Posted in Commitment, making time, Parenting, Reflections, Uncategorized

Spend Time With Them! (Part 1)

Welcome back, all. If you’re a fan, I hope your pick won the Super Bowl–mine got eliminated by the Cardinals, but I suppose Cam Newton provides enough entertainment to make up for it. 🙂

A while back I was cleaning in my kids’ room. (“Is it ever clean enough for you?” a friend asked recently. It’s not so much the “clean,” it’s the constant fending off clutter that collects in small spaces. These clusters of stuff catch dirt and dust, and then you notice them when you’re doing something else…and you have to clean that spot…and the next…)

Inhale.

Exhale.

Back to topic.

In my boys’ room, I have a crate with some of their childhood books I can’t seem to part with. (My “boys” recently turned 19 and 17.)

book crate
Yes, there is a Dick-and-Jane reader in there. Pretty sure it belonged to my middle stepson–he turned 27 last week.  🙂

As I moved things around for a more thorough cleaning than the weekly surface-get-the-house-back-to-baseline regimen, I came across this book:

Bruno the Tailor
Remember when I found the “mother’s day coupons”? I found the blue fabric too. More about that below.)

My father was born and raised in Italy and apprenticed to a tailor. That’s the work he did here, as a naturalized US citizen, until health issues forced him to retire. He died not long after I met my husband, and never had a chance to meet or know his grandchildren.

That of course, goes both ways; his grandchildren never knew him either. So, when I happened on this book (at Barnes and Noble, most likely), picking it up was a no-brainer. It gave me a way to connect my kids to their nonno, and also provided a pattern for making the apron that “Bruno” made in the book.

Older Son and I cut that out together. We never made the time to sew it, but I when I happened across it in the basket at the bottom of the stairs (where I discovered the mother’s day coupons), I didn’t have the heart to throw it out. So, it is still saved upstairs—one more thing I can’t let go of—as a reminder of time spent together when he was younger. The scarf pictured above belonged to his Cub Scout uniform—every grade the scarf changed. I believe this was the last one, before he would have crossed over to Boy Scouts in 6th grade. (And I wonder why I have clutter.)

I know folks are busy these days. I suppose I was too, as that unfinished sewing project suggests.

So…in the interest of brevity, I’ll list more thoughts in the next post, and some ideas following that.

All thoughts on this topic welcome! (For the comment-shy crowd, please feel free to send me an email via my contact page.)

Have a wonderful day,

Joanne

©Joanne C Timpano (content and images), 2016. All rights reserved.

Posted in Discipline vs. Control, New driver, Parenting, Uncategorized

Don’t Assume They’ll Stop

Good day, everyone. Not sure how the end of the calendar year has crept up on once again. Thanksgiving and hectic–I mean holiday 😉 –season around the corner. Wow.

This is geared toward the parents of teens, in particular, those with driving permits or brand-new licenses.

Yes, we do hand kids the keys to a lethal weapon, don’t we now? But in the interest of letting go, this is a B-I-G piece of the package. Sooner or later, most children in our society benefit tremendously from that monster shift in independence. (Under the correct circumstances, parents do too. Trust me. They LOVE running errands when that DL is shiny-new.)

That, to me, is the parents’ role: prepare them to function independently in their worlds.

BUT:

Any parent who’s made the lateral move from his/her vehicle’s command-post to the passenger side of the front seat knows the nail-biting experiences to which I refer. Being a second-son veteran of this coaching process, I can assure you it (usually) improves as the child’s experience improves.

Having said that, the most important defensive seed I can plant in my child’s mind is this: DON’T ASSUME THE OTHER DRIVER WILL STOP.

Forget who has the right of way. I can’t speak for other areas, but in my suburban neighborhood and surrounding towns (an urban and suburban mix) the STOP sign seems to have gone invisible.

I remember being taught to stop about five feet before the corner, and then slowly and carefully inch out into the intersection before making my move.

