Saturday, April 28, 2018

Guest Blog - I Am A Mom Of 2 Human Kids So Listen Up

When my friend of many years published this photo on her Facebook wall, she mentioned I wanted to write a guest blog post. In doing so, Lisa also mentioned I was candid. I don't sugarcoat stuff. In fact, over the past decade or so, we've gone face to face. Fought fire with fire. Lisa has extended her raw honesty with me. I have done the same with her. We've had our reciprocal moments of differences and periods of silence. I knew she was apprehensive about letting me publish a blog column, I am.

What I want to throw onto the table before I say anything else, is that Lisa is not the Mom of human kids. You already know that. However, I am. In addition to being a Pet Mom to 2 dogs and 3 cats, I'm also a Mom to 2 human kids ages 17 and 19. I've been married to my husband for 22 years. He works full-time. I work part-time.

Now that we have the formalities out of the way, we can get down to the nitty-gritty.

Not too long ago, Lisa retired from a few services she had provided for at least a decade and she publicly announced why. Since then, she has received a lot of feedback, most of which hasn't been kind. The bulk of those replies, in one way or another, has referenced that Lisa is not the Mom of a human kid therefor has no right passing judgment on the youth of today.

I read Lisa's blog column about retiring from those services four times. As a Mom to human kids, I was neither offended or got the impression that Lisa was passing judgment. I found that blog column to be right to the point and brutally honest. More so, I respected Lisa a little more than I already do because she kept her opinions within the realms of her experience.

The only thing Lisa and I debated was her choice to retire. Personally, I feel that Lisa's stern and honest approach is exactly what most of the youth today need. They certainly aren't getting it at home or in the classrooms. For those of you, like myself, who are in your 40's and older, you know what I'm talking about. How many times have you caught yourself starting a sentence with, "When I was a kid..."

Lisa's blog column also inspired me to come forth. She may not be the Mom to human kids, but again, I am. In the past, on many occasions, I've reached out to Lisa for sound advice in that area. Afterall, when you've worked in group homes for a couple of years and taught Independent Living for as long as she did, you're bound to have a tight grasp on a lot of stuff. Between her experience and me being a Mom to human kids, we've both witnessed the effects of changing times.

When I've gone to Lisa with issues in my household, Lisa never told me what to do or presented herself as an expert. Instead, she shared stories with me, described how she has handled various situations, enlightened me with many ideas on how I could handle certain situations and provided support. I'm grateful for that.

To the people who share the opinion that Lisa should keep her mouth shut when it comes to the youth of today and how they're being raised, I'm going to share something with you. One of my kids is almost an adult. One is an adult. Both my husband and I have raised our kids to be hard-working, productive human beings who respect their elders. In this day and age, that wasn't easy, but we refused to allow our kids to become lazy, entitled brats who lacked motivation and determination.

Throughout the process of raising our kids, we had family and friends who came forth and weren't shy about giving their opinions about our rules and how we ran our household. I was kind enough to let them get it out of their system. Then, I had my moment of filling them in on how I felt about their opinion. I'll leave that to your imagination.

As a Mom to human kids, I will tell you that a lot of the youth today, including teens and young adults, need to learn a thing or two. The parents of these teens and young adults need to step up to the plate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but these are some the morals and ethics we instilled in our kids.

1. Say Please and Thank You. When our kids wanted something, they asked politely. When we gave our kids anything, they were expected to say thank you. When our kids received gifts from friends and family, they were expected to handwrite a note of thanks. If they didn't, they had to return the gift. There were no exceptions.

Teach your kids to acknowledge and to be grateful for the gifts, efforts, and kindness that people extend their way. This prevents them from thinking that they are owed stuff just because it's their birthday, it's a holiday, or because they've reached a milestone. It also deters them from feeling entitled.

2. Do good in school. Our kids never made the honor roll. We didn't expect our kids to get all A's. However, they were expected to put in the time and effort into doing their best. Homework and studying had to be done before watching TV or hanging out with friends after school. Bad grades (D's and F's) meant they weren't trying. A few times we had to eliminate TV, electronics, and hanging out with friends during the week, but our kids knew we meant business. They may not have liked their classes or teachers or the amount of homework and studying, but tough.

