Because My Hair is on Your Undershirt – That’s Why You Have to Do What I Say

Gardening is my thing in our family. Everybody else likes to look at and eat the results, but they don’t usually participate in the planting, weeding, deadheading, and so on unless requested to help. And I don’t usually ask for it, probably because I was made to work in our very large yard and extensive vegetable and flower beds when I was growing up and I really hated it, although of course it has been occurring to me that the very fact of that is the reason I love gardening now and have some level of competency at it. My kids probably will be handicapped by lack of horticultural force-feeding and within a decade they’ll be chiding me for not making them learn. And here I thought I was being kind by not foisting my hobby on them. It’s hard to know the best way sometimes.

Our youngest Adolescent Male is finishing up his junior year of high school. He’s a good guy, a decent student, and generally pleasant company. This year has been a new experience for both of us – the first time in his twelve years of homeschooling that he is the only student sitting across the table from me. I work with him for an hour or so each morning and then he goes off to do his assignments and prepare for his tutoring sessions in biology and algebra II with his grandfather each afternoon. It has been a good year in many ways, although it has been more challenging than I expected. My easy-going boy hasn’t been so easy-going about being the only one on which my radar is trained. He’s been pushed beyond his comfort zone in discussions about literature – there is no sibling to offer observations or answer my questions while he nods sagely and stays silent. He hasn’t liked my insistence that he reach for a higher level of analysis in his writing. He wants to write two pages when I say three. You understand.

And I, who so want to end my homeschooling mom career on a happy, positive note, find myself vacillating between the belief that excellent parents stick to their philosophical guns and wondering if it really matters at this stage. I realize I am not going to turn him into a lover of poetry within the next twelve months. He is not going to say, “I’m so glad we are discussing Hawthorne’s theme of power in his short stories. Thanks for helping me gain these insights, Mom!” I know that, but I want him to say it. I want him to feel it. How is it that I have been parenting for more than two decades and I still long for approval from my kids?

Even so, I’m pretty tough because I really do believe in my core that it is right to stay true to high standards even in the final stretch, even when they are resisting and sigh and cast their eyes heavenward as if asking for rescue from a power higher than this mom who still insists on please-and-thank-you and did-you-do-your-chores and what-do-you-mean-when-you-say-the-character-is-dumb.

I believe this even though I understand that it is natural for young adults to differentiate themselves from their parents, to pull back, to not care for some things partly because their folks like them. All kids don’t do this, but most do it a little bit in one way or another, and probably the wisest thing is for parents to say, “It’s ok that you wish things were different, and when you are in charge you can do them the way you think best, but this is our way and we think it is important, so you’ll need to make the best of it and comply.” We say that even though inside we want our boy or girl to want to be just like us and never to want to go away to do things differently.

Of course, it isn’t easy for the kids either. If they didn’t love us, they would just leave us in their dust and never look back. But they do love us, and we have been right often enough that they don’t feel quite easy in totally rejecting what we say about the importance of poetry or washing hands before eating or not stopping for fast food thirty minutes before dinnertime.

Today as I was finishing up the laundry I noticed one of my hairs caught in the fibers of my youngest guy’s t-shirt. That’s the way it is with families – our very selves are all bound up together, even though the young ones are getting ready to go away and be adults who make their own choices and do their own laundry. Until then, listen to what I say about writing and Hawthorne, Son, and maybe you better come outside and help me plant the vegetable garden. I don’t want you to be handicapped when you get out there on your own.

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  1. Posted April 16, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Love it! It is so hard being a parent, and I find the older they get, the harder it becomes. For me, it’s because I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I did. I think you and I are pretty blessed with some amazing kids after all is said and done. Thanks for the great perspectives! You always are right on the mark! Love, Andi

  2. Posted April 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed this post very much. 🙂 In terms of years, I am fairly close to the halfway point between when I was that student, and when I will be the mother of a student that age, so I really enjoyed looking both backward and forward as I read your thoughts on that relationship and stage in life. 🙂

  3. A
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Thought while reading this blog:
    1. Hey! I can garden! I have raised two ivy plants, one spider plant, and one watermelon plant — and it wasn’t my fault that the ivy plants and spider plant died!

    2. I promise I won’t chide you mom — I’ll just get you to help me whenever you come to visit.

    3. Stick to your guns!! Make him suffer as I suffered!
    Just kidding! But seriously, it helps a lot in English college classes.

  4. Posted April 17, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I always appreciate your perspective! I could really see my life in what you wrote. I found it very challenging to continue to put the same effoert into schooling my youngest in her last year. I was so ready to be done and so was she. But, alas, who would benefit by letting up right before the finish line? Certainly not her! I have a “Never give up!” philosophy about many things; mostly in our effort to serve God but it also shows up in parenting and teaching my children. They are worth it.

  • Your comment is the best part of this blog! Share what’s on your mind here.

  • In My Kitchen, In My Life is a place where women (and the odd male) can be encouraged, nudged, and occasionally kicked in the pants toward living their lives on a higher plane. Oh, and readers get plenty of chances to laugh at the author's foibles, which is always worth a click.

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