Around here, on a good day, a driver will approach the stop sign at full-speed and maybe come to a complete stop a good three-quarter of its length past the corner. Others just go through, especially when they’re turning right. (That left or straight through is even scarier. Just yesterday, Hubby was almost hit, when someone blew off the sign at a very busy 2-way-stop intersection a few blocks from our home.)

Oxymoron--yes?
Oxymoron–yes?  (Image courtesy of Flickr–by Daniel Ramirez)

Another biggie I’ve come across with Younger Son: What does a yellow light mean?

I emailed this link to my current driver-in-the-making after one of those we’re-turning-the-car-around-right-this-second moments. He sped up at least 10 feet from the yellow light then hesitated before making a left turn against the red!!! (We went straight home from there. It took a few days, but my stubborn one finally acquiesced to: “Maybe I ran it.”) A little humor helps to illustrate the point, especially when dealing with know-it-all-teens—part of their developmental stage. (I wasn’t humbled out of my own-who-knows-more-than-moi-about-kids until I gave birth to this one in particular, after enduring 13 months of constant crying, but that’s a story for another day.)

Which brings me to the most important point: DON’T BE AFRAID TO IMPOSE LIMITS, especially relative to driving.

Hopefully, doing so has been part of the parenting process all along. There are no guarantees, but if children have been raised with the consistency of parent(s) setting and enforcing boundaries when the kiddies are little, the better the chances that older children will respect your say-so when they’re way too big for me to drag to their rooms, lol. And it’s not like I can jump from passenger to driver side either.

Have you started driving with your teens? What is the most important thing you want them to remember when you’re not there to guide them? What is scarier–driving with them, or them taking that monster machine on their own? Do you have any fingernails left?

Wishing all of you the best,

Joanne

Posted in Parenting, Reflections, Uncategorized

Yes, I Have to Let Go Too

Hello friends and followers,

No, I haven’t gone totally missing. It’s been quite the challenge getting back into a routine is after a shift from the norm. (Summer ended how long ago??) Although somewhat dynamic, my new school schedule has fallen into some kind of place. I’m also getting a handle on the paperwork, which has been a bit more on overload than in previous years at this time.

With all that, I still get to be a parent too. Since I want this site to be a place where folks can relate, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some universal emotions. Regardless that it’s a normal part of the parenting journey, these feelings are still new to me. Just like anyone else, I need to feel and deal, along with finding a way to embrace this stage.

Guess the beach was a place for letting go themes this past summer. Thanks to young-adult author Stacey Wilk for the inspiration to this post. It started out as a comment/response to a recent write-up at her blog and started growing, lol.

My family spent a few days at the shore during the summer. Older Son’s girlfriend had to leave after the second day, to attend an orientation at her new school. (Yep. The 2015  “class couple” are officially out of high school and on to the next phases of their lives. I keep wondering when they “grewed up”.)

So that his girl didn’t have to do the near-3-hour trek alone, Older Son opted to drive back with her the night before Hubby, myself and Younger Son were scheduled to leave. Younger Son (who is a few months shy of 17) got it in his head that he wanted to go with his brother.

Though we weren’t thrilled with the idea, Hubby and I gave the okay.

I was already working on coming to terms with the notion that one kid was old enough to take off. Watching them both go? All I’ll share is I stayed up on the balcony while they packed their stuff and themselves into Older Son’s car. Neither kid needed to see his mamma blubbering during the send-off. (Hey. That parkway can be a scary place. And I can always blame the hormones.)

I can’t tell you how strange it felt to know they were on their way ‘here’ (i.e., home), while we were ‘there.’ Hubby was emotion-choked too, though a bit more together than I. Immediately though, he offered to collect our things and head out behind them.

I held out. I knew once I got word they were home, I’d feel better. (I did.) It wasn’t so much them not being there as much as it was internalizing that “the next phase” has arrived. (You know, that tear-my-heart-up, Erma Bombeck, “No More Oatmeal Kisses” kind of next phase). I enjoy the freedom it brings, but I am dealing with the feelings of finality that our kids are grown. That vast space I couldn’t see at the end of when they were small and keeping me feeling overwhelmed has been bridged, and the bridge knocked out. There is no going back.

