Today’s Table Talk is by my friend Lila Pond. She is a mother, grandmother, and step-mother with years of experience walking countless miles on the parenting road. I ran into her earlier this summer and coerced her into sharing a few nuggets with us. I hope what she has to say will encourage you, possibly lighten your load and hopefully get us all thinking about how to love those around us who might be carrying an extra heavy load today.
Thanks Lila … and thanks for walking the road with me.
What a joy to give a shout out to the MOAT bloggers! I was delighted when Kay invited me to share a little bit of “along the way” experience with you. I read this blog often finding it helpful even in my “grand mothering” stage of life. I have 18 grandchildren and plan to share the wisdom of CLEANING HOUSE with all of them, including those 2 little great grand’s in the mix.
I am passionate about the role of the family in producing a healthy society and it doesn’t take more than a glance to see that we could use some “home improvements” in our family structures. My husband and I had an adolescent/teen in our home for 28 of the 36 years that we have been married. In fact, I guess you could say that I am a MOAT and a SMOAT! That’s right, a Mother Of Adolescents and Teens as well as a Step Mother Of Adolescents and Teens. Not quite the same neat and tidy connotation as MOAT, but nonetheless a reality.
I’ve watched it for 36 years now. People ask, “How many children do you have?” and when I reply that we have 8, they wince, gasp and act as though they need a moment. The next question is commonly along this line, “YOU gave birth to 8 children?” as though I must have lost my mind or sense of restraint or have too many teeth to qualify for this accomplishment. Quite often it feels like I go from potential rock star to someone who has just informed another that they are an Elvis impersonator and not really Elvis when I give my answer to the probing question; “My husband had four little girls when we married 36 years ago. I had never been married nor had any children. We then had four more children …” and it happens. A smirk followed with an all knowing “Ohhhh, I see” emerges with trite remarks like, “I get it; yours, mine, and ours”. Dividing definitions follow and explanations are prodded. Disengagement from the conversation ensues and if the truth were known, mental judgment about how our family must function begins to ruminate in the listener’s mind. My goal in mentioning all of this is to raise the level of awareness resulting in empathy for blended families and the “SMOATS” out there. If you are a MOAT, be a patient judge and listen to your SMOAT friend with empathy (as though you were walking in her shoes).
With today’s divorce rate at 50%, there are far more stepparents trying to find their way and build their family. If you think about it, all families are blended in some way and require effort to be cohesive, loving, and endure. Like it or not, family is where we all begin and a solid beginning never hurt anybody. We may not be able to choose our family, but we can choose how we will interact in our family. No guarantee on responses, but choosing wisely will at least “give peace a chance”.
Let’s explore some things that could be helpful as we build our families by birth, marriage, adoption, or unique circumstances.
- Choose to love your family members unconditionally in spite of how they respond to you or define you. A great rule of thumb is not to let anyone else define you. Outside or peripheral family members and even society will certainly try hard, but be you. You will find that is who you are best at being!
- Be honest with yourself and your family members regarding your personal fears and vulnerabilities. Transparency is scary, especially when dealing with teens, but I have found honesty helps the relationship be authentic. They have fears and vulnerabilities too and hearing age appropriate self-disclosure from you can be both bonding and a bridge to open communication going forward.
- Let’s face it; teens rebel against authority and especially that of their parents. Irrespective of biology, parenting is a stewardship responsibility we cannot shirk and live to tell about it. Have the courage to stand up for what is right with your teens. They want solid fences with secure fence keepers. Communicating the reasoning behind the boundaries or fences is paramount and actually promotes self-esteem in your teens. Your concern is not whether they “like” you at the moment, but if they will grow to like themselves in the long run because they had you in their life to hold them to a higher standard.
Enough for now, but I hope this is a helpful encouragement as you travel down the road. I can tell you first hand that time has a way of proving what you plant. I leave you with this quote by Robert Lewis Stevenson, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”