From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: Coping with kids growing up

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Aug. 23, 2001 edition of the Inland Register

My oldest, Brandon, turned 15 this week. He’s grown three inches in the last six months and I don’t recognize his voice on the phone.

As if that isn’t enough to turn any mother to prayer, my 10-year-old daughter just got her first bra, and my 7-year-old says he wants his buzzcut longer next time so he can spike his hair with gel.

I tell myself I’m taking it all in stride. My job is to help them be independent, to not need me. But I didn’t expect it would be so painful, that at 40-something I could feel so lost and helpless. That I could love my kids so much, and still blow it at important moments.

Like when Brandon planned to ride his bike to baseball practice and I advised him (helpfully, I thought) to ask a neighbor the best route to take. “I know the route to take,” he said, his tone of voice indicating I was a fool to think otherwise.

Sarcasm got the better of me. “Oh, that’s right. You’re the kid who has nothing to learn from anybody.”

“No,” he said. “Just nothing to learn from you.”

Gulp.

I’d been praying for wisdom about how to be influential in the life of a teenager who believes he knows far more than I do. My daughter leaned over to whisper in my ear as we sat in the pew before Mass began Sunday. “You know Sport in the Harriet the Spy movie?” she asked. I nodded. “I want my hair cut like his.”

I smoothed the thick, glossy, golden-brown hair framing her face. “Oh, honey,” I said. “Your hair is so pretty. Why do you want it cut like a boy’s?”

Her look made it plain. I’d just blown it. Big time. (God! Are you listening? Help!)

I just wasn’t getting it this week. At one point my youngest came running into the house, his face shining. “Guess what, Mom! Bob” — the name of neighbor boy has been changed to protect the guilty — “is selling me his old skateboard for only $15! Don’t you think that’s a great deal?”

I sat down on a stair step and pulled him close. “Sometimes,” I said, “older kids take advantage of younger ones, just to get their money.”

(I know this is true from experience. My own childhood entrepreneurial endeavors were limited only by the contents of my younger siblings’ piggy banks.)

“No, not Bob.” Dylan shook his head emphatically.

“You already have a skateboard anyway.”

“Bob’s is a professional skateboard. It doesn’t have any trucks or wheels, but he’s drilling holes to put on the trucks and wheels from my skateboard.”

Ohhh. Sounds like a great deal. But I didn’t say it. I tried another tactic. “I thought you were saving your money for that toy you saw at the store?”

“I don’t want that anymore. I want Bob’s skateboard.” His eyes sparkled. His grin spread from ear to ear. “I can do lots more tricks with it ‘cause it’s a pro skateboard.”

God must have finally gotten through to me. “It’s your money,” I told Dylan. “If it’s what you really want, buy it.”

He went off, a bounce in his step like I’d told him he could eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If the day comes when he regrets his purchase, well, we’ll deal with that when it happens. Regrets and mistakes are a part of life. The sooner he learns that, the wiser he’ll be. I know it’s best to let my children make their own mistakes when they’re young and the consequences are small — small from my perspective, plenty painful from theirs.

But God wasn’t quite finished with me yet. “A haircut,” God whispered, “is not a mistake. It’s more like a preference.”

I sighed. Okay. If she wants to look like Sport, fine. But do I have to stop nagging her to wear a dress, too?

“By the way,” God whispered again. “You’ve done a great job raising Brandon. I wouldn’t give him the car keys yet, but you can trust him with the bicycle.”

(Mary Farrell is a Spokane freelance journalist and children’s author.)


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