Advice or Meddling? Guidance or Interference? A Parent’s Dilemma!

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Oldster’s love to share their wisdom with others; especially their own children, and experience does provide new insight. If you don’t learn from history, you or your posterity are bound to repeat the same mistakes.

I recall writing a letter to my oldest daughter before computers came on the scene. I admit I sometimes waxed poetic and a bit philosophical. Her response sizzled with anger and sarcasm. “Is this some more of your good advice?”

I was stung and surprised. What had I said that offended her so much? Did my efforts to help come across as meddling or had I actually “hit the nail on the head” and brought her up short?

I will never know. Her rocky start into a difficult marriage finally ended in divorce, but not after bearing five beautiful children.  We never know how our words will impact others because we cannot see into their minds or know what they’re going through at the time. That’s what makes relationships so doggone difficult.

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Sometimes our children actually ask for our advice. I always tell them “You’re the only one that can make that decision, but I can tell you what helps me when I have tough choices to make;” then I bloviate about taking a sheet of paper and writing PRO on one side and CON on the other, followed by a list of the positives and negatives about each choice and an evaluation.

To tell you the truth, I’ve used this process most of my life and it seems to work quite well. Whether my children actually follow this method is another matter. I remember the wisdom my mother shared when I married at age 17.

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“You’re on your own now. I don’t want you to come running home whenever you have a problem. You and your husband should work out your differences together;” sage advice that served me well.

Did I resent her “meddling?” Not in the least. I knew that she was right. She had married at 16 herself and knew the obstacles. I accepted the fact that there was no turning back. The only thing that hurt was that she had closed the door on my youth.

Our job as parents isn’t to coddle our children forever; it’s to send them off into life prepared for the difficult decisions and dangers that lie ahead. It is to help them learn how to be independent. Children who must talk to their parents every day in order to make hard decisions are not equipped to survive the rigors of adulthood.

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Teaching your children to be independent and to accept adult responsibilities is a lonely job. You may not hear from them as often as you would like. Their preferences and life styles may be far different from the ones you would have chosen for them. Their political and religious persuasions may contrast sharply with your own. The only thing that keeps you together is blood, shared memories, and if you’re lucky love.

I take pride in my children’s accomplishments. They have used their talents and interests to provide fulfilling and interesting lives. They are helpful, kind, and hardworking. What more could a mother want?

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Freeze-Frame Happy Moments and Save them for Later

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Lillie and Ian

Lillie and Ian

We all love taking photos of important events and celebrations in our lives. Pictures are great, but good memories are better. Here’s how to stay focused and save those special moments even when you don’t have a camera.

Say you’re out for a run, or a walk and you see a spectacular sunset. Stop! Take the time to observe what you see. Use all of your senses. Smell the air. Remember the location. Frame the picture either in your mind or by using your hands. File your personal snapshot away and pull it out later when you need a pick me up.

Daughter Pam (Grandma)

Daughter Pam (Grandma) and Truly Notice picnic outdoors with all!

A visual frame adds a second level of memory to your image. The scent and sounds around you provide a third. By the time you continue your walk, this virtual photograph will be imprinted on your mind. Why is this important? Because the greater the quantity of peaceful images and joyful experiences you can tuck into your brain, the more inner material you’ll have to draw upon when life seems bleak and unbearable.

Ask a prisoner of war or a hostage victim how they were able to endure, and they’ll tell you it was the images they were able to bring to the surface of their minds and focus upon. It wasn’t the menagerie of fun that filtered past them online or the colorful games that flitted beneath their fingertips. It was actual real-life-experiences that were embedded in their very heart and soul.

Adrienne, my oldest granddaughter

Adrienne, my oldest granddaughter

On our recent vacation we took numerous photographs of spectacular scenes and prominent places that we can enjoy again and again when we take out our photos or look for them online. But the images that remain in my head will be there forever:

  • The hugs from my granddaughters and grandsons telling me how glad they were that I came out for a visit;
  • The tears in my daughter’s eyes when it came time to say goodbye;
  • My son-in-law’s patience taking us from place to place;
  • Seeing each grandchild and great-grand-child up close and savoring each hug.
  • Being there for one of them in the ICU when she had a near-death sweep that made life seem so fragile;
  • Watching the interactions of parents and children, of grandparents and grandchildren, of lively cousins running and giggling in circles around us and then getting together for an old-fashioned ball game in the cul-de-sac.
Kayla, my oldest "great!!!!" She was in ICU, but is okay now.

Kayla, my oldest “great!!!!” She was in ICU, but is okay now.

These are the kinds of images you savor; the ones you never want to forget that warm your heart long after life has gotten back to normal.

Do I remember what kind of cars my family drives or how clean and neat their houses were? Do I recall what we ate on a given night? Absolutely not! But I do remember each smile, each face, and each sincere hug.

