Preparing Your Children for Adulthood – Part 1
Having and raising children today is different than it was 25 years ago. We had to read books, get instruction, see demonstrations or talk to elders. Today, everything lies at the tip of your fingers, but it does not mean it is easier.
I remember hearing the nurse confirm my pregnancy for the first time. I was afraid and immediately thought of what I did not know and how I would acquire the information. I felt blessed because my OB/GYN gave away books that detailed everything I could expect to happen in the next year. I read those books from cover to cover numerous times. The books were extremely helpful, but I needed information past 18 months of age.
-Realize they are G I F T S from God-
You do not appreciate something until you cannot achieve it. I was told at a young age that I would never have children. The doctor who gave me this grim diagnosis was cold and detached. I felt as if she was kind of glad that I would not be able to populate this planet. I was devastated! I just knew that someday I would be a mommy. When I walked out of the clinic that day, all I saw was babies, mothers, families and pregnant women. It was a constant reminder of something I would never have. I cried, how I cried! I went to my mother’s office and told her the news. She told me to pray about it, that God had the last word. God always used my mother to prophesy into our lives. Of course, she was right! I had four beautiful babies. Oh, how I miss her!
When I did get pregnant and the diagnosis was confirmed I was extremely thankful and realized that they were gifts on loan. When I gave birth the first time, I equate the experience to giving birth to a large piece of my heart that then sprouted a mind, legs, arms and feet. You lose control over that piece of your heart and then realize that you have to trust God to protect it.
-Raise your children with a V I L L A G E-
Seek guidance and wisdom. Research and ask questions. God provided so many tools and supports. A village helped us raise our kids. They were there when it was time to celebrate and the village supported and comforted us when the world came crashing in. Be open to constructive and loving support.
-Overprotective mother = teaches your children to be
F E A R F U L-
I assumed it was my job to protect my children from everything. Dangers seen and unseen. There is no way you can do that, but you can use precautionary measures. I would not let my daughter crawl on the floor because floors were dirty. I still flinch when I see babies crawling on the floor. I soon learned that if a baby is only allowed to crawl on limited surfaces, they do not learn how to crawl by trial and error. I learned instead of restricting the child’s ability to crawl, change the circumstances by putting a blanket on the floor.
My children were very sensitive and loving babies. They hugged everyone they met. Especially my oldest son. He would waddle up to a child his size and hug them. That ended when the first child he hugged hit him instead of hugging him back. He cried as if someone broke his heart. That broke my heart. That was the beginning of understanding how little control I had in shaping my children’s personality. I had to focus on what I had control of.
-Establishing Y O U R parenting style-
You can think you know how you will establish boundaries with your babies before they are born. I’ve lived it and watched it over the years and it really doesn’t solidify until the moment arrives and your six-month-old baby reaches for the plug and you gently, but firmly say no and they look at the plug and back at you and reach for the plug again and you say no, while they touch it. At that moment you must determine how you will establish boundaries and rules while loving and protecting them. Suffice it to say, it was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I took two fingers and tapped my daughter’s pudgy little hand and again firmly said no. I think she was more startled by my firm deep voice than how I lightly tapped her hand. She looked at me with wide eyes, pouted those cute little lips, her eyes filled with tears and she let out a slow cry. As hard as this was, I never had to worry about her playing with plugs or wall sockets. She understood no. We had similar moments before, but when I said no, she found something else to play with. I had to keep them safe no matter how uncomfortable or difficult.
-D A D D Y was a Rock Star-
I had to be a consistent disciplinarian because my ex-husband enjoyed his role. He was a loving father and that was the role he preferred. He was Mr. Fun. When he came home the children would squeal with delight, running from all corners of the house screaming his name and announcing daddy is home as if he was a rock star. There were dark times when he sometimes went overboard in how he disciplined the children. He did not understand child development. He did not understand that when children woke up it was nearly impossible for them to remain silent. I would always get up and try to keep them as quiet as possible. The looming threat that if they weren’t quiet they would get a spanking. I refused to let that happen as I had to endure that familiar insanity as a child and could not understand why my mother couldn’t protect us like I protected my own children. Yet, there were times when I could not save them. When I had to go away for work the children always wound up on punishment and had to stay in their rooms. I would later learn that there were times when he would go too far in his spankings. That’s what happens when you marry a man from an abusive background or someone with edge. I should be happy that was not a consistent event. Overall, he was more fun dad than dark dad. You have to be the first and last line of defense for your children.
