“They must be beat,” the small 60-something woman standing in front of me said. Horrified, I gasped, “Never!” We were standing outside the small Catholic Church in Bryson City, NC and she was one of many delightful people we’ve met the past couple of weeks that we’ve been here. She prefaced the above statement by gushing over the kids’ adorableness. “They are so beautiful,” she said. “I’ve just never seen such beautiful kids. Even mine weren’t as gorgeous.” I laughed out loud. “And they are so well-behaved. I told Bill, they must be beat.” “Never,” I shrieked. And that’s the truth. Our kids are not parented under the umbrella of fear. They are parented through love, empathy, compassion and discipline … the teaching kind.
This lady, whose name I have forgotten because I’m horrible with names and anything to do with memory, really, then said, “I don’t know how you do it, but you should write a book.” I smiled because I have written a book, but outside mass didn’t seem the right time to self-promote myself. She hugged me and went on her merry way. Of course, her kind words carried me through most of the day, but so did the assumption that corporal punishment was employed based on the behavior of our kids. I wondered if she would feel the same way if she encountered us at the park, or pool or any other outdoor activity where our kids are encouraged to let loose and go crazy? Would she think our kids were beautiful and well behaved? Would she assume they were “beat”? Or would she think they were wild Indians who had little to no parental guidance? I think the latter, simply based on the parents we’ve encountered both at home and on the road. However, there is a time and a place for everything!
I find it interesting, always, to hear what parents today think is acceptable behavior and what they don’t. I find it interesting to listen to how parents speak to their kids, how they interact with their kids and how their kids react to their parents. My book was described, by a dissatisfied reader, as “Attachment Parenting With an Attitude”. I wish I had thought of that while brainstorming a title, or a subtitle. It’s brilliant! And it’s exactly how the book reads. I’m certain in our parenting, I’m certain in our values and our morals and in the way we choose to raise our kids, so why wouldn’t it read with attitude? People who know us, who know our kids, know they are respectful, kind, supportive, loving, and crazy fun kids who work hard for whatever they get. Nothing comes easy for us, we work our tails off for whatever it is we are going after.
How do we do it? Time. We spend time with our kids. We build their trust. We build their confidence. We build their faith. We build their strength. And we support them … fully. In a sense we build them. From newborn to 19+ we are their biggest supporters, and their biggest safety net. We are here when they triumph and we are here when they falter. Coby isn’t happy at night? I’m there to nurse him and rock him all night if that’s what it takes. Grady & Brody want to run class V whitewater? Not without us. We are there to set safety so they can run the stouts. Kerry wants to start her own graphic arts business? We are there for advice, support and encouragement. Grady, Brody & Kady want to try to make the US Freestyle Kayaking Team? We are right there with them encouraging them to give it their absolute best, regardless of outcome, if they can walk away knowing they gave everything they had, they paddle off the river with nothing left – then they will have succeeded. Through everything we are there. Life is filled with triumph (6 laps on Cascades) and with disappointment (Grady crushing his fingers) how can you as a parent not be there?
Parenting is the most important “job” anyone can ever have. It’s a divine vocation. God has blessed us with 12 gifts from heaven. He’s entrusted Dan & I to raise 12 of His children to the best of our ability and that means being present, both physically and mentally. It means giving 100% to our kids … just as we tell them to give 100% in all they do. They are our legacy. It is my deepest desire that we be a part of their memories. I don’t want them to recall the week away at camp or the summer they spent abroad – there is plenty of time for them to make memories that don’t include Dan or I. In their young years, their formative years and in their teen years, I desire more than anything to be an integral part of their dreams and memories. For if I’m not now, how can I ever expect to be when they are grown and forging lives of their own? I hope these years spent with our kids teach them that dreams are attainable, that family is the most important aspect of life – and that family must always be near! I hope these years will give our kids the courage and the wisdom to spread their wings and fly in search of their dreams – and the courage and the wisdom to realize that family is always an integral part of any dream! This is, indeed, the best life!