Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In Case of Emergency

Sometimes it's really comforting to have a specific response ready for a specific circumstance. When my girls were little we practiced a very formal, but always appropriate statement for leave-taking. "Thank you for inviting me, I had a very nice time." While it was a bit stilted it gave them two ways to be comfortable. First, they didn't have to figure out what to say to the adult in charge of the event, and secondly, it formed the bridge they crossed to leave the event.

Similarly, as a young mother, I read a book that recommended you define your life in terms of projects. Being a mother was a project, being a wife another; being the household manager was another project that required attention. The book said that you should never have more than seven projects going at the same time. This served me very well in my more or less permanent quest for balance - partly by giving me a specific response to all those requests to take on projects for the school, the church, the neighborhood association. It allowed me to truthfully respond, "I'm so flattered that you would consider me but I have seven projects in different stages right now, maybe another time.  Really, thank you!" That little speech kept me from drowning in my own goodwill more than once!

It seems like there ought to be a list somewhere of the simple instructions we should give to our kids. There are lots of lists out there that include things like "None of this will matter in five years." This is useless advice for a fifteen-year-old who just broke up with her first boyfriend.  "However bad a situation is, it will change." This will not comfort a kid who is about to fail fourth grade. The ubiquitous "always wear clean underwear" only prevents embarrassment; it doesn't help when a problem arises. So what can we teach our kids that they can pull out and dust off when the going gets rough?

Here are a few "road rules" that will stand the test of time and the challenge of children's unique dilemmas:
  • When you can't figure out what you should do, do the next thing that makes sense.
  • It's always OK to ask for advice, but make your own decisions.
  • If a relationship has to be secret, you shouldn't be in it.
  • We learn more from our failures than our successes.
  • When you are scared, pray.
Random? Yep, just a list I have accumulated over a couple of days. You know so much that your kids don't know. Spend some time thinking about things they should know when they are faced with a challenge. What wisdom would help them? Don't send them out into the world equipped with nothing but "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." They need to have some rules to live by when they hit the tricky spots.

While your past challenges will be different than your child's future challenges, along the way you have learned some important truths. Taking some time to think back over the challenges you've survived will yield a treasure trove of useful wisdom.

If you can't come up with a single thing, wade into the Bible's book of Proverbs and see what resonates with you. You are much wiser than you think you are! 

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