From “Addled” to Inventor

laughter

Thomas Edison was the youngest of a large family. A hearing problem and a disconnect with his attention span (“prone to distraction”) made it difficult for him to learn. Or perhaps, it would be correct to say that it was difficult for a teacher to teach him. At any rate, his school teacher labeled him as “addled”. After twelve weeks of being in school,  his mother pulled her hyperactive child from the classroom and taught him at home.

Instead of stifling her son, she allowed him to fill his appetite for books and for learning.  She managed to do this with him learning independently.

According to the story told by Thomas years after his mother’s death, he was homeschooled after that comment from the teacher. He recalled that his mother did visit the school to speak with the teacher about the term he used to describe her son.

From that day forward, she taught Thomas at home. She recognized his abilities and encouraged him to learn and to stretch himself. She also understood his problem with being easily distracted.

Not once did she treat him as someone who was unable to learn. Not once did she focus on his seeming learning disability. She knew her son, and she knew his capabilities. With that in mind, she encouraged him to learn under her tutelage.

That young boy became a famous inventor. Were it not for him, our world would be so different now. There is no doubt that the response of his mother pushed him in the right direction to use his mind and become an inventor. That boy was Thomas Edison.

As mothers of children who are in school or out of school, there are some things we can learn from Mrs. Edison.

In today’s world, a teacher labeling a child with words like “addled” would send the parent straight to the principal or the school board. No doubt the mother would be blasting it all over social media, developing an instant following whereby she could prove that there was nothing wrong with her child, that the system was flawed, and that the teacher or school was at fault and was failing her child. This child would become entitled, feeling that all the world is a stage and he is the central figure, today and always. All the world is a stage, and the child’s performance is the best he can do and cannot be measured or downgraded by anyone. For, after all, he is a child and the world owes it to him to let him succeed.

Tell me it ain’t so!

This does not just happen among parents who are not believers. It happens in every school setting there is. A child gets his feelings hurt and one or both of the parents rush to his rescue, declaring war on the teacher, the school board, or the school system. Sometimes it happens in our own churches. A Sunday school teacher reprimands a child, and the parent gets upset.

A teacher invokes a consequence and parents get in an uproar. A rule is handed down and enforced, and suddenly the world is unfair and no child should be left behind or be made to endure such a hardship.

Mrs. Edison taught, by her example, that even when life is not fair, we can rise above that unfairness. She took an unfortunate situation and turned it into something positive – and in turn channeled her son’s mind, developing an inventor the likes of which we have not seen since.

What would have happened to Thomas had he remained in that school?  Who knows. Perhaps a teacher would have come along who encouraged him, who saw the potential in his little mind and bolstered it by her support and applause.

For Thomas, it didn’t happen. And he was none the worse for the school system that failed him BECAUSE his mother did not allow this to defeat him or to defeat her.

Her attitude shaped his world and he gave us the light bulb, the telephone, the telegraph, and so many more things. The unfairness of a label did not stifle his mind because his mother did not allow that to happen.

Thomas didn’t know life was unfair, for his mother took the situation and turned it into something positive for Thomas. She rose to the occasion, rose above the unfairness, and succeeded in outfitting her son with developing his full intellectual potential despite the unfairness of life.

Had Thomas Edison been raised to be “entitled” to have the best education, the best help for his mental distractions, the best advantage possible, think how different his outlook would have been. Instead, he had a mother who rose above the label given her son, who didn’t fault or blame the teacher or principle and proclaim it loudly for everyone to hear. We have a mother who faced the battle squarely in the eye and won the conquest.

Not only do we have Thomas Edison to thank, we should also applaud his mother.

Moms – when you think you need to right the wrongs for your kids, when you think it’s time to set things straight, when you want your child to have always and only the best, remember Thomas  Edison and his mother.

Remember that life is not fair – and the sooner your child learns it, the better he will succeed. Help him learn to rise above the difficulties instead of bailing him out. Help him accept what limitations he has, then encourage him to reach for the stars. Cheer and applaud, but don’t trample others underfoot in order to achieve success for your child. Don’t addle your child by focusing on the label. Focus instead of who he really is.

