Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child. Have fun!
Saturday, March 26, 2011
We had a very enjoyable time. The food, of course, was excellent. And we had very pleasant conversation. It was one great morning.
Until he offered to drive home.
I’ve decided that childbirth is nothing. In fact, I’d go through that 5 times before getting in the passenger seat with my just-learning child. Come to think of it, I did go through that 5 times before getting in the passenger seat with my just-learning child. And I’m still not ready for this. We’d better have another baby.
I’ve also decided that breathing exercises in childbirth classes have absolutely nothing to do with childbirth. Your body takes over on that one and you have no control over what happens. Whether or not you’ve practiced the how-tos of breathing, you are going to continue breathing. Letting your child drive is a totally different matter. Those breathing techniques that went by the wayside as soon as the first contraction hit do come in handy when your firstborn is behind the wheel. No need to offer refresher courses for the second or third or… pregnancy. I want a refresher the month before any given child turns 16!
I do believe I’ve aged at least 10 years in the one hour it took to drive from Lancaster to home. If not, my body has definitely gone from a fairly healthy state to one of unhealth.
My tongue is raw and bleeding from being bitten through in an attempt to keep myself from talking too much. Or screaming.
My jaw is in a constant state of clench from each time he merged or passed someone on the highway.
My mouth babbles, “White lines, white lines, white lines...” I sound like Rainman as a driving instructor.
I’ve been left with a jerk in my neck and a chronic crick from using my head to will the car away from the right side of the road.
My hands are cold, clammy, and wet from nerves.
My blood pressure, which used to be so low it kept me somewhere just over death, has now permanently risen above the needs-meds line.
My heart rate, like the one represented on the “After you die, You will meet God,” billboard that we passed, goes in fast lines up-and-down the monitor.
And my thigh has a lingering cramp from being raised at a right angle and pressing into the dashboard in an unsuccessful attempt at keeping Andrew below the speed limit.
But overall I think I did well. I got us home safely. I kept passing to a minimum. I was okay with following slow-moving trucks. And I thoroughly enjoyed driving under the speed limit.
There should be a special card that mothers-of-16-year-olds could keep in their wallets showing that they are a part of the Can-Do-Anything Club. There should be special privileges for us and we should be excused from any unusual behaviors that begin just after our children start driving.
I think I need a nap.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Our viola teacher was here yesterday. She glanced outside at our washline and asked the inevitable question:
Did you just return from a vacation to Hawaii or Alaska?
Neither. Saturday's warm weather inspired me to declare it the "First Day of 2011 to Hang Wash Outside". I was also inspired to wash multiple loads of laundry, including winter coats that I was hoping we'd no longer need (this winter) and a load of bathing suits from frequent hot tub usage as of late. Which begged the next question.
If that was on Saturday, why is it still on the line on Monday?
That'd be because it wasn't dry by Saturday evening so I decided to leave it there through Sunday to dry thoroughly but then I forgot to bring it in on Sunday and when I woke up on Monday I heard rain and decided that rather than bring it in and use the dryers which I was trying to avoid in the first place, I would just leave it outside for another two days. (Insert breath here)
Which does make me wonder if someone is going to ask:
Do you think you forgot to bring it in on Sunday because deep down you knew that you weren't supposed to do work on Sunday and that even though you avoided doing laundry on Sunday it would have been against the Ten Commandments to even take the laundry off the line on Sunday therefore you unconsciously blocked this "work" from your mind? (Take another breath)
Maybe. I guess we'll never know.
But in case you are asking the next question:
Is the laundry off the line yet?
The answer is yes.
My neighbors can stop laughing at me now.
Friday, March 18, 2011
However, something happened through the years. I love my teens (and almost teen). I can honestly say that I am enjoying this age as much as all of the others. Recently I've been pondering how this happened. Just yesterday I read a quote that seems to answer my own question, at least at one level.
The quote, by William Kilpatrick (author of Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong), was this: "Of course we still love our children when they are nasty, whiny, disobedient, disrespectful, and selfish. But if that becomes their habitual behavior the love of even the best parents begins to wear thin. By contrast, children who are obedient, respectful, and considerate have our love not only because it is our duty to love them, but because it is a delight."
