Tomorrow Is A Gift
Boast not of tomorrow, for you know not what any day may bring forth.
~ Proverbs Ch:277 Vs:1

Many things we need can wait The child cannot. Now is the time his bones
are being formed, his blood is being made, his mind is being developed.
To him we can-not say tomorrow. His name is today.~Gabriella Minstral

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life.
But those who make their journey home across time & miles,
growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,
are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us
by God's very own hands. ~Author & Friend -Kristi Larson~

Nothing is impossible
if one is meant to do it.

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Parenting at an older age
Sometimes we stand alone...

If you measure the way others deem you to be as a parent, you will probably find you're thought of as many different ways as you have children in your family. Many tend to summarize parenting skills based on your child's strengths and weaknesses. I have seen this even with teachers. When both our oldest sons were together in elementary school I remember going from one parent-teacher conference to the next. Both the boys were doing very well accademically. It was the opinionated reflections on parenting by both teachers that differed in view. One went out of her way to tell us that our son was her absolute favorite student in all the 24 years she had been teaching and complimented my husband and I on our parenting skills by saying "it's very evident that he comes from a loving home with good parents." The other teacher referred to our other son as a 'cut-up' in the classroom and hinted that he could use a little more discipline at home. The boys are complete opposites. One very introverted, the other very extroverted. Each required a different type of parenting. They are both young adults today and each are boys any parent would be proud of, but never did we consider parenting them both exactly the same. Our children can define us as parents to a certain extent, as they grow and follow their pursuits, interests, and life choices, but we can never fully take credit for all our childrens successes or failures.

Some of our earlier mistakes were made based on uncertainities over being new at parenting. We weren't fully confident and hadn't yet formed any strong opinions. It was more comfortable copying many of the leading experts, (T.Berry Brazelton & Doctor Spock come to mind) and listening to the more outspoken parents. Over the years we've attended all parent-teacher conferences, helped out as volunteers and chaperones in school and on field trips, attended PTA meetings, and taught religious education and coached Little League Baseball. Our 6th and youngest child is now in preschool and the rest in elementary, middle, high school and college. I leave a lot of the volunteering in school to the younger Moms. I feel I have done my time and my interests now lie in different areas with our kids. I still attend the preschool field trips and help out in the classroom when asked, and volunteer behind the scenes with baking, parent and phone chains. I admire the young Moms who bring their energy and enthusiasm into the classroom by volunteering and remember my younger days doing the same. My husband and I are still very invested in our children's accademic years, and continue to help with homework, reading, and science fair projects, but we see our children's accademics as only a portion of their well roundedness. And even though 5 of our 6 children have accelerated a grade, qualified for the gifted-talent pool of students, and taken advanced and Honor classes, we do not see education as the cut-all, end-all as we once did. We do understand that parents that spend time in an atmosphere of learning with children create a bond and build on a child's self esteem and self confidence, but there is a lot more we parents should teach children then soley accademics. We believe we are just as invested in our children's accademics, only in a different way. We see the child's soul as the #1 area to protect and develop and everything else secondary.

Do you remember the era of "quality verses quantity"? As a stay-at-home Mom I believed the quantity of time I put in changing diapers, spoon feeding, wiping runny noses, baths and books before noon-day naps WERE testimony of my quality of love for my child. The working mothers, maybe touching a bit on 'guilt' believed it was not the mundane daily routines done in a child's life but rather the 'quality' time invested in spending one-on-one with a child. I now believe that each of these can be easily overstated to justify one's choice of lifestyle. Both are very necessary in a child's life, one no more important than the other.

It's only through life experience and practice, trial & error, that we gain knowledge and efficiency in parenting. We also rely heavily on the success and mistakes of others if we're actively looking for the best approaches in raising our children without keeping just a cricical eye. Over time we develop a better sense of who we are as parents based on our accomplishments and success, along with our mistakes and failures, which together, mold us into better parents.
My husband, the older between us, would agree, our energy level has decreased somewhat as older parents, but along with that, we feel our patience and understanding has increased. There's a trade off. My husband still has the time and energy to show our 4-year-old son, how to hold a baseball for pitching and how to hold and swing a bat and ride a bike. He is still often found playing a competitive game of basketball with our older sons at our hoop, however, we now delight in introducing our three youngest children to the arts and spend more time on educational trips to the zoos, parks and museums, paying particular attention to nature and music. We have slowed down some to appreciate these gifts in our lives and our younger children reap the rewards of being introduced to them in more detail and at an earlier age. Our mode of living is more quiet and reflective, and we draw our children into these choices as well. Once I watched our youngest son at age three stop his play and become mesmerized by my husband at the dining room table where his temporary fly-tying station is set up. He stood motionless, in awe, watching the art of winding the colorful threads and feathers onto the fish hook while my husband lie deep in concentration. Vavaldi's Four Seasons was playing in the background and our son eagerly asked if he could tie a fly. Twenty years ago you would have seen Daddy play wrestling on all four's, with the boys on the living room floor. Our children do have plenty of outside play and rambunctious times too but they do that with eachother and friends. We no longer join in with those activities.

We invest more time teaching our children about being of service to others in need in the world. We suggested the kids make a simple change in their Kids Meals at Burger King and McDonalds by requesting a 'toddler' toy' with it to donate to the orphans in Korea. They benefitted two-fold from this since most the toys are pure advertisements to spend on upcoming movies and a new toy line at your local department store. They were not toys or movies we would chose for our children so we didn't allow them to get ensnarled by this type of advertising scheme. You'de be surprised how many baby rattles you can collect over a year with three kids visiting these two restaurants! The Burger King cooperation heard of our endeavor and donated 50 more rattles to our cause! The individually wrapped rattles were shipped to a Korean Orphanage operated by the Social Welfare Society of Korea at Christmas time.

