Advice from a couple of pros

I was enjoying my conversation with this "seasoned" Mom/grandmother. She's raised a bunch of kids to adulthood and is now enjoying a crew of grandkids. Now that I fit in both categories, I figured we'd share some insights.  Launching into the "Moms of young kids have it tough-those early stages are so hard-my heart goes out to them" spiel, I waited for her to share the sympathy I was extending as tribute to all the Moms of little ones that I get to do life with. 

Instead she said "It's not that hard" without batting an eyelash.

I back-pedaled, explaining that I remember how hard it is to lose sleep, decipher frustrated babbles, chase perpetual motion, and press through the irony of feeling isolated when you never have a moment alone.  Here's a summary of her thoughts -

Take a chill pill.  Women have been raising kids since the dawn of time and it's just not as hard as we want to make it.  Sure it's serious business and it's the most valuable job in the universe but, relax.  Buck up, actually.  It's not that hard.

Forget trying to impress others with your FB pictures and "pinnable moments" and just play with your children.  Get your big girl panties on and "look well to the ways of your household".  Quit the whinin'.  Train those kids to obey - without losing your cool - and enjoy them.  Every single stage will pass and each one will have unique joys and challenges.  Don't act like it's impossible to function pleasantly  without sleep and be tough enough to outlast your toddler's tantrums....cheerfully. 

About halfway through her comments, I decided to forego my planned lament about how hard it is to parent adult children!

I reflected.  And recalled a conversation with one of the wisest women I've ever known.  She's long since gone on to collect her reward for surviving a whole handful of children and living victoriously through some marriage AND parenting storms that have leveled plenty of other strong women.  I wanted to know the secret.  Hoping she wouldn't give me the Sunday School answer, I crossed my fingers for some practical advice.

She delivered.

Teach the kids two things - in order of priority -
1.  To persevere patiently
2.  To serve cheerfully
We need to develop the muscle of perseverance in our children so that they can face difficulties and doubts and despair without crumbling.  Let's be honest - at some point, they are going to wonder if the faith they've been taught is the truth...or worth it.  Their marriage commitment is going to be tested.  They are going to be hit with, at best, disappointment, and at worst, devastating loss.  Their ability to handle these curve balls of adversity is based largely on whether or not they have the spiritual and emotional fortitude to hang on. 

The aptitude of serving cheerfully means a person has weaned themselves from the narcissism of thinking "it's all about me".  How I feel, what I want, and who owes me.  If we want our children to develop into healthy, successful adults, it is imperative that we begin early to train them to serve.  Cheerfully.  Notice the needs of others around them and move to meet those needs.  Starts at home.

Good counsel but how do we apply it? Practically speaking.

Here's a couple of suggestions-
1.  Don't solve all their problems for them.  Let them struggle a bit to get their shirt over their head or retrieve the ball they missed.  Or decide which classes to take and whether or not to play baseball this season.
2.  Let them feel the consequences of decisions.  Yes, this will be more painful for you than for them and I am all for rescuing them when it's necessary but be careful of enabling them to be sloppy and forgetful and lazy.  How many times should you make that extra trip to bring the forgotten term paper or practice shoes to them?  Once, maybe twice.  But know that they will make their own necessary adjustments when they've had to run laps or take a zero because of their ineptitude.
3.  Don't treat them like a diva.  Five year olds don't need birthday parties that rival Cinderella's ball and proms should not be treated like a wedding.  Enough said.
4.  Give them repeated opportunities to serve.  Beginning at home.  If you've read anything I've written you know that I consider family chores to be the panacea for pretty much all ills and this is no exception.  Present it to them in terms of serving.  SERVE.  At home and away. 
5.  Let them be mistreated without coming to their defense.  All Mama-Bear claws are aimed in my direction right about NOW!  But seriously, let them "suffer".  Sympathize with them, cry with them, but be very very very very very careful about marching into the appropriate office and demanding retribution.  (In cases of illegal activity, of course I think you better step in but I'm instead talking about "unfair" treatment from a coach or hurtful words from a friend and the like)
6.  Let them see in your life a shining example of cheerful service and patient perseverance.  They won't forget the lessons they see lived in front of them.  Talk plenty, walk more. 

Let's don't make this any harder than it really is :)