Thank you, my dearly loved teen-agers, for being obedient, respectful, and considerate. Additionally, thank you for being compassionate, encouraging, and wise. You are a delight!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Fact: My sons have had to live with me.
Fact: My sons have had to live with three sisters.
What more proof do you need? They know how to relate to (deal with?) the opposite sex.
Take this recent conversation as Exhibit A in my arsenol of evidence:
Andrew: I like that jacket.
Mariana: You're just now noticing it?
Andrew: Yes, and I like it.
Mariana: Mom, can you believe it? I've had this jacket for over a month and he's just now noticing it. I wear it all the time and he never noticed it before????
Andrew: Uh-oh. I can see where this is going. It's a good thing you're my sister and not my wife, otherwise I'd hear (imagine the following in perfect feminine pitch, inflection and emotion) You are just now noticing my jacket? I bought it over a month ago, just for you. I've worn it all the time, just for you. I even wore it the past three days, just for you and YOU NEVER NOTICED IT! (crying now) I can't believe that I bought this nice jacket and it has taken you a whole month to notice it. What is wrong with you? Why can't you notice things like this?
Mariana: Wow. He's good.
Mom: Yes, he will make a great husband someday. I hope he thanks us.
And all you of the female persuasion who are about the same age as my sons, come back in about 10 years. By then they should not only know how to mimic you, but also to live with you.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The same thing has been happening after King's Strings concerts, as we and our children share our stories and about how we are finding our place in God's story. One young grandmother, with tears in her eyes, shared how she wished she had parented purposefully. A great-grandmother, also with tears in her eyes, approached me to say that she also had seven children, but "I didn't parent them like you do yours." So for the many people who have asked for more information about "how we decide how to parent", here goes.
It is common practice in our academically-minded society to think that we can learn anything by reading a book. I've found that for myself, there are several problems with this method when it comes to parenting education. The first is trying to decide what books to read. The over-abundance of parenting materials makes it more difficult, not easier, to find good parenting advice. The second problem is that we have no way of finding out if the author's ideas and parenting methods worked out for him/her. I'd love to have some type of follow-up website where we can watch their children for several years to find out if they have grown into mature, responsible adults that I'd like my kids to emulate. Worse yet, some of these authors aren't even parents. Third, you can find a book to describe any type of parenting strategy out there. If we're honest, it's way too easy to choose the book that promises the easy way. Momma never said parenting would be easy. If it is, something's probably wrong.
This is not to say that we shouldn't read parenting books. In fact, I am currently reading a book on parenting. However, as I read these authors (husband and wife) and their parenting strategy of sheltering their children from the world around them, a parental "burying their heads in the sand", I really wish I could see their children now. The book was written long enough ago that their oldest would be in her twenties and their youngest would be in middle school. I want to know if their children are able to function in that "scary and damaging" world the parents wrote about. Are they able to work in and among the culture at large? Are they making a difference in the world? But I'll never know. So instead of relying on books to teach us how to parent, we've found a different approach that works better for us.
We have made ourselves students of parenting. Let's face it, I don't like school, at least not the view from a student's desk. I spent the obligatory 13 years in school, then completed four years of college to get that coveted teaching certificate, then even forced myself to take a certain number of graduate credits to get my permanent teaching certificate (before Pennsyvlania decided to no longer accept permanent teaching certificates but that's a rant for another day and another blog), but then I was done. I do not like going to school. I'd much rather be on the other side of the desk. Someday I hope to be able to audit classes somewhere. I'd love to learn for the sake of learning, without the pressure of homework, tests, or grades. And I would love to be one of those seniors (senior in age, not school years) who takes advantage of colleges that allow those with gray hair to take classes at a reduced rate. But until then, no more bookwork for me. However, when it comes to parenting my children, I get only one chance. There is no extra credit and there are no take-overs.
To accomplish this, I look around me. When I see a family whose children think and behave in such a way that I want my children to think and behave, I observe very closely. And these don't have to be grown children. One can tell pretty early on in a child's life if that is a parenting style you'd like to emulate or not. I have even been known to ask these parents what they have done differently in their parenting. The question usually surprises them but the ensuing conversation is always very interesting and helpful. The answers have never been based on any of the currently popular subjects like hospital vs. home delivery, epidural vs. "natural" delivery, bottle vs. breas tfeeding, cloth vs. disposable diapering, sling carrier vs. baby wrap, preschool vs. daycare, homeschool vs. public school .....you get the picture.
