The lessons from my kids just keep coming. My youngest turns 30 this year, and I am continually surprised and delighted by what they have to say and how they have improved upon what their dad and I taught them. This morning, I sat down and brainstormed a list of the wisdom and richness they’ve brought to my life.
- How to keep house in a tornado. Which was the general condition of our home when they were kids. Now that we have an intergenerational living arrangement with our daughter’s family, our grandkids create tornadoes whenever they visit our part of the house. Thanks to my tornado training, I can keep up with them—most of the time.
- How to foster creativity and individual uniqueness. My kids taught me that fostering creativity requires only a few key ingredients: time to mess with art supplies, tape, blank paper, scissors; imaginative time with dress up clothes; reading books together; time for Legos, Lincoln Logs, and blanket forts; time alone to think and imagine; and time outside to explore and get dirty. Both kids had access to these ingredients, and their individual uniquenesses emerged as they gravitated to the ones that piqued their interests. The same pattern is emerging with our grandkids. Warning! This strategy will result in a house that looks like it was hit by a tornado.
- What matters to kids is different than what matters to adults. My kids often talk about their favorite childhood memories and what events impacted them profoundly. Usually their fondest recollections spring, not from planned events like vacations or big, but from little things–songs we sang in the car, the radio shows playing while we cleaned house and folded laundry on Saturdays, the stories their dad told at bedtime, and learning to cook simple meals.
- How to make a good latte. My daughter did the barista thing while her husband was in graduate school. She did some research and convinced my husband and son to join her in purchasing a refurbished latte machine for me one Mother’s Day. She taught me how to use it, and we now take turns making lattes for one another–sheer bliss for two coffee snobs on a tight budget and miles from a good coffee shop.
- How to safely peel an onion. My son taught me this skill the last time we visited his farm. It’s not just safe, it’s quick and easy. I am eternally grateful!
- How to protect privacy. I’m thankful social media didn’t exist when our kids were young. I would have plastered pictures of our son’s surgeries and recoveries to keep people up-to-date. Now that he’s an adult, I realize that practice would have been an invasion of his privacy that could never be erased. Both are parents themselves who post few pictures of their children, and I post none at all.
- Endings are new beginnings. Each time a phase of my children’s lives ends, I am a little sad. But I also get a little excited because my kids have showed me that each ending—including the ones I was pulled into kicking and screaming–is also a new beginning. Each new beginning contains disappointments and delights, and God continually uses both for good in unexpected and amazing ways.
- Let go of all but prayer. God allowed my children to mature and become adults. They are no longer the baby boy in a NICU isolette recovering from surgery or the little girl whose dyslexia kept her from learning her math facts. They are adults who have made the most of their strengths and can cope with their weaknesses. My job is no longer to pick them up when they fall. My job is to let go of all but prayer. To pray that when they fall, they will have the strength to pick themselves up, and to cry out to God when their strength fails.
Jolene Philo is the author of the Different Dream series for parents of kids with special needs. She speaks at parenting and special needs conferences around the country. The book she is working with Dr. Gary Chapman about using the five love languages in special needs families will be released in August of 2019.