Thursday, March 14, 2013

They Turned Out All Right

Grandma’sBriefs.comYou may have noticed in my sidebar that on Tuesdays I sometimes participate in a blog hop hosted by my friend Lisa at Grandma's Briefs. It's called the Grand Social. It's an excellent opportunity to meet other grandparent bloggers. I've met some nice people and found some really interesting blogs to read and share.

This week, one of the participants, Around the Table, linked up a post titled Tell Me Again, Why Do We Make Them Do Chores? It's a really great article about the importance of teaching responsibility at an early age and how what you teach them today is what they become tomorrow. You should click the link above and read it. I'll wait.

Welcome back. I told you it was a good article. When I read it, it made me remember what it was like when we were raising our kids. In fact, it inspired this post.

We did a lot of things that might not have been wrong, but were probably not optimal. We both worked full time. Our kids were day care kids until they started kindergarten; then they went to after-school programs until they were in fourth grade. After that, they were latchkey kids.

Looking back, I can't believe how busy we were. Most of the time, we hardly did chores ourselves. How could we have expected the kids to do chores?

Our house was always a wreck. Cleaning the house just wasn't our priority. Many evenings dinner was sandwiches or frozen lasagna that we could just pop in the oven. Dinner was almost always late, after the kids went to their after school activities like CCD (religious eduction), scouting, or ball practice. When we got home, the kids did their homework at the dining room table while one of us made dinner. While they did their homework they got a quick, healthy snack, usually carrots or celery with ranch dip or cheese and crackers.

The kids didn't have to do many chores. There just wasn't time on week nights. On Saturdays they had to clean their own rooms. Every night before bed they had to pick up their stuff from around the house. Honestly, that was mostly an effort to avoid panic in the mornings when we were trying to get out the door. Everyone had to put their own plate in the dishwasher every night and, if you had a guest, you had to put the guest's plate in the dishwasher. That was pretty much all they had to do when they were little.

There were two issues that were difficult for us as a family. I think the way we dealt with them as the kids grew up was interesting. I've never run across anyone who handled them the same way we did.

The first was laundry. There was always a mountain of laundry and the kids were always wanting us to wash only one or two items of clothing so they could wear them the next day.

When Nick was in 4th grade and Katy was in 7th, I stopped washing their clothes. I taught them to use the washer and dryer. Then I put each one of them in charge of their own laundry. I did all the other laundry and left them to do their own. It mostly worked, too. There were a few instances where white underwear was turned pink, but not many. There were times when they didn't do their laundry and they had to wear dirty practice uniforms. That was tough, but I did not back down. Katy got the hang of it a lot faster than Nick did. Nick actually went a couple of years in high school when he thought Febreeze would replace washing his clothes and, yes, I left it up to him. Thank God his high school girlfriend set him straight on that. When they went away to college, they already knew how to do laundry and were used to doing it. Their roommates had to learn once they got there.

The other more irritating issue was getting everyone where they needed to be on time every morning. Let me start by saying right up front that I am not a morning person. I can just barely function enough to get myself dressed and to work on time. But because of our schedules, I was almost always the one who took them to school. They had to be at school at 8 a.m. I had to be at work at 8:30 and the drive from their school to my office was at least half an hour. I needed them up and dressed and out the door on time. They simply did not get it. I fought the battle for several years. We would start trying to get them out of bed at 6:30. We would try again in five minute increments until they finally got up at the last possible minute. I would be so frustrated by the time I got to work, not only was I late, but my day was off to a lousy start.

Then, when Nick was in 6th grade and Katy was in 9th, I had an epiphany. I put them in charge of getting themselves up. I bought each of them an alarm clock taught them how to use them. I explained that, starting the next morning, they would be responsible for getting out of bed and dressed. I would be leaving at 7:40 a.m. If they were up, dressed, and in the car, I would take them to school. If not, they would need to get a ride or they would be staying home. I also explained to them that I would not be writing an excuse if they missed school.

The next day they were both up and ready. That lasted for a few days. Then one morning Nick didn't get up. True to my word, I took Katy to school and left Nick in bed. That lasted two days. On the third day, he got up and went to school without a note to get his absences excused. He got zeroes on all the work he had missed. I rarely had trouble with him getting out of bed after that.

