I recently had a text conversation with a friend who, despite our similarities in family size, is the polar opposite of myself. Seriously. However, I value our friendship and enjoy conversing because we can relate to each other on a strictly “more is better” philosophy. For me it’s fantastic to hear that she finds clothes still on the hanger in the dirty laundry and old apples under beds, and half drunk sodas (soda that was snuck, mind you) in dresser drawers. Having a friend who can relate to the chaos and the choices and does not say, “Well you chose to have 11 kids” when I’m having a moment of weakness is such a blessing. Having a friend who can put me in my place when I’m venting is invaluable. And, having a friend who can offer solace when I am complaining about driving a “big ass” van is priceless.
But that is seriously where our similarities end. We parent differently, our kids couldn’t be more different and what we see for them in the future is vastly different. But this makes things interesting and sometimes, just sometimes, my perspective on things is altered. You can almost always count on some sort of “disagreement” when we find time to chat. And the other night was no different. Both of us are solid in our parenting, we can’t be swayed and we know what we are doing is right for our family. So last night when we were talking about her kids the subject of college came up. Her family lives in FL and her oldest son applied to CU Boulder and was waiting for a response. Kerry applied there, she was early accepted and she is still trying to decide what it is that she wants to do. For us that is a 4-hour distance, for them, it’s a 33-hour distance. I off-handedly said I hope all our kids stay close, which started a conversation about hopes and dreams that our kids have for themselves and that which we have for them. A lofty conversation for a text message, for sure, but we didn’t get too deep, primarily because I have self-inflicted ADD and forgot I was texting her in the middle of this conversation and partly because you can’t argue with either of us, we are typically right! An admirable quality in a mom, for sure!
My friend responded to my statement by saying “In a perfect world” her children would stay close, but she’s “raised them to set goals and follow dreams.” One of her daughters is leaving the country with her husband because he’s in the military, another is going across the country to study for a semester of her Sophomore year and her son is looking at colleges across the country. While my daughter, if she attends a 4-year college, will be staying in Colorado. 1) I can’t afford to pay out of state tuition (as if I can afford to pay in-state) 2) I think it’s imperative that she stay connected with us and that, in my opinion, is impossible if you can’t see and visit and touch and hug and laugh and hold and play and work together.
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I responded, “Two different philosophies.” To which she said, “Would you want them to give up their dreams and follow yours? Or just hope their dreams are yours?” LOL, I expected this, I guess. I don’t know what it is about moms, but we really do get our feathers ruffled when someone else is parenting differently. I remember how enraged my in-laws were that Dan was marrying a Catholic. They were so upset, they never gave me a chance. I guess their biggest fear was that Dan would eventually convert, after all our agreement was that he would attend mass with me and we would raise our children in the Catholic church. He did convert in 1998, btw, but we didn’t tell his parents because we are cowards. LOL I’ve tried flipping the tables and thinking how I would feel if one of my kids left the Church and I can tell you I would feel nothing less than HORROR. In fact, I would hope my children would marry a Catholic, so i understand Dan’s parents hesitation thoroughly.
But friends are slightly different. Why should we care at all if someone disagrees with what we are doing. People think I’m crazy for homeschooling my brood. “When do you get a break?”, “What about socialization?”, etc, I really don’t care. I honestly do not care if I’m the only person in the world with the stay close philosophy. If I’m the only person raising my children to get married and stay close, then I’m the only person. What does it matter?
But back to my friends questions as to whether I’d have them give up their dreams or simply assume mine. =) While I think independence cannot be overrated, I do believe that everyone’s main hopes and dreams ought to lie with their family. Their current family and their future family. They ought to co-exist simultaneously. My children, whether they likes it or not (though I’m certain they all are very aware of how blessed they are), have an obligation as an sisters and brothers and GodParents to remain in their siblings lives. And, Dan & I have an obligation to our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so on. I don’t adhere to the 18 & out philosophy; we’re in this parenting thing for the long haul … till death do us part.
While I encourage them all to fully live their own life, set their own goals and pursue them relentlessly, I have taught my kids that first and foremost is God, then family, and then their own lives. I believe this feeling comes from my own experience as a young mom. Our mothers were busy with their own lives, other family members, travelling, working, etc. They didn’t have the time to be involved grandparents. What I would have given for an older woman to bounce ideas off of, to encourage me, to tell me spitting up was normal, that a runny nose did not, in fact mean leukemia and someone to just talk to and laugh with and enjoy. Someone I trusted, someone I loved for 5 or 10 minutes per day would have been delightful. The fact that we had none of this, the fact that we had zero family involvement made our move across the country inevitable.
Titus 2:4-5 commands that older women are to encourage the younger women to be keepers of the home and to love their husbands and their children. Who better to encourage this than mothers and mother-in-laws. Who better to reap the benefit of that command than our own daughters and daughters-in-law? I really believe that my children and their spouses will be greatly missing out if they ignore this command. Titus 2:1-3,11 deals primarily with the situation of Christians developing their own lifestyle within the civic society. Titus is encouraged to hold on to sound teaching while resisting pressures from all sides. Christians must not act in accordance with the world around them.. Paul’s instructions focus on how to survive while offering an alternative lifestyle and developing integrity as Christians.
We are a living example of this, I think. While I do not espouse to be worthy, I do try ever so hard and believe I’m been blessed from infancy with the ability to shun the norm. I honestly couldn’t care less if you agree with anything I do, which I think is another similarity I share with my above mentioned friend. Dan and I do embrace an alternative lifestyle and our daily focus is on integrity and resisting pressures from the outside world as well as forging inseperable bonds, honing in on individuals skills and having as much fun as humanly possible on a daily basis. As much as we all would like to believe otherwise, the outside world is not an inviting, loving, peaceful place. A family is. The outside world wants to corrupt, it wants to make sinners out of all of us. A family does not. The outside world is filled with sex, drugs, violence and alcohol. The family is filled with love, devotion and sacrifice for all. Which would you rather your adult children embrace?
Further, siblings are gifts from God. Dan and I will not be around forever (or so I’m told), but God has blessed all 11 of my children with 10 best friends for life. 11 people who will always have each others back, who will always be there to kayak with, snowboard with, help move, help build decks, watch each others children, be Godparents for each others children, vacation with, give counsel to, celebrate birthdays, engagements, etc. I simply can’t imagine that immense blessing and believe it would be nothing less than a travesty were they to squander it by moving such enormous distances as to make it impossible to see each other daily if they wanted. How will they know each others children? How will they know each others spouses? The truth is once you move away physically you move away emotionally. I know this is fact, I lived it.
So, until teleporting is a reality, Dan and I will encourage, gently encourage and continue to teach our chldren that strong families are the antidote to the chaos of the real world. We will continue to equally encourage them to embrace their dreams and relentlessly follow them, but to always always be sure to land at home at the end of the day.