Hello boys. This is your mother. A few things in the media have recently caught my attention, and as a mother and a teacher, I will tell you that I am absolutely disgusted by parenting anymore. I know what happens as a result of parents believing their children are perfect; I have seen it in my classroom. And I refuse to be the mother who ever allows this to happen.
So here is my news flash to you, you are not perfect. And when you mess up, I will back you up, but only to take your biscuits to jail if that’s what needs to be done.
When you were very young, screaming in a restaurant resulted in my hauling you to the bathroom to wash your mouth out with soap or standing outside with you in the heat for 30 minutes while you kicked and screamed. I’m not sorry. Because those people sitting with friends and family in the restaurant deserve to not listen to my child scream. When you smacked your brother, I smacked your butt. I’m not sorry. Feeling exactly how it feels when you hit him helps you grow empathy for others and learn to control your anger. When you slammed your door so many times that it broke the trim, I took your door until you learned how to count to ten rather than breaking my house. I’m not sorry. That lesson helped you learn respect for property. When you tore parts of the city’s snow fence from across the street to use as weapons, I stood behind the local policeman who caught you and we came up with a plan for how you would pay for the fence. I’m not sorry. And watching you about crap your pants as our extremely intimidating police officer walked toward you was payment enough for me…actually, it was freaking hilarious. Then I truly enjoyed watching you pick up trash in local city parks as more punishment to be sure you understood respect for property. Again, I’m not sorry.
I get it, you are exactly like your mother. We tend to be hot-headed and quick to react. But the best part is, being your mother and teaching you how to control that part of you has helped me learn to control that part of me. There is a lot of danger in any parent believing we are done learning. I know I’m messing up every day, but I’m trying my hardest to help you understand that we are all human. You will mess up. So will I. And we will back each other up because we are navigating this life together.
There is a lot of power in two words: acceptance and respect. Accept the fact that you are not perfect. You will make mistakes and you will fall on your face. I will ALWAYS be there to support you, but remember that my job is to help you LEARN. Respect the fact that I am older than you and I have done more than you can possibly imagine yet. That is why I will allow you to make mistakes and I will never pretend that I am perfect. But there is this whole other issue with respect that must be addressed, so I’m warning you now.
If you do not learn respect for yourself, for your friends and family, for property, and for strangers, you are in for an extremely sad life. But learn respect, and you will gain that respect from others. You will be a happy and contributing member of society who treats others with kindness and empathy; that is my prayer for you.
So here is my advice (a warning, perhaps) to you, my boys, as you are growing older. And it all has to do with how I plan to help you learn respect:
1. I repeated “NO MEANS NO” to you millions of times for a reason. It doesn’t only apply to me, it applies to every female you will ever come in contact with. If I hear you disrespected that, I will dress up like a fairy princess and show up at Homecoming or your work place to visit you.
2. If I hear that you were at all involved in any type of bullying, I will escort you to the home of the person whom was feeling victimized and personally ensure that you ARE SORRY and that you will NEVER make another human being feel less important than you again. This goes for standing and doing nothing while your friends are engaging in bullying; that is the same. You are just as much at fault.
3. Manners never become less important; in fact, it’s the opposite. When you are in my home, I expect you to say please and thank you and open doors. This becomes even more important when you are out of my home. One day, you will have a girlfriend. I want to see the sparkle in her eye when she sees that you naturally open doors for her without thinking. If you don’t, I will come out and do it for her to show her that I taught you better than that.
4. Girls are not “hot”, they are beautiful. Girls are breathtaking and are naturally self-conscious. You have watched me struggle with my own self-image for years. And you, my sweethearts, have helped me overcome it with your child-like innocence and your definition of beauty because you are looking at your mother, someone you know to love you unconditionally. Look at women like that; never lose that part of you that I love so dearly. Look at girls as the perfect beings they are. Tell her she is beautiful; don’t wait for her to ask for your approval.
5. Wait. Please, just wait. Do you want honesty? I tried to throw myself at your father when we began dating in high school because that is the only way I knew to get boys to like me. Know what he did? He said no to me; he told me he didn’t need that from me to show me he loves me. He saw my vulnerability, and he chose not to take advantage. Your daddy stole my heart that night. He hurt my pride (or what I thought to be pride at that point in my life), but he stole my heart, and he set the tone for our entire relationship. We didn’t wait before we found each other. But we learned from our mistakes and we waited for each other to be ready for that incredibly intimate part of life. Then, when daddy was ready, my self-worth had grown to the point where I understood I was worth the wait. So we waited more. We waited until our wedding night, and it was the best decision we ever made for our relationship. Please be like your daddy. Please. There is a reason God reserved that right for marriage, and I learned it first-hand.
6. When you make a mistake, own up. Attempting to cover your tracks only makes the situation worse. When you accept that you made a mistake and you genuinely apologize for it, learning and respect take place.
7. If you impregnate anyone, ever, know that you are now your own family. Do not ask me to raise your child for you. Do not ask me for the money to support your family. I will help you, but I will not be a man for you. At some point, we all need help. But at some point, we all have to learn how to ask for help without expecting it.
8. Nobody owes you anything…ever. Do good out of the goodness of your own heart and expect nothing in return. God will reward you in different ways. Do not expect that another person’s definition of doing good is the same as yours. Abide by the Golden Rule; one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
9. Pride is your biggest enemy. Your satisfaction should come in knowing that others love and respect you as a man of God, as a family man who puts his family’s needs before his own, and as a man who will always help someone in need. A man is not measured by his achievements. Give the glory to God. He is who made you who you are; follow Him and He will make your paths straight.
10. Understand that this life is not about you. This life is about doing good and sharing love with others. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you will learn to let the little things go, to love God above all else, and to love your family above all things society tends to hold important.
11. When you become a husband, remember two things:
(a). Your relationship with your wife is most important of all, but still just behind your relationship with Christ. You are the example being set in your home. Love her. Never stop flirting. Go on dates. Do not be candid about your love for her in front of your children. And support her in every way.
(b). Your children will learn how to treat others by your example. So refer to all advice above. On these things, I am right.
12. Your relationship with God is the most important of all of these, and that is why it is last on my list…because I want it to be the first thing you remember when reading this. You know what we have been through as a family, because you have lived it. We have hope in Christ, and all glory goes to God. He is why we are still a family today. He makes us strong.
“Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” is the first work by Jeremy and Bailey and is available for purchase in paperback from the authors directly or in eBook format on Amazon. Thank you for your support of our mission to help the world understand the reality of severe depression, suicide, and unseen illnesses.