The Terry Wright School of Parenting.

I received a random text this weekend from a friend asking if I’d ever thought about giving parenting classes. I was out to dinner with Sarah at the time and she asked if that person had the wrong number. So clearly the answer is “no”. (insert laughing until you cry emoji here).

The follow up text asked if I could recommend a blog or something that might line up with my parenting philosophy and I gave that a good long thought. Several days later I’m here with the answer: I ascribe to the Terry Wright School of Parenting.

Terry Wright is my mom and just about everything I know about parenting (and life) I learned from her. Here are a smattering of those things…

Never assume your kids are too young to be in charge of their own lives. I skipped kindergarten and entered first grade as a five year old because my mom knew I could do it. She never looked at mine or my sister’s homework or asked to see our work…that was our responsibility and expected we would pay the consequences if we skipped it. She attended all of our conferences and events but was also never the mom running up to the school to rescue us if we forgot our lunch/backpack/homework. Whether in first grade, fifth grade or high school, she expected us to be responsible, so we were. Most of the time.

Expect your kids to carry their own weight. My mom never cleaned my room a day in her life. I started doing my own laundry at 10. We had a two story house and my sister and I were the housekeepers, alternating each week who cleaned the upstairs and who cleaned the downstairs. I got a checking account and a $100/month deposit at 11. And before you get all excited about how rich I was, know that I had to buy my own clothes, personal care products and entertainment with that money. Even by 90’s standards that was pretty tight for a kid who wanted a pair of Guess jeans more than she wanted life itself. (I believe I found a pair once at the thrift store. Score!)

Be the hang out house. My mom is an introvert by nature and a self-confessed homebody but she loves nothing more than to have people in her home. Brent has told me for years that if our home is to be the hang out house we’re going to need to get better snacks but my experience in high school negates that school of thought entirely. As a mother-daughter duo in the style of Gilmore Girls (before GG were even a thing) we pretty much had ramen, rice-a-roni and popcorn and teenagers still flocked to our house. Whether we were hanging out in the basement or on the couch in my mom’s bedroom, we knew we were welcome.

You have a life too…live it. My mom was and is an avid reader and most of my childhood memories include her reading a book. She got an associates degree (valedictorian, baby!) when I was in first grade and bachelor’s degree soon after. When we moved to Panama she started her own preschool by recruiting neighborhood children to attend the storage closet she had literally scoured, organized and decorated into a classroom purely through the force of her own will. To say nothing of how she replumbed the connecting bathroom herself and nearly died of a puncture wound and subsequent blood infection. My mom simultaneously raised my sister and I while living the heck out of her own life. Is it any surprise that Meghan and I both started our own businesses with young children at home? Of course we knew we could do it. We had literally seen it done.

Model kindness and empathy. My mom held us to high standards of behavior simply by the example she set. She is not catty. She does not complain. And she is, above everything else, inclusive. The memory that stands out the most to me is from my sophomore year in college. My cousin and dearest friend of my childhood came out of the closet that year. It was 1998 and the world was not as it is now. He was terrified and not everyone in his circle could easily come to terms with this news. My mom immediately started researching and found that our teensy hometown had a chapter of PFLAG and she started going…sometimes with my cousin, sometimes alone. She was determined to be a loving advocate for him. And to this day, she is.

When life gets you down, claw your way back up. My parents divorced when I was in high school after a years-long struggle to stay together. This was not what my mom had planned for her life and she was devastated. But in the months and years that followed I had the honor of watching her grow into an even deeper and more authentic version of herself. She made new friends, tried new things, and did a ton of things that scared her (introvert, remember?). She drove cross-country Thelma and Louise style to pick up a used sports car she bought from her parents in California. She went on a first date and kissed him before he could kiss her, then ran upstairs to tell high school me all about it. She marched for peace against the start of the Iraq War, became an elder in our church (after first refusing as a protest over our policy barring gays and lesbians from leadership, which has since been reversed), she “adopted” an elderly woman who my daughter is now named after, and even briefly became a rabid college basketball fan. She is now married to a wonderful man who treasures the entirety of who she is and where she’s been. She taught me how to face adversity with bravery and aplomb.

In short, my parenting style can be summed up like this: do it just like my mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

options.

I led the prayers of the people at my church Sunday morning and I shared with the congregation a recent conversation my children and I had. We were driving home from school last Friday and they were chattering on as they always do – what games they played in PE, the annoying thing that happened between friends, and, on this particular day, their active shooter drill.

