Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Alarm Clocks and Independence

Since the departure of five of our children---off to college---the logistics in our home have changed dramatically.  Most recently, we are re-decorating the three upstairs bedrooms for the three remaining occupants of the land of Bateman.  This means my house is messy and dusty, I have paint of various shades in places paint was NEVER meant to be, and I'm EXHAUSTED!  It is in this condition that my story for the day begins.

It was 4 am---yes, I said FOUR A.M.  I'd been up until a little after midnight the night before because I was helping paint in my daughter's room.  I should have had my eyes tightly closed and been sitting on a relaxing beach in dreamland.  But I wasn't in dreamland because my daughter's cell phone alarm was going off in the room adjacent to my bedroom.  Did I mention it was FOUR A.M.?  I finally awakened enough to realize I had to find the darned thing and turn it off myself because no one else was even stirring.  They were obviously able to sleep right through that annoying sound, but I was not.  I finally located the sound in the bottom of a school bag under a table (those of you on the program would be proud:).  I was completely annoyed by this time and really considered finding the closest hammer to permanently end the interruption of my much-needed sleep.  I mean I REALLY wanted to destroy that phone---and then wake up my daughter (the operator of the offending phone) with LOTS of really annoying sounds.  I restrained myself and went back to bed.

When I awoke at 5:45 (my usually time), I was calmer.  However, I was determined to take her cell phone away from her for a week and tell her I would be determining what time alarms would go off---not her.  Then I had a shower, some breakfast, some scripture time and decided I was wrong.  It is VERY tempting to slam shut the door when things are not going well.  However, do I want my daughter to someday be able to set an alarm, go to sleep and awaken on time without my help?  Why, yes, I do!  Does my daughter need less practice with alarms or more practice with alarms? She obviously needs more, and maybe a lot more.  Does this mean I may have future interaction with other cell phone alarms at ridiculous times of the morning? Yes! Is it worth it if I can send my daughter off to college independently in three years? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes!

When our children struggle with particular tasks and skills, it is very tempting to say that they can't do it, and remove the task.  Perhaps we even do the task for them. (I type with chagrin since I've done that thousands of times over the course of my 27 years as a mom.)  I already obviously know how to set an alarm and turn it off, but do I know how to teach it? Obviously I need some practice. :/

This isn't limited to alarm clocks and cell phones.  We really need to look at where our children are and what the next steps to their independence should be.  Perhaps they need to practice putting away laundry, or maybe they are ready to learn how to do their own laundry.  Maybe they can help learn to set the table or maybe they are ready to prepare a meal.  What is the next step for them? 

Once we have determined their next step, we need to give opportunities for intentional practice.  I am having my daughter set alarms many times throughout the day/evening.  She is conditioning her brain to hear and respond to the alarm.  She is setting the alarm for all kinds of things---her favorite tv show, dinner time, how long to brush her teeth, how long to work on a project, etc.  She is completely annoyed by the whole thing and has done her fair share of eye rolling and sighing.  That's okay because she is learning and that is the point.  We will keep "practicing" with the alarm until she is completely successful. 

And then we'll choose something else.  Because she is only 15 and she still has a lot to learn.  And I still have a lot to teach her before I feel confident in her independence.  It won't happen by accident.  And no one else but her mother cares enough to give her this information and develop her skills.  Gotta go---the alarm just went off and it's time for our favorite show. ;^)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mission Accomplished

I was in Provo, Utah this past week leaving five of my eight children to attend Brigham Young University.  My childdren ages 27, 25, 22, 20, and 18 will all be taking classes there this fall.  We had lots of fun spending time with our five oldest children.  I must admit when the time came to drive away, there were a few tears.  Saying goodbye was hard, really hard.

Other friends dropping off their children at various colleges around the country reported the same feelings.  We have been comforting each other as some of our children have left the nest.  As we have been talking, we've relived moments of triumph from the past few years---touchdown passes, interceptions returned for touchdowns, dance trophies, half-time shows, pep rallies, toilet papering houses, homecoming and prom dates, band performances, choir awards, fund raisers, service at the nursing home, game-day lunches, bus rides, etc.

So now this group of good kids is in college, and while we are ALWAYS mothers, we can say, "Mission Accomplished!"  Each of these new freshman is A) academically successful (They are attending Princeton, University of Texas, Oklahoma State, Brigham Young, Southern Virginia, Texas Christian, Baylor and others), B) physically coordinated (They are football players, baseball players, drill team dancers, cheerleaders, track runners, etc), and C) socially gracious (They are well-liked by many friends, but also their teachers and their friends' parents).  They still have a LOT of growing up to do, but they are ready to do this outside the protective and watchful eye of their parents---and this is the goal of successful parents, to raise capable independent young men and women.  My "well done" goes out to each of these fine parents.

But not every mother of an 18-year-old with tears in her eyes is crying because her child is successfully leaving home.  Some of them have tears because their child is NOT succeeding---and those are the bitter tears every parent would do anything to avoid.  If only they could have known two things A) what to do and B) when to do it.  I do not propose to have every answer to both of those questions.  I do, however, have some suggestions to answer at least part of the questions.

What to do--There are a LOT of things to do to help ensure the success of your growing child and, again, I don't propose to have every answer.  I do, however, think it would be wise for your first step to be making the decision to be pro-active.  I have know many parents who have lamented taking the "wait and see" approach. 

Once you've decided to be pro-active, then educating yourself would seem to be the next likely step.  Find out how children develop and what milestones to look for along the way.  Do not simply take someone's word for it---learn from a variety of good sources for yourself.  You can begin by taking the Brain Development class---either online or in person.  Check out this seminar information.

Make your home a brain-stimulating environmentNutrition, activity levels, intellectually-challenging opportunities, and others are areas where parents can make some choices that are intentionally set up for growing the brains of children.  Be willing to act contrary to popular culture in your child's best long-term interest.

Stay the course--Raising children to be successful young adults is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  It is something that requires dedication and staying focused on the goal.  Don't give up.  Having a good support system is helpful is very helpful!  The Parents With Purpose Forum may be able to help.

Enjoy the journey with your children.  If your children are succeeding, nothing should be more enjoyable.  Participating in and/or watching my children's activities are my FAVORITE things to do.  Of course, there are tough times that go along with the good ones, but if your children are learning and growing the right direction, even the tough times are helping achieve your goal.

If you look at how your child is progressing along his pathway, and you are not comfortable with their progress, consider another approach to help them.  If YOU are not happy, then don't let other people tell you to stop being pro-active on behalf of your child.  And that brings me to my next point---when to do it. This is a simple answer---NOW.  Don't wait.  Start on the "What to Do" list right away.  Your time with your child will fly by.  Make the best use of these fleeting years while you still can.

My goal for parents participating in the Parents With Purpose program is for them to have the same tears I had last week.  I want you all to experience the successful moment when you confidently send your young adult on their way.  It is a hard moment, but it is what we should be working toward.  Congratulations to all my friends who have shed those tears recently.  Mission Accomplished!