In fact, when I was the mother of 3 preschoolers, I purposely invited a family over with the intent of asking them how they did it and what they think set them apart in their parenting. This family also had 3 children, at that time 1 was in high school and 2 were in middle school. I had watched them for several years and knew that this was a family whose children were going to be strong Christian leaders. I wanted to be a student of their parenting advice. This led to several years of going to them for advice and wisdom and the mother became a strong prayer partner for me in my parenting. Now that they have 3 "grown" children, I know for certain that the family I chose to imitate was the right one.
Granted, there are children who have challenges and/or who are more strong-willed than others. It doesn't matter. You can still tell a lot by watching that child and his/her parents. Is the child maturing in the right direction? Do the parents address the issues and expect more? We all know families with children who have struggled with social, developmental, educational or attending challenges. But when there is purposeful and diligent parenting, you can tell. In fact, sometimes these are the parents to watch the closest and from whom you will learn the most.
For example, I can think of two families that I've observed for several years. In one, their son struggled with medical, social, and emotional difficulties as a young elementary student. Due to persistent parenting, however, he is a very well-adjusted and mature young man. These are parents I have learned from. On the other hand, there is another family with a child who was and is very bright, maybe a little more on the strong-willed end of the spectrum. I've watched a type of parenting that allowed him to always call the shots. As I look at their son today, I know that this is not a type of parenting I want for my children. These are obviously gross generalizations, but you get the point.
Okay, ready for the nuts and bolts? It's really quite simple. 1. Observe from a distance. 2. Get a little closer. Be proactive. Don't expect these families to come to you. In most cases, they don't see themselves as doing anything special. Invite them over. Choose to spend time with them. Take the initiative. 3. Go ahead and ask them the most pressing question. I like to just throw it out there: I see wonderful qualities in your children and I'm wondering what it is that you do differently. They might look at you blankly at first, but given time, they'll be able to come up with what you're looking for. 4. Go to them with specific parenting questions as they arise. Don't know how to deal with a certain behavior? Ask a family you've been watching.
Be prepared for what you hear. Be open to hearing things that are contrary to the way you've been parenting. Before you throw out the suggestions you've heard, think about it again. What is it in that family that made you ask the question, or observe them in the first place? Chances are, if they are farther along in the parenting journey than you, they are on to something good. And definitely spend time praying about it! (In fact, one of the most common answers I get when I ask parents what they think they're "doing right" in their parenting is, "We pray constantly."
And yes, I know that there are exceptions to every rule. Life happens. Each child makes his/her own choices.
And if you really want to learn about parenting through a book, don't use the close-your-eyes-and-point method. Ask the people who are already doing it best - the ones you've been observing.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
For obvious reasons, I don't often write about events that I have not witnessed with my own eyes. However, as I watched first my dad, and then John and Andrew return from an evening of celebration of Andrew's 16th birthday, how could I not share this wonderful event with you?
I felt slightly left out as the night was taking shape. John took care of the invitations (I never saw the official list), RSVPs (I was never really told an official count), reminders, etc. Every male, older than Andrew, who has played a role in his life, was invited. Knowing that many of the invitees would be unable to attend either due to distance or schedule, each person was asked to write a note of encouragement, wisdom, or advice to Andrew as he continues on this journey from childhood to manhood. The men present last evening read these words to Andrew. Some came with a gift as well; either symbolic, relational, or fun. Many came with a card, but only because their wives told them they couldn't go to a birthday celebration without a card (and without women present they were all very happy to admit this fact).
The evening was advertised as one of messages to Andrew and desserts for all. The desserts, or course, were prepared by the women in Andrew's life - his mother, grandmother and sister. I'm not sure how fair that was since we weren't invited but I'm just going to assume that when Mariana, Eden and Hope turn 16, the desserts will be made by John, my dad, and my sons. Thankfully they have a few years to work on their culinary skills, and I have a few years to lose the weight I gained yesterday by sampling everything that we made - several times.
