Parenting, Stories I tell

Stories I Tell: A Brother’s Counsel

Seven years ago this month, my youngest was involved in a wreck that totaled his car and left him unscathed.

“We have family in every city,” I told my son who was hundreds of miles from both our home and his. “This family is called church.” I suggested he use his smartphone and find a local church. I was over an hour from home with a flip phone.

I texted another son and raced home to the internet. My husband was in Italy, and I needed to notify him.

My church suggestion caused my stranded son to send a group text to church brothers who rescued him the next day.

Why the next day? His older brother said so.

While I was driving home, he was taking charge. The quality of counsel he gave amazed my husband and me—more detailed and informed than ours would have been.

“He was Papa Bear taking care of his cub,” I said later. The cub agreed. “I told my friends he was calling the shots.”

During a time of trauma and uncertainly, my heart rejoiced in my sons’ relationship and the wisdom they showed in giving and receiving advice.

Favorites, Friendship, Parenting

I Need Holding Help (From June 21 2020)

A republished blog for the third anniversary of 100 words.

For weeks, I listened to a tough, tender former Army Ranger instruct his children.  “Do not say, ‘I can’t.’ Instead, say, ‘This is hard. I need help.'” 

He drilled his children. “Yes, you can. It may be hard. You may need help, but you can do it.”

One Saturday, I was hiking in a rain forest in Brazil with this cousin and his four children. We had strayed from the main trail in order to explore, and the miles were adding up. The almost-four-year-old turned to me and said, “This is hard. I need help.”

“What kind of help?” I asked.

“Holding help.”

I picked him up and carried him for a while.

Trails in Guaratiba, Brazil where my cousin’s preschool son required “Holding Help.” (Below, I am in the pink top.)

I took hold of my cousin’s response to “I can’t.” It acknowledges the hard we face. It avoids the argument about whether something can or cannot be done. It supplies a solution.

Do you need holding help for your hard? Does someone need your holding help for their hard?

Favorites, Parenting

Mundane Rules (From June 5th 2020)

A republished blog for the third anniversary of 100 words.

I asked my five-year-old cousin what was his favorite part of my visit to his home in Louisiana. His answer? “You waiting for me when I got off the school bus.”

Three years later, he was asked his favorite times with his mother who was dying of cancer.  His answer? “Mommy playing games with me while we waited for the school bus.” His favorite game involved counting colors of passing cars.

Being met at the school bus. Waiting for the school bus. Both outweighed adventures such as sunset boat rides, trips to Avery Island to watch alligators, and playing on the ever-changing beach of Rio de Janeiro.

How are these answers relevant to parenting and educating our children? Along the way, I learned that day-to-day life matters more and will be remembered more than elaborate vacations, carefully planned birthday parties, science fairs, team sports, and field trips.

The mundane stays in our children’s memories because of the repetition and the emotions attached.  I wish I had known earlier to make the most of the smaller moments.  Mundane rules, which can be very good news.

Which mundane moments are your favorites?

Homeschooling, Parenting

Parent-Child Conferences

Let’s admit it. Too many times, we homeschoolers shake our heads at the operations of traditional schools. (Other parents and traditional teachers do so as well.)

Some things, which are beneficial in a traditional setting, would never work for homeschoolers. Parent-Teacher Conferences are an example. We would be talking to ourselves, which we already do too frequently.

However, I wish I had realized the benefit of Parent-Child conferences, commonly known as Teacher-Student conferences. I could have:

Affirmed my sons’ progress.

Asked their frustrations.

Voiced my frustrations.

Worked with them on a strategy to overcome our weaknesses.

Asked about their goals.

Explained my goals.

These discussions would have avoided a lot of angst in our home.

Are there any other “school” ideas we homeschoolers should consider and perhaps incorporate?


Favorite Child Day

One helpful piece of advice came too late. A good acquaintance with five children instituted Favorite Child Day. With five weekdays, there was a natural fit. When I told another friend, she said her three children could have two turns a week.

Favorite children are favorite children. They pick the read-aloud book or game. They have the bigger brownie. They sit in the front seat. They answer the phone. For our family, Favorite Child Day would have meant not answering the phone.

I think the biggest benefit would be to the parents. When accused “He’s the favorite,” they could answer, “Of, course. It’s Tuesday.”

You may have noticed that outsiders like to opine about favorite children in a family. Twice, outsiders have identified one son as our favorite. I understood their choice.

One day, my youngest and oldest agreed that my middle son was the favorite. I didn’t understand that choice. Middle children get squeezed. I went to my middle son’s room, announced the consensus of his brothers, and waited for his denial. After a thoughtful moment he said, “I guess I am the favorite.”

Have you been given an opportunity to discuss favorite child perceptions?