Lessons learned from my seven kids
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
One of the good things about living in such a small town is that sometimes there just isn’t any news. School is still on winter break until next Tuesday, so there is nothing to report there. Fran is out of town visiting her family, so there are no extra activities at the activity center. So just what do I write about for this column? What do I know or what have I experienced that is of any value to anyone?
For the past 34 years (over half my life), I have been raising children. I have seven kids ” they are all my own. Four I adopted legally through social services and I gave birth to three. Sometimes the first thing people ask me is, “Which kids are your adopted ones, and which are your natural ones?” And I have to stop and think about that, because it is not something I consciously think about anymore and have not in a very long time. My ex-husband and I adopted this sibling group of four in the summer of 1985. I already had two sons from a previous marriage, and I always knew I would adopt children ” that it was part of my life’s plan. (My little sister is adopted, and I had three foster brothers ” so it is a family tradition.) I was quite satisfied and actually a bit overwhelmed with the day-to-day business of raising six children, when I discovered five years later, at age 38 that I was pregnant. So at the age 39, I gave birth to a baby girl. Now my children ranged in age from 16 years to newborn. And in just six months, that baby will graduate from Grand Valley High School and go out and begin her own life.
For the first time in 34 years, I will not have the day-to-day responsibility of raising children. That segment of my life is about to come to a close. Everyone says that I am going to be sad and will be at loose ends after she leaves for college. But I don’t think that is completely true. I will miss her, but I really am looking forward to a life where I am responsible only to myself.
So what have these 34 years taught me? I have learned to “not sweat the small stuff.” The things that once drove me crazy with my older kids just don’t bother me so much with this last one. I wish that I had learned this lesson much earlier in my life, because I have raised Dani with less stress. I see the parents of my daughter’s friends stressing over this stuff, and I just don’t anymore. I’ve been down this path six times before and know that with my parenting structure, we’ll get down it again. I have learned to let Dani make her own mistakes and no longer try to make her learn from my mistakes. That never really worked anyway, it just caused a lot of friction between my kids and me.
I did a couple things correctly, right from the beginning of my parenting. I emphasized to my kids, “To thine own self be true.” They all repeat this phrase and even if they don’t always adhere to it all the time, they think about it and it has served them well. From a very early age, when my children complained that nobody at school liked them or everyone was against them, I made them stand in front of the bathroom mirror and tell me what the common denominator was in all these situations. They usually came up with the answer as they looked at themselves and learned that they could not change other people, but could change their own attitude toward any situation.
Oh, and I also never fretted over my kids’ hair. I have always let them do with it as they please. It grows. That saved me a lot of unnecessary anxiety. I guess that is basically what I learned in 34 years, and I feel pretty good with these lessons.
Mary Moore’s column, “Grand Valley News,” appears every other Thursday. To contact Mary with a news tip, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org (underscore between n and 3).
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