I am not saying that when adults are wrong we should applaud them. I’m not saying that speaking with an adult in private is never in order. I’m simply saying this: when we respond wrongly to what happens to our kids, it can mar them for life. Is that really what we want?

We tend to want to make sure that no one else does something that will mar them, yet we fail to consider how our own attitudes and actions can cripple them. We can raise bridge builders or we can raise delinquents who always expect others to fight their battles for them instead of owning up to their own weaknesses and wrongs.

Choose the high road; help your child respond positively when life is unfair instead of encouraging him to wallow in the mire of a wrong mindset. Teach him that in Jesus, he can do all things. Instead of trying to make an adult pay for hurting your child, model to him that nothing is too hard for God and He can help us rise above what is unjust and untrue.

When you think life is not fair for your child, remember Thomas Edison and his mother. Respond like she did. Who knows, you might be raising a son who, because of your attitude, will contribute a wonderful good to society.

addled

 

How to Help Your Child Be a Daniel in School

be a Daniel

No matter where your child goes to school, he can learn to be a Daniel.

No matter who your child’s peers or friends are, there will be peer pressure. Whether your child is in homeschool, private school, church school, or public school, there will be peer pressure. We see it, not only in families and churches but in society at large. It is a part of life, and pretending that it does not exist is one of the greatest detriments to our families.

Dave and I chose to have our children in public schools in our county. This worked for us because of the community and county in which we lived. It might not work for you, and it might not be what you choose to do. No matter where your child goes to school, he will likely run into a conflict – either with an adult or a fellow classmate – at some time during his education. Even if he is homeschooled, he will experience peer pressure in church, sports, or other social events. That’s the way our enemy works.

be a Daniel

The principles of teaching our children to be a “Daniel” are true no matter how we choose to educate our children.

As we teach and train our children, we must constantly measure our instruction with God’s word. Is what we are teaching plumb with His Word? Is the bubble right in the middle or it is off to the side?  Our measure is His word and not those around us, even if they are family, friends, or church folks.

Our children are all we can take with us to Heaven. They are our greatest responsibility.  How can we send them out into the world to be inundated with the philosophy of ungodly wisdom? How can we expect them to dare to be a Daniel when their peers are moving with the crowd? How does a parent train and guide a child as he/she makes decisions which could affect the rest of his life? How, especially, can parents ask their kids to be different from their cousins or church friends?

Every parent knows the scripture in Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go [according to his bent] and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

be a Daniel

Training is More Than Protection

Training is a life-long process. The purpose of this process is to develop an understanding and conscience against evil and a desire to do good.

In our effort to protect our children, we often fail to recognize that protection does not make a person stronger. All of earth’s nature tells us that! Children who are allowed to get dirty develop a greater resistance to bacteria and germs than those who are sequestered away from normal childhood dirt. Children who have learned to face new situations adapt better than those who always have someone working out the wrinkles for them.

be a Daniel

It’s true that we should never “throw our kids to the wolves”, but we can help them develop battle plans for when wolves are threatening to devour them. It’s true that we’d never want to push our child outside during a tornado, but we can help him learn what to do in the event of the threat of a tornado. The only way to do these things is to have our kids experience those maneuvers under our direction and supervision. By modeling for them and tutoring them, we are helping prepare them for dangers and pitfalls – and for life.

Sadly, some children and youth face peer pressure among their own church friends and youth group peers. It happens more often than most folks care to admit. Sometimes the pressure comes from uncles and aunts, and sometimes it even comes from leaders. It ought not to be so, but it happens.

Just because our kids are in church or in a Christian school does not guarantee there will be no peer pressure and no times when they might need to stand alone. Satan is alive and well. Why would we think he will leave our kids alone just because they are in church or in a Christian school setting?!

What Made Daniel Different

When Daniel and his Hebrew peers were taken captive to a strange country with foreign gods, they had a choice. They could give in to the king’s demands and eat what had always been forbidden by God, or they could offer an alternative and then be prepared to respectfully refuse and stand alone. You can read the story here.

Scripture tells us “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

What happened to all the other “young men” who were taken captive?  We don’t know how many were taken captive or if they were all in the same prisoner group. We do know that Daniel and his friends are listed here as those who took a stand.

