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My son fractured his leg last week. We’re not sure quite how it happened. He’s been running and exercising more recently and at age 20, his body is still growing, so perhaps he stressed it. In times past, I would have been making phone calls to the doctor and getting him to his appointments. But these days, he manages his own affairs, handling the curve balls life throws at him with a fair amount of maturity.
For now, he’s confined to a walking boot and crutches, in an effort to take some weight off of his leg so the bone can heal. While he’s not happy about the diagnosis, I respect the fact that he didn’t ignore his discomfort and instead, took himself to Campbell’s Clinic. He faced down the problem by taking care of his health. That’s one of the goals we strive to reach as parents, to help our kids learn how to problem-solve so when they eventually are independent of us, they can make smart choices.
That same theme cropped up at a meeting I attended with a group of mothers last week who were discussing how best to help their teenage sons navigate the world as they learn how to drive. What a nerve-wracking milestone that one can be. It’s exciting for our teens, naturally. They’re often chomping at the bit for that first taste of freedom. But it can be nerve-wracking for us, knowing all the potential hazards that exist.
Furthermore, as African American women, they are all too aware of the reports about police brutality that pepper the news. They talked about striking a balance, about teaching kids respect for authority, and also making smart choices about where they traveled and how they behaved. We all agreed with the mother who weighed in, saying, “I don’t want my children to not trust the police. They’re here to help us.”
The discussion meandered from one topic to another but there was a common thread which all circled back to our desire as parents to give our children the guidance they need to mature and grow. But what I steadily realized as we compared notes was that talking about parenting help us mature and grow, too.
Another mom mentioned the importance of consistently giving consequences when tasks at home were left undone. “We have boundaries,” she says. “Everyone has a job, so they don’t expect anything extra if the basics remain undone.” She assigns her kids chores and is clear about what she expects: the entire kitchen must be cleaned, the living room vacuumed and dusted, the downstairs bathroom scrubbed. Her children understand the rules, and more importantly, they know that consequences will follow when Mom’s rules are broken. Every. Time.
When her teenager doesn’t get his chores on time, she rouses him in the middle of the night and hustles him downstairs to clean. “If you do that two or three times, you’ll find it works,” she says with a chuckle. The other moms nodded in agreement.
What I realized as this casual conversation continued to unfold was how much wisdom these women embodied. We had all tackled similar issues at home with our kids, and while we might have arrived at a comparable end point, we used different strategies to get there. As the old adage goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
But how instructive to hear ideas that worked for others, and to compare their parenting styles to my own. I think there’s a lot of value in being with other parents and sharing experiences. It normalizes the worries you have, it allows you to see your children in a different light, it helps put into context the phases all children go through. It felt good to hear another mother say, I understand what you’re going through, I had that happen to me, too. Here are some tips that might help.
That’s the role Universal Parenting Place hopes to play. These pilot centers — located on the fifth floor of Baptist Women’s Hospital and at Knowledge Quest, across from LeMoyne College — offer counseling, parent meet-ups, and other services with the aim of making raising kids easier. It’s free. No judgment, no doctor’s referral required. So spread the word. The hope is these two will take off so that more centers can be developed elsewhere in the city. I think it’s a great idea. As parents, we need all the help we can get.