Tuesday, February 23, 2016

3 Parenting Lessons I Learned from the Life & Death of My Father

Today marks the 15th year since I sat in a room with my father.  In some ways, it is hard to believe that 15 years have passed since his death.  When I look at my boys, however, it is entirely believable.  My sons were young when he was diagnosed with cancer and only 7 & 3 years old when he died.  They are 23 & 18 years old now.  They are men.  My father did not live to see his grandchildren grow up or his daughter raise her children.  I believe that there is something to learn from everything – even events that are untimely and sad – and I did learn so much about parenting from my father’s way too soon death.  I pay tribute to his continued influence on my life by sharing the most important parenting lessons I learned from the life & death of Leonard Maloff:
  • Children remember the tiny moments.  We went on trips.  We celebrated events.  It is, however, the seemingly tiny moments that are most vivid in my memory.  I have such sweet memories of my father singing show tunes with me after dinner.  I was a very young girl who knew all of the lyrics from “The Sound of Music” and “Fiddler on the Roof” thanks to Dad.  I remember when he drew a smiley face on his thumb and sang “Thumbelina” for me.  I remember what he whispered to me as we danced at my wedding.  I treasure those moments and I learned that my own children will define their childhoods by the sweet moments and not necessarily grand gestures.  I learned that all moments with children can matter.
  • The influence of parents is infinite.  My father’s propensity to feel proud of our accomplishments, his sense of humor and even his beliefs about morality live on.  I don’t wonder what my father would have felt, done or said in any situation.  I know.  I know how proud he would have been of my boys.  I know that he would have been so pleased about the course my career is taking.  I know what advice he would have offered when I have to make difficult decisions.  That voice that guides my life decisions is, in part, his voice. I quote him often – “Respect is earned”  and “If you don’t like it, then do something about it.”  I remember him advocating for tenants’ rights when we lived in the Bronx and today I advocate for children’s rights. I learned that the messages I give my children will be with them forever so they need to be carefully crafted, conveyed and morally sound & consistent.
  • Forgive so your children will forgive you.  I don’t know if my father was particularly forgiving but I certainly learned about the need to forgive from his life and death.  My father was a heavy smoker who died from cancer.  He had a cough my whole life but kept smoking.  By the time the cancer was diagnosed, it was in his brain.  They did scans to discover that it originated in his lungs. My father always had a cigarette in his hand and it killed him.  If only…..If only he would have never smoked or quit or gone to doctors for check ups.  If only he was strong enough to stop a behavior that was so self-destructive.  But he did and he didn’t and he wouldn’t.  He wasn’t.  What he was, however, was human and I forgive him.  I forgive him his flaws.  I learned that there is no purpose in eternal anger or bitterness because it changes nothing.  I want my children to forgive my husband and me for our flaws so I have to be an example of the power of forgiving parents. 

I dreamt about my father recently.  It was the first time in a long time that I dreamt of him.  He was standing in my childhood kitchen. He was the daddy of my own youth.  Young and healthy, he turned to me and smiled. It was so nice to see him again.  I awoke, sighed and tucked him back where he’s been for 15 years – in that special place that parents stay in the heart and mind.

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Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual coaching for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.

Copyright 2016 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Today’s Generation Gap: How Will Today’s Children Cope?

How do children learn to cope with the ups and downs of life?  They learn to cope by experiencing the good, the bad and the consequences from an early age.  They learn from having to find their joy in situations that are less than optimal.  They learn from parents who tell them to figure it out.  I am concerned about this generation’s ability to figure it out, to see the bigger picture and to cope when the rest of the world doesn’t care about their likes, dislikes, successes and failures.  In generations of the past, we were not taught to expect other people or institutions to bend to the will of the individual. Today, many parents seem to choose trying to make each child happy all the time over teaching them the life lesson of coping with all that may come.  If childhood prepares you for a tougher adulthood, what will happen to children who didn’t have to figure out their way through their desires or needs not being the center of everyone’s universe?

From the time I was young, I remember my parents telling me to find the best in situations that I didn’t enjoy.  My mother loves to tell the story of when I was in 2nd grade and had a teacher who didn’t groom in a particularly American way - She didn’t shave under her arms.  I had never seen such a thing and it upset me.  I vaguely remember also thinking she was mean but I focused on her personal habits.  I told my parents that I couldn’t go back there.  I was determined to quit school.  They told me that I could not quit school at that age or for that reason and I had to make the best of it. I found a way to survive by focusing on other positives like my friends and my good grades.  I learned to find the good.  Today, the school would have received a phone call from a parent wanting their child’s class changed or the teacher directed to groom differently.

I remember being taught to speak respectfully to authority when I disagreed and to listen to their response.  When I was in 7th grade, I received a grade that I thought was either wrong or unfair.  My parents told me to speak with the teacher.  I groaned.  My father told me to respectfully ask if the teacher could explain my grade.  He refused to call the school.  He told me this wasn’t his grade and I had to learn to do this because someday I could have a boss that I needed to speak to about my work.  He told me to look at it like practice for being an adult.  Today, parents of college students are calling professors to complain about their children’s grades. 

In the past, parents who hovered or who spoke for their children were called overbearing, overprotective, over-the-top.  They were “over” the bounds of where parenting should go.  Today, they are called helicopter parents as if they merely hover.  They don’t just hover.  They set up an unrealistic viewpoint of the world.  Please prepare your children to be responsible for their own peace of mind.  Teach them that a positive outlook has to come from within.

The world is not a kinder, gentler place than in the past.  It is, in some ways, more competitive and pressure filled.  By never letting children be disappointed, sad, frustrated, upset, bored or suffer consequences, they will not be ready for adulthood.  The symptoms are already among us. I have a colleague who calls today’s teens “Generation Entitled.”  Bad news, kids.  The world owes you nothing.  You are in charge of your happiness and unhappiness.  You have to figure out how to stand on your own two feet in a world that doesn’t really care about your comfort and preferences.  I only feel badly that so many of you weren’t given the opportunities to figure out how to cope, accept and find the best in situations from the time you were very young.  It would have been so much easier for you….

This article is the 4th in a series about Today’s Generation Gap.  Click on the titles to read past articles:

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Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual coaching for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.

Copyright 2016 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.