Daniel and his friends could have used some peer support. What made them stand out?

They knew God’s law and what was required of them. They knew God was with them, even in this pagan land where the culture and language were foreign to them. They wanted to follow God instead of these pagan people.

I wonder if part of it was the training of their parents as well as their own developing faith and trust in God. I also think Daniel knew what God had commanded His people, and he wanted to follow those commands.

If I had been Daniel’s mother, I would have been so pleased. That’s the kind of son any mother wants to claim as hers.

When your child faces a situation where he must make a choice, there are certain steps you can take to continue that training process. You can help him learn to be different and to take a stand.

So what can we do to help prepare our children to find their way across the foreign territory and false teachings?

Seven Things to Do When You Feel Your Child is Being Tossed to the Lions

When your child faces a situation where he must make a decision or a choice, there are certain steps you can take to continue that training process. Your child can learn to be a Daniel, too.

  1. Get a correct grasp of the situation. This will involve talking with the adults (teacher/youth leader/coach) and possibly other peers as well as your child. Ask God to help you understand the situation as it really is.
  2. Help your child understand the situation. Ask his perspective. He might be too young to realize that what is being asked of him is not best or right. Discuss the issue with your child explaining what the Bible says. Take him to the Word! Your child will find it easier to argue with you than with God’s Word.  Ask God to help your child correlate Scripture with what is being asked/required of him. When the son of a friend of ours was asked to do a paper on what sign he was born under, she took him to the Bible and showed him what God had to say about astrology. She asked him if he thought God would approve of this assignment.
  3. Discuss alternatives. This is what Daniel and his friends did. They recognized the king’s desire was for them to be in the best physical condition. They proposed an alternative to his plan (eating pulse and drinking water instead of the King’s food), then asked God to bless them and help them become as healthy as the king desired. The king granted their request and they were the fairest and finest in the land – proof that God can change the hearts of kings and bless those who are obedient to Him. Our friend’s son chose to ask his teacher for an alternative assignment and was granted it.
  4. Discuss the consequences of the decision he will make.  No matter which way he chooses, there will be consequences your child may face as a result of his decision. [“What do you think your teacher/youth leader will do when you tell him you won’t be able to do this assignment? What will your classmates/friends say? What are you going to tell your friends about why you can’t participate in this activity/assignment?”, etc.] Being prepared for battles helps win the war. What if the teacher still requires the assignment to be done?  What will you do?
  5. Do not run interference for your child. Allow him to do his own negotiating/reporting with his teacher/leader if he is capable. He will claim more ownership if he reports to his teacher/leader instead of having you do it for him. Encourage your child to discuss his experience afterward and affirm and encourage him. Just what was the response of his teacher/friends, etc.?  Was it difficult to be laughed at and made fun of? How did he feel? Did he make the right decision? What might he have done differently?
  6. Be sensitive to your child’s developing faith and conscience. Your child may make a decision which you feel is not necessary. One of our children chose not to dress as a cartoon character one year because he didn’t feel comfortable doing it the same week as Halloween. While we ourselves had no problem with the activity, we never told him. We supported him and his developing conscience as he made that choice to be different from the rest of his class. Certainly, there was nothing wrong with his choice, and it helped grow him up.
  7. Recognize your responsibility for the spiritual welfare of your child. When necessary, exercise your authority. At times you might need to refuse permission for your child to participate in an activity because of your convictions despite the desires of your child or other adults who want him to participate. Even though the adults might be believers or even fellow church members, you are the one responsible for your child. Remember that.

As parents, we need to recognize that each child and each situation is different. There are no hard and fast rules to follow (except for, of course, following the commands of Christ.) Our focus on eternal perspective helps us as we make decisions regarding the souls of our children.

be a daniel

 

 

10 Back 2 School Tips: Making It the Best Year Yet

school bus 2

No matter which way you choose to educate your kids, here are 10 helpful tips to get you started as your kids head back to school. Here’s wishing you the best school year yet!

I recognize that many parents choose alternatives to public school. There are parents who send their kids to a Christian school, and there are parents who choose to homeschool. No matter where your kids get their education, it’s important that we teach and model integrity and an attitude of “doing your very best” in the schooling of our kids.