-Protect them from F A V O R I T I S M-
I loved my mother and stepdad, but I was determined to raise my children a certain way and favoritism had no place in our lives. My mother and stepdad preferred the youngest two of my four children. It was as if the oldest two turned four or older and grew beards and somehow aged out of their cuteness. There were a few times when my parents invited the kids over but only the youngest two. I would ask why they did not want the other two and they would make up excuses. Finally, I had a very blunt and difficult discussion with my mother. It was hard realizing that she wanted the younger two but did not want to watch or spend time with the older two because you have to do more with older children. It was not just because they were not cute anymore. I had to be firm and told my mom if you cannot spend time with all of them, two at a time, you cannot get them at all.
Teach them correct terms for body parts. Know where they are at all times. Far too many times, I see babies walking to school by themselves. Do what you can to make sure they have a safe route to school. Now that I look back, I still cannot believe some of the things we allowed our children to do out of necessity.
My sister and I used to spend weekends at my aunt’s and uncle’s home. At first it used to be an adventure and we would look forward to spending that time with my little cousin but as my aunt spent more time with my little sister while me and my cousin did chores, the novelty wore off. At first, I resented my sister, but as I grew older, I realized that it was not her fault. She did not get to make a choice. I resented my aunt, then I was puzzled. How do you choose a child that is not your blood to spend time with instead of your own child?
The lesson I took from that was no one, and I meant no one would treat my children that way. If they did, they would not get to be in their presence. I never wanted them to know that rejection. I hated favoritism.
-P R O T E C T your children from predators-
Teach your babies about their bodies and the correct terms for body parts. Know where they are at all times. Far too many times, I see babies walking to school by themselves. Do what you can to make sure they have a safe route to school. Now that I look back, I still cannot believe some of the things we allowed our children to do out of necessity.
The only sleepovers, if there were any, were held in our home until the kids were teenagers. I had to know who was in your house, who you were expecting and where you were taking my children. I was sexually abused from the age of four to six by my stepbrother. He abused my younger sister, as well. My parents had no clue because he was 16 and threatened to hurt us if we told. I did my best to protect my children, but I was not always in control of where they went and that is a story for another day. Just know that some people have to learn the hard way.
-Prepare your children for S C H O O L -
We can no longer make assumptions about what our children get in school. Schools are still trying to figure it out. Children must know how to read by kindergarten. They must be able to sit and learn, take direction, communicate, share and play with other children by the time they start elementary school. Schools do not have the means to teach your child from scratch. What does that mean? Schools resources were cut so drastically that if your child’s class has an Assistant Teacher, you are extremely fortunate. That still does not mean that they will be able to teach a child who has not been socialized and exposed to the basics. What may happen is your child might start with a deficit and continue to be behind unless you get them additional supports and tutoring.
Sing to your children, expose them to a variety of genres of music from birth. It helps with their neurological development. Read to them. Explore and teach them about nature. Watch documentaries with them. Share your family’s history. Tell them the stories shared by elders or have them talk to the elders in your family. Talk to them about what they learned at school and have them teach you. My oldest daughter has dyslexia. I recognized the symptoms early because her dad has dyslexia. I would have her come home from school and after homework, play school by teaching her siblings what she learned in class. I tried to make school sound exciting and fun.
Teach your children what do to if someone bullies them and then take action. The difference between then and now is the internet. Teach your children to report, report, report until they have told everyone. Take their reports seriously and go to the teacher, administrators, superintendents and police if it is that serious.
If none of that works, send a certified letter copying a news organization detailing your concerns and give them five business days to respond. Do not hesitate to get a restraining order. That never fails! Schools hate that! If they do not act to protect your child, you have to.
Get to know all of your children’s teachers. Introduce yourself and make yourself available. They should have your phone number by the first day of school. Your children should be trained to respect their elders and if their elders are wrong or make mistakes, how to handle it. You must teach them how to report an incident. When they prepare to tell you, they must report who, what, when, where, and what role they played and how?
-Discipline in L O V E not anger-
Never discipline your child in anger. Think it through and calm yourself down. Count to ten. I loved my dad, but he was scary at times. When we got a spanking, it was like he was whipping a runaway slave. He would grab our legs and hoist us up in the air until we were not touching the ground and beat us with a leather belt. I got beat with a switch from a tree when I was four. I left the porch and went over my friend’s house a few houses down the street. No, I never did it again. That only served to reinforce that God is scary and looking to discipline you at every turn. It took a long time for me to trust that God always had my best interest at heart. Fear is not respect. My parents told me of God’s love and that He was my Father. See the correlation?
- Pay A T T E N T I O N to your children-
It only takes a second for something to happen. Too many times I have witnessed parents walking in front of or behind their children and they are on the phone. Pay attention to your children and give them attention. My three-year-old granddaughter told her mother to put down her phone and pay her some attention. Now while you may think that is a fresh thing to say, what could she say? I agreed with her. I think I may have said amen.
Well, that’s it for now. Love you.
Next Article - Preparing Your Children for Adulthood – Part 2