Back to School and Back to Reality...

 It’s the time of the year that parents dread and look forward to at the same time: getting kids ready for back-to-school.  Whether it’s elementary, high school or even college, the pilgrimage to purchase school supplies, cool clothes and possibly a new computer can lead to much frustration on behalf of both parent and child. Add to the mix vaccination requirements, eye exams (how kids can see after being on their phones all summer is beyond me) and dreaded dental check-ups, and it’s all we parents can do to maintain our sanity.

We insist their bookbags be colorful (easier to find in a ginormous pile when thrown onto the gym floor), supportive of their back (fearing our kids continual hunching over will lead to deformities akin a Cro-Magnon), yet our “in-the-know” kid insists this bookbag look as nondescript as possible. Anything to deflect attention.  Haircuts must look as if they haven’t had one (how dare you get your money’s worth ) and one too many arguments take place over what isand what is not appropriate for their age to wear.  Have mercy. We practically count down the minutes until that ever lovin’ school bell rings. 

 Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. 

Having drastically different tastes in everything from sneakers to notebooks, I learned it was much easier to separately take each daughter shopping, otherwise I found myself popping a Tylenol every four hours. One of my fondest memories was school shopping at Target, where I decided to allow my then seven-year old Channing to pick out a few clothes for herself.  My petite freckle-faced daughter gleefully brought over a colorful  XL women’s shirt that she loved. Assuring her it was the incorrect size, she looked at me with those innocent blue eyes and replied, “But Mom, it’s an XL. Doesn’t that stand for extra little?” It was all I could do to hold back the tears and the laughter. I knew such innocence wouldn’t last long.

 I miss our annual back-to-school jaunts, although I’ll admit it got stressful as they got older. But after recently stopping by a popular clothing store at the mall, I realized my parenthood problems could have been worse.  I couldn’t help but notice a mother gush over how adorable her daughter looked in a min-skirt that barely covered her privates, not to mention a clingy top that let’s just say, left little to the imagination. I wanted to scream at the mother and cry for the daughter, as I truly wondered if either female considered the ramifications of such a choice. I wondered if the dad was in the picture at all, or how he’d respond to a daughter dressing so provocatively.  I left the mall saying a prayer for that young girl, for I realize that back-to-school preparedness is not what it used to be.

 

Rather than simply shopping for jeans and t-shirts as in years past, kids today are often consumed with the instant fall out over any fashion faux pas, knowing full well it might end up on social media within minutes. They are bombarded by everything from reality shows to online channels featuring teens daring one another to do practically anything.  I’ll profess that I don’t have the answers to such mounting pressures for teens these days.

I do remember a wise youth pastor reminding my daughters, "If you don't want to attract trash, don't dress like a public park."  No truer words...

But for what it’s worth, I’ll offer up my opinion of what I think our youth needs the most: Time and discipline. While it may seem a bit contradictory to use such words in the same sentence, I learned the importance of both the hard way. Isn’t that how we always learn?Like most moms, especially formerly divorced ones, it was a financial necessity that I worked while my kids were growing up. As a former pharmaceutical rep, my training weeks took me to NY often, as well as required that I work long hours. Although I loved my job, I often found that my daughters did not. Even after I arrived home, my oldest daughter often found me on my laptop, looking at sales numbers and checking emails. They saw with their own sad eyes the reason Blackberry phones were often called Crackberry. 

For some reading this blog you may be thinking, “What’s a mom to do? I’m divorced too and doing all that I can to hold it together!”  Trust me, I get it.

There were many nights I’d collapse into bed wondering how on earth I could make it another day. After a long tough talk with my manager and dear friend (Clay and Glenn, here’s to you), I came to  the conclusion that I needed a better work/life balance. My kids needed a fully present mother in the evenings.I’ll be the first to say  I fell off the wagon often, especially when sales rankings came out and I knew my bonus pay would affect my ability to buy new school clothes, not to mention pay the electric bill. But I had to learn to put down my computer and phone and enjoy time with daughters.