If you happen to be one of those men who was invited, but you have not had time to write down some thoughts, please do that. You may think that you don't have anything to share, but I can tell you that as I read through each message Andrew received, either sent to John before the party or read to Andrew last night, each person defintely had something to share. There were recurring themes and unique themes; each one important and special. It's probably a good thing I was not invited as I would have gone through a whole box of tissues throughout the course of the evening.
I wanted to share a few of the comments here but when it got down to it, I realized how difficult the task of choosing just a few would be. Not to slight anyone and keeping the authors confidential, here is my best attempt at choosing messages which summarize the evening:
"Andrew, through my walk with God, I developed three P's in my life: Patience, Perseverance, and Prayer. I pray that God continues to lay His hands upon you, guiding you through your life...giving you patience. I pray He takes you on this wild adventure helping you endure your suffering and struggles in life, teaching you strength in your faith, wisom, and love...giving you perseverance. I see your life path right now and know God is lighting the way. I pray that God brings your life great satisfaction!"
"There is one main message I want you to receive tonight, and to remember in the future: that is to remember who you are, because of whose you are. Most men face an 'identity crisis' at some point or another in their lives. There will always be voices willing to tell you what you can't do - that you are not good enough, smart enough, tough enough or that you just don't have what it takes. These lying voices may even try to convince you that you are not loved, nor even worthy to be loved, that you are worthless, irrelevant or insignificant. But the God who created the entire universe with His words, took the time to knit you together in your mom's womb and He would say otherwise...There is only one voice that matters - God's voice. Listen to what He says about you, because His voice is the only voice of truth."
"As a young man growing up...I certainly knew who God was. I went to church every Sunday. But I did not have reverence for God; I did not fear him a bit. Looking back at those years, I can still remember vividly, with much regret, many of my ungodly behaviors that did later affect my adult life. My prayer for you Andrew, is that when you reach my age you do not have such regrets. God does reward godly behavior on this earth. But most importantly, he has prepared in heaven for those who love him an indescribable reward that "no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has conceived. (1 Cor. 2:9)"
"'If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.' Mark Twain The quote is simple, but true! These words have served me well in that, if I am honest and truthful in what I say to people, I really don't need to remember what I've told them. I just rest assured knowing that I was honest with what I said. Hopefully you can find similar value in these words."
"So Andrew I challenge you to listen to God. Hear his voice. Talk back to him, praise him and give him the glory. Pray, and never stop. Have an on-going conversation wtih your best friend who holds the stars in his hands. Love your best friend with every fiber in your body, and learn to trust him with your life. When you know what is important, all else falls into place."
"Throughout high school and college you will be making many decisions that will affect everything else in your life forever. These choices involve the friends you make, the college and career you choose and potentially a girl that eventually will become your wife. It's like you have a fresh piece of paper with markers with no erasers. With each choice, you make a mark in the paper. You get to choose what your life's picture will be. As that picture emerges, you will begin to understand that each decision you make puts a mark on your paper. Great choices help make a wonderful picture, while poor choices can cause some unwanted smears or smudges."
"Tonight I pronounce you with the title of young man. You are no longer a child, but you are now an adult with all the rights and privileges that it brings you. And as an adult, I challenge you with this passage of Scripture:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance iwth the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teacher, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others,let him give generously; if it is leadrship, let him goern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Andrew, set yourself apart from others as a man of God fully prepared to take on the righs and privileges and responsibility of manhood. You have heard these men share tonight about what it means to take on this role. Learn from them, and also learn from others and from Scripture. use your gifts for the Kingdom of God, and strive to hone them for the glory of God...Live the role that God has destined you to be."
Saturday, March 12, 2011
There are the privacy and safety issues to consider. But since I've already given out names and even birthdates, maybe this is a moot point.
So then we wondered if I should go back and change all of the kids' names in past posts.
But what should those names be?
I know that some bloggers refer to their children as first letter only. In this case I would have to start writing about A-, J-, M-, S-, I-, E-, and H-. An understandable choice for some, but looks more like a game of Boggle or Scrabble to me. At least I did insist on naming each child with a different letter of the alphabet so maybe I shouldn't throw this option out.