I know this is the way things should be. Generally speaking, kids grow. They put feelers out and look forward more often than they look back. As Stacey said her in her post, “…they get to the other end of the beach and I’m nothing more than a glance over their tanned shoulders.”

Morning came. Hubby and I enjoyed coffee on our balcony, renting and riding bikes on the boardwalk. We took our time checking out of our hotel, then drove back to serenity-ville (a.k.a., the gorgeous gardens of the Hereford Lighthouse and the seawall walkway, down at the North Wildwood end. (A very short, well-worth-the-ride trip.) From there we geared up for our trip home, back to our boys (er, young men).

Hereford lighthouse front (1)

Maybe we all “grewed up” a little on this particular trip.

In keeping with the theme, Younger Son is scheduled to get the DL come the end of November. He’s been searching the web and local streets for months; as of several days ago, his new/used Mazda is in the driveway, patiently waiting. It is what it is, and all part of letting go.

Kevins Mazda

Where are you on this roller-coaster ride of parenting? Just starting out? Keeping your eye on the younger school-aged crowd or venturing into that tween-early-teen world of cell phones, texting and just starting to let them go to the closest convenience store within walking distance? Do you have any drivers yet? And how are you handling any/all of the above?

Until next time,

Joanne

Posted in Discipline vs. Control, Parenting, Uncategorized

Respond Vs. React (or Why Are You So Dumb?–Part 3)

Welcome back, all. Between less structured summer days and a laptop that needs a li’l TLC, I’m feeling a bit disorganized and out of sorts. Please forgive my delay in getting this post up. As always, I’m hoping all is well with all of you.

happy garden spot
The sunflowers in my yard have morphed into perennials. No complaints from me. 😀

The happiness of most people is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.— Ernest Dimnet…(from Don Charisma’s awesome blog–EVERYONE should take a minute and check it out. Just sayin’ 🙂 )

This is a great segue into where we left off last time. We were discussing shaming children in public, the possible consequences and a more positive way of responding (vs. reacting) to an incident I observed while standing in line at my supermarket. (Read Part 1 and Part 2, if you so desire, and please remember to come back! 🙂 )

The night before I wrote this post, I was doing a little cleaning on my enclosed front porch, killing some time while I waited to pick up Younger Son at a friend’s. Outside, the wind had picked up, strong enough to rattle the windows.

Behind me, I heard a loud thump. Attributing it to the wind, I turned toward the (glass) front door and startled BIG-TIME to a face behind the door.

Younger Son had gotten a ride home, saw me from outside and decided to have some fun.

“Please don’t do that again,” I heard myself say, in a calm voice that belied the heart beating and the short breaths going on underneath.

Okay, this didn’t take place in public, but I realized practicing my response over the years—with my guys, and with my school kids (lots of opportunities for practice there 😉 )—helped me to not react. (“Are you out of your ________ mind?” Are you stupid, crazy…?”)

I’m far from perfect, but it’s easier to lose one’s cool when one is behind closed doors–when no witnesses are around. If one has managed one’s behaviors under those circumstances, one can hope to have it even more together out in the world.

Here is an effective way to practice: next time your child does something outlandish that catches you off-guard…(drum roll, please…)

Do.

NOTHING.

What????

Okay, so do this instead: take a step back and then survey the situation.

Honestly, unless your child is in immediate and/or imminent physical danger….

Do. Nothing.

While you’re “doing nothing:”

Get your bearings.

Replay the scene in your head,

Imagine how you might handle the situation via more positive words, actions, etc.

If you need to, write down exactly what you want to say.

Rehearse it.

(Replaying the scene and scripting your response has its place—pinky-swear!)

Once you feel confident–or at least have an idea of what you want to say and how you want to say it, go to your child and address the issue.