So while we chose to have our kids in public school, this blog post isn’t saying that you’re doing it wrong if you choose a different approach. A few years back I had a friend in the Charlottesville, Virginia area who shared with me that their schooling journey with their three children changed year by year.

“We take it year by year, and child by child,” she said.

That particular year, she was homeschooling one child. Another child was in a Christian day school. And the third one was in a public school. She explained their reasons, and they made sense to me.

Please don’t criticize someone else’s approach. If you think they’re wrong, then pray for them. And remember to pray for your own kids as well.

Some of you might think I’ve gone “from preaching to meddling,” but here goes.

school classroom

“I wonder who is going to be my teacher this year!” was the sentiment we often heard in our house the last weeks before school started. No matter if a child was going to have one teacher or be in a group with three teachers, the concern was always: who am I going to get?

I was at an event one afternoon when a kindergarten teacher told me, “I’ve been teaching in this school for years, and I’ve never gotten to have one of your kids. I don’t understand why.”

Our youngest was entering kindergarten, and it was her “last chance” at having one of those Slabach kids. It seemed she thought perhaps we had requested specific teachers for our children.

While I was flattered that she wanted to have one of our kids in her classroom, I also knew that she might have found out our kids weren’t as perfect as others seemed to think they were.

And the thought that we would have requested specific teachers for our kids stymied me.

We didn’t. The only thing we did was pray, and I told her so.

We would have had to have a biblical reason for requesting – or requesting to not have – specific teachers for our kids. And I’m here to tell you that, depending on in whose classroom our kids might have ended, we’d have gone to bat.  It’s something we never needed to do.

Over the course of our kids’ education, we’ve been through over 250 teachers from grades K-12. I learned to get a quick feel of things from our visits during an open house.

school classroom 2

I recognize that school systems are different in different counties and regions. No matter where your kids are in school (whether public, private, or homeschool), there are some principles to consider. Implementing these will go a long way in helping your child (and you) have a successful school year.

