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FACING YOUR FEARS – 31 STORIES FROM M.O.M.
Mid-life isn’t treating Daniel kindly. He’s taking every immature choice of our college-aged kids personally, asking, “What did I do wrong?”
Last night I told him, “I need a list of ten things we’ve done right as parents.”
“10? As in the fingers on both hands?” he asked incredulously. “I married you. That’s my one.”
I insisted he wasn’t getting off so easily with a cop-out, no matter how endearing.
And after just a few minutes of brainstorming, he was surprised — and I think a bit relieved! — by the following Top Ten Things We’ve Done Right As Parents:
10) Family Reading Time
I heard Jim Trelease speak at the Discovery Toys National Convention when Annemarie was four and Jonathon was two. I came home, shared the data with Daniel, and we started reading an hour or more aloud each evening as a family.
We didn’t stop when the kids learned to read on their own. And we continued when our lap-sized kiddos became couch-filling teenagers. In fact, they’re coming home this weekend, and top on our list of family time activities is reading Funny in Farsai together, out loud.
9) Outdoor Time Together
We took a lot of walks together around the neighborhood. Due to scorching Southern California summer temperatures, this often meant getting up at the crack of dawn during the summer rather than sleeping in.
We went up to Mill Creek in the San Bernardino Mountains and spent entire afternoons building dams. We hiked Mount Waterman with our dogs. We weren’t into team sports or anything that cost money — our kids have skied only once! — but we did regularly get outside to enjoy nature as a family.
8) Furry Family Members
Daniel and I had three cats and two dogs before Annemarie came along. Considering how much we doted on Munchkin, Mischief, Meeka, Mon Cherie, and Madonna, she was pretty much Child #6.
To our kids, it’s normal to have two (preferably three) cats, and at least one dog. It’s normal to open up a sealed ice cream carton and find cat fur already inside. It’s normal for dark clothes to be covered in white and for white clothes to be covered in black. It’s normal for someone less than 10 pounds to commandeer your bed and dictate your life. It’s normal to care for someone else’s needs several times a day, every single day of the year.
7) Car Talk
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, have perpetrated more laughter, floor-rolling, and bathroom dashes than any other family tradition (except, perhaps, Game Night.) We listened religiously, bought and wore out all their CDs, and felt like members of the family had “done good” when they showed up in Cars.
Ask if Daniel has any duct tape, and we’ll all break out in, “Duct tape, oh duct tape, oh where is my duct tape? My old boat is leaking, my windshield is cracked…”
6. Small TV, in the corner, turned off
Daniel and I quit TV cold turkey at 3:57 AM fifteen years ago. We’d watched our favorite evening shows, stayed up past reason to watch Jay Leno, and then gotten sucked into what we thought was an action flick with Charlie Sheen.
Early in the movie, a gorgeous Russian chick tells Charlie that back home, she has a dog with three legs; Charlie is deeply moved by this revelation. Daniel and I howled with derisive laughter…and kept watching. In the final scene, the camera pans down from the Charlie-and-Russian-chick lovebirds to — you guessed it! — a small dog, one leg badly airbrushed out.
We sat in stunned silence, realizing that we had sacrificed a full night of sleep for — what has since become our catch-phrase for bottoming out in our TV addiction — “a three-legged dog!”
5. Family Vacations
We only took a few, oh were they memorable!
The “best” part of our Chicago-to-Washington, D.C. trip was finding out — while we were dashing to Midway, with less than an hour before take off — that our flight was actually leaving from O’Hare. Our hotel courtesy shuttle driver, who couldn’t drive us to O’Hare, flagged cabs at the next intersection until he found one that could.
As we sprang from the van and transferred luggage, I screamed, “Where’s the camcorder? Where’s Jonathon’s laptop?” I’d left them back in our hotel room!
Daniel and the kids took the cab while the shuttle driver dashed me back to the hotel and called me another cab while I dashed upstairs to grab our forgotten life-simplifying technological devices. When my cab driver arrived, he announced, “We’re never gonna make it” and then unleashed his inner race car driver.
I arrived at O’Hare a mere five minutes after my family, who were next in line at the Southwest counter. Our luggage was reluctantly accepted, and we sprinted through the airport, receiving our boarding passes — with bonus disapproving frowns — precisely at departure time.
I think we saw a lot of important historical stuff on that trip. But our reminiscence is always full of, “Our taxi driver barely went 25 mph — on the freeway!” and “Remember Mom flying thru the airport in flip-flops?”