Teach your kids to do their best and put in the effort even if it's something that doesn't pique their interest. This will teach them to get through prerequisites for college and careers or sit through boring training seminars and work-related meetings.

3. Work first. Play later. Both of our kids always had age appropriate, monotonous chores that had to be done every single day. The older they got, the more they had. This included weekends too. In addition to homework and studying, most of the chores had to be done before watching TV, electronics, and hanging out with friends. This was not negotiable.

Teach your kids strict time management. Whether they go to college or start working after high school, they need to learn that work, writing papers, studying for exams, taking care of their various responsibilities, etc., is more important than catching up on their favorite Netflix series or an evening on the town.

4. The extras had to be earned. We didn't dole out allowances, but when our kids hit their teen years and were too young to get a job, we gave them the option of doing additional, bigger chores for cash. For example, when our daughter wanted to see a movie with her friends, we figured out the total cost of the movie including snacks. Then, my husband and I would make a list of work that needed to be done around the house or outside. Each task earned a certain amount. If our daughter wanted to see the movie with her friends, she needed to earn the money. We weren't just going to hand it over.

Teach your kids the value of money and the work involved in earning money as early as you can. Mindlessly forking over $25 for an evening out with friends doesn't teach them anything. Familiarize them with how much work it takes to earn $25. 

5. There are consequences for bad choices. When you don't pay your utility bills, services get cut off. When you don't make your monthly car payments, your car gets repossessed. If you're late to work multiple times and don't do your job, you get fired. It's hard for kids to process that because they're not paying bills or having to punch in at 7 a.m. In order for us to teach our kids the difference between good and bad choices, we dished out consequences for their bad choices. When our son skipped school one day, he was grounded for a week. We took away his privileges to use the TV, electronics, and he wasn't allowed to hang out with his friends. Needless to say, he only skipped school that one time.

Teach your kids to deal with the consequences of bad and irresponsible choices. Don't be afraid to discipline your kids. A "slap on the wrist" isn't going to cut it. Take away their phone and internet for a week. Make them realize that consequences are not fun. If you live without lights for a week because you didn't pay your bill, you'll think twice about spending your light bill money on a night out. 

6. Meal planning and cooking was a must. Our kids were included in food prep and meal planning at a young age. Those tasks were obviously geared towards their age level. By the time our kids were 12 and 13, they were able to handle most of the food prep and make simple meals. This was a huge time saver for me on the days I worked.

Teach your kids that prepping and cooking meals is a chore that needs to be done on a daily basis and that responsibility should not fall onto one person. It also teaches kids the importance of cooking at home in order to stick to a food budget.

7. Seeking employment began during their Summer vacation at age 16. This was not an option. We wanted our kids to learn the process of pounding the pavement, applying for jobs, getting through the interviews, and working for a paycheck. Both of our kids scooped ice cream for an entire summer at a local ice cream stand. The location was less than a mile away so they walked to and from work. They opened a savings account. A portion of their paycheck had to be deposited each week. At the age of 17, they were expected to get Summer jobs on their own. Lounging around all Summer was not allowed. At 19, our son currently works full time. Our daughter, who is almost 18 will be moving from part time to full time at a retail store she works at after she graduates this year.

Teach your kids to be independent. Once they hit the age of 16, they should be doing things independently and that includes seeking employment, filling out online applications, making phone calls, walking or riding a bike to fill out paper applications, getting to and from their interviews, and getting to and from work. This includes making transportation arrangements with you. 

8. Limit their technology. I cringe at the number of parents who allow their kids to be glued to their electronic devices for hours on end. There is NO need for that. Our kids had cell phones for emergency purposes only. We allowed our kids to have one hour a day, including weekends, for gaming, laptops, and tablets. All chores and homework had to be done first. The only exception is if our kids had a paper or project for school that required additional time on the laptop.

Teach your kids to socialize face to face and find interest in outdoor activities. Encourage them to entertain themselves with hobbies, sports, volunteer work, etc. 

