Tuesday, June 23, 2015


This parenting thing.
It's really, really, really, really hard right now.

I'm listening to an audiobook,  HOW CHILDREN SUCCEED.
The author studied kids who were successful versus those who were not.
And he found out that what really made kids successful was not their intelligence,
not their ACT or IQ scores,
but rather their willingness to work hard,
and persevere,
and not quit.
That grit thing that people have been talking about so much lately.
And he talks about executive function and self-regulation.
And about how kids need to fail,
because failure is where we actually learn the most.
And about how those failures translate to later successes.
And it all makes perfect sense when I listen to the tape.

But I have this twenty-one-year-old.
And he called me from Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon. 
He and his friend had parted ways.
He wanted to know if I would buy him a bus ticket home.
And so I did. 
And he rode 20 hours from Las Vegas to Denver.
And then walked five miles home in ninety degree weather because he was mad at me.
And his car is totaled. 
And he really needs to get a job. 
But his identification and social security card are in California. 
And you really need those items to get a job. 
So today I took him to my bank 
because he doesn't have a bank account any more 
because it's closed until he pays $63 in overdraft fees
and he needed a notary because the police department in California
won't release his wallet without a notarized letter.
And he can't get a job without those things. 
And he has spent most of the last three days 
in his bedroom with the door shut.
Although he did come out and help me bring in groceries,
then put them away by himself this afternoon,
just like he used to do.  

He doesn't have a clue what he wants to do.
Football has been the organizing structure for his life
for the past ten years and now he doesn't have that.
And he's totally lost.

And I'm trying to be tough.
And not enable him to keep making stupid mistakes.
I'm not buying a new car. 
Or a new i-phone.
Or paying the overdraft on his checking account.
Or a speeding ticket that's due on July 6. 
Or allowing him to live here indefinitely
without a job.
And at the same time I want him to know
that I really do still love him.
And want good things for him. 
And am willing to support him and study with him
and do whatever it takes to help him get back on track.

You see, there is this other book
I've also read and reread this week.
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld.
Do you know that book?
The whole premise is pretty much the wishes
we have for the people we love.
It makes me cry every time I read it.

"I wish you more ups than downs.
I wish you more tippy-toe than deep…
I wish you more will than hill…
I wish you more pause than fast forward…
I wish you more treasures than pockets…"

Tom Lichtenheld's illustrations are absolutely perfect.
And I am going to be giving it as a baby gift
and graduation present
and just because present
for about the next hundred years.
Because it is just so, so, so perfect.

And it really is how I feel about my guys.
And it's so, so, so hard
to watch them make stupid mistakes
and fail so miserably
again and again and again.

It's really, really, really, really hard right now.
This parenting thing.


Betsy Hubbard said...

Oh I wish parenting wasn't such a struggle. We just never know what is around the corner for our kids and I "wish" a positive change for your son. I've seen that book around quite a bit, I think it's time I checked it out!

Linda B said...

Out of town, but saw you posted, then read. Hugs, Carol. I think they deserve those wishes too.

Ramona said...

Carol, you're doing the hard things. I wish you and your boys peace to see you through the gritty times.

Deb Maxwell said...

That does sound so hard. I'm not sure if it is any comfort, but I know you are not alone. My family has struggled with similar situations involving my brother. It's hard enough as a sister. I can't imagine it as a parent.
Not very fancy in 1st said...

The struggle of loving someone and NOT being able to "change" them or "make" them care is at the center of so many parenting and relationship struggles. We can only sit back, be patient, care, hope and pray. You and your son are in my prayers. I'm glad he came "back" even if he is still the in the throes of finding where he needs to go next. You are all in my prayers.

Unknown said...

What a beautiful but tough post. Parenting gets harder and harder every day. The older they get the harder it seems for me to jump in and parent at the right times and how to. I applaud your honesty.

writekimwrite said...

Yes really, really, really hard and there is no denying that. As you have done and will keep doing, just taking the next step. Sending hugs and prayers!

Tabatha said...

My usual prayer at the end of the day is to have good ideas and to make good choices the next day. I'll pray the same for you!

I wonder whether your son would like The Pact? And maybe Letters to a young brother?
I've heard that Unbroken is also about perseverance.

Donna Smith said...

The failures and the hurts and hard to watch. Yet helping is not helping. Deep breaths, prayer and time - those will help. I know it is hard. And we do want more for them. We just can't hand it to them. Sigh. I will add my prayers to yours.

Chris said...

Sending strength and perseverance to you and your son. I am working hard to let my girls deal with consequences as well. It's so tough. This parenting job is hard!!

Elisabeth Ellington said...

Somehow missed this post last month and just read it. So powerful. I thought about the same things when I read How Children Succeed. I don't think that children from trauma learn about cause & effect, natural consequences, and develop "grit" in the same ways that other children do. (I actually have a lot of problems with the argument of How Children Succeed.) When your basic needs haven't been met consistently, cause & effect are meaningless, confusing. I am pretty sure I am always going to want to rescue my son, even when he's old enough that I know I need to step back and let him experience the natural consequences of his actions. Ugh, so hard. And I Wish You More makes me cry just thinking about it. That was a TOUGH one for me to read aloud to my son.