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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Her Llama invitation

“I want to have a llama program and llamas for bring a friend night,” my daughter, the new president of an urban 4-H club, told the planning committee last fall.

A city girl turned Future Farmers of America member who participates with a Livestock Club and raises backyard chickens, she wants to study agriculture. After seeing a llama program last year, she’s been obssessed with them.

I stayed out of her way to see what she would do.

She asked the church hosting our meeting’s permission. They said yes.

She scheduled the llama lady. Then she messaged the head leader it was set.

I called to give him warning before he saw her email. Dead silence on the phone. “She told us she wanted it in the planning meeting,” I explained.

“But I didn’t think she was serious!” he answered.

“You’ve known her for years. If you don’t tell her no, she does what she decides. If you do tell her no, she may still do it,” I told him.

I knew the girl who designed her 5th birthday cake with an erupting volcano on a Pacific island filled with palm trees, with cowboys and Indians fighting in canoes off the coast didn’t joke. (Yes, I decorated it.)

The church called. Because the meeting room had carpet, they wanted tarp on the floor.  She assured them and me that the llamas wouldn’t poop indoors. And she packed our tarp.

She drew a llama graphic and created a Facebook event so members could invite friends.

As we spread the tarp, I gasped in panic that it was close to a denim couch. “Won’t they eat the denim couch cushions?” I asked.

“Mother. Llamas are related to camels, not goats,” she admonished me in her strictest voice.

I shut the classroom door, worried the llamas would get loose and charge through the church halls.

Meeting time began. The llamas stayed on the tarp. They did not escape. They did not eat the denim couch. And they did not poop indoors.

And several kids brought friends.

Huge sigh of relief.

A leadership lesson smacked me when it was over.

If we want to groom teen leadership skills in a changing world, sometimes we have to give them space to try their outside the box ideas.

Some fail. Others work. All teach lessons.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Hakuna ma-llama!

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Fifteen years ago, I knelt in a hospital chapel, begging my unborn son would survive the day. My husband and I had a blood incompatibility (PLA1-). Our babies have neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia. My body destroys baby platelets in utero. We were going to have a PUBS, to transfuse platelets. It was early enough in the pregnancy that if anything went wrong, he would die.

Before dawn, as I prayed, a lady walked in, prayed in the front row, raised her hands in the air, and left silently. I will always believe she was an angel. I felt like Hannah, begging for a child, and her prayer being answered in church. My prayer that day: God,keep my son safe.

When our teens went white-water rafting, I begged God again. I watched rafting youtubes after the left.  When I saw the crashes, I stormed heaven again. When they made their first ski trip alone, I prayed them through the day. My prayer: God, bring my children home unharmed.

When we went hiking in the Smokies and my teens took a trail without telling us, I prayed. My ankle was sprained; my husband had helped me manage the Laurel Falls trail with a cane. Our kids didn’t want to go at my slower pace. When we got to the top of the trail, they were gone. My husband left to find them on the higher trail, while I sat on a bench, with my cane, waiting till they were found. For two hours, I waited. My prayer that day: God, bring my family back home. That was followed with prayers of God, how do I get back down this mountain if they don’t get back soon and Lord, I gotta go, there is no bathroom, and please help me not wet my pants.

Then they leave on bus trips. I fuss details and tell them survival strategies from my travels. I watch them board the bus and wait until the bus leaves. My prayers have now changed.

Hannah had a son and when the time came, she let him go to serve Elijah. When Samuel left, he heard the voice of God and discovered his calling.

Now it’s my turn. Let go of my children, a step at a time before they leave for college. When they leave now,  they may discover their calling. Their story has become their own, and I’m becoming a background pray-er.

Now my prayer is: Please God, help them hear your call so I know they’ll always be home.

Hopefully that prayer won’t be followed by, Lord, help this middle-aged mama not wet her pants.

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THAT Mom

The only thing scarier to a teen than mom’s saying, “I wanna be your friend on Facebook” is when grandma says it.

