Posts Tagged ‘Family’

“Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Johnny Cash is my parenting theme song. With a twist. (hint – play while reading this blog)

He sings of making bad parenting choices and his son’s repeating that pattern. That doesn’t have to happen. I don’t repeat the patterns of my childhood.

Instead, I sing, “I’ll be nothing like you – your cat’s NOT in my cradle.”  I deliberately chose a better path.

My family – my children and my husband – have and always will come first.

Struggling to survive the “childhood-that-wasn’t” shaped my character. However, I chose how I would use it. 

Your childhood script can be flipped with hard work.

By the grace of God and with the support of a wonderful husband who’s spent the past 20 years gently loving away the rough edges, I changed. Once a scared but tough survivor who managed on my own since age 18 with long hair and short skirts, I had moved 26 times in 24 years when we first met. Sometimes I had slept on friends’ couches or floors when I was between addresses. 

My husband helped me become a wife and mom. We built our family together – talking, laughing, and sometimes arguing our way through family dinner hours, laundry piles, teen angst, and carpools. We have a good time now.

I have neither anger nor regrets about the past. At the end of Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that what man meant for ill can be used for good by God to help others.

How can God use my terrible experiences of a lifetime ago? I can help young people struggling in their own stories, reach their hearts and tell them life can be better. As Corrie ten Boom once said, there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. We are not alone. There is hope.

Because of where I was, my life and family now is doubly precious. Instead of being trapped in past problems, God sent a husband and friends to help me write my own song.

Your cat’s not in my cradle.  I’m not just like you. My kids aren’t just like me.

The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon. Little boy blue and the man in the moon…my children had a childhood.

Stories that start sadly can change and get the happy ending. Mine did.

It’s our choices, not the cat in the cradle, that determine the outcome of our lives.

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Today’s blog is a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Letters Past in my Family Parenting Adventures….

1998 – I took my kids alone to Disney on Ice in a strange city.  I bought my son, age 2, a harness. He was a running escape artist of locks and carseats.  When we went to the bathroom at intermission, I hooked his harness to the bathroom stall’s coat hook while I went to the bathroom. He unlocked the bathroom door, grabbed his sister, body slammed the door, and tried to escape. The harness hook caught him, while the bathroom line of women stared, wondering what I was doing with my children. An hour later, he broke the harness.

2000 – My neighbors laid a new concrete driveway. All the neighborhood kids played in my yard, and I took them all to watch the cement mixer, admonishing them not to walk in the wet concrete. All the kids behaved until it was time to leave. My son tried to run through the concrete for a shortcut and got 3 steps in before realizing he was ankle deep in concrete. A cement worker picked him up, hosed off his shoes, and redid the driveway.

2001 – My son, age 5, played an actor playing Batman by tying a jump rope to our slide to do the Bat Climb. The rope got loose, he fell, and he broke his arm.

2002 – My daughter, age 8, walked into Borders, angry because I told her I didn’t have enough money to buy her a new book. So she went to the children’s area clerk and loudly said, “My parents don’t allow me to have books and won’t buy me any.”

2004 – My kids sat with a Congressman at a fundraiser while I worked the kitchen. My son, age 8, won a lemonade chugging contest with a friend while he sat there – he drank 20 glasses, while his friend only drank 18. That year, at a banquet, kids shared what they were thankful for. Other kids were thankful for animals, flowers, and family. My son? “Thankful for my guns.”

2006 – My son, age 10 handcuffed himself and a friend to a sculpture at a college art exhibit and sat to see how long it would take me to notice. (half an hour)

My Christmas letters are the story of our family – not just the accomplishments, but the full picture. They remind me why my hair might have turned grey if I didn’t color it.

And why I have laugh lines – I wouldn’t trade a single moment.

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Gary Vaynerchuk offered a challenge today – blog and tweet about good people.  We encourage as many of our friends as possible to do the same, and let’s fill the Internet bands with stories of good people doing great things in our own backyards.

Dan and Virginia Miller were my choice.  When my kids joined 4-H six years ago, they were assistant leaders of the club.  A retired couple, they stay involved in 4-H because they love kids. I didn’t know what an impact they would have on our family.  They invited us to pick cherries, corn, apples, pears, beans, or whatever was growing in their garden and ready for harvest.

When I have questions about parenting, cooking, or anything else, they always listen.  After a wind storm knocked out our power, Dan brought over a generator and hooked it up to keep the food in our freezer from growing bad. If I’ve needed help transporting my kids to activities, they are always there.

Last year, Dan and Virginia won a Mother Theresa award in our diocese for their work with the poor.  Whenever their church needs help – whether it’s fixing an industrial mixer or repairing a plumbing problem, they call Dan.  If a fundraiser needs kuchens, pies, or coffeecakes made, Dan’s right there, making 50 at a time. (He’s a retired baker.)

Virginia started a health ministry in her parish and was the church’s first parish nurse; she organizes blood drives for the American Red Cross and started monthly blood pressure checks after Masses.  Two years ago, she also helped begin a Gabriel Project, to provide services to mothers in crisis pregnancies. That project consumed hours of time on the phone, finding ways to help expectant mothers find food, housing, healthcare, education, and more.

This past year, when they were hospitalized with different health problems at different times, they were still concerned about those they helped.  After Virginia was released from the hospital, she insisted she be taken to the county fair and didn’t rest until she had seen the ribbon placings of all the kids she knew in 4-H.  When Dan was in the hospital, he explained to his priest what needed to be done to repair and check the church’s industrial dishwasher.

The Millers are proudest when they talk about their children and grandchildren, who also have hearts of servants to build their communities.

My family, my community, and my world are blessed by wonderful people like the Millers.


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