After parenting for awhile, you’d finally think you know what you’re doing.
Ha! Isn’t that the biggest joke!
As any parent knows, just when you’re comfortable and in the grove, the ground changes. They have another growth spurt. Start school. Get bullied. Become the bully. They have good days and bad days. There is no consistency.
You feel completely and utterly, lost, stumped, completely out at sea and …a bad parent.
However, no matter who you are, there inevitably comes a day when you kid gets stuck. The wheels stop moving and you, as parent, are called upon to pull out your magic wand and suddenly make everything better. You say a few abracadabras and tap your kid on the head three times but nothing happens. There’s not even a poof of smoke. You’re not sure what’s gone wrong. Perhaps, your wand is bent or the batteries are flat but, of course, you’ve lost the instruction manual.That’s if your wand ever had one. It’s amazing how few things related to parenting come with instructions, most notably, the kid themselves. Indeed, they arrived into this world with nothing at all but a scream.
Away, unable to get your wand operational, you’re stumped.
Your kid is stumped.
Hey, most of the time, even the professionals are stumped. That’s if you can get your kid to see any kind of professional. Chances are if they’re not moving, that’s the last place they’ll go.
Here’s a post I wrote recently about the misunderstood and hurting child: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/loving-the-misunderstood-when-kids-hurt/
Anyway, for many of us, Winter can be a bit of a downer. Mister has had a dreadful asthma cough, poor, broken sleep as well as some troubles with his stomach where he was seeing stars and vomiting for a bit. Of course, the Emergency Department had no explanation and there was the usual mention of a “virus”. He’s missed a lot of school and really was operating at half mast and it wasn’t depression either. At least, that wasn’t the trigger. That said, with all that going on, he was hardly doing the happy dance.
However, even though my magic wand wasn’t operational, I still had my bag of tricks. This is what I’ll call “experience”. Not just my own experiences but what’s worked for others as well.
As much as someone who is struggling can appear like a cactus and needing to be left alone, this can also a time when they cautiously need you to dig in. More hugs, not less hugs. Understanding, empathy, doing things together..even, perhaps, if the bedroom door is shut.
That said, you need a catalyst. Some way of making that connection and lighting that initial spark.
Well, believe me. I was looking. Looking…looking…Did I mention looking?!!!
I’m not saying that this will work for everyone or that this is going to work forever but I remembered that I used to play a lot of card games with my friends in high school. Both my parents were avid Bridge players who taught my brother and I how to play as soon as we were old enough.
Finally, I had that elusive “light bulb moment”! Teaching the kids how to play 500.
In addition to seeing it as something we could do as a family, I also thought playing cards is a good way to make friends. Moreover, being good at Maths, I thought he’d love it and our daughter also loves a strategic challenge. It is hard enough for anyone to feel good trying to get anywhere on their weaknesses and I thought playing 500 would bring out their strengths.
So, after refreshing ourselves on the rules, we had a card’s night last Friday along with a range of scrumptious desserts made by Miss: Adriano Zumbo’s Raspberry and Chocolate Macaroons (packet mix but very good) and a Chocolate & Raspberry Surprise…a pizza made out of a firm chocolate ganache with “my precious raspberries” and a raspberry sauce on top. It was exceptional good and yet so simple and straight out of her imagination. I was stoked. Mister also made a Chocolate & Raspberry Fudge which was exceptionally high in sugar but very good as well.
Our kids are 11 and 9 and although we had a lot of explaining to do about suits, right and left bowers, tricks and bidding, after a few open hands, they pretty much had the hang of it.
Well, that’s as long as you don’t count a mad bidding war between the two of them. We were playing boys versus girls. First, it was my daughter’s turn to go all out with the bidding, stretching it to 8 Hearts (note we can only lose 2 tricks). Unfortunately, we went down in a spectacular defeat. A hand or two later, our son repeated the crime, at least, making the score somewhat even. Neither of them enjoyed going down…a valuable life lesson!
We also had to teach them about “the poker face”.
If you are not familiar with 500, the Joker is the highest card and just let me say there was a certain amount of jubilation when the kids had the Joker. We’re talking about jumping up and down with ear-to-ear grins doing an extremely exuberant version of the Happy Dance. Definitely no mind-reading required.
This is also a good life-lesson. All of us need to learn the distinction between what’s public and private and that there are some things you need to keep to yourself. Given how people plaster all sorts of selfies all over the Internet these days, learning how to hold back is a valuable life skill.
Naturally, we are wanting to continue these card nights. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds, even though we’re all keen. There is always so much to be done! My real hope, though, is that the kids can teach their friends how to play and it’s something they can do together, beyond playing computer games. A way they can connect. With this in mind, we’re already planning to get a few families together to put the wheels in motion. I can’t wait!
I should just add that we are fairly involved in our local community. Our kids both do Scouts. We go to Church. We’re involved with the school. I’m even part of the local dog walking community. This gives our family this extra layer of support. We’re not parenting them alone and they also have also these beautiful outer layers of the onion…as well as our extended family. That means that as we head towards what is often seen as the tempestuous teenage years, that we have back up. We, and indeed they, are not alone!
I have to admit that I was jubilant when our game of 500 went so well and that I’d finally “done something right”! It’s so easy to feel like you’ve failed as a parent and that you’ve really lost your way but then all of a sudden, the light comes back on and the wheels are turning again. You might not always be all “happy family” but at least, you’re content!!
After all, so often relationships and people are not broken. The pathways just need a bit of weeding, maintenance or a new direction to reconnect. Relationships are a journey with ups and downs and twists and turns in the road…not a straight, level road!
Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.
Charles R. Swindoll
I should also add that since my son fought off the virus and his cough has settled, he has also perked up a lot. That reminds me that as parents, we need to keep the faith and believe in the bigger picture and not get caught up in setbacks along the way which really can look like the end of the world.
We can never give up.
The one thing I haven’t mentioned, although I guess it is implied, is the incredible love I have for my kids and that connection we have. There is nothing else like it. Somehow, that love fuels my journey, even when I’m discouraged. During the terrible twos, I was told “tomorrow is another day” and that has also helped carry me though the rocky patches.
There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Do you have any advice for parents facing the teenage years? Anything you’d do differently?
Love and loads of patience and courage for the journey,