Am I glad I took photographs? Of course; but I also freeze-framed each beloved one in my mind’s eye, complete with my own frame that helps to emphasize how precious each once is to my heart.

Chris and his dad.

Chris and his dad, Andy.

It isn’t distance, prison, lack of freedom or old age that is our enemy, but forgetfulness. God bless those who have Alzheimer’s disease! The worst thing to happen to us would be an inability to remember who we are or to have nothing to fall back on when we’re alone.

Creating Family Ties that Last

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An Open Book

I recently enjoyed a visit with my oldest son and his family who traveled to Florida. We crammed in as much as we could with the short time allotted to us. We took in the beach and the wonderful Gulf waters, still clean and pristine on the southwestern shores. We enjoyed the parks and wildlife as much as weather would allow. But the most memorable fun came in the evenings when we watched a movie or played games around the kitchen table.

The family had brought a game called “Apples to Apples;” a vocabulary builder that makes you think. We spent two hours playing this fun game and laughed so hard we cried at the comments from the kids and their wonderful imaginations.

I often worry about today’s families and wonder if they have enough memory building activities in their lives? They are so absorbed with work and separated by technology, phones and computers. Playing games with my children and grandchildren gave me hope, and it brought back a whole lot of memories.

My grandfather, a school teacher, loved entertaining his grandchildren. When my cousins and I got out of hand, he’d set us to work in his garden or distract us with games. Not any old games; homemade games that were totally unfamiliar to us. My favorite used a classic Coke bottle and a box of toothpicks. Each person received twenty picks to start.

The objective was to lay a toothpick across the lip of the bottle, in turns. The first person to topple the stack kept them. Anytime you caused a pick or picks to drop, you added them to your pile. The first person to get rid of all their picks was the winner. We played the game until the loser, usually the youngest child, got tired of being “the fall guy.”

When the floor game “Pickup Sticks” came out, it was never as much fun as grandpa’s toothpick game.

"Beach Buddies"

“Beach Buddies”

My sons liked to play “uncle” when they were young. They wrestled on the floor until one of them had the other in a painful twist. Relief came only by yelling “uncle.” Enduring pain and refusing to say the magic word somehow enhanced their manhood. Horsing around took the pressure off, and gave them an excuse for male bonding. The rough and tumble helped them avoid that personal hug or embarrassing show of affection.

Horsing around or playing games is good for coordination, skill building, and brain power. It provides a means for fellowship and promotes conversation. The laughter and talk that takes place during the game is a natural outcome.

When my children were all still at home, our TV went out. We waited to get a replacement just to see what would happen without our hypnotizing, addicting companion. Here are some of the things we did that my kids still talk about today.

We read several classic books together. Sprawled on the floor or with legs dangling over chair arms, the children’s imaginations soared as we read Rudyard Kipling’s jungle stories; their favorite “The Elephant Child.” Other books on our list: “Mary Poppins,” “Treasure Island,” “Tom Sawyer,” and short stories by Charles Dickens.

"With These Hands Wonder" available by clicking image.

“With These Hands Wonder” available by clicking image.

This was before Harry Potter and Shrek. Trips to the library replaced other after school activities. We broadened our reading to include children’s plays. Each child took a part; the older children helping the younger. Simple costumes helped us stay in character. Giggles were the order of the day, but we did manage to put on several plays, including “The Nativity” and the reading of Luke on Christmas Eve.

Once a week, we had a cooking session in the kitchen. The children learned how to make simple things like no-bake cookies, candies, Jello, fancy sandwiches and French toast. One evening the older children learned how to sew on a button. I introduced them to skills I thought they should know before they left home.

Adding more ingredients.

Adding more ingredients.

It was a fun time while it lasted. Besides making memories and learning new things, we learned a lot about each other. When we finally purchased a new TV, it engulfed our lives once again. We went back to our old routines, but the change of pace had made a difference.

During a power outage when my seventeen year old daughter was left in charge of her younger brothers and sisters, they survived. She didn’t want us to worry, so she didn’t tell us. They slept in their sleeping bags and ate cold food for three days until we returned. They had a great time telling stories, putting on plays, and singing songs just as we had done before on our nights-without-TV.

I sometimes feel sad for the young people of today who miss out on good old-fashioned fun, or do they? My husband and I visited with our older children in Minnesota. We were invited to be part of an interactive musical game called: “Guitar Hero.” I was given the drum sticks and waited for the signal lights that told me when to play. The rhythm increased in increments, and soon I was giggling and missing a beat here and there.

Next I played a guitar and had to strum to the tune of a green beeping light. My husband and his grandson played other instruments; his granddaughter sang solo, and everyone else clapped and sang along. By the time we were done, everyone was laughing. The whole family joined in and had a great time singing, clapping and laughing at the players onstage.

Times have changed, and the methods may be different, but families still know how to have fun together. The age-old problem is making the time. Is it worth it? You’d better believe it. The adage: “the family who prays together stays together” also works well with this phrase: “the family who plays together stays together.” So pray and play your hearts out. Make memories that last!