Then we thought about using the nicknames that we use around the house. However, there are a few problems with this idea as well. For example, these nicknames were lovingly and thoughtfully chosen but to those who do not know us well, it might appear as if we were offending each other. Additionally, John wants his nickname to be Doc, and we just refuse to do that.
Jesse voted to make up new names for each child. Within a short amount of time the children had come up with the following options*:
Son #1 - Rock King
Son #2 - Joe King
Son #3 - Lee King
Son #4 - Poe King
Daughter #1 - Ima King
Daughter #2 - Ura King
Daughter #3 - Sheza King
John could still be Doc King. Nah.
But really, I can't always remember each child's given name when I want them, how will I remember their new, fun names?
And besides, I'd have to go back through my whole blog and change every child's name to fit with whatever option I've chosen. So in the end, we're going to stick with their given names. And pray for protection.
In answer to the request for a short bio about each child, let me first explain that these will be brief and fairly general. I do wish to respect the privacy of each child and always ask permission before posting a blog which mentions any child by name. In the interest of time, and since I already did the work once, I am just going to cut-and-paste from our King's Strings website. You could check out "The More the Merrier" posts for further information on each child.
And one more thing, this time specifically referring to the request for information on each child's entry into our home. I have always been cautious about sharing personal information about the backgrounds of our foster and adopted children. First of all, it is illegal for me to share the biological information about foster children. While it may not affect an infant too much if I told you the status on his/her birth parents and why the child was placed in my home, it could certainly be embarrassing to an older child and is a confidentiality breach for the parents. I also don't believe it's wise to separate the children into categories: biological, foster, adopted, etc. I have heard adopted children talk about the stigma of being adopted and in particular, the feeling of not belonging when introduced as "my adopted son." (For more information on this topic, I highly recommend the book, 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldredge which I shared in a post on January 10, 2011.) You'll just have to figure this one out through pictures and other posts. And if you can't, maybe it really doesn't matter who grew in my "tummy" and who grew in my "heart".
So here goes:
Andrew, 16 (well, not until tomorrow, but who's counting?) - Andrew has been playing the violin since he was 5 years old. He enjoys videography, photography, and being an all-around "techie". He is a 10th grader and enjoys history and journalism. Andrew is a very competitve person and enjoys the challenge of cross country and track. In 9th grade he received the coach's Rookie of the Year award in cross country. The 2010/2011 season was another great one for him and he was honored to attend districts. He is a member of the teen leaders team in the church youth group and often plays on the worship team there. He also helps to lead a small group of middle school boys. This past summer he participated in a missions trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Jesse, 14 - Jesse began playing the violin when he was 5 years old and played the instrument for three years before switching to the cello. Jesse is an 8th grader and enjoys entertaining his teachers with his creative side. He enjoys playing soccer. He was in a commercial for a local TV news station in 2007 and the same year played Young Scrooge in Allenberry Resort Inn and Playhouse's (Boiling Springs, PA) Christmas production. During the Christmas 2009 season he had the lead child role in Allenberry's Christmas show, "Santa's Christmas in the Country" and in the summer of 2009 he played Louis in "The King and I." This past summer he was seen as Harvey in Theatre Harrisburg's production of "Bye, Bye Birdie". He enjoys being around younger children so much that he helps in the 4 year old class at church. Jesse enjoys ballooning and has started his own business called Balloon King. You can check out his website at www.easysite.com/BalloonKing
Mariana, 12 -Mariana is in 7th grade. She has been playing the violin since she was four. She also plays keys for the youth worship team. She likes to act, sing, and dance. Mariana has her eyes set on musical theatre as a career and has played the role of Molly in "Annie", and has been seen in "Oklahoma", "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat", "The King and I", and 2 Christmas shows at Allenberry Resort Inn and Playhouse. In the winter of 2008 she was in "Daniel" at Sight and Sound Theatre (Lancaster, PA). During the Christmas 2009 season she starred in "Home Sweet Home for Christmas" at Hershey Park's Christmas Candy Lane and this summer she played Sad Girl in "Bye, Bye, Birdie" at Theatre Harrisburg as well as dwarves Snoozy and Dippy in "Snow White" at Allenberry Playhouse. She was back at Hershey Park for the 2010 Christmas season. Mariana has also led her own preschool dance camps.