As teenagers, when they were home all day in the summertime, they had a list of chores that had to be completed each day. They tell us now that they would wait until the last half hour then rush around competing their assigned tasks.

They didn't get much spending money. We never gave them an allowance. If we could afford it and their chores were done, we would pay for them to go to the movies, the bowling alley, or the skating rink every now and then. We took care of what they needed, not what they wanted. I think too much spending money opens the doors to a lot of potential problems.

We did most things as a family. We sat down at the dining room table every night for dinner, even if it was sandwiches. No one was allowed to eat in their room or in the living room. The exceptions were Friday nights. We always did something special on Friday nights. We had season tickets to our high school football games or we would go to high school basketball games. Otherwise we would stay home and have a picnic on the living room floor while we watched a rented movie. Both of the kids remember those picnics fondly and have continued them with their spouses and children. We also spent a lot of evenings playing board games or card games with another couple who had kids about the same age as ours.

We went to church as a family every Sunday morning.We were not flexible on this. Everyone was up, dressed in their Sunday best, and sitting in the pew when mass started. After the kids were about three years old, we did not sit in the cry room. We sat near the front of the church so they could see what was going on and feel part of the worship. They were expected to behave themselves in church. They were not allowed to lay down in the pew or amuse themselves with toys or crayons. From a very young age they were expected to go through the motions of the mass, standing, kneeling, and sitting at the appropriate times. If they misbehaved, they were taken outside until they understood what was expected. Then they were returned to the pew.

Time with the grandparents and cousins almost every weekend was important to us.
Every weekend we spent either Saturday or Sunday evening with one or the other of our parents. We didn't just drop the kids off. We spent time as a family with their grandparents. The kids played outside with their cousins while the adults made dinner together. They often fell asleep on the floor at their grandparents house while we played cards or dominoes late into the night. We would then pick them up, put them in the car, drive home, and tuck them into bed still fully clothed. Both of the kids will tell you how wonderful these evenings were. Katy wants us to move closer so they can do the same with us.

I think these are the main things that kept our kids out of trouble and why they're successful adults. To state it briefly, we made them responsible, but not independent before they were ready for independence. They turned out all right!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Andrea and Louis Come to Texas

A couple of weeks ago my beautiful niece Andrea and her husband Louis came to Texas for a visit. Andrea is my sister Jan's eldest child. Long-time readers may remember that we went to North Carolina for their wedding in the summer of 2011. We haven't seen them since then, so we were happy when Aunt B offered to host a family get together while they were here.

We invited all of Andrea's first cousins and their families. We did manage a group picture of all the cousins who were there. Just for the record, I did try to get them to take off their sunglasses. They declined. Those are our princesses showing off their cowboy boots on the front row.

Bylinda and I have 5 children between us. These are our kids, grandkids, and a couple of girlfriends. Andrea and Louis are on the back row. She has the long blonde hair and he is wearing the striped shirt.
A family gathering at Aunt B's house means lots of great food, lots of visiting, lots of music, and lots of fun. It almost always includes a little gunfire too. This is Texas after all.

Aunt B and Uncle Mack have a shooting range set up at the back of their property. Here are a few photos of some of the family taking target practice.

Sadly, I didn't get a good photo of Andrea and Louis together. But I did get a couple of Andrea. She very kindly took the time to read to Princess E. These two pictures are not clear because, somewhere along the line that day, my lens got dirty. Katy noticed it was dirty and cleaned it, so the photos improved significantly.

Aunt B lives out in the country so there is lots of room for whatever you want to do. Some of the guys decided to hit a few golf balls.

There was also music. Zack brought his equipment. He and his partner frequently play small venues in central Texas and around the hill country. Travis and Nick played along and sang to provide some music for our festivities. Even the princesses joined in on the drum. The rest of us sat in the pickup bed or the lawn chairs and enjoyed the show.

It was a beautiful day and we all enjoyed being out in the country. Princess E and Grandad hunted bugs. They found doodle-bugs (pill-bugs), grasshoppers, and butterflies. Both princesses blew bubbles and ran wild and free.

It was a great day. It was really great to sit and visit with Andrea and to see that she and Louis are happy and doing very well. She also gave us the latest news for her siblings and her parents. I'm glad they're all doing okay. Here are a few other photos from our day with Andrea and Louis.

As you can see, a good time was had by all.