Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I bet you all thought I had given up on this blog already, didn't you? HA! Not me! Not this time! At least not this year, that's for sure! ;) Haha, pretty funny, eh?

I love saying stuff like that during this last week of December. I am always telling people, "See you next year!" and "You won't have to worry about that again until next year!" and so forth. I know, it's corny, but I don't care - it's fun! That's one of the benefits of getting older - refusing to care what others think about what you do, and just being YOURSELF!

So - we have had a marvelous Christmas at the Ward household. Very different in a lot of ways, but oh so wonderful. I will have to write all about it and post-date the entries so they will coordinate with the Christmas holiday dates. I am so excited to take pictures of all the great gifts we exchanged this year, most especially all the homemade ones! Yep, homemade. And that comment has a story behind it.

A few years ago, we decided to do homemade gifts for our "Secret Santa" exchange in our family. We primarily used items from the "wood pile" from a nearby cabinet factory whose owner gave us permission to use some of their scrap wood. So everyone got all excited with hammers & saws and all sorts of things were created! Some of the kids had so much fun that they didn't want to stop with only making something for their "Secret Santa", so they made things for everyone! It was a ton of fun, so the fever kind of caught on, and now often many of our gifts to each other are handmade. It has become one of our favorite parts of the holidays.

The question many readers might be thinking is "How in the world did you find the time to help all your children make gifts for one another?" The answer is simple - I didn't. As a matter of fact, I had heard this idea of a "home-made Christmas" for years and years and thought that while it sounded like a great idea in theory, I had no desire to try it. Why? Because I knew in my heart of hearts, that while it was a noble idea, it would in reality just mean a lot of extra work for Mom as I would end up basically making 8 homemade gifts!

So I put it off and figured it was only a dream for more ambitious Moms than me. More power to those brave enough to try! But  as my children grew, a miracle occurred . . . I found out that my children could actually do things like that on their own! Not only could they, but they would naturally do it as long as I provided opportunities for talent development and plenty of materials to work with. So by the time we actually decided to try it a few years ago, I really only had to help my youngest with his gift, and everyone else did their own thing. Yay! Freedom!

Now don't think that every gift was made perfectly with all the exact right measurements and materials and instructions. But I did my best to not step in, to just make minor suggestions, and to let them create. After all, isn't that the whole charm of homemade gifts? That stitch out of place, or that less-than-perfect paint job that shows the time your loved-one took to try and make something special for you? Yes! That is truly what it is all about - the love you show as you give a gift from your heart.

I make this point because I know that many Moms feel pretty overwhelmed when their children are young, thinking they need to do *everything* or they won't be a *good Mom*. I remember as a young mother watching a family that had several older children who all played string instruments, so they did a little bluegrass ensemble and sounded really great. I dreamed of something like that for my own children, and worried about how in the world I could ever teach them to do it? I also remember seeing families with teenage children and parents singing together in perfect harmony, and I wondered how much time it would take to teach each of my children their part and get everyone to practice, and still do everything else that needed to be done? And yet, the reason I worried is because I didn't know the secret! If you are a parent of older or grown children, you probably already know the secret. If your kids are still little, do you want to know what it is?

Okay, I'll tell you.
It's this. . .
shhhhhhhh. . .

The secret is:
YOU don't have to do it AT ALL. . .

Yes, you read that right. Really!

Don't you feel better already? Yes! It's true! Trust me, I have 7 children, ages 8 to 20, and their talents and abilities have come because it is what they were born with, not because I carefully crafted them into little robots who would do as I wished. Now, don't get me wrong, I have certainly supported them, driven them to lessons and games, paid all sorts of tuition and lesson fees, and watched many-a-concert, as all parents do. But what I have realized as I have matured in my parenting is that my job is to give my children a fertile field in which to sprout and grow, and it's their job to bloom with the colors and shapes that were implanted in their hearts before I ever came into the picture.

But how, you may be wondering, will my children succeed if I don't teach them everything they need to know for every conceivable situation? I know, I know, it's hard to believe. But the key is this: All you need to do is to look for opportunities for your children to try different things and eventually find the areas that fit their talents and interests the best. Then support them as they try their wings, listen carefully to their feedback, and be patient with them until they find their dreams with your help and support.

So lay off yourself, Mom. It's okay if you forget to have your kids practice sometimes. It's okay if they don't choose to do the sport you know they have a talent at. It's okay if they decide to quit the french horn after 8th grade (that one's for my parents back in 1983!) Now that's not to say that you should just let them quit on their talents, our own policy is that if you start something, you should finish at least that season, or that semester, whatever the case may be. But then, if the activity needs re-evaluation, help them to do it with your love and support.

As much as possible, your children will find their own way with your guidance and love. As a wise leader once said, "Teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves." It's okay to not be a perfect parent. And it's okay for your kids to not be perfect kids. It's not about what others think, and it's not all about you. It's about helping fellow human beings find their greatest joys and passions in life and fulfilling them.

Just do your best to support and love them,  and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Speaking of which, this reminds me of when I had only been married a few years and we were visiting my in-law's farm in Idaho. A number of my husband's siblings were home for a visit as well, and we were all gathered in a circle with spouses and children for a family prayer. As I looked around at the group after the prayer had ended, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of what it would be like to someday see all my children grown and gathered around me with their precious little ones, knowing they were making their way through life with some success.

So I turned to my mother-in-law and said, "Doesn't this just make it feel like it was all worth it?" She smiled and said, "Yes. Definitely!" She had a twinkle in her eye that made me think that I probably didn't quite get it. I looked forward to being as experienced and wise as she was. Because at that age, I couldn't even imagine having my children mostly grown-up and happily married with children and careers. It just seemed like such a hard-to-reach dream. And while I didn't want to rush my life along, I couldn't help but look forward to the day when all the difficult moments with toddler tantrums and late nights with crying babies would all pay off. It seemed like eons away!

And yet, here I am on the precipice. One son out on his own in another country, one daughter graduated from High School and getting ready for a trip to Alaska, and another one about to graduate. And the rest of them are coming up close behind. It goes so fast!

Were all those late nights and stressful moments worth it? Absolutely, positively, no question about it! And I will gladly take many more trials just to reap the many blessings of watching my children find their way in life. Even though it is not always rosy, and they sometimes make decisions that I don't agree with, I will be here to love and support them. After all, isn't that what a mother is for?

Well that was a serious post for New Year's Eve! I really got a little off-topic, huh? Totally unusual for me. haha. I suppose that coming to the end of a year and beginning a new one tends to make one a bit sentimental. So there you have it folks, love yourself and your family, come what may. And have a very Happy New Year's Day!

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