Photographs – Instant Replay

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Andy's wedding

Andy’s wedding

Surrounded by old photographs, my past envelops me with a sudden rush of remembrance. Here we are family and friends captured in a brief, fleeting moment singled out from the countless hours, days, and weeks that make up our lives.

How happy we look smiling for the camera. How hopeful for the future as we pose here together, frozen for eternity in a fraction of a second and the flash of a camera. One click and an infinitesimal moment is recorded for posterity. Tomorrow’s pain and unfulfilled promises are unseen, unanticipated.

The girls

The Girls

Photographs are given far more importance than they deserve. We use them to document our lives; perhaps even to define us. Then when relationships crumble and children move on into adulthood with their own lives and preoccupations, the frozen images smile back at us mocking the reality of what is now – what is today.

The life we once had — was it dream or illusion? Who are these people smiling at us now – these people caught in a millisecond of time?

Me and my girls and hubby

Me and my girls and hubby

Photographs wear with age, their brightness fades and their corners become tattered and yellowed; but the images continue to smile at us as they did long ago when the shutter closed and captured one shared smile, one shared space, and one microcosmic second in a lifetime.

We have all changed since those first pictures were taken. We are older, and perhaps wiser. Photographs provide proof that we have lived, but they can never tell others who we really are. Photographs are, after all, only superficial shards of the life we leave behind.

Ring ceremony

Ring ceremony

I wrote the above article many years ago when I was feeling down. Recently, I learned of another loved one with marriage problems and this article came back to me. I felt it deserved repeating.

I’ve hidden away or torn up many old wedding photos, the aftermath of divorce and unhappiness. The photos smile back almost mocking the here and now. And yet what is it that people cherish most after flood, fire or tornado? It’s the personal remembrances of family and friends; some of whom may have perished in the disaster.

Me and the groom; my grandson, Andy.

Me and the groom; my grandson, Andy.

Contemporary life is fraught with tragedy, deception, and strife. Just watch a soap opera any day of the week and you’ll see encapsulated the sorrows of modern life. People are not only complex, but so is the world we live in. During a crisis, perhaps those celluloid copies and digital images of friends and loved ones remind us of happier times.

After a loved one is gone, or our own life begins to fade, our memories and photographs document our lives and remind us that once we hoped, we loved, and we rejoiced.

(Wedding photos are from my oldest grandson’s recent wedding)

My Father the Fisherman

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Mountain Valley

Mountain Valley

I grew up in an emerald green valley ringed on all sides by a craggy strip of mountains known as the Wasatch front. These rugged giants, and the springs, lakes, and rivers that divide them, were the guardians of my youth. From my bedroom window, the mountains rose like giant hands in prayer; casting benevolent shadows on the surrounding neighborhoods and farms.

On clear summer days, the sky filled our valley with morning light long before the sun had reached its crest on the jagged peeks and thrown off its coverlet of shadow cast by aspen, Juniper, and sage. A neighbor’s rooster proclaimed the break of day, and the sounds of engines starting and cattle lowing struck the chords and the notes that play out in my head even now.

On the Western side of the valley, the distant mountains completed the circle, framing a patchwork of fields and farms that spread out on the valley floor like a farm wife’s quilt. At day’s end, the sun, saving the best for last, celebrated its descent in triumphant tones of amber and rose before snuggling deep into mountain shadow.

On evenings such as this, time stood still as I watched my father practice the art of fly tying. Like a true artist, he adjusted clamp and vice to secure the hook while he twisted and wrapped the tiny feathers into place. Although each fly was unique, he duplicated one lusty specimen many times over for its ability to snag rainbow trout and German browns.

With the same skill he used to cast his fishing line in a timeless dance over canyon waters, he cast his children out to experience life. If we encountered rough waters or found ourselves in over our heads, he would reel us back in for further instruction.

Sometimes his reprimands were harsh. At those times, his words cut through our disobedience with the sharp edge of truth. Then he would cast us out again, giving us more line from time to time, until we got it right.

Because of my father’s skill as an angler, I grew up with a man-sized appetite for pan-fried trout. Father cleaned them. Mother cooked them — dusted in flour and fried in butter, without the cholesterol guilt or fat gram shame. We dined on fish two or three times a week. The extra fish were frozen for winter meals and to keep my father’s dreams alive for the next fishing season.

Sometimes the family went with him on his fishing expeditions, wandering the byways and dirt roads of Southern Idaho , Wyoming , and Northern Utah in search of the best fishing holes. He waded up to his armpits in the rivers and dams along the Wasatch front; the winding Snake River , the wide Green River , and the brilliant blue Bear Lake .

When my father could no longer fish, he shared the woven intricacies of fly tying with his grandchildren, leaving them an inheritance that would continue on like an echo in the same canyons and mountain streams.