“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Experience you’d like to share? Please feel free to do so in the comments, or by contacting me privately. You never know who you might help by putting your story out there.

Have a wonderful day and many thanks for your time,

Joanne

© Joanne C Timpano, content and images. All rights reserved. Continue reading “Respond Vs. React (or Why Are You So Dumb?–Part 3)”

Posted in Discipline vs. Control, Parenting, Reflections, Uncategorized

Why Are You So Dumb?! (Part 2)

Welcome back. As always, thank you for your time and support!

Congrats to Older Son and his girl--Class of 2015 high school graduates! 
Congrats to Older Son and his girl–Class of 2015 high school graduates!

Last time, we ended on how children might learn from shaming and belittling them (in public or otherwise–catch up with Part One here.).

Like everything else—in terms of action and reaction—shaming and belittling don’t lack for consequences.

What shaming and belittling do, IMHO, is:

• hurt a child’s sense of self-worth. Self-esteem drops. The child is put in a position to question his/her capability and/or intelligence.

• plant seeds of resentment (toward the parent and/or other authority figures, present and/or future):  If treating him/her like that is the norm, what are the chances those seeds won’t wind up taking root and flourishing under a consistent diet of negativity and being put down?

• lay the groundwork for negative patterns: What are the chances that child will grow up to shame his/her children?

Reacting to what kids do is easy. Our impulses take over, our brains go on break and we want to say or do whatever responses—verbal and/or physical—the child’s action evokes.

Responding, on the other hand, takes practice. That means making a conscious effort to do any—and probably ALL of the following:

Stop.

  • Take a step back.
  • Think about NOT saying or doing that reflex action, and…
  • Carefully choose our verbal and/or physical answers to our kids.

Responding is a SKILL that can be cultivated. It takes awareness of one’s tendency to react, a conscious desire to change that tendency to react and practice.

Empathy (i.e., identifying with how someone else feels) can be key to responding vs. reacting. Putting ourselves on the receiving end of our actions, (i.e., imagining our kids’ feelings and possible reactions to what we say and do), can go a long way to helping us be more positive in our responses.

Finally: It’s easy to assume kids understand the direction(s) we give. (Asking them to repeat the direction is a great way to be sure.)

Here is how I might have handled the boy at the supermarket:

Assuming he was of average or better intelligence, restating what I wanted him to do—in simple, concrete words and a calm voice—would have sufficed. “Henry, I asked you to stand in line until I got back.”

With specific words—and a normal voice—I also would have shown the “consequence” of not having followed the direction. “Now we’ll have to wait at the end of the line.”

Henry probably would have understood his error—that he hadn’t fully comprehended his parent’s directive—and the natural consequence of his action (or lack of it).

One more thing to consider: Henry wouldn’t have been publicly shamed. Chances are, he will most likely remember to stand in line next time and won’t resent the person admonishing him.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
―William James 
(Psst! Waiting in line isn’t a catastrophe. It’s an inconvenience. Just MHO.  😉  )

Another thought: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29

So how might you have handled “Henry’s” situation? Have you found yourself in a similar one with your child, or someone else’s child? Do you throw in your two cents if you’re within earshot of someone dealing with a child in a negative manner? All comments and thoughts are welcome! (And if you’re shy, you can always email me via my CONTACT page.)

I’ll dedicate a future post or two to specific examples of how  a parent or authority figure can respond vs. react, i.e., deal with a child in a more positive way.

Have a great day, everyone!

Joanne

© Joanne C Timpano, content and images. All rights reserved.

Posted in Discipline vs. Control, Parenting, recipes, Reflections

“Why Are You So Dumb?” (Part 1)

Hi everyone. Please excuse my lack of posts since Mother’s Day. It’s been a busy past month. School begins its wind-down and the rush to last-minute paperwork on.

banana n almond butter
Easiest breakfast ever: sliced banana with a drizzle of almond butter. Pair with (almond) milk for a gluten-free, super-energizing, no-cook start to the day!

