Freedom #5Days5Words

Posted: 12th August 2018 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I need to get back to blogging, but didn’t want to set too lofty a goal.  So I gave myself a challenge:  blog every day for my last 5 internet-friendly days of summer vacation about 5 little words I have been reflecting on this recharging summer.  Here’s word number four.

My husband and I got married very young and had three kids pretty quickly after that.  I could frequently hear people muttering behind my back about “teenage moms” when I tried to juggle three kids under four (for the record, I wasn’t a teenage mom).  While all of our friends spent their twenties exploring the world and having fabulous adventures, we struggled to financially support a family, finish five degrees between the two of us, and raise three whirling dervishes.  But when those friends would share their exciting tales, we would smugly explain our “Freedom 45” plan.  Sure, we were knee deep in diapers and macaroni and cheese but we would have three adult children when we were 45, which would free us up when those same friends would be anchored by young family commitments.

This is the summer of our Freedom 45 year:  my three oldest kids are 21, 20 and soon-to-be 18.  They have all successfully graduated from high school and are on their way through post-secondary pursuits with plans for long term employment.  They are contributing members of society and good people.  All according to plan.  Admittedly, the plan hit a bit of a snag when kid #4 arrived six years later, so we are still signing elementary school agendas and driving daily to various after school pursuits.  But we still had hope that by this year, we would be experiencing more freedom than those early years of parenting.

As of right now:

  • I still do as much laundry as I ever did (although no cloth diapers to wash, so that is a win)
  • I still grocery shop every week with a cart mounded with enough food to face a zombie apocalypse
  • I still blindly hand over my credit card for frequent purchases in response to “Mom, I need…”
  • I still plan my life around who needs to be driven where/who needs my car when

I guess what we didn’t take into account in those early, sleep-deprived years is that our kids would be growing up in a changing world.  It isn’t as easy for them to leave home and to live independently of their parents as it was for us.  They each have years and years of expensive schooling ahead of them, in a city where rent is expensive, car insurance can be more than a month’s rent, and  jobs are mostly part-time or for little pay.  So, we get by sharing two vehicles between five drivers plus bus passes.  We help them out by providing free room and board (and laundry!).  We help them out by paying the tuition on their first degree.  We help them plan for the lines of credit they will need to get through their subsequent degrees, and encourage them to save as much as they can from their jobs and scholarships to help them get there.  But it will be a long road ahead for each of them.

Ironically, while we don’t have the Freedom 45 that we anticipated, our kids don’t have the freedom we did when we were their age and just starting out ourselves.  They are not alone in that lack of freedom either.  The media is filled with stories of twenty-somethings still at home trying to scramble together a life of independence and prosperity.

It makes me wonder what we can do as educators to help the students we have now prepare for their futures.  How do you teach young students to be productive, independent members of society years from now?  How do you anticipate the skills they will need then when our world is evolving so quickly?  Can you even prepare them?  Should you?

Since I still have a child in elementary school, I think about this a lot.  As both a parent and an educator, I think maybe we need to keep working on some of those foundational skills that will help them.  Like:

  • Fight your own battles.  I don’t helicopter parent.  If my kid has a disagreement with a friend, a frustration about a teacher or a class, I listen.  I make suggestions.  I coach.  I do not run to that friend/friend’s mom/teacher and demand action on her behalf.  Even last year when Kid #4 had an issue with another student creating a social media account in her name and using it maliciously, I made suggestions about what she could do and let her advocate for herself.  And she did.  This way, if it were to happen again in, say, university or at a job, she wouldn’t need her mom to come fight her battle.
  • Make your own mistakes.  Research says that we learn best by experimenting, trying things out and seeing how it works.  We learn from failure.  But if that is the case, why do we try so hard to protect children from it?  Maybe we need to protect/advise them against making the big mistakes that could seriously hurt them or others – drugs, drinking and driving, etc – but we need to let them make some decisions in their lives so they can figure themselves out.  This goes along with the next point.
  • Develop resiliency.  Kids (and adults) get frustrated, angry, and want to quit in the face of adversity.  Learning how to solve the unsolvable, work through a painful process and come out the other side is an invaluable skill that we, perhaps, don’t allow our children to do enough of.  From the side lines, we can encourage, suggest strategies and then bite our tongues when they need to do it themselves.
  • Resist the urge to be a social media monster.  It is almost a guarantee that a 16 year old, 13 year old, 9 year old is not thinking about how that picture they post or the comment they make on social media will reflect on them as an individual to a university/college/employer or the impact their posts can have on other people.  Here is where our kids probably need more direction, more supervision and more rules than anywhere else in their lives and it is likely where they have the least.  In school, teaching students to use tech tools well is important, but parents at home need to monitor for the non-school applications too.  And we all need to continue to constantly teach respectful rules of on-line engagement.  Our kids have far too many bad influences online to only teach this sporadically.  Somehow we have to teach this in a way that is more meaningful/louder than those other intriguing influences.
  • Be a contributor.  Around the home, the classroom, and the community our kids can help out.  Even the youngest child can support others and contribute in ways that will help others and should do so.  Often.  They should also do so without always expecting something (allowance money, class points, recognition) in exchange.
  • Be financially literate.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will still be getting a new math curriculum in the next few years (dare to dream!) and that this curriculum will feature an even greater emphasis on the financial literacy skills our students need.  If our kids in their twenties are going to struggle with expensive tuition and living expenses while experiencing unstable employment, they need all the help they can get.  Money is more invisible these days too – since I don’t hand over two hundred dollars in cash at the grocery store, the impact of spending that money isn’t as obvious.  With on-line shopping, lines of credit and pay pal, spending is more accessible even if the actual cash available is less than it used to be.  At school we need to use those good financial literacy lessons whenever we can, but at home, families need to be as transparent as possible about what things cost, how we pay for them and how we plan for them.  And we need to say no sometimes when kids say “Mom, I need…”.  I’m still working on this one.  All. the. time.

Back to Freedom 45.  Our lives right now do not look like how I imagined them all those years ago.  But they are still good.  I’m proud of all of our kids for the people they are, and I really don’t mind them being at home still.  Also, my husband and I are going to be like carefree twenty-somethings for ten whole days starting this week and have some adventures of our own, like we imagined when those babies were little and life was tough.  And ten days will be plenty.  Freedom can wait.

 

  1. adunsige says:

    Enjoy your much-deserved 10 days of freedom! I love your list here, Kristi, and I think I’ll share this post with our class parents. Lots of great thinking and learning in here for parents of kids of any age.

    Aviva

  2. Donna Fry says:

    Such a great story. It’s easy to forget that educators in our PLN do all kinds of other things besides teach and blog!

    What I love is how you emphasize the change from your time as a young adult until now. I feel like our parents aren’t always aware of the size of the shift – that doing what we did when they were in school might not work for their own kids.

    I think real success comes when you can say your kids are adults now, but you still love spending time with them.

    Have a fabulous break from it all!