After the recent winter concert of my sixth grade son at his middle school, we went out for ice cream at the local Baskin-Robbins with about a dozen other families from the community who, like us, were celebrating the wonderful holiday musical event. It was my youngest son Gus’s first concert in middle school, which was true for several of the other families there.
While the kids were slurping on their ice cream cones and I was downing my one-scoop chocolate chip with hot fudge sundae, I got into a conversation with a couple, who were also parents of a sixth grader. We did our usual after-concert conversation, how great it is that the kids are in band, how wonderful the music program is in West Linn, and how amazing our middle school band director, Mr. Lagrone, is.
I shared with this mom and dad, that my older three sons also had Mr. Lagrone as a band teacher, and how much we already liked him back then. Some people do not know that we have older children who are graduated from college, working, and even married.
When this mom asked me more about my older children, I elaborated on my oldest son Ryan and how he graduated from George Fox University and now works as a mechanical engineer at Hyster; I also said that Ryan married his college sweetheart, who’s now a nurse.
After I shared this info, the mom whom I was talking to said to me:
“You must be very proud of your son.”
I know this mom meant it as a compliment, but by her tone and facial expression, I also thought that perhaps she was hinting that I was bragging just a bit too much about my now grown son.
Although I replied saying, I was indeed proud of my son Ryan, something told me I needed to share more, to tell the backstory of my oldest son; I knew that this couple have had their ups and downs with their tween son, as many of us have had. I thought that perhaps adding a bit of the backstory about my oldest son as well as my high school twins, who are currently juniors, would encourage this couple.
It gets better, kids do change, do not give up, keep on keeping on.
Yep. It has not always been the way it is now, with my older kids, and we, as parents need to share all experiences with others. To be vulnerable. To be honest. To be real.
For example, with my twins, I like to joke that they were sent to the principal’s office on many occasions; they got into fights with one another and with other kids. And, when school administrators were deciding what first grade class to place kindergartners in at the end of the school year, my twins were on the top of the list to be sure they were not around certain other kids.
But, we did not give up. We refused to let our kids get stereotyped. We worked on their friendship circles, helping them weed out certain unhealthy ones; we helped them form good study habits, we worked on manners with them, we encouraged them to join sports teams, Scouts, youth group, band. We got them involved in leadership at church and Scouts as they got older.
They are now honor students in high school, have great manners, have great friends, and they are active in youth group and Young Life. People tell us all the time what great kids they are.
As with our twins, the backstory of our older, now-an-engineer son is that he also had his issues growing up, both academically and socially. He was on the younger side in school — an August baby — and that is hard on a kid, especially a boy. Our Ryan was shy and emotionally on the young side. He would burst out sometimes and we found out he was taken out of class in kindergarten to work on some emotional issues. Then, as he grew up, he struggled in school and even got a few “DNM” for a few classes, which means, “Does not meet.”
He had that engineering brain and could be rough around the edges at times, with bottled up energy that many boys have. I appreciate it, but for outsiders — especially moms of girls only — it can be hard. There were certain friends that we saw who were not the best fit for our son friendship-wise, so we helped steer him toward other friends. We got him involved with sports, band, Boy Scouts and youth group.
In high school, his struggle began to diminish toward the middle of his sophomore year. Though naturally shy, we worked on helping him reach out to others, to be kind and say please and thank you and to look people in the eyes. We tried to be available to help him with his homework and make our home a place where he could bring his friends. We wanted to just be here for him, to make him feel accepted and loved while at the same time helping him to grow.
And, we did a lot of praying for him — and for all of our kids. Praying for his character and that he would love the Lord and that he would find good friends at church, at school and in the community. We prayed for him to do well at school, to find that place where he could excel and discover his life’s vocation. He joined the ski team in high school, and caught on to how to study and navigate the corridors of school hallways and classrooms and studying on weekends and during late night evenings. He did not date and he was fine with that and we never said anything that would make him feel any differently. He had great friends in school, both guys and gals.
But, when he was applying to college, we knew with his innate shy personality that a large school might not be a good fit, though he did apply to Oregon State University, a large public university. We were just praying that he would find a place where he could grow and shine. That led him to George Fox University, where he got a scholarship, and with loans he took out, we were able to bring the sticker shock down to state school prices.
In college, Ryan thrived. My husband said to him when we dropped him off at school: “Ryan, you can be who you want to be here.”
Indeed, he found who he was. He blossomed in college. He joined the track team and became a Resident Assistant. He did great in school as an engineering major and he met the love of his life, whom he married after graduating. And, he got his said dream job at Hyster.
So, yes, I am proud of my son, but that is not to say it was an easy road. As I spoke with this couple at Baskin-Robbins, they talked about how parenting is hard and they are still on one side of it and I am on that side of it as well with our youngest, age 11.
But, because I have been on the other side of it as well, I know that it makes a difference to continue to teach our kids manners and to help them work diligently in school and to assist in shaping character qualities, even when other parents are not. And, even when times are hard with our kids and all of the work does not seem be paying off right at the moment, keep on keeping on. Because, it does get better. Kids grow up and kids change and we need to allow them to change.
I know. I’ve been there. And I’m there now. Keeping on, keeping on.