Another really important issue to my husband and I raising kids in today's world is the importance for parents to teach children how to sometimes stand alone. We think this is one of the most crucial life lessons to learn as Christians. There are times when choosing to stand alone, is the only Christian choice. Doing so takes practice and confidence. There are times in everyone's life that standing alone may be a choice or forced upon one. Children need to start learning at an early age how to do this & it needs to be practiced & developed in order to make good choices throughout life. Here is an example of what I mean. Recently there has been a lot of hype on the new Harry Potter movie. Theaters boast record-breaking sales of it being the highest grossing movie of its time. Opening week-end found many parents and their children waiting in long lines to be the first to see it. We wonder what message this gives to children? We live in a world of materialism and instant gratification. As parents, we need to do combat and instill in our children a strong desire to develop Christian values & intregrity. That means sometimes choosing to stand alone, depriving ourselves for the good of our soul. Every toy department, book store, stationary aisle, even the clothes and shoe sections of all the department stores had Harry Potter merchandise for sale. Our children didn't see the movie and after reading a few Christian experts view on it, did not feel its in our childrens best interest to see. When our daughters came home from school that Monday they told us how everyone was talking about the movie, and that the majority of kids in their class saw it. I was concerned for them and asked them how they felt about that? They admitted they felt a little left out, but when I coaxed them to talk about their feelings, they admitted that they didn't really care if they saw the movie or not. Part of the reason behind that was that they weren't exposed to all the sensationalism and hype beforehand so they didn't really know what the big deal was with the movie. I think also our daughers were able to feel that way regarding the Harry Potter Movie because this was not the first time they have been asked to 'stand alone' regarding something everyone had or was doing. They've practiced this, under our direction, and they do understand our reasons for thinking different, based on our Christian faith. That's not to say that there weren't feelings of sadness over feeling leftout but I think they are slowly developing an understanding about what the news and media do to us as consumers and it kind of gives them an empowering feeling not to be pulled into all the hype. This is a way of practicing with your children how to 'stand alone' and, over time, with practice, a child learns to grow in confidence in this area. I think this strength will help in other areas also as they grow into adolescence. Teenagers are bombarded in America with fashion, label trends, popular CD artists, cosmetics, TV, advertisement images, cars, and popularity. It can only help if they have learned strength in 'standing alone' early in their life. This is how we feel we are different as older parents. We chose NOT to buy into the commercialism of our society by having our kids participate, something we feel much more strongly about as older parents.

Christmas is another time I protect our children by not bringing them around to stores because of all the commericalism and over-emphasism on decorations and gift exchange. I make it a point to have all my gifts bought before December so I can stay out of the stores as well, and contemplate on the gift of Jesus in my life. Our faith holds more value in our lives now. Holidays are more spiritually celebrated, making them a more meaningful occasion. We attend both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day masses. Our manager is devoid of the three wisemen and Jesus and that is because neither have arrived until Christmas Day. The wisemen are placed in various spots (on window sills, mantle, end tables,etc) in our home to represent their travel to find Jesus. Baby Jesus is brought to the manager Christmas morning by the youngest child at the time in our family, while the older ones hold candles and make a procession behind. The straw in his manager hopefully is full and soft and is put there by each of our children during Advent as they find good deeds to offer up as sacrafices to add straw to the crib. One straw added for each endeavor. We also pray over the Advent wreath which sits center-stage at our dinner table and read a passage from the bible briefly before our evening meal.

We are trying to teach our children to be more conscience of the fact that we live in a culture with a privileged lifestyle. Here we have everything anyone could ever want while two-thirds of the world still goes to bed hungry each night. This privileged lifestye comes with strong responsibilities toward other human beings who share life with us living without. One way we have impressed this in our children's minds is in volunteering to grow a large vegetable garden at our parishes community garden last summer. We weeded, planted, watered and harvested as a family on a weekly basis with 20 other families, and every Saturday our children hand-deliver our harvest to the Soup Kitchen which feeds the homeless in our community. Our youngest son especially enjoyed this endeavor and was a hard worker. He had everyone chuckling leaving mass weekly exclaiming in exuberance, "Are we gonna get some squash to bring to the poor people today Daddy"!?

Being older at parenting, we develop more confidence in standing up for our beliefs and opinions regarding the choices we offer our children and the lifestyle we chose to live ourselves. We think this is pretty obvious in our lives with our youngest three children and the choices we make over TV viewing, toys, clothing, movies, music, and even food. Our family value system as older parents has changed and is thought out more carefully and in greater detail. Our spirituality, which both greatly influences our lives, has grown, and with that, a change has occured. Our deepening spirituality, which is purely a grace from God, has made an impact on our children's lives as well. As we grow older, our spirituality also grows through prayer and attentiveness. It needs to be nurtured and fed in our children's lives as well. We include religion and conversations about God and Christian books and music much more often in our family celebrations and discussions as older parents. We volunteer and work as a family in charitable activities. We connect, volunteer and participate more within our Parish with the 2400 other families who shares in our same Catholic faith. Our children benefit early in their lives from our strengths, which were made stronger based first on our weaknesss in parenting. I suspect we all are predestined in our lives to reach a certain potential for God. God places us where we are suppose to be, exposes us to what we are suppose to learn and know, in order that we might become everything he hopes for us during our lifetime. We are given a free conscience to choose to use these tools toward reaching our full spiritual growth. With that in mind, the greatest gift that God can give in the life of a child is a mother and father to guide and direct and work together under His supervision. My husband and I feel that our three youngest were chosen by God to be raised under our direction as older parents. The benefits they gain from what we can teach them as older parents, is exactly what God is asking for in their lives, in order for them to live out God's design and purpose for their lives.

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