children succeed in more than athletics and scholarship became apparent to me recently.
First, I read this great article by Karen Schelhaas, who restricted unnecessary spending for one year. “The unexpected highlight of the experiment came when I offered to buy my 12-year-old daughter a black shirt at a store, and she responded with “Mom, I already have a black shirt. I don’t need another one.” That’s right, babe. You don’t.”
My eldest son graduated college but has only landed a couple interviews which netted no job offers. I realize that our emphasis on education placed him in this position, but the ugly state of the economy keeps him from shining forth.
Did we fail him? I don’t think so. Life is ugly at times. We can make all the right choices and still end up unemployed.
Our opportunities to teach don’t end once our kids graduate and move away. Our example, a megaphone, announces our ideals and convictions.
Hard work pays off. Keep working to find a job and eventually you will land one. Don’t expect your first job to be your dream job; see how many jobs Dad and I have had?
How do you judge the success of your parenting? Is it even right to have a barometer in this arena? Maybe you think it puts too much pressure on the kids. Let’s talk about it.