Shoun, 10 - Shoun is in 4th grade. He has quickly picked up the cajun and nose flute. His viola lessons started just a few weeks ago and he'll be on stage with us shortly. He loves to read and to draw. He recently registered for fall soccer and is already counting down the days until that begins. He is quick to memorize historical and scientific trivia and loves to share that information with us.
Isaac, 10 - Isaac is in 4th grade. He started to play the violin when he was 2 1/2 years old and switched to the viola 2 years later. Isaac likes to play soccer and in 2010 he enjoyed the challenge of playing the goalie position. He has been in several Allenberry Playhouse (Boiling Springs, PA) musicals including "Oklahoma", "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat", "The King and I" and the past three Christmas musicals. Many people still remember him as Tiny Tim when he was just 6 years old. In the summer of 2010 he was a member of the kids' chorus in "Bye, Bye Birdie" at Theatre Harrisburg. This past Christmas he could be seen as an elf in "Becoming Santa" at Allenberry.
Eden, 6 - Eden has been playing the violin for 2 years now. She is thrilled to join her siblings on stage. She is finally in kindergarten where she enjoys reading and creating with scissors, glue, tape, stickers, and recycled products.
She also takes ballet and tap lessons. Following in her older siblings' footsteps she was in her first production at Allenberry Playhouse, playing the littlest elf in "Becoming Santa."
HopeAnne, 4 -HopeAnne started viola lessons in September. She already adds much to our rehearsals and concerts as she usually finds a front-row seat from which she can sing and dance along. She made her performance debut at our November 9 concert so look for her at a concert near you! She was born to dance and takes ballet and tap lessons. She loves to talk, sing and move.
And there you have it, the King family in a nutshell. Thanks for asking.
*If you haven't already figured this out, the boys' names all end up sounding like -ing words: rocking, joking, leaking, poking. I'd say you have to be a teen boy to enjoy this but since John's older brother is the one who came up with the idea, threatening to give his own children these names, well, that's just the way some people are.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I give up on Wordless Wednesdays. I suppose they have their place. Just not in my blog.
And besides, these pictures need some explanation.
For example, I am totally enjoying my role as Kitchen Supervisor this week, rather than my usual role of Chief Cooking Officer.
And please do not think that we eat like this when I am in charge of the kitchen. My hands have never produced anything that could also be called Heart Attack on a Plate.
But I am very proud of my previously culinary-challenged eldest child. Admittedly he is only in the kitchen this week because it is a family requirement before receiving his permit and he realized on Sunday evening that he is now T-minus 2 weeks and counting. And the good news? After Day 2 of the required cooking he looked at me oh so lovingly and exclaimed, "I'm enjoying this week more than I thought I would." Of course he was also chowing down on his latest kitchen cuisine which was full of real meat (as my children say because I don't always give them "real" meat) and goes by the title of Apple-Stuffed Pork Loin Roast which he found himself by googling the blessed pork loin (or loins as he prefers to call them, but that's a family joke so you wouldn't get it). I guess real meat will do that to you. As will realizing that if you don't get your own butt in gear, your 16th birthday will come and go and you won't have that precious piece of bragging rights in your own wallet.
What, you ask, are all these requirements about? Does the state of Pennsylvania now require students to cook before they can apply for a learner's permit? Not a bad idea, but no, it's just part of a list of requirements that every fortunate member of the King family will need to complete before being driven to that hallowed hall of driving bliss. Where did this idea come from, you ask? The simple answer? Us! The long answer? Read on.
I honestly am not sure where the idea came from but I think it originated with our reading the book, Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis. Our boys were very young at the time but we were struck by Lewis' premise, that boys (and girls - see his more recent book, Raising a Modern-Day Princess) in modern American culture have no idea when or how they go from child to adult, boy to man, girl to woman. For John, it has become the foundation of his doctoral dissertation. If you want the scientific version you'll have to ask him. But I can give you the simplified version which didn't cost us as much money to get and won't take as long to write (or read).
So we were on a quest to determine how we wanted to flesh this out with our own children. It is a work in progress but began with an unwritten (until now) goal of raising each child to:
A. Love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind and to likewise love and serve others
B. Become an independent, thinking, responsible adult
C. