Can I Retire from Parenting?

If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.

C.M. Wallace

Recently, I was at a meeting and the topic of parenting came up. There was a mom like me who has older children- one high school graduate and one still in high school. She was sharing that she believes ECFE* classes should continue throughout all stages of parenting as she has found parenting older children is challenging! What an understatement!

Because my children are now 26 and nearly 23, I often tease that I am a semi-retired parent. The truth is my kids would like me to fully retire on many days…… that is until they need me. My kids still ask me to edit papers for them or give them a bit of advice on handling relationships with roommates, teammates, or significant others. I can tell you it’s darn scary to offer up advice when your child is talking to you about the person they love and would like to spend the rest of his/her life with. No one wants to mess that up. Mostly, I ask questions and listen a lot.

Simple idea…… listening to our children. How often do we take the time to set aside everything else including cell phones, television, and cooking dinner to listen to what our kids have to say? Have you figured out how to get your child to open up to you? Years ago, I read that boys have an easier time talking to adults when they don’t have to look right at you or have you look at them (face it- there is judgment in a look sometimes), so I would take my boys in the car or on walks with me. There were many times in the car when concentrating on driving became difficult because I was getting an earful about the life of my child! I have a friend who found that bedtime with her daughter was the very best time to listen. I specifically said listen & not talk….did you notice? Try to avoid talking at your child. No advice unless they ask for it or you ask permission to give it. No judgment. No consequences. Can you do it?

Invest time to find the place where your child opens up to you. If you haven’t found that place yet- don’t give up! Keep trying. Maybe your child is highly active and will talk on a bike ride or jumping on a trampoline. Perhaps your child is introverted and you will need to have an abundance of quiet time before opening up to you. You might find that once your child starts talking- the talking won’t stop! Just keep listening.

So, back to my original question. Do we ever get to retire from parenting? My soon to be 89 year old mom would say absolutely not! You will forever be a parent- your role will change through the years, but you will never stop wanting the best for your children and worrying about them. The hope is by creating a relationship with children where they can safely talk and we can listen, you will not only survive this lifetime career with no retirement date in sight, but you will enjoy the ride.

*Early Childhood Family Education offers classes for children up to age 5 with parents. Education is intended for both parent and child.

Are Teachers Writing a Book (about me)?

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.

Lily Tomlin

There were many times in the education of my children that I wondered why their teachers were so interested in me and our home life. I would get questions about whether my children shared a room, what kinds of foods did I offer at dinner, and whether or not we had a pet. I started to get a complex that teachers were stalking me!

Now that my children are grown, and I have the benefit of working in a profession alongside amazing teachers, I realize those teachers were doing their job. Every morning when parents come to drop off their children for preschool….. I see that kids don’t necessarily leave what’s going on at home at home when they attend school. I have witnessed many kids who are distracted by their home life, so much so, that their learning is diminished.

Kids are deeply affected by much more than we adults realize. At my school, I have witnessed kids melting down over a pet that is getting “fixed” during the day. First off, the children don’t think their pets are broken! Right?! Those same kids are likely to be wondering if those beloved pets will be the same when they get home from school. Children are famous for their creativity and this spills into their thoughts about situations we see as simple and small. Is Grandma going in for a little surgery? Kids won’t think surgery is minor , and they will be thinking about it at school.

When my youngest child was in third grade, my father’s Parkinson’s disease was rapidly affecting his health, and my family dreaded the inevitable result. Even with my effort to protect my 9 year old from the fear I had of losing my dad, my little boy felt the stress in our home. He finally gave in to the emotion he was experiencing and had a serious melt down at school. Fortunately, he had a teacher who knew something was off with him and she had asked me what was going on at home. When the meltdown began, she was ready and able to comfort my child.

Teachers are so much like parents during the school day. They wipe noses, give high fives, hand out discipline, and care about the welfare of the children in their class. When this light finally clicked for me, I no longer worried about teachers and their insatiable interest in my family. I willingly answered all the questions about family including all of our pets (including a chameleon). I realized that I wanted teachers to know who my child is. After all, who am I to think I don’t need help raising a human being?

I challenge you to provide additional information to your child’s teacher that will allow for the student/teacher relationship to be meaningful to your children. Raising children truly does take the effort of an entire community, so make your community large and make it a force to be reckoned with. Once you commit to growing the community that is helping to grow your child, the questions a teacher asks you at conferences or parent pick up won’t seem like such a big deal. I promise you….. teachers aren’t stalkers. They simply care about your child!

Why Do I (as a parent) Have Homework?

“If John Lennon was right that life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans, parenting is what happens when everything is flipped over and spilling everywhere and you can’t find a towel or a sponge or your “inside” voice.”

Kelly Currigan author of Lift

You have just gotten home from an exceedingly exhausting day of work after picking up the kids, and now you are doing your best to tackle dinner before you run the kids to music lessons or practice, or whatever new activity they MUST do tonight. That’s when IT happens…….

Your child pulls out homework. It’s a science kit that the entire family should work on together, or an art project that you need to find all of the supplies for, or you have been assigned parent/child reading time. You can’t help yourself- you think “I already graduated- why do I need to do homework?” In my case, I was working on my Master’s degree while my kids were still in school as many educators do. Inside my head, I would scream at the top of my lungs, “I don’t have time to do your homework project!” On the outside, I would plaster a fake smile on my face and do my best to talk my husband into working on the science kit.

He often did help with the science kits. I always tackled the spelling words and sentences. He would also take responsibility for math help for the kids. We survived IT by dividing and conquering the tasks that seemed overwhelming and far too much to ask of parents who are doing their best to get through the tasks of parenting. At the time, we struggled, but we did the science kits, the art projects, and the family interviews or family trees that came home with them in seemingly endless supply.

Our boys are 26 and 22 now. Our parenting duties are greatly changed and severely diminished. I often tell people I am a semi-retired parent as my boys are in the stage of life where they want to figure things out on their own. You know what is surprising? I actually miss the chaos of life at night when we were working so hard to do all that we expected of ourselves to be the best parents we knew how to be. Not too long ago, my older son stopped by to visit. Over dinner, (HEY! He did visit after all!) He talked about his memories of his dad and me working on the crazy dioramas, science projects, and, of course, the last minute run to the store for supplies at 8:00 because they were needed for the next day at school. He said, “Thank you. I know I would not be where I am today if you hadn’t done all of those things for me.”

Yep! It was worth it. The next time you are screaming inside your head about the fact that you are too darn old for homework, remember that this too shall pass. Do your very best. One day, you will also see it was worth all of the effort.

What can They Learn from That?

I think it’s very important — no matter what you may do professionally — to keep alive some of the healthy interests of your youth.
Children’s play is not just kids’ stuff. Children’s play is rather the stuff of most future inventions.

~ Mr. Fred Rogers

In the world of preschool education, we often get asked questions about what children are learning from the daily activities in class that can be seen as “play”. Recently, we spent a good part of class playing board games such as Chutes and Ladders and Candyland.

From playing board games, children can learn how to take turns, follow directions, patience (while waiting for their turn), sportsmanship, as well as colors, numbers, and shapes that they will need to know when they get to Kindergarten!

Recently, in our office, the older adults (like me) were fondly remembering playing games and having game night with our own children when they were young. One of the younger staff members was talking about playing Memory with her 3 year old girls and said “It was hard!” I shared a tip from this older mom to her…. It’s much easier when beginning to play games with your children to shorten the game a bit. Try taking out 5-1o matching sets with the Memory game and start with that. Each time you play, add an extra set or two and you will be amazed at how quickly you will be using the whole set of cards to play the game!

Take time to get down on the floor (or sit at the table) to play games with your children. Your modeling of the aforementioned skills as well as the time spent with your children will be some of the greatest lessons you can give to your children and you will have fun!

The Journey Begins

“There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.”
—Sue Atkins

We at Esko Community Education understand how challenging parenting can be. Our staff consists of mothers, fathers, grandpas, and grandmas with children ranging in age from newborn to over 30. We are here to provide you with tidbits of knowledge when you need them, motivation for the difficult days, and give you a few laughs along the way.

With a staff who hold degrees in Early Childhood Education, Educational Leadership, Journalism, Environmental Education, and a few master’s degrees in the school of hard knocks, we hope to provide you encouragement for the most difficult job you will ever love!

Buckle up! It’s going to be a great ride!