Meet Karen. Karen and I had the fun of being friends back in college, as were our husbands. Karen and her hubby Terry got married soon after and are living a full adventurous life, raising 6 kids together (just 6 of their many adventures).
Karen and I lived on the same floor as freshman...aaahh, that fun freshman year. I believe we were both a little loud and possibly crazy, but I'll vote for her being even moreso...wonder how she would vote! When I remember Karen on the wing, I think of silly fun, animated talking and a clear New York accent. And quality. Very quality person. I can imagine she'd be a very fun mom! (I just searched for a picture of us from college, but lucky for you my picture organizational skills suffer).
We have only reconnected as adults through Facebook and then had the fun of seeing each other recently for the first time since college, at a friends wedding. I got to meet some of her beautiful girls! She also has a fun family blog called KOOL DAZE, following the full life of parenting a large family in her "free spirited, fun loving ways". You can find it at http://karennkool.blogspot.com/ Check out her blog, you'll enjoy!
I asked her to share 5 things she's glad she's done, looking back as her kids are quickly turning into adults. Here is what she shared, in her words. Enjoy!
"Parenting has been some of the most challenging, exciting, heartbreaking, frustrating, exhausting, but mostly rewarding adventures I’ve known. At this point I can say that I’ve actually been parenting for about half my life. I had my first baby when I was 23, and I’ve now reached the glorious age of 44 [gasp]. My sixth and last baby, Caleigh, recently turned 10 [double gasp]. Holy smokes, how did that happen so fast??
I am not disappointed to leave those infant, toddler, and preschool stages behind. The parenting challenges of those stages were so very different than the challenges of parenting teens and young adults. And quite frankly, I like the latter stages more. They have NOT been without MAJOR challenges--trust me when I say that. The pitfalls of teens and young adults have been just a bit more serious than say... finding poop smeared on the bedroom wall, or having to deal with a biting toddler. Ahhh, weren’t those the good ole days? I suppose I enjoy parenting more now because I’ve come such a loooong way in my personal growth as a parent. That and the fact that I journaled like crazy during my own high school and college years. Its helped me remember my own experiences and what the kids must be going through.
So, what are 5 things I am thankful I did in raising my kids, now that they are beginning to enter adulthood?
I’M THANKFUL I’VE LAUGHED A LOT--Its sheer delight to see that my kids have grasped the value and ability to laugh. In the Hochstedler home we all have a fairly good sense of humor. None of us are comedians, but we like to joke and have fun. We tend to hang out with people who laugh a lot, too. My kids crack me up all the time. Its pure joy. In our home, we think its especially important to be able to laugh at yourself because it breaks down self-righteous thinking and pride. We try to promote humility. Humility with a chuckle. Its especially fulfilling when we can look back on a bad situation and have a good laugh because its been walked through with success in the end. Having the ability to laugh about things helps my kids to not be afraid of having an honest look at themselves, especially when dealing with a difficult situation.
OPENNESS AND HONESTY is a big one. I can say this, my kids have a whole variety of levels when it comes to being open and honest with me. It all depends if they are trying to hide something--and we have gone through some heartbreaking times of dishonesty and rebellion--and sometimes they just need to vent a little. I can’t describe to you the joy that fills my soul when one of my kids finds a desire to open up to me. That’s when the honesty shows up, too. Its a double whammy, in a good way. It also means they are being honest with themselves. When they open up after a season of rebellious thinking, I don’t always like what I hear, but God gives me the grace to be patient, understanding and to be a good listener. Being genuine is really what it amounts to. “Don’t just say what you think I want to hear. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be genuine. Say what’s really going on inside. Its the only way you will find your true destiny.” I put no value in keeping up an image to hide what’s really there. I really don’t care what other people think.
DEMONSTRATING COMPASSION has been key. I have spent a lot of time talking with my kids about situations that arise among their circle of friends and at school, as well as things going on at home or in the extended family. Some parents would never be as open with their kids as I am with mine. Its a personal choice. Its who I am. Of course, I use discretion, but its a great teaching moment when, in a frustrating circumstance, I can be able to clearly point out how someone’s behavior effects everyone. And how our own behavior has an impact as well. During these dialogues I can explain my stand on a matter in a non confrontational way and hopefully lead them to making better choices for themselves. Sometimes I’ll find one of my kids put off by my “assessment” of an incident. They will feel I’m being judgmental of their friends because I’m direct about my views. So I’ll try to find ways to reference that person during other conversations and demonstrate my own heart of compassion and understanding for them e.g. point out a bad behavior I disapprove of, but share that I understand reasons why their friend is struggling and what my hope is for that person. Time and again my kids have recognized where they are being judgmental which allows God to change their viewpoint. They gain the ability to disapprove of negative behavior but still have compassion for the person. That is a victory. (Two of my daughters have mentioned a desire to become a counselors. Go figure).
YAY FOR INDEPENDENCE. My kids have all learned the value of independence fairly early! I am not a mom who likes to wait on them (or anyone) hand and foot. NOPE! I like to have fun!! ha ha My husband learned to cook early on in our marriage and makes dinner about as often as I do. We both enjoy cooking, just not all the time. My kids have all learned how to do their homework independently, do laundry, cook, clean the house (although their definition of “clean” is debatable) travel, make money, do their own banking, etc. I refuse to do it all for everyone. It sounds selfish, but actually its been very good for my kids. They have a strong work ethic. Years ago, the boys took their first trip alone to NYC (2 hours away) by themselves at 14 and 15 years old. They made a few “memorable mistakes” during those adventures, which made me want to forbid them from every going again, but, alas, the foolishness was their learning curve for the next try. They are certainly unafraid to find their own way in new territory. I like that. My sons both have great jobs and have worked since they were 13. They wanted their own money, so we encouraged it. My two oldest daughters have great jobs during the summer and part-time work in the winter. The next daughter is thinking about where she can start working now. They make me proud.
IMPARTING THE ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT. My husband and I never allowed our increasing family size to keep us from being adventurous. For example, in 1993 we spent a month in India with our 2 yr old and 6 month old, heading up 4 teams of teenagers on a mission trip (my 2 yr old came back from that trip with a biting problem). Later we went to Dominican Republic on a mission with our 10 mo old daughter and several teens from the church. After that was Guatemala. I was 6 months pregnant for that one. In 2002, we moved our whole family to a completely different community for a year. The kids loved it. My husband and the boys started dirt biking and now its motorcycles. I’ve led my girls into the musical theater world. We all go to the slopes for boarding and skiing. Terry and I have taken many adventurous trips without the kids, too. We have to make them a little jealous and star-stuck at times. And now THEY are starting to take trips without us. Nate, 18 yrs old, recently took a 2-month trip to Costa Rica all on his own. He made some life-long friends and absolutely loved it. We, of course, had to visit him for his last week there. ;-)
Its so exciting and scary to watch each of the 6 kids struggle along and find their way into adulthood. Its amazing to see so much of Terry and me in them and we are certainly blessed to have so many tries at this parenting thing. Maybe we’ll get it right by the sixth one. Its a good thing they’re in God’s hands.
BTW, the 6th item I would have added to my list would be how our home has always had its doors open to many, many young people through the years. I have a lot more the six kids if you count the extra's we've treated as our own. Our kids have all the more siblings, I suppose. I'm just glad I don't have to pay for their college too.
(Jolene, their exchange student from Germany is to Karen's right, at Karen's son's graduation).