This has been part of our lives for the last seven years when Sarah first entered kindergarten. This conversation is not new. It was raw when my kindergartner first talked with me about the hiding places her classroom would afford her should a “bad guy” enter her school. It was painfully raw the next year when a classroom full of first graders was killed in Sandy Hook and I looked into the eyes of my own 1st grader, knowing there were devastated parents states away who were left with nothing but memories. And it has continued to be raw every single time my mind wanders to the thought of my children cowering in classrooms, facing a reality we seem to have accepted as normal. But it’s not normal.

Last Friday’s active shooter drill conversation centered around the idea of where the 6th graders would hide should they be in a particular area of the school where there is no good place to hide. Sarah, with little fear or reservation in her voice said very matter-of-factly, “I’ve decided that if I can just get out the front door I’ll run home as fast as I can because we live close. At least I’ll have options.”

At least I’ll have options.

NO. I refuse to accept that my 10 and 12 year old consider their “options” to be dashing out the front door and running breathlessly home while an armed intruder kills their teachers and classmates. That is, if they’re lucky enough to even survive. HELL. NO.

We are a country of smart, kind, thoughtful, engaged, creative and driven citizens. We have conquered flight. And space flight. We have dreamed up the internet. We create movies and music that are envied the world over. We write beautiful books and educate our citizens and build roads and bridges and towers that reach beyond the clouds. Don’t tell me we can’t fix this.

We are clever. We can fix this.

We just have to want to. And we have to demand it of our elected representatives.

On Thursday my children and I will load up and start the long drive to Washington D.C. with friends and prayers in tow to participate in the student-led March for Our Lives. I am determined to be part of the solution, not content with the “options” my children have resigned themselves to as they sit in their classrooms, waiting to be next.

 

 

 

to the lady at tea time.

Last weekend I had the chance of a lifetime to visit Jamaica with my two dearest friends. Amy turned 40 a couple of months ago and we continued our tradition of traveling together in celebration of that sacred milestone. I was 21 when I first met Samantha and Amy which alternately feels like an entire lifetime ago and, well, yesterday.  Celebrating our fortieths together is surreal.

So what better place to travel than Jamaica? A land that feels equally surreal as the idea of the friends of my youth celebrating four decades. Each day we wined and dined and wined again, waking to the sounds of breakfast being prepared by the house staff  (apparently this is a thing?!) and lazing our days walking the resort, frequenting the beach bar and trying not to blister by the pool. We are 40(ish) after all which means no more browning to a crisp. Coincidentally, an ad has recently been appearing in my social media feeds, trying to convince me I need some sort of large sticker device to adhere to my chest each evening to ward off…chest wrinkles? No thanks. I’ll just take the age and celebrate the laugh lines as they come.

The house we stayed in was amazing. The resort itself was a dream. But nothing surpassed the company of these friends of my heart. Sharing this time together was such a breath of fresh air amid the dailiness of regular life.

We were enjoying afternoon tea one day (apparently this is also a thing?!) when we struck up a conversation with an older couple seated next to us. We shared a few details about each other’s lives and learned that they too had ties to a service academy (which is how Amy, Samantha and I met), a fun life parallel about 35 years apart. The husband in this couple had recently retired from private medical practice and the wife had retired from a career in banking. She has volunteered for the last seven years at an inner city New York elementary school, instantly making us even bigger fans of her. They raised five children together.

As we sipped our tea and chatted she was surprised to learn that we were each married (since our husband’s were not along) and she inquired about the children at home. She asked how many times a day they had called us to ask a child-rearing question to which we each responded: none. I thought she might choke on her cucumber sandwich.

We just didn’t do that, when I was raising kids,” she said. Of course, she meant the whole thing…the leaving the husbands and children…the girlfriends…the time away to ourselves. But the way she said it lacked any judgement or back-in-my-day air. Instead, it was tinged with awe.

I’ve often thought about the lives of the women who came before me, both those in my own family tree but also those beyond. Surely there are so many things about our hopes and dreams that are the same. But the demands on women to be absolutely everything for their families was so much greater in the generations that came before me. And it’s because of those women, particularly those in the generation of this lovely lady we had tea with, that I am free to simultaneously adore my children, love my spouse, commit to my work and yet leave all three for days of leisure, knowing all will survive without me.

The women of her generation were the ones that forged the path outside of the home…while also manning (womanning?!) every duty inside of it. They didn’t take anything off of their plates, they simply added to their tasks. But because of that struggle and commitment, the balance has shifted for my generation and my peers. We are working toward sharing the care and keeping of children with our spouses. We are negotiating housework based on who is better at which tasks, not based on traditional roles. We are balancing careers and family, yes…but so are our partners. It is no longer a balancing act for women alone.