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. William James 

I was waiting in line at the food market the other day. A boy—maybe about 10 (?) years of age—was standing next to me. He was looking toward the back of the store, and appearing a hair uncertain.

A woman—perhaps his mother or grandmother (?)—approached him, glanced at the line, then at him.

“Why are you so dumb?” Her raised voice and annoyed tones conveyed her frustration—and turned the heads of anyone nearby.

(I’ll surmise the boy should have been keeping the woman’s place in line.)

The folks ahead of me must have thought the same. They offered to let the boy back in. No harm. No foul.

Someone must have commented about there being no problem. The woman, however, maintained her (mild) indignation, and her right to admonish the boy. “He has to learn.”

People, I had to bite my tongue. The woman might have been old-school. She had an accent, which suggests culture might have influenced the way she addressed the boy. She also might truly believe she was acting out of love.

As I wrote this, I had to wonder: If shaming that child in public was her way of “teaching” him, how does she deal with him behind closed doors?

I don’t consider myself an expert at anything, folks. I do, however, care deeply about how others feel, children in particular.

I suppose belittling and shaming, publicly or privately, might get a child’s attention. Will they “learn” from the experience?

Maybe.

Chances are, the child will remember feeling embarrassed more than s/he remembers the infraction.

But like everything else—in terms of action and reaction—shaming and belittling don’t lack for consequences.

We’ll pick this up next time.

Joanna

Posted in Parenting, Uncategorized

Parents’ Mishaps–You Are Not Alone

We’ve all been there–done something we can laugh about when we look back.

As parents, we are harried. My kids are 18 and 16, and still my day never seems to end. When they were small and needed constant close supervision, I remember how many things I had to keep track of. Chances are, something gave.

Last week I was listening to the radio. one of the morning show hosts is a fairly new mom; she has a toddler. Long story short, her male counterpart asked her why she thought to text him one morning, when she locked her keys in the car. (Not sure if her daughter was in her car seat when she did so.)

He told her he felt badly; he was too physically far away to be able to help her in any way.

She maintained how stressed out she’d felt that morning, and how she just wanted to talk to somebody at that moment; that she sat down on the curb and cried while she waited for AAA to show.

The DJ’s story reminded me of when my older guy was still an infant. The day before my mishap, we’d gone to see my husband’s family. My brother-in-law is a volunteer firefighter, and is often involved in rescues. We wound up in a discussion about a man whose wife had asked him to drop the baby off (at daycare?) one summer morning. Because the man wasn’t in the habit of doing so, he forgot he had the baby and went directly to work. He supposedly came back to find his child had died in the extreme heat of a car in the summer.

The next day, I remember going to a nearby shopping plaza. I had a mini-van that I had turned on to run the A/C—so that the vehicle would cool while I was putting my son in his car seat. I don’t remember the details, but I locked him in the running, air-conditioned car—with me not in it.

I generally don’t panic, but the horribly tragic story of the man forgetting his baby in the car had freaked me out. If I had a cell phone I’m sure it would have been in my purse already in the car. I ran into the closest shop—the pizza place—and begged someone to call for help.

Within minutes, our mobile precinct—a bus-sized converted RV—showed (It looked very much like the one in this image. Talk about mortified!) The very kind police officers jimmied open my door—which–lucky for me–they still did back then.

After the police left and I calmed down, I noticed I had left the front passenger window open a few inches. Had I not lost my brain, I could have asked the pizza guy to borrow a long-handled utensil (i.e., a spatula). With it, all I would have had to do was push the button to unlock the door.

We’re all human, my dear parents and caregivers.The preceding is only ONE of many incidents my children and I have survived. (Trust me, I’ve truly been blessed that some things I never foresaw happening didn’t end worse than they did.)

Do you have a parent mishap story? How did you feel then and how do you feel about it now that you can look back on it?

Be well, everyone. Thank you for your time.

Joanna

 

Posted in School-related, Uncategorized

Ah…the PARCC…

Happy Friday and upcoming weekend, everyone!

