Positive Parenting: Raising Mentally, Physically and Spiritually Strong Kids and Teenagers

Faith: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews  11:1  

A rainbow is a symbol of God's promise to us all.
A rainbow is a symbol of God’s promise to us all.

There’s so many different positive parenting styles.  There’s the helicopter parent, the free-range parent, the working parent and everything in between.  I think in my heart of hearts, I’m more of a helicopter parent than I would ever care to admit.  The only thing I’m after in this life is the protection of my children’s physical bodies and their souls.

Dan with just born Coby!
Dan with just born Coby!

But I know God wants much more from me than that.  He wants me to raise children who are charitable and kind, loving and giving, faithful in their works and so so SO much more.

Adding to my helicopter-ness is the knowledge that God is not particularly concerned about their physical bodies. He can call them home at any time and that, my friends, despite my faith is terrifying to me.  I’m only human, you know. While I believe in His eternal gift of life, I do not want to outlive my children!

As our kids get older, and begin to make plans outside of our family, my helicopter leanings are harder to contain.  Why are you dating that guy.  Why are you working that job?

I find myself lamenting the days where everything I said was golden, where my thoughts were their thoughts, where wherever I went they went.  Those were the good ole days.

I wasn’t a mom that ever thought babies or toddlers were hard.  I knew.  I knew because I remembered me as a high schooler, as a college student, and as a young adult.  I knew because I moved halfway across the country, leaving my mom and Dan’s parents and siblings behind.  I knew things only got harder, more heart-wrenching as kids got older.

The view from Kerry's own apt!  Oh! heartbreak!
The view from Kerry’s own apt! Oh! heartbreak!

And, so we set out to raise our kids specifically with a true allegiance to God, to family and to enjoying life without the need for material things.

We also set out to raise our kids to push their limits, to take risks and to literally soar.

Brody throwing a gainer off a 25' cliff ... soaring!
Brody throwing a gainer off a 25′ cliff … soaring!

This was a hard one for me and exceptionally easy for Dan.  I always utter the words, “Be careful”, I can’t help it, it’s in my makeup.  But Dan, Dan is a risk taker, he is basically fearless himself and so when our kids are 50’ up in a tree, he remembers being 65’ up in a tree “at that age”.

Brody, Grady, Kenny & Dally way way up in a tree.  :)
Brody, Grady, Kenny & Dally way way up in a tree. 🙂

For every action our kids take, Dan has a story equally crazy, if not more so.  It’s not unheard of for me to say to him, “Did you ever do anything that stupid?”  He always says, “Yes.” and a story ensues.  They are lucky they have Dan to ground me, because if I was a single parent, our kids would be the proverbial sissies!

And that is probably Dan’s 2nd greatest nightmare, outside of having kids that stray from the faith … kids that are wimps.  Truth be told, it’s mine as well.  I look at Dan and how emotionally strong he is.  He is my rock.  I look at how brave he is.  He’s our protector.  I look at how tough he is.  He is our inspiration.

I want our kids to be just like their dad.

And you know I think there is more of a chance for them to be like him because there are 12 of them and I just can’t obsess about every single one of their exploits.

Brody’s doing gainers off of 25’ cliffs, Grady’s running insane Class V+ rivers, Kady is learning to drive, Kenny is free climbing cliff faces, Dally is attempting backflips on his BMX bike and has the scar tissue to prove it, Cardy is … well you get the gist, right?

Grady running Lake Creek up on the Continental Divide!
Grady running Lake Creek up on the Continental Divide!

I can’t be everywhere hovering all the time.  That’s very different from me saying, I can’t watch them or supervise them all the time, because that I do.  But I believe they have been given a gift of having many siblings that results in them all growing up much more free, more self-assured, and more confident.

They are learning to govern their own selves. Rather than have mommy telling them that jump is too high, that rapid too dangerous they are making those decisions themselves.  And, I have to admit, that is so amazing to watch.

And I think that is why we have so few injuries despite the extreme things we do…because our kids can self-assess and they respect each other’s boundaries.

