Monday, April 18, 2011

Questions Answered--The Venting Post

Whew. It's Sunday night, and I already have my head full of posts for the week. Why are some weeks like that? And why are some weeks completely devoid of anything interesting at all? That's a question for all of you.

How do you encourage your kids to read the scriptures on their own? What are your best tips on getting your kids ready to leave the nest?

I'm curious to hear more Heidi news. What's up with the newlyweds?

Are you totally thrilled with Tucker leaving soon on his mission or do you also have underlying melancholy about it? I was so proud of my boys when they went but I was also deeply depressed when they first left - just curious whether anyone else feels the same way, but maybe you can't answer that one y

I read an article from the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago that got my anger juices flowing. You can read it here.  The article summarizes the awkward social bracket encompassing twenty-something men--the changes in society and priorities that have made these men virtually unnecessary.

So many of these problems stem from today's "friend-based" parenting--parenting that's afraid to make the hard calls or to be the bad guy.  Parents can't allow their kids to fail on school projects or assignments for fear of wounding their self-esteem.  Parents can't pass judgment on friends or behaviors for fear of alienating or angering their kids.  Parents can't require hard work for fear of negatively stressing and pressuring these poor tender souls. Somehow, this parenting style has created a generation of women who are overachievers--both in the workplace and with their families, not needing men; and a generation of men that see themselves as merely an appendage to society--absorbed in video games and drunken extended adolescence.

Parents edit kids' COLLEGE papers.  Parents allow kids to move back home to save money for large homes and toys.  Parents micromanage their grown kids' decisions from where to work and where to live.  In short, parents are enabling this lazy, directionless generation.

Here is my parenting view, and it stems from my own experiences as a child and as a young adult.

I married young--two months shy of twenty.  From the second we were married, Brad and I were financially independent from our families.  NO MATTER WHAT.  We bought our first car.  We paid our own rent.  We found ways to finance two undergraduate degrees and three years of law school.  We had our first babies.  And we did it together.  We had little advice from others.  We had no assistance.  And guess what?  We made it.  And look at us now.  Yay for us. Isn't that how most of us did it, way back then?

When Heidi and Tucker each left for college, it was emotionally trying.  I felt like a piece of me was amputated.  But I purposely restrained myself from calling and texting and bugging and interfering.  Why?  Because I want them to grow up, move on, and live as adults.

We assist our kids a little financially with college, truthfully.  But we don't pay for everything.  So far, our system has worked pretty well.  Tucker calls and shares test results or hard assignments.  I offer a little advice and then tell him, "Good luck with that. Love you." I don't stress about his choices or his grades or call his professors (some parents DO that).  I don't offer to edit or read his papers.  I've been astounded to learn that some parents do that.  Really?  It's college, people.  In less than five weeks, he will be completely independent, serving his mission in New York City.  He'll be able to email once a week and call home twice a year.  I'm beginning to see a flash of how hard this will be for me.  Yet I couldn't be prouder--he's making the decisions of a man.

When Heidi got married, she and Sam WANTED to make it on their own.  They insisted that she and Sam start their own cell phone account.  They found a way to manage an apartment of single guys to lower their rent.  Sam works two jobs. Both are in school full-time at BYU-I, and their little baby girl is due in 20 days. They bought their own car, researching and making the best decision for their family.  Would I have bought their car? Would I have managed an apartment?  I don't know.  It's THEIR LIVES.  NOT MINE.  When she calls and asks for advice, I give it.  When she doesn't and she calls to talk, I just listen. I try to avoid, "You should . . . " and "Why aren't you . . . ?" They astound me, and make me so proud.  They are in the very small minority of kids today who are doing things the old-fashioned way--independently.  This way they develop their own family identity and their own preferences.  They also develop pride and achievement. Skills of adults.  Isn't that what we want?  Adults who happen to be our kids?

My kids were born pretty independent, and I fostered that as much as possible.  I assisted on projects when asked.  I did NOT orchestrate projects.  I did NOT plan projects.  And I most certainly did not complete projects "with their assistance."  Do you honestly believe that teachers can't tell the difference between a kid's state report and a parent's state report bearing a child's name?  What does this teach kids?  Mommy will always be there to not only bail them out, but to do the hard things.  I don't want to live my kids' lives.  I want to see how they will live them.