I promised we’d cover all types of topics here. Not sure I want to tackle this one, but the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is quite the hot one these days. It has been for months and most likely will continue to be so, especially once scores start coming in.

Hype, angst, opting out, refusal, teacher evaluation, funding; Bill Gates and Pearson profiting from it—just some of the buzzwords associated with PARCC. (I won’t touch the lock-and-key PARCC’s predecessor paper-and-pencil tests were kept under; rumors of teachers and/or test administrators at risk to lose their jobs if they happened to glance down at a student’s test booklet while walking around the class—I mean, seriously??? Over a test? What’s it made of, anyway? And yes, I understand it all ties into funding a given public school system. I’m thinking every kid’s education should weigh equally, and not because a test ties into the determination to allocate $$$.)

I don’t know enough about PARCC. I do know it is designed to test knowledge of the Common Core Standards, what kids learn from education supposedly aligned with those standards. (Feel free to enlighten me–please.) Being a parent and a public school civil servant myself, I know it’s there and that I have to deal with it. (I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to do so directly on the professional side.)

“Opting out” is not a choice in my state, but a refusal letter can be sent to the principal at any time, even after testing sessions are under way. Older Son is a senior and doesn’t have to take it. Younger Son is a sophomore and asked if I’d write him a letter of refusal.

I looked into it (some) and spoke to his guidance counselor.

This year, PARCC scores supposedly ‘won’t count’ against students or teachers. (Test results will eventually count as 10% of a teacher’s evaluation—the initial number was 30%.)

At present, passing the PARCC is not a high school graduation requirement. (My state’s stance on that could supposedly change at any time and count retroactively. If that’s true, I can’t see how that is fair play. I also have to wonder: what DOES count in PARCC’s place? Previous standardized tests used are no longer an option.)

Younger Son, not the most scholastic of children, has shown serious potential for proficiency on his PSATs. (He was a handful of points shy of the proficient mark.) These DO count as a graduation requirement, and can be used in lieu of a PARCC score. He will take them again as a junior, with a year more of education under his belt when doing so.

At sixteen, Younger Son is old enough to tune in to all the hullabaloo surrounding the test. He sounds jaded by it, and has an attitude toward it. Given his personality, I don’t see him sitting for the test and giving PARCC his best shot. I’d hate for the state to decide to count his potentially lower scores against a teacher who did his/her best.

So, for this year, I’ll let him forego a PARCC venture. Come next year, I would hope for more definite information on which to base this decision.

Your thoughts? Assuming you have children in the 3rd-11th grade range, are you for them taking the test or not? Why?

Links to two articles that provide a touch more background. These are to be considered FYI–not necessarily MHO–just two of a multitude that caught my eye. The first, however, is from Scholastic, so I’m hoping they’ll be more fair and unbiased. No way to tell for sure:

Common Core Under Attack

Mom: Why My Kids Won’t Be Taking the Florida Standards Assessment Tests

All the best,

Joanne

Posted in Discipline vs. Control, Parenting, Uncategorized

Does Culture Determine Dysfunction? (Part Two)

Welcome again!

The quote: “Dysfunction is dysfunction no matter what the culture.”

Where we left off: Our culture (i.e., social mores, etc) impacts how we live. When a family is raised with two (or more) cultural backdrops, rules, choices and opinions might conflict. (Link to the previous post, should you care for more background. 🙂 )

In the novel by Cynthia Keller, A Plain and Fancy Christmas, lead-character Rachel was raised to believe children are not to be the center of attention. She expects her daughter’s behavior to reflect that, and takes steps to insure that Katie does.

From the day they were born, my children became the focus of pretty much everything, with their father and I making a big deal out of every little sound and action that came out of them. We’ve taught them their input matters. We’ve also had times when, despite their feedback, we’ve made decisions our kids didn’t like, but felt was our prerogative to do so as parents.

Despite some hiccups here and there, our teenage boys are generally respectful. They’ll present their cases when asking for something they want, and have shown the ability to take a step back and not react when things don’t go their way. (Younger Son might hem-and-haw up front and often needs a little more time to come up with a more appropriate response. I can wait.)

