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The Four Piles for the Prospective College Student

Denial.

I think the first phase of grieving my oldest son’s leaving the house for college is beginning with denial. I’m way too young to have a child leaving for college, or at least I’d like to think so.

In the process of helping Michael clean his room (which he shares with his younger brother) and sort out what’s what, we had to come to an understanding. I told Michael there were four piles for his stuff and he needed to made decisions and put things in the right pile, and these piles have different sizes as well. They are as follows.

Largest pile – toss that junk!

Next largest pile – pass down to younger siblings or donate to charity

Medium pile – stuff he’s actually taking with him to college

The smallest, tiniest, almost microscopic pile – things he’d like us to store for him while he’s getting his first degree

Of course when I was telling Michael the parameters of the piles, I made sure that he realized the last pile was only out of the goodness of our hearts and he needed to be extremely grateful. I know he’s going to miss my sense of humor when he’s gone.

As we gradually filled up one bin of stuff he’d like to keep forever, just not take with him to college, I saw once again the importance of memories, milestones, and souvenirs. I also saw how personal they are and the sentiment attached to these things are only understood by the rightful owner. You can pass down a favorite old toy, but you can’t always pass down the sentiment as to why that faded, beat up old thing is so special to you.

Things that stood out: DVD’s and t’shirts from his class at church, notes from his sister (they really do love each other!), and a page that represented the most awesome semester of history class he ever experienced. It was very interesting that some of these precious things were buried under a layer of clutter and multiplying dust bunnies. Thanks son, for teaching me that there are great things to hang on to in life and I need to get rid of the junk that’s covering them up. I wouldn’t have traded helping you clean out your room for anything, because I needed to go through this journey along with you. It would be expected for me to say that the experience will soften the blow of losing you around the house each day. But can anything really make this transition more bearable?

One late night, when my eyes are puffy and red from crying from missing my firstborn so much, I’ll probably sneak into the space we’ve allocated for his keep forever box, open it up and spend a few moments with things that are treasured by the one who took a piece of my heart with him.

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Why Should I?

One of the principles we’ve learned over the years in our experiment with this thing called parenting is to pick our battles. There may be a hundred things you wish your children would do differently, but in the end, there are just a handful of things that you would really invest all of your parenting resources into that you might correct them.

Greta made it easy for us this morning. Her defiance and the fire in her eyes as well as the attitude that seemed to resound with every inch of her, from her hair to her toenails, made it quite clear. This is a hill to die on. With how strong willed she is, this is going to be a serious battle.

Greta didn’t want to admit she was wrong. She struggles to admit when she is wrong. In her defense, the control part of her fun/control personality makes this difficult. Just as some folks have trouble speaking in public or being patient enough to pay attention to endless tiny details, control country personalities (with a touch of perfect) can really struggle with admitting they are wrong.

When we told Greta that we had observed the incident ourselves and saw that she was wrong and needed to admit it, she challenged us. Why should I? At the moment I felt like I was the smallest horse rancher ever facing the largest herd of wild mustangs bent on staying wild. The stubbornness that exuded from her could build an insurmountable wall to rival the Great Wall of China. Oh yes! This was an issue we had to meet head on.

It isn’t easy explaining to a 10 year old lives for theĀ  moment girl that conquering her inability to admit wrong now will serve her for the rest of her life. I have a feeling that this issue will return for many more conversations. Things that seemed to be issues yesterday now pale in comparison. But Greta’s personality has set her up to be a great leader. If she can conquer this hurdle – admitting when she is wrong – she will be a beloved leader and not an arbitrary tyrant. The world needs great leaders. Greta is fearless. The world needs fearless leaders like Greta. We are currently accepting any and all prayers on our behalf as we tackle this challenge. God help us. He created Greta this way and He has great plans for her life. He must have much faith in us that we can raise her to be the great leader He had envisioned.

 

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Perfect Country

Everything has to be done in a certain way and there is always only one way to do it that is right. Getting the job done isn’t important. Getting all the details perfect first and doing it right (even if it’s late) is of most importance. Yes, my oldest son resides in Perfect Country. I, on the other hand, reside equally in Fun and Control countries. This really messes with Michael’s favorite vacation spot – Peace Country. I wouldn’t know much about it as I rarely visit there.

So what happens when I need something done a particular way? I humbly admit that I will get it done. That’s what control country residents do, but it may not be as precise as the job requires. I don’t ask my daughter to do it. She lives in Fun and Control countries as well. The request is made to Michael. Here, perfect country, please cut this into many pieces all exactly the same size with no crumbs. And he gets the job done, precisely.

Learning where our kids function best, what countries they are from, has helped us tremendously in knowing how to connect with them and knowing how to draw out their strengths. It seems a far more regular occurrence for parents (and teachers) to expect all children to behave in a certain way and move around in our world in only that one way. What a blessing we miss when we fail to see who they really are. What a blessing we miss in being able to focus them on their strengths and applaud them for a job well done!

Take the time to study your children. If you need some help, visit the Flag Page website where you will find more about the four countries: Fun, Control, Perfect and Peace. You can find it at http://www.flagpagetest.com.

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