Sadly, it often seems we moms come to this revelation when it’s a bit too late. Just when we think we have this parenthood thing figured out, our teens prefer to be in their room, on their phones, or out with friends. Oh, but we have to try. And although most teens wouldn’t dare admit it, they, expect that.

 Our kids enjoy a little discipline.Yes, you read that correctly. They may scream, slam doors and say life isn’t fair, but deep down, kids need to know that you love them enough to set firm boundaries. I’ll never forget when I was a high school Sociology teacher and decided to test this theory on my students. While most student will say they love getting free time in class and not having to work hard, I found that it’s just the opposite. One day I walked into class, sat down at my desk and silently started reading.  I informed my students that they could do whatever they liked and to just do their own thing. By the looks on their faces, you’d have thought they had conversed with a two-headed alien. They weren’t happy. One of the students quipped, “You’re kidding right? I mean, we came in here to learn. We expect that from you. What’s the deal, here?”  Point proven.

 But it also applies to life at home as well. If God chose us to be parents, I can’t help but think He wants us to raise our kids up with loving discipline, just as our Heavenly Father often must do with us. Sweet friends, our kids expect us, and shall I say, WANT US, to use loving firmness with them.

How can they trust us, if we can’t say what me mean and mean what we say? 

In my own Christian walk, I’ve found that God often has to really go to some extreme lengths to get my attention. Sheesh. Perhaps his little blonde daughter is one stubborn female, as it often takes a few hard knocks before I look up at God screaming, “OKAY, OKAY, I GET IT!”

It’s then that I go before Him and humble myself, seeking His guidance and more than anything, feeling His love.  That’s right, I feel His love, when I instinctively realize what I did was wrong. It draws me closer to Him.

 Reread that.

 Our children draw closer to us, not to mention have more respect for us, when we say what me mean and mean what we say. It might not happen overnight, but eventually they’ll realize that we love them enough to carry through with our actions in hopes of teaching then valuable lessons. Yes, it kills us parents when we can’t fix every hurt and poor decision our kids make, especially as they get older. But we have to love them enough to know when to simply say, “I know you’ll figure this out. You’re smart, and you can do this on your own.”  It takes a heaping dose of courage, but friend, I know you can do it. We must love our children enough to allow them to go on their own journey.  We’re not in the running for the Best Friend Award. That’s not what God chose us to be. 

 I recently returned from a three week mission trip to Kenya and India, where my oldest daughter, a dentist, and other healthcare worked treated over 1000 patients.  As someone who could barely watch their own kids wiggle a loose tooth,  I suddenly found myself standing alongside my 28 year old daughter, holding a suction instrument while she pulled tooth after tooth, gently whispering, “you’re okay” to one patient after another. I stood before her speechless, wondering why God had allowed me to be a mother to this amazing woman.  I sat in the dilapidated church turned makeshift dental office and cried where no one could see me.

My daughters had seen their mother screw up royally over the years and struggle with anxiety and depression. I’d disciplined, screamed and threatened, all while sobbing into my pillow at night, thinking there was no way I could do this parenthood thing.  We’d argued over back to school clothes, friends that I thought were a bad influence and I’d taken car keys on more than one occasion.  But as they saying goes, “there before the grace of God go I.” They knew they were loved and that God loved them even more. 

 As you move your kids to college or perhaps simply get them ready for high school, remind yourself that you’re not perfect. Remind your kids of the same. Love them enough to let go and enjoy this incredible journey.  You got this..

And since I’m a jewelry designer, I’d like to offer all readers a discount on some great back to school pieces! Check out The Reminder Ring or I Love You More Than the Moon Pendant.

It makes for a sweet reminder to your daughter that she is loved unconditionally, even when the going gets rough. Have a great school year with your kiddos--- and remember to breathe. 

Brightest of Blessings,

Angie