4. Open Minds
Daniel and I fell in love over cafeteria trays, as we discussed big ideas from great books. We’ve lived our marriage quite literally “by the book” (more accurately “the bookS“), reading and talking, reading and talking, reading and talking.
A couple of years ago, we plowed through Outliers, then Nurture Shock quickly followed by The Talent Code. Our ideas of what it means to be “bright” or “gifted” dramatic changed as we wrestled and discussed our way through each book, often in the presence of the kids. They listened in on a “book club for two” as we went back and forth — “Yes, but… No, I read it as saying… If that’s true, then it means…” — drawing from personal life examples all the while.
I’d like to think we’ve modeled our own enjoyment of reading and the application of reading to our own lives. I’d like to think we’ve modeled, well, thinking!
3. Creative Pursuits
Martha Stewart, I am not. Our home has long been decorated in an eclectic blend of Mom’s Sewing Projects, Dad’s Music Studio, Jonathon’s Lego Collection, and Annemarie’s Art Supplies. Scrapbooking. Vocal training. Computer games. Photography. Writing. New instruments. Flight lessons. Museums.
We’re a hodge-podge of varied interests, of worlds into which we each disappear and emerge refreshed (if things are going well) or frantic (if things are going poorly). Either way, we understand and respect each other’s interests, no matter how different.
I, for example, can’t draw a straight line to save my life, so Annemarie’s artistic ease amazes me; I’m monotone, so Jonathon’s singing mesmerizes me!
2. Game Night
Most people perceive us to be a fairly sane, sober, intellectual family. This is because they’ve never witnessed Gregory Family Game Night in action. We don’t know exactly why it unleashes so much silliness; it just does.
We didn’t realize just how silly we become until my niece moved in with us; she stared at us with an expression of “Who ARE you people?” for the first few game nights. We’re afraid to invite acquaintances or even friends, considering how much we unnerved a close family member!
Perhaps it’s the rhyming. Or the quoting of movie lines. The quoting of movie lines that rhyme: “No more rhyming, and I mean it!…Anybody want a peanut?” Or the sarcastic reminders of games long past, such as the infamous card game that resulted in a hole in the wall which was then irreverently plugged with stuffed animals according to the season.
Inevitably, someone starts to laugh uncontrollably, which triggers giggle fits in others, and one (or more) of us dropping to the floor, rolling and gasping, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”
For every other kind of entertainment, there’s Master Card.
1. Community of Faith
Our kids are PKs: pastor’s kids. They are also TKs: teacher’s kids. They’ve been the first — and last! — people at church week in and week out. They’ve been used as sermon illustrations, picked on as “teachers’ pets”, pre-judged and re-judged by those who expect PKs and TKs to be without spot or blemish.
Daniel and I knew the statistics on PKs and TKs when we started dating. The odds of raising children who don’t rebel against God and/or the church are so poor, we almost decided not to have any. And it’s possible that either or both of ours will fixate on all the negative, of which there has been plenty.
But there’s also been an abundance of positive, which we pray outweighs the negative.
Our children have been gifted with two decades of amazing mentors at school and church. They both look back on their elementary school years and speak of each teacher with reverential fondness. Despite being opposite individuals in almost every possible way, they both loved their high school years at the Christian boarding academy where Daniel and I both teach. Again, they speak of each teacher with the highest regard and gratitude.
Beyond the classroom, many church members have invested time and energy to influence them.
When Jonathon made his cross-country flight in a duct-tape-and-tinker-toys contraption, they had to land early one day due to an approaching storm. He was deeply moved by the pastor and his wife who came to pick them up from the airport and then cheerfully housed and fed them for three days. He still talks about them in tones of awe.
During her freshman year of college, Annemarie posted a Facebook status that said, “I need a hug and a cup of tea.” Ten minutes later, a church member showed up at her dorm room door, set a cup of tea on her desk, gave her a big hug, and departed.
For many years, our kids found it annoying that they couldn’t go anywhere where someone didn’t know their parents or their grandparents. Now, however, I think they’re starting to experience what a support and comfort it can be that wherever they go, someone will know their parents or grandparents and, more importantly, will love them unconditionally because we share the same Heavenly Father.
So, there’s our Top Ten list of Things We’ve Done Right as Parents! (Last weekend, our kids came home, and they even gave it their stamp of approval!)
How about you? What do you feel like you have done right as a parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, teacher, adult mentor?
Top 10 Things We’ve Done Right as Parents
September 14, 2012 By