These were my dad’s words to me one day and these are Lessons Learned from NEVER SETTLED, Chapter 1 – Waking up!
I’m going to turn my attention on this blog to share what could be another book in itself. I had a tough life growing up and writing this book helped me see a number of things I learned along the way and a number of things that I am thankful for.
In addition, I now have twenty-four years of parenting experience, fourteen years of youth ministry experience, nine years as a school counselor—all of those years working with young people and twenty-eight years as a Christian that have helped me to find a level of success in raising three daughters and working with thousands of young people.
Many of these lessons can be learned by reading the book and taking the inferences.
However, I would like to be more explicit about what I learned both then and now.
Chapter 1, titled Waking up! was appropriately so as it begins with my dad coming into my room as I am late for school one day. It is a scary moment as I fear for my life and am unsure of what discipline I’m about to incur. The setting is that I am a somewhat responsible kid, having worked late the night before at a high school job, but not responsible enough to get up in time for school.
My dad was a great parent in this situation for one reason. He was gonna make sure I went to school. As a school counselor, I deal with this conflict on a regular basis. This pandemic has multiplied this challenge so many times over. Gobs of kids are not showing up for school, both in-person and virtually. This isn’t just a Springfield problem. This is a problem in our entire country right now.
Yet, for all of the not-so-kind aspects of my dad’s parenting, one thing I can commend him for was getting me to school. We moved almost eighty times and lived in nearly twenty states before I graduated. But, we always went to school and most often immediately after we arrived in a new town. Many people wonder how I was able to be academically successful moving so often. This is why. We rarely missed school.
You can’t learn if you don’t show up.
No excuses parents, we have to be sure our kids show up.
Now, let me add what I wish had been done differently.
My dad didn’t know I wasn’t at school until our principal had called him at about 10:30 a.m. that morning. As a parent now who has gone through his own three kids (the youngest is now a sophomore). How did he not know I wasn’t up and getting ready for school at 7:30 a.m.?
If we are going to get our kids to school on time so they are present in each and every class, we have to be checking on them early.
Ironically, he must have done that for my younger siblings, because they were in school that day, but he ignored me that day. If I had to guess why, it was because I was a senior in high school. He’s old enough, he probably thought. He knows what’s important. Until, I didn’t.
I can’t tell you enough, parents of teenagers, even the older ones. We must continue to parent our children through to the end. We can’t give up or hope they have it together.
The teenage mind doesn’t fully form until they are nearly twenty-two or twenty-three. That is they aren’t able to fully consider their future based on their current actions. It’s not an excuse for them, it is reality. I’m not suggesting you need to parent them that long, but at least until they are graduated or eighteen, whichever comes second.
Looking back, I was probably the most responsible kid I knew, and in reality I only missed Weightlifting Class, Study Hall and a bit of Vocational Business that I was acing. But, that didn’t matter. I needed to be in school, on-time.
I also wish that my dad had not approached my failure by waking me up in such a manner and making me fear for my life. I wish he had been more gentle. I wish I hadn’t needed to fear him so much. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy fear of authority is not a bad thing, but I don’t believe this was so healthy, particularly of physical punishment and emotional damage.
As parents, we know our kids will mess up. We expect it in many ways and the longer we parent, the more we expect it. That doesn’t mean our “expectations” change. We still want them to grow, to learn—to get better at life and responsibility. But how we approach our interventions and discipline can make a huge difference in them actually changing. Not just changing for the moment because we are in front of them.
It also greatly impacts our relationship with them. My dad’s tactics got me to school. But I hated him at that time. I also only got to school at that point when he came in and woke me in such a manner.
That year, I didn’t learn too much about setting my alarm in such a way that I would get up consistently. I didn’t learn to balance my responsibilities by cutting back my work hours or finding a way to get off earlier on a school night or researching ways to wind down quicker. I just learned to get up, move quickly and pray I didn’t die before I got there.
Our jobs as parents are not just to get our kids to comply, particularly when they are teenagers. Our jogs are to prepare them to think for themselves, to overcome their challenges by their own perseverance and to help them become self-automated. I wish my dad had done a bit more of that. I might have grown up quicker.
What do you think? What are your thoughts? Comment on the blog or whichever social media platform you read this on.