And we are all reaping the benefits. The fathers that I know in my peer group are so connected to their children, having cared for their daily needs since birth. My mom recently relayed to me how delighted she was to be in a pub and watch two young men across from her sip their beers while also bottle feeding their babies. There were no mothers in sight. I imagine the mothers were working or running or volunteering or, maybe, reconnecting in Jamaica with their closest girlfriends. No matter…those dudes weren’t making any calls for help. And those babies were staring into the faces of their daddies, not thinking anything was amiss. Because it wasn’t.

Thank you, kind lady at tea…to you and the rest of your generation.

 

 

 

 

someone said it better.

I’m happiest when I’m in the middle of a good book. And in 37+ years I’ve learned that no matter how many books I buy from the goodwill (my weakness) I will really only read them if I get them from the library. I think it’s the impending deadline. Which I love even more because it’s a deadline you can extend. Twice.

God bless the library. And librarians.

Anyway, so far I’m about four books into 2018 and my most recent finish was Grace by Natashia Deon. (You should buy it…you’re probably better at reading without deadlines).

I loved the book but there were two sections in particular that stopped me in my tracks. I wished I written both of them. It seemed like she crawled into my heart and spilled it into her book.

The first of the heart-stoppers said simply, when the narrator was speaking of her child,

There were things I still needed to tell her.

That she’s beautiful. That she’s loved. That there’s a God who loves her.

And the second, chapters later in the book and under very different circumstances she elaborates and that’s really when the chill bumps kicked in,

I’d tell her to always enjoy the present. To live in it. I’d tell her about love, too. I’d tell her the love she has for this boy, she’ll feel again. I’d tell her about real love. Tell her to not be fooled by what feels real. Tell her to get married like I never could. Tell her to marry someone who’s kind. I’d tell her to make herself kinder by learning to care for people with bad attitudes and nothing to offer ’cause the kindness she measures to others will be measured back to her. I’d tell her that in the end, we’ll all need somebody to take care of us, if we live long enough. If we get old. That’s when it’ll matter most. When we’re living the consequence of our old yeses and nos. And if you’re lucky, I’d tell her, your caregiver will be your own spouse because you’d have paid for that privilege with your commitment. And if not your husband, let it be someone you love and loves you.

Heaven help me if that isn’t it. Exactly what I want my children to know. That they are loved by an earthly as well as eternal Mother and Father. And that kindness is an action. That we pay the consequences and reap the benefits of our yeses and nos. And that loving someone deeply is the most selfish and selfless action our life can encompass.

Heaven help me if that’s not exactly what I want myself to know too. As I tell my children daily, “we’re all still learning.” Mama included.

 

 

 

 

2018

The only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever successfully kept was the time when I promised myself I’d stop stuffing the washer so full. For the most part I’ve made good on that one. Oh, and one time I decided to actively be kind to a couple of people who weren’t at the top of my favorite humans list. That worked fairly well and was definitely good for my spirit. Outside of those two experiences I’ve found resolving to be less than fruitful.

Instead, I love to use the start of a new year to make a big ol’ list of projects I want to tackle. Often these are business related but these days they’re also focused around our house which we spent most of last year rebuilding from the ground up. We moved back in in August and spent a frenetic two months settling in before busy season hit in October. Now that we’re through the Fall/Christmas stretch I’m ready to project again…art displays, cushion sewing and closet clean out are all on the list.

But more and more I find that my “to do” lists center around the things I want to do with these two kiddos we’ll only have in our care for another 8 years. Our time left with them is short, even though in the daily motion of things it seems like they’ll be here forever.

There are things in each family, about each family member that are markedly eye-roll worthy. In our family one of those things is my long-winded response to any and every question asked by one of my children. In fact, these days they preface most queries with a “Mom, I don’t need a long explanation for this but why…”

This is something I know I do and I’d like to say I’m working on it but the truth is, I’m not. As I’ve told both Sarah and Ephraim, I am highly conscious of the limited days I have left with each of them and there is a long, long, long list of things I need them to know about the world and their place in it before they go. If that means I have to loop around the block an extra time or three before pulling into the driveway because I’m not quite done explaining why “your body is your body” or “you teach people how to treat you” or “the toilet paper roll has to dispense from the top” then so be it. I’ll gladly pay for the extra gas.

My point is this…I’m not resolving this year but I’m list-making instead. And at the top of my list is using these moments with my family wisely. And also maybe blogging again. We’ll see how that one goes. Hopefully it’ll be as successful as the washer situation.