kids colors in chain

  1. Be positive where you can be. How many notes of appreciation do you write to your children’s teachers?  Start at the beginning of the year and let the teachers know you have their backs. Give your support where you can, and be appreciative of the efforts of your child’s teacher. Then if you ever have a complaint, the teacher will be more ready to listen because you’ve been positive earlier.
  2. Don’t let the classroom activities (or teacher) negate what you teach at home. Let your child’s teacher know that, even though you might not be on the same page as he/she is, there are some things you expect: that what is taught in his/her classroom will not negate what you are teaching your children at home.  Meet with the teacher if you feel you need to ahead of time, and you might be surprised at how receptive he will be to your concerns.
  3. Listen to the teacher’s side of the story. Let your child’s teacher know that you expect to be informed if your child has negative behavior. “If he’s in trouble in school, he’s in trouble at home” should be your philosophy. This doesn’t mean that you will discipline your child for anything the teacher reports to you without investigating. It does mean that you’ll be hearing both sides of the story and take action accordingly.
  4. Listen to your child’s side of the story. Let your child know “If you’re in trouble in school, you’ll be in trouble at home.” Your child will know that this isn’t blanket insurance for the teacher. If your child knows that you’ll be contacting the teacher to get his/her side of the story, he will be less likely to embellish what actually happened in the classroom.  schoool pencilsI recall on one occasion when a child came home and gave me a long story about something that had happened in the classroom that day (regarding his excuse for poor behavior). I replied, “Well, after I call the teacher and hear what she says, I’ll talk to your father and then we’ll go from there.”“Oh that’s all right, Mama,” the child replied. “You don’t need to call her.” Another time we received a call from the school regarding an incident with our child. When we researched the situation (hearing both sides from our child and the adults involved) my husband made an appointment with the school.  After meeting with those involved, it became clear that an injustice had been done in how things were documented, and an apology came forth from the adult who had brought the charges. Even though Dave was frustrated with what happened, his attitude toward the adults was respectful and kind. What happened had no negative effect on our child’s school file.  We recognize that educators are not immune to making mistakes, and we believed in showing grace because we’ve often needed it ourselves.
  5. Your child does not need to participate in everything. “Everybody is participating” is not a reason for your child to participate. You have the right to withdraw your child from activities if you feel they are not something in which you want your child to participate.  Truthfully, it seems like it’s easier to do that in a school than a private (especially a Christian) school.  There is less stigma toward a child who doesn’t participate because ethnic and religious backgrounds are so varied that teachers aren’t surprised when a child isn’t allowed to participate.  When administrators know your positions, they expect you to be different and are not surprised when there are activities in which you do not want your child to participate.
  6. Discuss concerns with the teacher before an event. If you have concerns about specific holidays, school productions, or a field trip, talk to the teacher ahead of time. Your children don’t need to attend a Halloween party. They can be excused from art activities (and you’d be surprised at the number of children who, from various religions, are excluded from some of these activities). If your child comes home and is disgusted that another child can’t participate in such activities as Mother’s Day (yes, it happened in our school), be supportive of those parents and that child. Your kid will learn quickly whether or not you think your reasons are good enough to be exempt but other parents’ reasons are not.  school boys field trip7. Be a Volunteer. Offer to help at the school. There is bound to be something you can do, even if you do it from home. I’ve helped cut out patterns for activities, baked cookies, provided pizza, and sweated ferociously on field day.  Maybe you don’t want to provide snacks for a Halloween party, but are you willing to do it for a Valentine’s party?  Can you volunteer on a field trip?  I was always amazed at the things I learned about my child and her classmates just by spending a few hours as a volunteer in her classroom.On one field trip, I was paired with four other boys plus my own son.  By the end of the day, I figured out why.  I had been assigned some of the most unruly boys.  Other parents just had one other child besides their own.  Not this mom.I knew I was in trouble when my fifth grader said to me that morning after I received my assignment, “It’s okay, Mama.  I don’t think   they’ll be too bad.”I could have complained to the teacher and refused to be responsible for those boys – but what would have been my purpose?  All of us   survived, and some of those boys still seem happy to see me if I run into them in town.
  7. 8. You are not the teacher or the administrator.  You really aren’t! Your husband might be on the school board, but that doesn’t give you license to manipulate, nor does it give your child special privileges. No teacher should be expected to turn his back on your child’s behavior just because of who his father and/or grandfather is/are.  Nor should they be expected to curve a grade just because of who a child is, but it happens all the time.If we start going down that road, we’re teaching our kids that it’s okay to get privileges for things we have not done. Is that really what we want for our kids? Before long, they’ll be undermining our authority because they’ll be copying what we have modeled for them. Your child failed a test or didn’t get a good grade on a project? That’s no need to go to bat for him. Consider whether or not his work deserved a better grade. You can suggest he asks his teacher if there is anything he can do to help bring up his grade; but don’t be the one to ask the teacher. He needs to take that responsibility. Having a parent in the school system or on the school board is no reason for the adult to try to fix a problem he created himself from lack or studying, laziness or sloppiness. Our kids don’t need us to fix things or to fight their battles.  Most kids wouldn’t think of it on their own; so when they try to maneuver in order to get a better grade, it’s fairly certain they watched someone they know do this very thing. Our children need us to model righteous living, and neither finagling nor manipulation is a righteous way to live. They need us to be in their corner, but they don’t need us to be their corner!