Dally hitting a HUGE tame Dog and sticking the landing!
Dally hitting a HUGE tame Dog and sticking the landing!

Rowdy jumped off a 30’ cliff, but wasn’t comfortable, for whatever reason, jumping off another 25’ cliff.  No-one berated him. They encouraged him, but in the end they respected his decision.

Running rivers is no different.  I can’t tell you how many times Grady and Brody have stopped to scout rapids with Kady, Kenny, Dally, Cardy, me and Dan.  They’ll show the line, say something encouraging and one of us will decide we aren’t “feeling it”.  Maybe a few more words of encouragement will ensue, especially in my case, but in the end we all respect each others sovereignty over our choices.

Kenny nailing the lines on SSV.  Photo Credit: Philip Robert
Kenny nailing the lines on SSV. Photo Credit: Philip Robert

Taking risks is exhilarating, but it’s also how you find out what you are capable of. Risk takers in play are often risk takers in life.

Dan and I’s marriage has been all about risks. Sometimes we thrive and, more often, we fail, but the important thing is we aren’t afraid to try, we aren’t afraid to fall flat on our faces.  If we were we’d never leave the house, because we fall on our faces quite often.

Our kids have watched our roller coaster of a life and it’s framed them.  What they see is two people working together, succeeding, failing, thriving, crashing, but always always remaining partners.

They’ve been privy to our success in full-time travel — possibly the craziest thing we’ve ever taken on.  But they’ve also seen the behind-the-scenes struggle.  They are well aware that nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

Everything requires work, perseverance, persistence, dedication and nurturing to succeed. Fact:  If you are looking for easy, you are setting yourself up for a life of disappointment.

I mean, I consider myself beyond blessed to be the mother of 12 kids … but 12 kids is not easy.  It is NOT easy, but it is precisely what I am most thankful for.  This family of mine, Dan and our kids, oh my gosh, I couldn’t have planned a more amazing life if God handed me a pen and paper and let me write my life story myself.

My amazing family, minus Kerry.  :(
My amazing family, minus Kerry. 🙁

Our kids have inspired Dan and I to carve out an exceptional life for their benefit.  An alternative life to the rigors of the rat race, a life that instead focuses on faith, family, and fun.

Fulltime travel in our Newmar Dutchstar is luxurious, exciting and full of memories!
Fulltime travel in our Newmar Dutchstar is luxurious, exciting and full of memories!

However, don’t ever mistake success for ease.

Life is no picnic.  Sometimes you put everything you have into something and still fail.

It’s a lesson we have instilled in our kids since they were babies. It’s sure fun to work toward something and have it come to fruition, but it is never without its compromises or strife.

And so we let them play and push their limits.  Watching with bated breath.  For it’s in play that kids first learn who they are, what they are capable of and how far they have to go to accomplish their goals.

Kenny swimming the sieves in the Upper Ocoee in TN.
Kenny swimming the sieves in the Upper Ocoee in TN.

It starts early.  Teaching them their faith then spills over into faith in themselves. The knowledge that, with God on their side, with God’s faithfulness and love, they can never really fail.

Baptismal Font from the Cathedral in Houston.
Baptismal Font from the Cathedral in Houston.

This is an empowering fact.  That is the promise of hope.  Yes, perhaps that business you dropped every penny into never really got off the ground, but hope keeps your dreams alive.  maybe the next idea, maybe the next endeavor. Hope keeps us moving forward.

And at the end of the day, month, year, what you have is a mentally and spiritually tough kid, who then becomes a mentally and spiritually tough adult.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13

2 Comments

  • Fortunately those helicopter rotors you hear are only in your head. Can’t imagine any of your kids ever giving you that label. You chose faith in your abilities as a proper parent (raised by proper parents yourself, no doubt) instead of faith in media induced anxieties. Sadly, not an easy choice for some these days. I can still credit my eight years of Catholic grade schooling with how I approach life today – 40 years later.

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