I’m not saying you have to raise kids a certain way. Note this too: someone else—your spouse, a grandparent, neighbor, teacher, cashier, etc—will ALWAYS have an opinion on the choices you consider and/or make on your journey as a parent. Your job will most likely include figuring out how to filter through the chatter surrounding you. (Sometimes, there is some validity to what other folks have to say. None of us has all the answers.)

This parenting gig is a process, folks. There aren’t a slew of right or wrong blanket answers to be had, nor is there always an immediate solution to an issue you might be facing.

What I am saying: In the final analysis, I don’t believe you can fully separate the cultural influence. You’ll most likely wind up flubbing your way to finding the balance that works for you and your family. Hopefully, it will be one that allows you to be able to function happily and peacefully as individuals—and as a unit—within the society in which you live.

Thoughts? Ideas? Questions? Concerns? Difference of opinion? Please don’t hesitate to share any/all in in the comments. There’s always email too: joanne@joannectimpano.com

Enjoy the weekend,
Joanne

 

Posted in Discipline vs. Control, Parenting, Uncategorized

Does Culture Determine Dysfunction? (Part One)

Hello again! I’m hoping all is well with everyone, and thanking you yet again for giving of your time to stop in!

Let’s go right to it:

“Dysfunction is dysfunction no matter what the culture.”

Someone said that to me at least 20 years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. I’m not sure I agreed with the person then, and I’m still on the fence about it now.

I recently read, A Plain and Fancy Christmas, a novel by author Cynthia Keller. (BTW, this is not a review of the story.)

FullSizeRender (2)

In this switched-at-birth story, a young, Amish-raised widow (Rachel) learns she is the biological daughter of non-Amish (a.k.a., “English”) parents. About mid-story, Rachel takes her 10-year-old daughter (Katie) to New York City to meet their blood relatives.

They all go out to dinner. Rachel’s biological parents are thrilled to meet their only grandchild, and behave as “English” grandparents might.

Here is a snippet from page 168:

The waiter came over to ask if they were ready to order.

“Katie,” Gil (her grandfather) said, “do you know what you’d like?”

Rachel bit her lip. It was…not right for an eleven-year-old to be the center of attention this way, all the grown-ups fussing over her and allowing her to order her food first. This was not their way. She could imagine how upset her mother would be if she knew.

(edited for brevity) Rachel leaned over to her daughter, whispering in her ear to remember her manners, no matter how nice and casual everyone was to her.

This passage struck me immediately, and got me thinking about how our cultural backgrounds impact the way we raise our children and judge their behaviors.

What Rachel perceives as ‘wrong’ is based on her Amish upbringing.

The “English”—or those raised in a Western, American-type civilization—tend to openly dote on their children and lavish them with attention. The “English” often allow their children a voice, typically asking for input and offering them choices. We see it as part of helping foster the self-esteem and problem-solving abilities that ultimately result in independence as adults.

That brings me back to my original question: Is dysfunction culturally determined?

My gut, coupled with my education and life experiences to this day, suggests that it is.

Disclaimer: I am not saying anything and everything kids want is okay. (That applies to adults too.) Perhaps this is all my IMHO, but murder, hurting others purposefully—you know, meanness, in general—is a no-no regardless of culture, race or religion. (Certain religions, however, might disagree, but that’s not what this is about.) What I am saying is the “English” tend to be driven by “if it feels right” it’s probably not necessarily bad.

Our culture (i.e., social mores, etc) impacts how we live. When a family is raised with two (or more) cultural backdrops, rules, choices and opinions might conflict.

To keep from getting too long-winded in this post, I will reflect on this topic in more detail next time.

Until then, what are your thoughts on the initial question? Do you agree? Disagree? How much weight do you give your child(ren)’s input on a given matter? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can always email me here: joanne@joannectimpano.com.

Have a blessed day,

Joanne