school art drawing

  1. Your child needs to learn to fight his own battles.  That’s a tough one! I remember the day I told my husband, “If you don’t do something about this, I will!” I was talking about a situation with our third grader who was frustrated with a situation in his classroom. Every day, our child came home from school, slammed the door, and ran up to his room because he was so upset. I realized later that my sympathy wasn’t helping him at all; it was merely fueling his frustration. If it had been up to me, I’d have been down at the school setting that teacher straight.  But my husband chose to take a biblical approach. “If we fight this battle for him, he won’t learn how to do it right,” he told me. He sat down with our son and asked him to verbalize his frustrations.  Then he explained to him that, biblically, the right thing to do was for him to talk to the teacher and explain his frustration. Then my husband helped our son see how the teacher would feel about a student coming to her.  He suggested that, when there’s a problem, if we have a complaint, we should also be able to present a possible solution.  Our third grade son came up with ideas that he thought would work. He went to school the next day with a plan:  ask the teacher if  he could talk to her alone; meet with her alone and compliment her on the things she was doing right (from his perspective) in the classroom.  Share his frustration and, if she asked for suggestions, be prepared to give those suggestions respectfully. We stayed out of the school, and we prayed.  Oh my goodness.  I stormed the gates of Heaven that day because I wanted to protect my kid. And God came through without my help. He got off the bus that day, and I knew instantly that things were okay. Imagine that. “When he came back from PE, she had changed the seating around and put up the new consequences for us.  Things are better already,” he told me. The clincher for me was when he said, “I am so glad Papa told me to talk to her by myself first.  It was much better this way.” So yeah, all hovering mamas out there: sometimes you just need to help your child figure out the problem and a plan, then back off and pray. It’s okay if you cry a little, but he doesn’t need to see your tears. How do I know? I’ve been there.school praying
  1.   It doesn’t matter where your kids are in school. They need your prayers. o matter how much we try to protect and prepare them, life is going to hand them curve balls.  Your home might not have pornographic material, but they’ll see it in town and in the library. Don’t think just because your child is being homeschooled or in a Christian school that they won’t be tempted to fudge, cheat, lie, or get in with the wrong crowd. Ask God to make sure your child gets caught if they’re into something they should not be doing. Our group of moms enjoyed a hearty laugh the morning a mom told us her story. As moms of kids in our county, we had been meeting weekly to pray for our kids. We had been specifically praying that if any of our kids were into anything dishonoring to God, they’d be caught. This mom had gotten up that morning and gone to her desk.  There, lying right on top of a pile of papers, was a test with a failing grade that was to be signed by the parent.  Her signature was on the line, but she hadn’t done it. Her son had forged her name and inadvertently left it at home instead of taking it to school that day. We should not have been surprised that he got caught.  Hadn’t we prayed?!  And yes, we thanked God for answering that prayer! Pray for your child and for his teacher. Pray for his classmates, especially the ones who are having a hard time in school.

school sign

 

As Christians, the way we live and the way we do school with our kids should reflect that we love Jesus. He wants to use our hands, our feet, and our hearts. So ask God to show you how you can be a healer to children in the classroom who come from hurting homes. then get in there and get involved, praying as you go.

As another school year approaches, go ahead and implement these 10 principles. If it seems overwhelming, choose a few to focus on at first, and then add to your list. You’ll be well on your way  to a successful school year.

 

Giving Your Kid What is Best – Even When It Hurts

trenches red shoes

 

As hard as it is, if our love is real, we’ll give our kids what is best  – even when it hurts.  In the throes of raising kids, sometimes it’s just plain hard to keep that goal in mind.  It’s hard to focus on where I want my child to be then  when it’s so painful now.

The little girl in this story is now grown; she will be a senior at Virginia Tech this fall.  Today I applaud the many teachers of Halifax County Public Schools who were involved in her life (and the lives of all of our kids) and who supported us in the way we raised our kids.  This story is in the book Southside Glimmers.

Loving in the Trenches

trenches NOTE

 

I found the note one day this summer.

“I am runing away.  Srrey.”   my almost-seven year old had written.

She must have changed her mind — or else she’d left and decided to come back before I found the note.  When I went to look for her, she was riding her bike in the yard.

This wasn’t the first time she’d declared her independence from us.  When she was four, she moved in with an aunt and her family—and stayed there one day for each year of her life.

“I am tired of you bossing me around,” she said.

She didn’t want to brush her teeth or comb her hair.  She saw no need to make her bed or pick up her toys.

“I don’t want to be your little girl anymore,” she informed me one day after another battle of the will.

Oh, but she did.  She just didn’t know it—yet.

For several days, she insisted she wanted to live somewhere else.  In exasperation one day, I told her to choose a place to live.

She did.

The folks she chose agreed to let her move in with them.  I helped her pack her bag.

We read The Runaway Bunny together, more than once, by her request.  I told her I was just like the mama in the story. She could go away, but she would always be my little girl.  I would always love her, no matter what she did.

That evening, we sent her on her way.

Did I cry?  Has it rained this July?  Did I pray?  Does night come before day?

