adult children, communication, drugs and alcohol, expectations, family, purpose, raising kids, respect, responsibility

Everything’s Different …

I began this blog many years ago, if you’ve followed me you’ve see my family transition through many things.  To put it into perspective when I wrote my first post, my youngest son was 15 and he is now 21.  I can’t imagine I need to explain to anyone how much life changes over that period of time.

We have 3 children, their current ages are 26, 22, & 21. They are adults. Two of our adult children have returned home and are living with my husband and I.  Our youngest did a year of college and decided it wasn’t for him… we respected that completely and with open arms embraced that his next step would present itself with time.  Our daughter, our middle child, age 22, also left school after 3 years.  She struggled with campus life and was met with some illnesses that made it difficult to handle the stresses of being away at school.  She also came home with intentions of growing her small business here at home and forging a new path. We accepted her personal decision and welcomed her home as well with open arms.

As you can imagine life needed to be different from what we all once knew it to be under one roof.  I was conscious of the fact that they had been away from home long enough to have gotten used to not having mom & dads rules to live by, but yet knowing that being in our home the respect factor would still apply.  I worked diligently to allow them space and I felt all the same respects from them.

It has been 2 years of them living at home with us, 2 years of adjustments for all of us. In one of my past blogs entitled All We Expect is Respect I told of how in our family unit my husband and I had a pretty simple formula for our kids growing up …. we would give respect and expect respect, most everything has always boiled down to that.  All those years of instilling this very premise into our children has brought us to the harmony we live in today.  They are amazing!

I would say one of my own biggest struggles with this transition has been all my prior teachings, when they were teenagers, about drugs and alcohol. When we made the choice to have them come home and live in our home as adults I knew they would have to be allowed to make their own personal decisions and with certain respect and boundaries I would need to respect that.  They choose to smoke marijuana. They are very aware that this is something I have always been uncomfortable with. Over the past couple years of course it has become legalized, I have spent a lot of energy being okay with this for them and allowing them this personal choice.  Now “allowing” does not mean crossing my own personal boundaries and they have shown great respect to that. They do not smoke in our home, they do not smoke in front of me and honestly in a 2 years period of them living here I’ve only seen them twice when I perceived them to be high in my presence.  Now that is respect!

We are very open in our communication about substance. I remind (without nagging I hope) that they need to be aware of how substance affects them.  To check in with themselves that its not being “used” as a coping mechanism, that its recreation and relaxing but not a “need”.  It has gotten easier over time.  With open transparency that it is happening and them listening respectfully to my concerns, we have come very far.

I also was certain that we would not enable them while being home. That was important to me.  They pay rent to be here, contributing to home expenses, and they manage and pay all their own bills.  They have student loans and they both have a car with insurance to manage.  My husband and I are  so proud of how they are handling their adult lives.  They both are hard workers and remain dedicated to growing and learning everyday.

I want to remind my readers that the two children I speak of in this post are my two who have been diagnosed with anxiety in their teenage years.  They were medicated back in 2017-2018 and since went off all of prescribed medicines and are handling what life is throwing at them these days with grace.  Do I worry?  Of course.  Am I concerned that they are self medicating with marijuana? Yes, of course.  As their mom I am going to worry, but I have to control that worry and begin to trust.

They are adults now… did I always make the “right” decisions at their age? Of course not.  I respect them and they respect me. We are in a good place.

“Adulthood is like the vet, and we’re all the dogs that were excited for the car ride until we realized where we’re going.”  ~ Anonymous 

adolescence, communication, drugs and alcohol, expectations, family, raising kids, respect, responsibility, teenagers, trust

Parties…Driving…Independence…

Being 17 isn’t easy, I remember.  Now our third child, our youngest is!  You’d think after having been through it with 3 other children I would have it all figured out by now.  Wrong!  One thing I can tell you about the way my husband and I parent is we have always figured it out as we’ve gone along.  Each child brings with them a uniqueness, a difference in personality… the answers are never uniform because each situation, each scenario deserves to be looked at with fresh eyes.  That is how we respect our children. Not to mention, even with the same child nothing stays the same, they change daily, as do we.  They grow and learn so much each day. This deserves to be respected.