I require my kids to take music lessons.  And I required that they practice, not as much as my mom did, but they practice, and they practice on their own. I took piano lessons.  I don't need to sit at the piano every day any more.  What does music teach them?  Self-discipline and pride in achievement.

I require my kids to do chores--clean their rooms, wash the dishes, mop the floors, mow the lawns (even my girls mow lawns).  I also require them to do their own laundry when they turn eight--at eight they think it's a privilege.  Then they're stuck.  Teaching my kids to work is my least favorite aspect of parenting--it's so much easier to do it myself.  But I already know how to scrub a toilet and fold laundry and mow a lawn.  What does it teach them if they aren't required to help at home?  It teaches them that society owes them cooked food and clean clothes and transportation wherever they want to go--just because they're breathing.

I require my kids to attend Church every Sunday and attend all of our Church functions.  They know that religion is not only important in our family, it is the backbone of our family.  We read scriptures together, pray together, attend meetings and sit together.  They know there is no other option while they live under this roof.  I see them changing and growing, learning to be independent of me.--learning what they believe.

Don't get me wrong.  If they ever need a soft place to land, I'm here, willing to help however I can, but  I want them to have the tools they need to stand on their own, tall and proud.  And independent.
Guess I'm a little old-fashioned that way.

Brad and I have been watching this mother bird and her hatchling in our peach tree.  One day I peeked into the nest and found an interloper!  I told Brad that something had happened and a big ugly bird had taken up residence. It was the teenager bird--gawky, without all of its feathers yet. And almost as big as its mama.  It was strange to see.  And I thought, "It's time for you to learn to fly, little one."

I wonder if she will be sad to see her baby go or if she's already got plans on how to rearrange her nest.  Probably a little bit of both, because that's how it should be.



  1. so many thoughts of my own, now. Teaching your kids how to work takes more patience and work on the part of the parent than if parents did it all alone. So I am finding. And it is frustrating.

    But, worth it in the end. right? right?!

  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post and feel so much the same ways.
    I often wonder/worry that my husband and I do too much for our children. Don't get me wrong, we don't provide a whole lot of luxury, but I do a lot more than I need to or maybe should do and then I find myself wondering why the kids don't help out more, or why the kids aren't more independant. Duh......
    We live in an area where there are so many kids having things handed to them left and right (credit cards, cars, fashionable clothing, money, etc...) they don't have to earn anything, it's just handed to them.
    I'm glad my kids have a better grasp on reality than that, but I still think I do too much.
    As for getting kids to read the scriptures on their own....let me know when you find a good answer for that one.

  3. Great post Jenny. You are right on about not making children grow up and be prepared for adult life. That is one really amazing thing about serving missions... The boys are forced to grow up immediately after High School. By the time they are done serving their missions, they are ready to face the world. (Hopefully).

  4. i love how you put...'religion is the backbone of our family' nicely put! i totally agree!

  5. Let me shed a little light on this. She was not always this way. As a kid in elementary schools, (schoolS) I was often protected by my mother, with or without request. She defended, she called teachers, she ranted to principals, and generally, I had an ok childhood.

    As I grew older, my mom interfered less and less. This is something that she has worked at for years and years. I wish I was half as good at staying in control as she is. Then again, she's had a LOT longer to work at it ;)

    I am proud to say that I grew up with my mom teaching me and guiding me, and as I grew taller and bigger and smarter (maybe) I needed less and less help. Knowing my mom as I do, it was hard for her to let go of control. But I'm so proud of the way she's grown in this respect.

    Occasionally I think, "Man!!! My life would've been so much better if I had been Hyrum or Micah. My parents would've been so much more experienced." But when I think that, I remember watching my parents make mistakes. Mistakes I'm grateful I saw so that I can learn how to effectively parent. Am I going to make mistakes?

    Of course not.

    Ok maybe.

    But I'm glad I grew up in a house where mom didn't hide me under her wing the whole time, but instead, gave me the chance to fall so that I could learn.

    Love you Mom!!!