She gets it honestly, I suppose.  Her father tried that number once as a little chap.  He informed his mom that he was leaving because she was too mean.  His wise mom called his bluff.  She packed his clothes and put him on the porch. Then she closed the door and cried.

What will I do if he actually leaves?  She wondered.

I know she prayed.  He didn’t get far that night before he decided to come back.

“If it hadn’t been dark, I’d probably have been gone,” he says today.

So when his littlest princess decided she didn’t want to be bossed, he took it in stride.  He knew she’d be back.

We trusted his sister to support us in raising our child.  There’d be none of the usual frills of a sleepover at Aunt Ruth’s house this time.

The other kids didn’t seem to mind her being gone.  Normally, I wouldn’t have, either.  In fact, on the days our little tornado is gone from home, there is less “stuff and mess” to deal with than when she’s here.

But now I missed the mess — because of what its absence meant.

Eventually, she decided she wanted to come back.  She was too proud to admit it by herself.

So a friend helped her find the words to say that she wanted to come home.

I am grateful for my friend Sue and our child’s Aunt Ruth.  They supported us and loved her as well.

She came home one afternoon and didn’t know quite how to act. Neither did we.

How could we show her the depth of our love?  Rolling out the red carpet would have applauded her defiance. Ignoring her absence might have indicated a lack of care.

There was no “happily ever after” in our house. The battle lines remained drawn. She still had to make her bed and brush her teeth.  She had to pick up her toys.

Less than twenty-four hours after her re-entrance into our lives, we had one of those “meet me in the bathroom” sessions.  She asked for it.  No, she begged for it as she deliberately poked her foot across forbidden lines, daring me to stand up to her.  I couldn’t let her down. I don’t know that I’ve ever loved her more than behind that closed bathroom door.

Things I already knew became more real when I walked the trenches:

  • Real love releases others to make their own choices, even if those choices would not be mine.
  • True love does not smother and stifle.
  • Genuine love seeks the best for the other person.
  • Real love keeps giving and waiting, expecting and believing the best.
  • Genuine love allows the consequences of choices made to be experienced.

If I really believed it, I had to practice that love.

I found that note the other day, stuck in my files. It’s my reminder that true parenting involves releasing.

I’m still practicing releasing her, today.trenches school bus

In a few weeks, I’ll be standing at the driveway watching her board the bus for another year at school. I’ll be releasing her again, although in a different way.

There will be a lot of other moms who’ll stand at the edge of their safe place and watch their kids board that bus. For some of them, it’ll be the very first time.

Will they cry? Did it rain this July? Will they pray? Does night come before day?

To their teachers, and all the teachers out there in the trenches: please love our kids.

  • We’re trusting you with our most important possessions. When you love them, release them.
  • When they test the waters, don’t let them down.
  • When they step across the lines you’ve already drawn, meet them at that line and deliver the consequences.
  • Help us raise our kids by supporting what we believe.
  • Don’t try to be popular and roll out the red carpet for the kid who’s been excused from class.

trenches blackboard

There’s no “happily ever after in the home or in the classroom.  In life’s classrooms, there’s no such thing as being fair in everyone’s eyes. Sure, I want my kid to get what he earns.  I’ll be there, applauding and cheering for a job well done.

I may possibly think you’ve been unfair.  While I might talk about it to you, he’ll never hear it from me.  The sooner he learns that life isn’t fair, the better life will be for all of us.

If the day comes that my kids show disrespect or defiance, please let us know.  We’re still old-fashioned enough to believe that “if you’re in trouble in school, you’re in trouble at home”.

I’d like to think he’s a better kid than anyone else’s, but I know better.  It’s a myth to think that my child would never do something wrong or let me down.  Look who he has for parents!

I’m not asking you to raise my kids for me.  I’m asking that you not undo what we have done.

trenches children girls

I’m not asking you to be a part of a village that raises a child.  I’m asking you to be a part of a community that doesn’t fix things or bail a kid out when he deserves to experience life’s consequences.

Together, we can make our world a better tomorrow. When you walk in the trenches, you’re willing to invest your heart in the lives of others.

When you really care about someone, you give ’em what is best— even if it hurts.

trenches crying child