As the summer is slowly creeping up to a close, I say goodbye to my three step-children as they prepare for a new school year. It's one of the hardest things to be separated by time and distance. It seems that every time they leave I reflect on all the lessons we were able to teach them while they were here.
I'm not talking about school lessons, although we did work on reading and vocabulary this summer. I'm talking about the important life lessons. As our oldest is coming up on his teen years I tried to spend a lot of time with him, encouraging him to find some interests, some hobbies, anything outside of video games. We talked about why it's important to be responsible, to be accountable and to have a passion for something in life.
Our kids were probably seen with me more than a few times in the area while I was out covering meetings and stories. Often times I thought they weren't paying attention to some of the details going on, but I would be questioned when we got home. It seems they have a good talent at looking bored and non-interested, when in fact they were paying close attention.
It's weird where you find yourself in that position your parents were in as you were growing. Thinking about all the lessons learned from my dad while out looking for deer, shooting in the Owyhee's, fishing around McCall, Idaho, and talking about experiences came to my mind frequently. So did all the humor my mom tied in with punishments. I found myself repeating some of her words. My favorite phrase to the children this summer when asked for candy, playing ball in the house and other non-productive activities: “What's my favorite word?” I'm sure most parents will know it, “No.”
I find that approaching many things with humor can get you through any pickle with kids. Last year I had to run around a corner to laugh as the daycare owner told me my 4-year-old step-daughter instigated an outside peeing contest. Try punishing a young one without keeping a straight face on that one. While dealing with the fights, the things breaking and the tears that always come with both of those I think we tend to find ways in our house to make them into life lessons.
I think a discussion I had with our 13-year-old boy has stuck with me. As I said the words, it was almost like taking a step back and realizing that perhaps I should take heed in my own advice. Our son has had problems with bullies, and he has struggled with grades and relationships in the last year. It wasn't an easy year for him. We sat at the table. I let him talk and I just listened. I heard his anger, his frustrations at life and I could easily understand, as even though that age is in the distant past, it still doesn't seem like that long ago.
When he finished I proceeded to tell him that the decisions we make today will effect our future. I can choose to be angry today, I can choose to be angry tomorrow, but in the end I'm just angry. I told him to be the person that he wanted everyone to be, that we only live one life. I told him that his grades might suffer this year, but when he got into high school that transcript would follow him. If he chose to get in trouble and hang with the wrong crowd, that stigma could follow him into adulthood. I explained that this was his life, he made the decisions on how to react and respond. It was up to him to do the right thing. All we could do was teach him what the right thing was.
I've always been driven toward something. Going from one passion to another and putting my all in almost everything I tried to do. I've met failure, just like many of us have. But I suppose sometimes we need to remember, that this is your life. You make the choices on how to live it.