How do we avoid becoming THAT mom? We often learn Facebook while or after our kids do, without parenting role models. I was on Facebook a year before my kids were, and I taught workshops on family Facebook safety. Here’s what we did:

  1. Stay legal. Facebook Terms of Service don’t allow users before age 13.  Teaching a kid to lie about a birthdate for faster gratification is not smart. Facebook users under 13 place Facebook in violation of federal statute. Underage kids who get caught get kicked off.
  2. Be friends. On our kids’ 13th birthdays, they started Facebook, and mom and dad were their first friends. A local prosecutor friend was their third. “Why does HE have to be next?” our kids complained. If he was their friend, they might think twice about posting something stupid. That would help protect their personal brand. Check privacy settings monthly because their settings change.
  3. See but don’t be heard. Much. Watch what’s posted, but don’t comment or like everything your kids post. The less you post, the more likely you are their friends will friend you.  Teens think adults who comment or like too much are creepy stalkers. If you have a smartphone, subscribe to their feed and photos. 
  4. Be vigilant. If another adult tells you to look at your kids’ postings, do so.  Once, I warned a parent something looked off. That’s when the family discovered their 15 year old had friended an out of state predator.
  5. Beware the games and apps. I no longer have time for games. When I first started, I accidentally sent a Valentine postcard that said “I love you” to my husband. And my friends. That posted on their walls. Including teens. I spent an afternoon deleting them.
  6. Veto if you can. If your kids post something stupid, try to get them to delete it. I told my kids if they post something on Facebook during school hours, I may correct their grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.  It works better if I tell them privately than post the correction publicly.  Any band or movie whose name includes a 4 letter word or “sex” in it cannot be mentioned.
  7. Encourage. One of my favorite role model moms – online and in real life – posts on each of her kids’ walls on Facebook at least once a month, “I love you.”

Being a mom of teens online is comparable to real life. Watch, encourage, admonish sometimes, and always, always love them to pieces.

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Diary of a Mom

Baby – did I used to take showers? When will she start talking? This is the hardest phase of parenting because there’s so much work.

Toddler – She’s talking! Tells me no sometimes! This is the hardest phase of parenting because there’s so much running. 

Preschooler – Now she talks back. Just when I think she’s ok, she’s tried something new or made a new mess.  She told me I’m the meanest mom on the planet cause I told kids no when I chaperoned her field trip. This is the hardest part of parenting because we juggle watching with letting her explore.

Elementary – Can she ever take a breathe when she’s talking? This is the hardest part of parenting because I’m driving her everywhere all the time.

Middle School – She talks to her friends but doesn’t like to talk to me. This is the hardest part of parenting because of her attitude.

Early High School – She tells me how wrong I am and how right she is on a daily basis. If I had known how hard this part of parenting was, I would have planned a different life path.

Later High School – Some bad days, some good days. I choose my battles. In just over a year, she’ll be in college. This is our last time together before she leaves. This is the hardest part of parenting because we have so much to do before she leaves home.

College – We left her at her dorm today. I cried. Will miss her and wouldn’t trade a minute of my life as mom. 

Well, wouldn’t trade most of the minutes of my life as mom.

My life as mom hasn’t ended. It just changed.

Maybe that’s why the Bible says “and so it came to pass” instead of “and so it came to stay…”

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“We’ll get to the doctor’s office and back before the snowstorm hits,” I assured my mother several years ago. Her appointment was 1 1/2 hours from her home, and I took my kids, ages 5 and 7, with me. We booked a hotel room the night before so we could get in for her early a.m. appointment and dash back home the next day.

As I sat in the nearly deserted waiting room the next morning, I watched the snow become ice and pelt the pavement. Locals had cancelled their appointments. I needed to manage my kids and help my mom (who spent most of her time wheelchair-bound) avoid injury.  By the time the appointment ended, we knew there was no way we could return home and booked an additional night at the hotel.