9. No bribes. None. What is up with parents bribing their kids? Just the other day, while at a sweet 16 birthday party, I heard one parent tell her kid, "If you help pick up the wrapping paper and clear the tables, I'll take you out for ice cream later." Seriously? Since when do we have to bribe our kids with perks to do something? Not in our household. Both our son and daughter assisted with cleanup without having to be asked and without bribery.

Teach your kids to help out and do work without a reward at the end of the day. Trust me, when you're an adult, there are very few perks for a job well done or getting through the day in one piece. Your boss isn't going to buy you a FroYo for meeting a deadline. 

10. Very few excuses are valid. My husband and I did not tolerate excuses from our kids. Having a headache, period cramps, being tired, or it being too hot or cold outside was no excuse for not doing chores, homework, not studying, or, as they got older, calling out sick. We explained that if we used those excuses to get out of going to work, we'd have no money, no roof over our heads, no food, and we'd be living in the poor house. Unless they were sick with a high fever or had a serious injury, our attitude was, "Suck it up, cupcake and deal with it."

Teach your kids not to use excuses in order to get out of chores or doing stuff they don't want to do. In the real world, those excuses are invalid. No one cares if you have period cramps or if it's too hot and humid outside. 

11. You break it, you replace it. Unless our kids paid for it, they didn't own it. We taught our kids to have respect for everything from furniture and appliances to clothing and footwear. Aside from normal wear and tear, growth spurts, and appliances breaking down over time, if our kids didn't take care of their stuff or anything under the roof and it needed to be replaced because of that, they had to replace it. When our son was 14, he decided, on a dare from a friend, to hang from the ceiling fan as his friend turned it on high. The ceiling fan broke. At 14, our son was too young to get a job. We bought a new ceiling fan, but our son had to work the amount off. We made a list of work that needed to be done around the house and put a dollar amount by each chore. We gave him 2 weeks to work off the cost. He did it. Not only did that teach him to respect other people's belongings, it also taught him that replacing items isn't cheap.

Teach your kids the value of things whether it's a set of plates or a large appliance. Money doesn't grow on trees. You can't replace a $300 ceiling fan by clicking your heels 3 times. Sometimes, you have to save to replace big ticket items or make sacrifices. Kids need to know that.

12. A balance of Inside and Outside. Our kids were never allowed to drown themselves for hours in front of the TV, their phones, or playing on their game consoles or electronic devices. It didn't matter what season it was, our kids were encouraged and required to play outside. Some of their chores included outside work. On the weekends, family plans included mostly outdoor activities.

Teach your kids to appreciate the world outside of their rooms and home. They may gripe and complain, but so what. Take them to the beach and treasure hunt for shells and sea glass. Go hiking. Go camping. Spend the day at a lake. The possibilities are endless. Just do it. Don't put up with their excuses.  

13. Disrespect is not tolerated. Disrespect comes in all forms. Our kids know what is considered disrespectful. As an example, if one of our kids needs to vent, they know they can and we're not going to flinch when they drop an F-Bomb or two. However, when they're in the company of family or friends, they know to watch their tongue. Disrespecting us or family in the presence of their friends is not tolerated and, if they go down that path, there will be consequences. For example, a couple of years ago, during the Summer months, we had a huge cookout that included both friends and family. I asked my daughter and her friend to bring the condiments and refrigerated stuff outdoors. She let out a long exhale, gave me a look, and said, "We'll do it in a minute. We're hot." Long story short, she was grounded for several days after that.

Teach your kids to respect their elders. If you're going to a family cookout, they should be helping out with setup and cleanup or, at the very least, offering to help. If someone asks them to grab condiments or set the table, they need to do it.

14. I'm your parent, not your beck and call. As our kids got older, they had more responsibilities placed on their laps. We made them responsible for remembering stuff like supplies needed for school projects, cupcakes or cookies baked for bake sales, homework, etc. Once our kids hit high school, if they forgot a homework assignment left at home, that was left for them to deal with and the consequences to follow. If they forgot their cleats for baseball practice, sorry. If they failed to secure a ride to and from one thing or another, oh well. When they didn't wake up to their alarm clock, sorry.

Teach your kids that a lack of planning on their part doesn't constitute an emergency on your part. When they're on their own and out in the real world, no one is going to hold them by the hand.

15. Tough Love. Kids will be kids. Teens will be teens. Young adults will be young adults. At one point in time, or many, they'll test your boundaries. At this point, it's time to grab the reins of tough love. Dish out the consequences. Follow through. Deal with their tantrums, retributes, and the slamming of doors after they blatantly tell you how much they hate you. It'll tear you to shreds as a parent, but in the long run, it's one of the most beneficial lessons you'll teach your kids. In the end, you'll be better parents. Your kids, teens, and young adults will grow up to be better people.

Teach your kids that the real world has boundaries, laws, and no college professor or boss will put up with tantrums, excuses, or entitlement. 

16. Listen to what's being said and the reactions around you. One of the hardest lessons I learned as a parent was to listen without prejudice or getting defensive when people spoke about our kids. As parents, you're busy with work, errands, responsibilities, daily life, and other stuff. It's impossible to be aware of what your teen is doing or saying 24/7. A few years ago, I learned that my daughter was on various social media sites. She was using her friend's phone and laptop during "study times." Through the grapevine, I heard that she was posting quite a few "selfies" in outfits that she knew I would not approve of. At first, I got a little defensive, but after doing some investigating I realized the "gossip" was true.

Teach yourself, as a parent, to see your kid through other people's eyes. Do not get defensive when you hear stuff about your kids. Keep an open mind. You are with your kid/s every day. You're going to miss stuff. You won't catch everything. Stop isolating your kid/s in a bubble so no one can take a stab at them. Take a step or two back. How your kids act around others or out in public is a reflection of not only them but you.

17. When you turn 18, the entire game changes. Both of our kids got the lecture. When you hit the age of 18, things will change completely. They became aware that at the age of 18, my husband and I were no longer legally responsible for them. From that point on, anything that we provided for them was out of love. That included room and board, food, utilities, transportation, clothing, phones, ANYTHING. At any point in time, if they tested us or failed to put forth the ethics and morals we instilled in them, we would not hesitate to request they find another place to live.

Teach your kids that once they hit the age of majority, everything changes from laws, consequences, how situations are handled, and obligations. This also includes how family and friends view them and their behavior. 

Raising our kids in today's world hasn't been easy. Both my husband and I were raised before all of these digital distractions and kids didn't have to deal with half the crap they're dealing with now. It's tough and stressful.

As parents, we need to be tougher. I can't tell you how many times I've looked in the mirror and thought I was the world's worst Mom because I grounded one or both of my kids. My saving grace was thinking about the woman I am and the Mom I have become because of the women who raised me. I look at my husband who works 70+ hours a week, provides for our family, and still finds time to do projects around the house and plan fun activities on Sundays or when he takes vacation time.

I'm proud of who we are. I'm proud of our work and family ethics and morals. I'm proud of our kids who have grown up to be respectful, independent, responsible, and hardworking young adults. None of us are perfect. We're all human. We've all had our moments. That's just life. And, as my friend Lisa always says, "Life happens."

All things considered, my husband and I know that if something were to happen to one or both of us, our kids would be able to survive. They would need the love and support from family and friends, but we have no doubt they'd have that. Our kids are responsible and independent and they know what it takes to make it on their own.

As a Mom of human kids, I will blatantly say this to the rest of the parents out there. If you have an older teen or young adult residing in your household who has no grasp on responsiblity, finances, independence or is pretty much flunking at life, do something about it NOW. It's never too late.

If that doesn't make sense, think about it like this...

If you have an older teen or young adult, and you and/or your spouse were to go away for a month, would your kid/s be able to survive?

And by survive, I mean support themselves completely without you preparing them for the following month?

Would they be able to buy their own food? Cook it? Upkeep the household? Take care of the pets? Get themselves up in the morning for school and/or work? Mow the lawn? Shovel the driveway? Find a way to and from work and/or school?

If the answer is no, then you need to do something about right now.

I'll end my rant here. Thank you, Lisa, for allowing me free range as a guest blogger. I love and appreciate you. Keep up the great work on this blog, your mission, and that beautiful family of yours. I'll be in touch soon because I know you're struggling with a few things and you need my words of sound wisdom.

To the rest of you, if you read this entire post, thank you.

With love and a candid tongue...


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