  6. That WSJ article almost made me re-think my Empire Strikes Back pillow case.

  7. Anna:
    That comment from Tucker should say it all. Here I sit in tears, knowing the reward does come.

  8. Thanks for another wonderful post -- I'm so glad I found you! Your honesty is helpful to us moms with younger kids who are further back on the path than you. Thanks!

  9. Amen!!! I'm just starting the parenting journey, so I'm still trying to figure it out, but I so agree with what you said. My mother-in-law taught me that it is ok to be a "mean" mom, because in the end, that is what is best for the kids. So, in my eyes, mean moms are good moms, not mean, just trying to teach their children how to stand.

  10. Jenny, I couldn't agree more with your parenting style. My oldest is graduating college in a few weeks too, then off to start her life in NYC (like your son!).

    She and I were just talking about the glaring differences between her and several of her roommates independence-wise. The fact that she knows how to do laundry, clean a kitchen, pay bills, deal with a parking ticket etc. without me holding her hand is something that I feel very proud of.

    When she turned 16, we went straight to the bank to open her checking account. I showed her how to do everything, but my name was not on that account -- I wanted her to know it was HER money and HER responsibility.

    I was also a young mom - just 19 when I had her, though I was single. I had the same kind of upbringing, and I knew that for me, one of the most important jobs as her mother was to teach her how to be an independent, self sufficient adult.

    It's pretty exciting seeing her reach that milestone.

  11. What a fabulous post! Your philosophy on raising children reflects those of mine and are pretty similar to how I raised my two boys. Although, I waited until they turned 12 to teach them to do their own laundry! ;) Love Tucker's comment. What a testimony to your and Brad's parenting.

    I do not feel I did my boys an injustice in how I raised them. I wanted them to be prepared for adulthood and, compared to many of their peers, they were much more prepared for it. My dil was raised in a sheltered environment and one devoid of chores and responsibilities but she has come a long way since I first met her and I am proud of her.

    ~ Tracy

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  13. I am right there with you Jenny, and I am proud of them too!

  14. Your Parenting style reminds me of my mom - and I miss her so much! I miss calling her and when I would need/ask for advice, she'd give it and that would be that (never ever getting upset if I didn't follow her advice) or if I just needed a listening ear, she'd listen and let me "vent" or whatever was needed.
    Thanks for sharing....I still have a little bit of a ways to go - but it helps me (as a mother with little kiddos) know what direction to go NOW. I've always looked up to you and your family. :o)

  15. married at 21. cut off, except my mom secretly kept us on the family cell phone plan until sean graduated from physical therapy school. bless her. she also helped us with gas money for the last year when i was student teaching and driving from rexburg to idaho falls every day. we have gotten absolutely ZERO money from sean's family. it's been really good for us. i am so happy with how far we have come, how much the lord has helped us achieve. he truly is why we've made it. how blessed we have been.

  16. Perfectly said! That's why I love reading your've done it, and are currently doing it with children becoming adults. I'm not there yet, but it will come soon. Thank you for your knowledge, and more importantly, for sharing it. My oldest is almost 13, my instincts are to continue doing for him because I love him so much, but I've found myself stopping and thinking about what i'm doing or saying. I often conference with my husband to talk about it. Thank God for good Men. We Moms need to stop and remember why the good ones are so great!

  17. WE are soul sisters I tell you. I could have written this post word for word - this is exactly how Kurke and I started out and made it on our own and it is exactly what we have done with our children. It is a pretty good thing to help our young people become self sufficient and independent by actually making THEM do it!!
    Good job to you!

  18. BEST. POST. I have ever read.
    A to the Men.

  19. Over the weekend, I was reminded of the parenting-is-not-convenient part of life. I am so tempted to increase the chore list, now. I have 1 who does his own laundry, but I am sure that more of them could:) You/we have good, good kids. We are so blessed. And they really are so much fun!

  20. Sounds like we have the same parenting philosophies. I only raised four but they are all independent, married and serving the Lord. I love them and respect them so much and vice versa. Just read this while reading about your son going off to New York. When my daughter went to the mission field in Sudan, our house looked the same. I also felt empty for awhile. But then, as we chatted on the computer, I felt that I too was on the mission field and it gave me such a purpose. One of encouraging a missionary. No mail service! No phone! No Skype. But chatting became my lifeline to my daughter and to a little orphanage in AFrica. I am praying for your son and his mission.