When I watched the news in the small city, further south than ours, the news reporter proudly reported, “There’s our snow plow, clearing the roads.” Yes, snow plow, not plows. Singular. That’s when I knew we were in trouble.

Extra nights in hotels are the kinds of adventures kids like. We grabbed enough food for lunch that we didn’t have to venture out for dinner. Though I often sent my son outside to run circles in the front yard to wear off his energy, we got to keep him in a hotel room most of the day.

The next morning, I took my daughter, a 2nd grader, outside to clear the snow and ice from the van so we could try to get home.  I left my kindergarten-aged son in with my mother. Half an hour after we started clearing, my son came out. I figured he had run faster than my mom with her walker, so I told him, “Go tell grandma we’re almost ready to load and go.” He went back inside.

After the van was clean, I returned to the room to find an angry mother. When she went to the bathroom, my son had slipped out the door, ventured through the hotel, and found us outside. When I sent him back in, he went back to the room by himself. “What were you thinking? You TOLD him to go back through the hotel alone?”

Yep. That’s me. Just pin the Bad Mom of the Year award on my Parenthood cloak.

Yes, we made it home.

And that’s when I learned that my children’s behavior was as easy to predict as the weather.

Strap on your parachute! Seize the adventure!

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“Kids have to have the skills for this century,” I told a mother about social media.

“Yes, I know. That’s why my kids study robotics,” was her answer.

Robotics has as much to do with social media as an electric weedeater does with cars. Operating one has nothing whatsoever to do with the other.

Sometimes parents tell me that letting their kids use social media is a privilege.  I’ll add to that: it’s a parent’s responsibility to ensure their teens know how to use social media. 

Not just to post

  • “I’m booooorreeed. Text me at xxxxx.” on FB. 
  • photos of girls gone wild on spring break on Myspace
  • videos of boys busting out all over on Youtube
  • status lines like “I hate my job cause my boss is stupid and our customers are a royal pain.”
  • joining groups celebrating flatulence with four letter words.

Parents must encourage their kids to add content and value to the social media conversation.  Teach by example is the best way.

This is a survival skill. Watch Socialnomics on Youtube.  Already more people search Facebook for info than Google.  Employers evaluate social media in their hiring decisions. Scholarship committees background check before giving money.

As parents, we pay for SAT/ACT prep classes.  We seek tutors, drive kids to sports, and work to help them get ready for college. Shouldn’t we also help them develop social media skills to distinguish themselves from the pack?

Legally, teens can begin to use most media outlets at age 13. Don’t start them early; not everything on social media is G rated. Do start them as a younger teen so you can observe their use of social media and they can learn to handle tough situations. This is like driving lessons – you want to coach your kids through their first experience driving on ice to help them learn to handle the slick spots.

Basic ways teens can use social media well and benchmarks they need:

  • Post information on Facebook. Know how to discern friends and how to post appropriately.
  • Discern who to add as friends and who to refuse. Understand privacy settings and how to adjust them.
  • Upload photos and videos directly to Facebook and have the wisdom to know the difference between a photo to post and 1 to delete.
  • Upload a video to Youtube by age 16.
  • Create and maintain a written blog by age 17. I use WordPress. Let your kids write their blog on their passion. When they write about what excites them, it will develop their knowledge base, their interest, and their writing skills.
  • Search Twitter by age 17 and set up a  Twitter account by age 18. (Under 18 Twitter account could be under a pseudonym with a non-face photo for security purposes.)
  • Use Twitter well by age 18 – to engage in conversations and real time chats. College textbooks are often dated as soon as they are printed. Twitter is the fastest way to keep up with tech changes and opportunities in every field and to meet the industry thought leaders.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile before leaving for college and begin to collect references and network contacts.
  • Know how to audit their social media footprint and make sure they are branding themselves well.

Bad things can happen when teens drive cars. So we teach them to drive well & pray they stay safe.

Ditto for social media.

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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.

#gpd10

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