The hard part is the balance.  Finding ways to respect their own beliefs in what they should be able to do and our parent ideas of what they are ready to handle. This is the reason I choose to be transparent.  I want them to know my thoughts and ideas, so there can be clear understanding when we do not allow them to do something they’ve asked to do.  I also want them to share their thoughts with us.  My husband and I are both great team players, I believe this is what has helped us be successful parents.  With he and I respecting each others ideas, we can stand united in our decisions for the kids.  We do not undermine each other in front of the kids, we often will not give an answer right away, we give them a “let us discuss it”.  The kids have learned that this is better than a “no”, because we are willing to take a deeper look into what their needs and wants are.  We do not want to be authoritarians, and just have them obey. We want to treat them with respect and ask for the same in return. This has worked beautifully.

Where we live is unique.  Small towns are a challenge, but try a small town on an island! To give you some perspective…Our pizza places close in the winter at 9:00pm!  My husband and I were both born and raised here, it is a special place, we love it.  Raising young children here is a dream. The school systems are great, the atmosphere for raising little ones is wonderful.  For teenagers, not so much.  When they reach high school age and want to be social… our island is lacking for things to do.  House parties have become the cultural “norm”.  Parties thrown by 20 somethings who have not gone off to college or who attempted it and are now back home.  Either way, it presents problems in our community. I do not find that drunk 20 somethings and drunk high schoolers are a good mix.

It is not unique to our island that parents differ in beliefs when it comes to raising their children, certainly their teenagers.  By the time kids here get to High School, there seems to be a “right of passage” message, for many, that it is okay to smoke weed and drink alcohol.  In my experience, it is either blatantly right in front of the parents and they choose to turn a blind eye, or weekend sleepovers are the norm where Sally says she’s staying at Suzie’s and vice-versa and there is no parent communication, no accountability, and then they both stay out all night and report to no one.  The way we have found to combat this with our own children is to have high expectations of communication and responsibility. Their involvement in sports and keeping open lines of communication has been key.  Sports is a great outlet for kids on this island and we have found it very important for their social lives. In my opinion, by the time they get to the High School they need the social outlet of being a part of sports and organized activities.  Our oldest was a 3 sport varsity athlete for all 4 years of high school. The amount of time and energy it took to be a part of these teams served him very well. He has been a phenomenal role model to our younger children, and continues to be.

Being involved in sports at the High School level is not the answer for all kids to stay out of trouble.  There were many, many teammates through the years, and continue to be, who have also found plenty of time for the party scene.  This is where communication comes in, we have clear expectations for drug and alcohol use.  Again, not strictly a command to obey, but an expectation to be responsible and constant discussions surrounding the topic.  Discussions of our understanding that it is available to them at their age and how they might handle this.  Discussions and an understanding of how alcohol affects different people differently, that alcoholism runs deep in our family and to be fully aware if they choose to try it how it is affecting them. We make it very clear that we have trust in them to be responsible and make good decisions and that their will be consequences if that trust is broken.  These are consequences way beyond parental punishment and staying in on Friday night (that is not how we discipline). We teach consequences of real life. Like, all the hard work that’s gone into working toward a future goal could change instantly due to a bad decision. Dreams of being recruited, being successful in a particular field, keeping the respect of others… the list goes on and on.  Pointing out the importance and the reasons for being responsible have always meant enough to our children to act responsibly. Our belief is that at age 17, 18, & 19 we are helping to guide them into adulthood. I believe it is understood that we do not want to dictate what they can and cannot do. We want to see them finding ways of having independence while staying responsible. If they show responsible behavior and make good decisions the freedom is theirs… If they show lack of responsibility and poor behavior we will intervene and help.  We believe this is our job.

Our talks with our children do not only surround drugs and alcohol.  We have open communication for anything that needs discussion.  Getting a driver’s license is a privilege. It is understood that if this is abused (in our eyes, not only the law) that we will take away that privilege. That goes for cell phones, computers, etc. We have taught them right from wrong since they were born, we do not believe stopping when they become a teenager would serve them well in adulthood. We feel strongly that this is our job.

Our family is strong. Our children are respected in their schools, on their teams, and in our community. We feel strongly about helping others when they are in need, we foster this any chance we get. I feel proud of this. I feel proud of the family my husband and I work hard to build strong each and every day. I believe they are proud of us too.

“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”  ~ A.P.J. Abdul Kalam