I wonder if any of us ever really know, before we start to have children, what kind of parents we will be. I can remember saying as a teenager, as all teenagers do, "I will NEVER treat my kids this way". I can remember thinking while I was carrying my first born, will I be good enough for this? Will I be the kind of mommy my baby will need? Will I be patient as a saint like my mother, or have a hair trigger temper like my daddy? Turns out, I am capable of both. And not always the appropriate behavior for the situation. Over the years I would win some and lose some, when trying to make the right decision for the predicament of the moment. But my heart was always in the right place. Real hard to go bad wrong when that's happening.
I was raised by a proper southern Alabama mother and rowdy southern Alabama daddy. She was a straight A student and he was like me, got in school...and got out. My mother had the patience of Job, my daddy had the patience of a second. And back when I was growing up, there wasn't much room for foolishness. No allowances for talking back or voicing an opinion. If you were told to do something, you didn't dare utter the words..."in just a minute". Yes sir and no ma'am were staple words. Words taken for granted, not instructed.
All of that was well and good. And I'm not saying the world today couldn't use a little more of some of that. But I was determined that MY kids would have all the freedoms I so longed to have. If they had something to say, I wanted to hear it. If they didn't like something I said, or the rules I set down, they should be able to say so. With respect. Certainly didn't mean my rules would change. Can't think of too many right off hand that did. But they deserved a say so. An opinion.
It's all about respect. We have round table family meetings. We have "come to Jesus" meetings. And we have, "Mama is through talking about this" meetings. No matter the situation, I always start with, "I am going to say what needs to be said, and when I am done, you can say what you think you need to say, or ask questions".
And I always do. Open the floor. When I am done. I won't say there have been many times I have altered my thinking, but there have been some. The important part, has always been that my children know, they have a voice. And that it matters. What they think, and what they have to say, matters. I want them to know, whether their point of view is on target or not, it matters to me. Because I have very intelligent young men. They both have the wonderful capability to reason and rationalize. To think their decisions through and to make wise ones. That's not to say all of their decisions are the right ones, but I am always pretty proud of the effort they put forth trying.
Your children always have different needs. No two children are the same. Nor should they be.
Joshua made straight A's through school. Never had to ask him about homework or anything to do with school. Never gave me a moments trouble. When he was 12 years old he wanted an ear piercing. After much debate, between he and I, I agreed . I told him when he turned 13 years old, his first year as a teenager, he could have one. The year he was turning 16 years old, he wanted another ear piercing. After MUCH debate, between he and I, I agreed. Once more. But I told him, that was it. Until he turned 18. I made him write me a note of agreement. That he would not ask for another one. I still have the note. And he didn't. Ask. Again. He did however ask repeatedly for a tattoo. Which I would not allow. He could do that when he turned 18. And it was no longer my decision. And he did. He now has several. All of which are not startlingly visible. At my request. I don't know that he will always honor that request. He'll be 25 years old in April. He doesn't have to anymore. He does have one particular tattoo that I have to say I love. It simply says, "The Boy Who Lived".
I like to think I helped give Joshua the freedom to live. To become who he is, with no reprisals, few limits or boundaries, and the world for his taking. I like to think that the millions of books I read to him, and my love for the written word, how it was spoken and read, was parlayed directly to him. He is his own talent, his own person, I was at best, merely a translator.
In school, Zachary does what he has to do. To be able to do what he wants to do. Both he and I know he is capable of so much more. Both he and I know, some days, he has me wrapped like a broke ankle. I always swore I would not be the parent who went soft with the second child. The last one left at home. Some days, I uphold that pledge. Some days, I am just not capable.
Zachary will be 16 years old in March. He has never asked for body art or piercings. He only asks for, insists on, freedom, trust, and respect. I've tried to give him all three. He is the child when at 10 years old, was insulted because the waitress did not give him a menu and looked to me for his order. He respectfully asked for a menu and gave his own order. This same child at 12 years old had a motorized car that needed repair. We took him to the store in Tallahassee. The man in the store made the mistake of ignoring Zachary and speaking directly to Mims and myself. Zachary again, respectfully told the man it was his car, and he was paying for the repairs, to please speak to him. I'd like to say, I was the surrogate for Zachary's thirst and desire for independence. Because I knew at 15 years old, Zachary was going to need additional space. Ergo, the Man Shed. The place Zach can go when he needs to be Zach. Or with his buds, to play their music, video games, ping pong and Foosball. And, I know where he is, and he is safe. Win, win.
Yes. An open house, is what I managed to create and accomplish. I am very proud of that. I trust my children because they have not given me a reason to NOT trust them. And they have both been given "the speech". The one that goes something like this...."I will respect your privacy and your space, until you give me a reason not to. I will never go through your things, your drawers, or search your room. But if you ever give me cause for doubt, please do not think that I won't. It will not be a secret. I will not go behind your back. You will stand there and watch me toss your room and look through your things. You may even be instructed to help. But it will never happen behind your back. That I will promise you".
Every parent has had disappointments. Every child has had disappointments. Because every child and every parent is human. Honesty and respect for each other will carry you a long way down the road of forgiving and forgetting. I am who I am, because of my parents and how they raised me. I am a strong, independent woman. I can make the toughest of decisions, and fold like a deck of cards when I know I need to step back. I thank God everyday for my southern born Alabama parents. For they were my translators into this world. My travel guides. My map for achieving excellence.
I paid attention to my raisings'. So have my children. I haven't had to toss a room yet. And of that, I am very proud.