It really isn’t about the making the beds. It’s about equipping and empowering our kids.
My husband, Jon, and I grew up very differently. He in the impoverished mountains of Bolivia, a child of missionaries. I in the affluent side of a west-Texas town, child of a banker. His first car? A Toyota Turcell at the age of 21. My car, a BMW 320i at 17 (yes, I’m one of those). He intimately knew hard work – as a necessity. I was encouraged to work hard by my my folks and was driven by my own desire for excellence. Jon had very little free time on his hands. He spent those golden moments outdoors, usually kicking a soccer ball. I had lots of free time, granted without all the electronic distractions of today. But we did watch t.v., listen to music, lounge by the pool … and thankfully played a lot of competitive tennis. Jon at age seven went to a boarding school, hours from his parents. Shortwave radio the only mode of broken communication, usually twice a month. Conversations went something like this: “Hi Jonathan. How are you? Over.” “Hi Mom & Dad. Just fine. Over.”
Okay, so you probably get the picture. Jon had a dose of life with very little leisure. Lots of hard work. Not much free time. Not much wasted time. Certainly not a life of ease. Expectations to be a man, to step up, to work hard, to take responsibility. In a different way, I also had a home centered on working to the best of your ability. We were expected to make A’s on our report cards, to give 100% to each task, to avoid idle time (especially any spent in front of the t.v.). “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” and “You can do anything you set your mind to” were 2 of my dad’s mantras.
So I hear myself saying the same things to my kids, “You can do whatever you set your mind to”, “the only limit to what you can do is yourself”, but I’m not sure I’m equipping them to be able to embrace those truths.
Although good intentions pave my road of enabling (I want them to be happy, for their life to be free of what I might deem as unnecessary pain) I’m coming to the realization that my message is not one of empowerment, but of degradation. If I’m stepping in, fixing, doing their job for them (even the small things like cleaning the house) … I’m basically communicating the message that they can’t do it themselves. If they can’t do the small things … how will they ever be able to do the big things? When I started this “Extreme Home Makeover Revolution”, I thought my beef centered on entitlement. I’m realizing my enemy is not so as much entitlement as it is low self esteem, resulting from a degrading message that they aren’t capable. Ouch.
I’m one of those moms that the others whisper about at the park. I have never hovered over the play equipment. I explain to my kids the dangerous spots, the places to avoid, then let them play. (This is where I raise some eyebrows and earn judgmental stares.) When my toddler has made his way up the age-inappropriate equipment and is standing at the edge of the 8′ drop. I don’t run to his rescue. I figure that if he/she is crazy enough to step off, he/she will learn to never do it again. Am I insane? Maybe. But I know that if I stand at the edge with my arms up and catch them every time they step off, they will expect me to be there every time. With 5 kids, I can’t always be there. I need them to be able to assess and live within reasonable and safe boundaries. To this day, not one of them has stepped off.
So, the question to me… why am I not equipping my tween/teens the same way. Equipping them to do the work themselves. For themselves. Because, by experiencing success in small ways at home, they receive the message that they really can do whatever they put their minds to … to monumentally affect the world.
Okay, so this isn’t rocket science, and much of it is rather obvious. But, putting it into practice hasn’t been the easiest thing for me. Over these last 10 days, the beds have been made and bathrooms clean. Its a small start for all of us. But it’s definitely opening my eyes, maybe making me a better parent, hopefully keeping me from hovering over this new and much less defined playground equipment.
Tune in Thursday for some amazing words of wisdom from Dottie Jones. Thanks for walking the road with me.