“Good, sure, whatever, grunt.” Most moms of boys know that getting their sons to communicate their world through language can be a struggle. We see the articles about how to ask leading questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. We are encouraged that we’ve finally found a way to get our boys to share what’s going through their heads. Then we remember we have boys, and those leading questions are again met with, ”Good, sure, whatever, grunt. Why are you asking me so many questions?” I sent the boys a survey asking for their input on some specific things from their growing up years. Many of their answers were quite brief, one or two words. But I did get some good insight from a few of them. One question in particular was quite a surprise considering that it was the opposite of what I had written on the topic.
If you remember from week one of this series, our boys, especially the oldest, experienced quite a few different schools throughout their growing up years. I was curious about their thoughts on attending so many different schools. Two of the boys were fine with where they went; they didn’t mind trying out a variety of types of schools. One of them wanted to be sure I knew that not every school is fit for every child in the family. He is absolutely right, though having two children of the same age attending two different schools is usually not logistically possible. The most interesting thoughts came from Jayson, who is our oldest. Here are his thoughts on his education:
“It is really helpful for me as a youth pastor now to look back and see that I experienced every different type of school: private, public, charter, and homeschool. It has helped me to relate to lots of different people and understand different facets of life. I think what I wish would have been done differently is that I would have just been in public education that whole time. I don’t think private is much better (or worth the money), and being in public education gave me kind of a head-start in being “in the world” so-to-speak. I think experiencing that at a younger age would have helped me develop skills earlier as well as provide more teaching opportunities for my parents.”
This was especially interesting because I had just had a discussion with a friend who also kept her son out of public school until he was older. He had mentioned to her how difficult it had been being thrust into that environment without having experienced it earlier.
We made a decision with the boys to not celebrate fictional characters such as Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, and Easter Bunny. Of course we still observed those holidays and events, but they knew it was all in fun. I’ve spent a lot of time considering whether or not I would do things differently with the girls. Initially, I’d decided we would do things the same this time around, and the boys confirmed that. I asked, “How did you feel about the fact that we didn’t really celebrate Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny? Did you feel left out or cheated? Did it even matter to you either way?” All four said it didn’t matter. One said he didn’t care, as long as he got gifts! Another said he was glad he knew the whole truth from the beginning. And one almost got into a fight in third grade because he said Santa wasn’t real. (No, we did not encourage that! We always tried to help them understand that they didn’t want to spoil it for other kids.)
They all had some good thoughts on discipline, and this is where the big surprise came. Perhaps you read my post from week two, where I pretty much came out as anti-spanking, though we did spank our boys. When asked about discipline, here were some thoughts from our oldest: “I remember the punishments from when I was youngest the most, and I think those helped me the most. This is weird to say… spankings and hot sauce in the mouth were good, until I grew out of them.” Well, he is one of those rare boys who doesn’t engage in activities that will cause him pain, so I guess it was effective for him! But no, we still aren’t going to spank our girls.
Here are the thoughts from another son: “I think you have to know the people specifically and apply discipline based on the person. One method will not effectively work on all children. Also listening is very important as well because you guys didn’t listen as well and sometimes you applied punishment when you got the wrong picture and to the wrong people.” Not surprisingly, this is the same one who wanted us to know that there is not one school that is right for every child, and he is right here again.
If you’ve been a parent for more than five minutes, you know parenting is a guessing game half the time. Will this work? How about this? Throw multiple children into the mix, and the guessing grows exponentially. One of the hardest things about having multiple children is knowing what actually happened in a dispute. You can’t imagine how many times we’ve seriously thought about putting security cameras throughout the house to end all the debates.
There were other thoughts on discipline, perhaps enough to fill another whole article! They underscored the importance of being understanding and gentle, and explaining the reasons for rules and limits. I’ve heard it’s pretty common to be the most strict with your oldest, and we were no exception. He said it was hard at times to have rules his friends didn’t have, but now he sees the reasons for some of them. There are special considerations with some of our other sons. Regular discipline isn’t as effective for them and we’ve spent lots of time figuring out how to best train them.
Those were the main topics that I asked the boys about. I also asked about favorite memories. They all involved either Christmas traditions or spending time with family. I asked about any sad or hard things they remember. The only thing that came from that is my oldest having a hard time moving so much. We moved over ten times before he was 12! Now have been in the same house for ten years and the same community for nearly 15. Yay! It was difficult for him to make new friends so many times. I imagine the frequent changing of schools made this even more challenging.
So what does all of this mean for us now? Change is a part of life. We don’t expect our girls to live in the same house their entire lives or to go to the same school all the way through high school. We will, however, be more cognizant of how they will be affected by changes. Perhaps it will make us more purposeful in the decisions we make about where to live and where to send them to school.
In the area of discipline, most of us who’ve been parenting a while know that much of the job is trial and error. I’d been a parent for about one day when I threw the parenting books out the window. The books said, “If you do A, your child will do B. And when you do C your child will do D.” No. Wasn’t happening at all. I was asking God, “Why don’t they each pop out with their own little manual? This whole thing would be so much easier!” So really, all we can do is ask God for help and wisdom to train each of these little ones to grow up to be who he made them to be. We will make mistakes, but with God on our side, we are confident that he will fill in the gaps where we fall short.