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It's been a bit since I've shared a 5 Things story from a Mom. I'm going to interrupt my friendship/bullying series to share a few Mom stories with you. To refresh memory, I ask moms of grown daughters if they will share "5 Things I'm Glad I Did Raising My Daughter". These ladies have the advantage now of hindsight and can share with those of us still in the trenches what top things they see now that were most valuable.
I want to introduce you to a friend of mine, Laura Francis. I met Laura through Christian Women's Club, when I was asked to do a Fashion Show at a local event she was partially in charge of. When we met, through conversation, one of us said something that sparked our common interest in advocating for young people. Once the fashion show was over with, we met to discuss bigger issues and have since been in many brainstorming sessions and events together, making efforts to better this world.
I asked her, as a mom of a grown daughter and son, and grandma to two (with another due in December!)to share "5 things she's glad she did raising her daughter". I thought her perspective would be interesting and helpful to many, because I've heard Laura's background. You'd never guess it now, but she was raised in an abusive home. That surprised me when I first learned of it, because she's such a great mom. I wondered how she turned the tide so to speak, parenting well instead of repeating the cycle. And it's hard to imagine that she hardly left her house for years, being agoraphobic. She is nothing like that now!!
She tells of a special moment in childhood that looking back, I believe was God's hand on her life, when no one else was there.
"When I was four or five, we lived on a wheat ranch in the Texas panhandle (my dad managed the planting and harvesting of the wheat crops). One summer day, my mother had made me a bologna sandwich and red kool-aid for lunch. (When my brother was in school, she usually locked me out of the house so she could watch her soaps or something). Anyway, I took it to the horse corral to eat it. Sitting there on an old salt lick, I just felt a warm silence...kind of like an awareness or just knowing that I was different than what my family was relaying to me and ....that I wasn't alone. The sun was shining, I had on an old white play dress, and no shoes on. Actually, it was one of the few times as a child that I felt a type of safeness. Yes...that I was safe and I was loved. That memory has never left me. Life in the home I grew up in was pure chaos."
When I asked her how she didn't repeat the cycle, as is so common, she shared this.
"Because of my dysfunctional upbringing and family relationships, I could not have changed without the help of a psychologist(s). I developed major anxiety disorder, a short time of agoraphobia, and was a type of functioning phobic for over 18 years. The first psychologist introduced me to the love of God...for the first time in my life, she taught me to begin to consider that I was lovable. She also told me that the bravest thing anyone ever does is ask for help. As a result of that kind of help and an agreement with my husband, Tony...we continued to treat our children as we both would have liked to been treated...with love, respect, and a true interest in their lives. We encouraged independence, compassion, and generosity as character traits."
She said one of the greatest compliments she ever received was from her own daughter, who said "I wish you had a mom like I have". In my book, that says alot, so curiousity overtook me and I asked if she'd share her insights with us.
In her words...
"This was a hard one for me. I was an abused child, so I made choices raising my children that were never taught to me, but that I somehow knew were important. Here we go:
I'm glad I did the following raising my daughter:
1. We made sure we voiced that she was cherished, and was born on purpose for a purpose. We encouraged her creativity and natural gifts with wonder, love, and humor, AND that doing things "afraid" was part of the journey. That even failing was fine as long as she was moving forward. "It's hard to steer a parked car".
2. Choices were always part of the problem solving method. With choice A or B, we discussed what the responsibility and consequences would be.
3. I valued her and her input and never "shushed" her.
4. When she was dealing with a problem, I asked lots of questions in a variety of ways, not expecting the issue to "take care of itself or go away". I did my best to never abandon her emotionally.
5. I encouraged a strong relationship with her dad.
Number 6 would be that I have learned to watch, listen and enjoy her journey and to say "that's interesting" to so many things she does. She is not mine, she is God's. I am no longer her "mother", but one of her mentors who loves her with more depth than she may ever know."
Her kids today are grown and successful.
"Today, Matt is a 32 year old man who is kind, insightful, and very creative. He's very high energy and analyzes almost everything. He has a PHD in Electrical Engineering as well as a Masters in Physics and Electrical Engineering. He works part-time at the University of Arkansas coaching future PHD's and he is the president of a technology company that does research for space and the military. He is a true scientist. He has been married for over 6 years to Lynn, who is a music (percussion) professor at the U of A and they are expecting their first child in December. They live on a ten acre working farm in northwest Arkansas and are restoring the 115 year old farmhouse they live in...complete with music studio. Matt, too is a percussionist. He is a loving and caring husband, very disciplined, and not afraid to take a risk.
Kristen is 31, and is one of the most level headed young women I know. She has a very reflective personality and looks for the good in all situations and has understood from a very early age that it is not her job to fix other people. She is private with her emotions and generous with her love. She has a Bachelor's degree in Music from the University of Arkansas (a 5 year program she completed in 4 years). She married her husband when she was 20...Wayne is an attorney who owns a law office in Fayetteville and other small offices in several remote locations. He runs the law side with several other attorneys and she is his business manager. They have been married for 11 years and have worked together the entire time...no small feat. They have two children, Allison 7, and Jack 3. Kristen is a mother who gives her children love, respect, and expectations. She talks to them often about making good or bad choices. She encourages one on one time with their dad and very importantly, plans one on one time with her husband. They have consistent date nights and little vacations to stay connected and not talk about business."
Both of the two couples are musicians and performers...and Allison can already play a mean marimba, a little piano, and drum trap set...Jack is working on the drum stuff, too. Music is a huge common link in the family.
Tony and I look at these kids and many times wonder how in the world we were blessed with them!"
When I read her 5 things she did, they make sense to me, knowing Laura. She did this for her kids and does this for many people still. As a career coach, catalyst, motivator and networker, she listens, asks questions and inspires many to pursue their passions. As a career coach, she taught me that I'm a "green", which explained alot. (I'll leave you wondering. You'll have to ask her!)
One thing I admire about Laura is how she's filling her time now as an empty-nester and grandma. She and a good friend volunteer with OATH, helping to educate about Sex Trafficking in America, in pursuit of ending this awful practice. She also spends much time substituting for public schools, mainly in areas that are difficult to get substitutes, the tougher parts of town. She's learning the needs of our town this way and is able to make a difference in children's lives, even if it's just for one day. (It's definitely not for the money!) From stories I've heard, I doubt those kids will forget their one day with Mrs. Francis. Quite a far cry from agoraphobia days. God is good!
Laura should be an inspiration to those from difficult backgrounds. It's possible to change and not repeat the cycles you may have experienced. She is proof!
And I also think she should be an inspiration to all the empty nesters out there that there is much work to be done.
Empty nesters and grandmas, it's time to use the gifts, abilities and experiences you have, plus the time you have now, to better our world.
There's people out there that need you.