Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Best Part of Parenting


I'm attempting to write everyday in March.Today is post 28 of 31.

Chris and I became parents back in 2002. One thing I've learned over the years as a mom to Luke and Liam, a teacher to many, is that parenting is a crapshoot. I have seen some amazing parents that have children that have lost their way. I've seen some fabulous kids that have essentially raised themselves. Crapshoot. 

That being said, we've raised Luke and Liam the best we know how, but also know that we can only do so much. They are the captains of their own ship and will determine their own course. I won't speak for Chris here, but there are a few guiding beliefs that have helped us along the way...

Hands Off
This one is big for me. My start of teaching in my district was in a Kindergarten-4th grade building. I'd walk down the hall on 100 Day thinking what a fabulous job some parents did on their kids project. My reaction to that was that school was Luke and Liam's responsibility. Sure I'd help them study, if they asked. If I knew if they had a test coming up, I'd ask how they were doing. But that's it. This has backfired, absolutely. They've failed tests. They've had grades they wished were higher. My goal, however, was that they cared about their grades, not us pushing them to succeed. So far, with a 7th and 9th grader, we seem to be on the right track. Time will tell if this will continue to work, but we don't argue about homework. The amount of late assignments they've had over their school career for both kids could be counted on one hand. And when they bomb a test, as one did recently, they are far more hard on themselves than I am. 

Discipline
My students would tell you, I'm not a yeller. While yelling might work for some, it absolutely doesn't work for me. I remember a student once told me that they hated getting in trouble with me because they knew I was "disappointed" in them and that was the worst. Pretty much how I parent too. Yelling can be tuned out, if I'm upset I whisper. And Chris would say I use a heavy dose of Irish Catholic Guilt to get a point across. Works for me.

Lax Technology Rules
This began as a summer rule, I didn't care how many hours they played video games as long as they did some type of chore everyday, read for thirty minutes at a minimum, and exercised. We had a checklist and I didn't want to battle them all summer long. While they will absolutely play for hours online, they are just as likely to have a Nerf war in the neighborhood, shoot hoops, go for a run, or watch a movie. I have only a few hard and fast tech rules for them:

  • No Grand Theft Auto. This is my oldest son's least favorite rule. Yes, they have first person shooter games. However, when I went to GameStop years ago with Luke so he could buy this game, the employee was one of my former students. He immediately said no. Then he and his boss began to describe what could be done in the game. This still gets a hard no for Luke even though he could now buy it himself. 
  • Cell Phones are mine. I used to monitor their cell phones nightly. Then weekly. Now, whenever I feel like it, typically monthly. While my youngest hates this rule, and we've battled about it, I told them I'm flipping through text message, photos, and social media so that I am their excuse. If someone is sending them something they aren't comfortable with, they can say their mom checks their phone. With both boys I've seen them use me as the excuse why someone needs to stop something in a group text or social media. I'm glad to provide that service.
  • Cell phones are charged at night outside my room. They can have alarm clocks to wake them up, phones go to a dresser outside my room at night so they sleep.
Encourage Their Passion, not Ours
This was a lesson we learned this year. Luke played basketball from 5th-8th grade. He was a decent player, but last year in 8th grade he told us he was done at the end of the season. Chris is a huge fan of basketball and hated to hear that. I was shocked because he was a good player, why would he give it up? But, as we reminded each other, it isn't about our feelings, it is what Luke wants. So 9th grade basketball has just come to an end and Luke didn't play. We were worried he'd regret it, but he didn't. 

Their passions vary from time to time, but have settled into something similar for both boys. They love running. Luke had immediate success in this sport when he began in 7th grade. Liam is starting to improve here at the end of 7th. They both love music - Liam in band playing drums, Luke in the songs he listens to and discusses with Chris. They are obsessive about video games and play online with their friends constantly. They both have fabulous imaginations - whether in creating their own videos, playing D&D, or in their writing. 

******

Being a parent has absolutely made me a better teacher. I've tried and failed more often than I can count. I know that while we might have these rules, the boys don't always love them. They will absolutely try to break them. But as a middle school teacher, I'm able to tell my middle school parents that it gets better. That it is good to let them fail if you can, that they need to care more than you do. And I also can watch my friends with young children parent and tell them it gets easier, it really does.

Today I was driving to pick Liam up from track practice. As I drove down a quiet street I saw a pack of runners headed towards me. Glancing at the pack, I realized Liam was one of them with his neon blue shorts on. I was puzzled, his practice was over. Then I wondered what fool was running without a shirt on, waving like crazy. Of course, it was Luke. When Liam jumped in the car twenty minutes later I asked why he'd been running with Luke's crew. Luke, as a freshman, had been the youngest (besides Liam). The rest of the kids were juniors and seniors. Liam grinned and said they had asked him to run with him and encouraged him along the way, especially his big brother. That's the best part of parenting. Seeing them grow, watching what they will become. They get to choose that, not us, and it is an amazing sight to behold. 

Crazy runners - Luke  (no shirt), Liam (blue shorts)


 
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