Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An Open Letter to My Grown Up Kids

Let me put it in writing - I wasn't the best baby mom. I know I can't be the only one who feigned sleep so her husband would get up with the baby. And how many nights did we both lay there, eyes closed, still as corpses and trying to fool the other with our shallow sleep breathing? And the baby cried on...and on. What is it about baby crying that seems positively endless? Five minutes feels like fifty.

Here's something else I'll put in writing-I think I was a damn good mom for the teen years and I'm pretty good at parenting the young adults. I love being around my grown children and at 18 and 21 they still need to hear a parent's encouraging words and sometimes, as we say in our house, have a "come to Jesus" meeting when tough love is needed.

The parenting dance goes like this...when the sweet, cherubic face of the toddler evolves into the sullen mask of the teen, it's only natural that we switch up our tactics. As that teen becomes an adult, we think our parenting role is finished when, in fact, they may need us more than ever. Carpools, field trips, packing lunches and parent teacher conferences may be over but guiding them into and through adulthood has just begun.

Here's my open letter to my kids. It's a reinforcement of all that they've been taught. Let's face it, the stresses of adult life can overwhelm the best of us and guideposts are always welcome.

Shore up your foundation. If you're not happy with the real you-the person that the outside world never sees-you better put fixing yourself at the top of your to do list. The classical pragmatist George Santayna said "the loftiest edifices have the deepest foundations." It's your inner strength and your own strong foundation on which your dreams are built.

Be respectful of authority but respectfully disagree when someone tries to rain on your parade. The people who tell you it can't be done are not your friends. The skeptics will roll their eyes. Ignore them. You are the architect of your own destiny. Remodel. Expand. Add another story.

Put one foot in front of the other and you'll get there in your own time. Baby steps or great leaps, it doesn't matter as long as you've got forward momentum. If you're taking steps back in the form of a setback, and you can't summon the strength to reverse it now, then sit and be quiet for a moment or for a day. Sometimes it's best to do nothing more than breathe deeply. A clear head clears problems.

Don't let anyone tell you that it's wrong to question. You were given that brain by God. Seek your own truth. Don't be shackled by the beliefs of others. Find God in the mountains, music, a theater, a crowded city street or in a sanctuary. He's everywhere...especially in your heart. Spiritual journeys can take you to wonderful places. Follow your own path to enlightenment.

If you insist on a tattoo, remember that skin sags with age. Today's rose tattoo will be withered and wilted by the time you're in the nursing home.

Play nice in the workplace. Never be the bully in anyone's life. Remember the bullies from the sandbox? They're all grown up and making life hell for their coworkers. You can confront bad behavior without stooping to their lowly level. Refuse to retaliate and remember how it felt to be bullied. "Never take a person's dignity: it is worth everything to them, and nothing to you." Frank Barron said that. He was an astute thinker who spent many years studying the psychology of creativity. He's a great go-to guy for quotes, as well.

Always give credit where credit is due.

Trust your instincts when choosing who to let into your life. True friends are happy for your accomplishments and sad for your losses. A wide circle of acquaintances is a wonderful thing but you don't have to make everyone your best friend.

Embrace your creativity. Keep your passions alive and you'll live a better life. It's a simple concept but one that so many people find hard to grasp.

Most important of all, remember this-clouds lift, rain stops, and the sun will shine again. Life isn't perfect. Sometimes we get so caught up in our problems that emotion clouds our brains and we feel emotionally paralyzed. I feel compelled to say this, not because either of you have shown any signs of depression that would lead to suicide, but because I know how quickly and unexpectedly those signs can appear. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You are blessed with friends and family who love you.

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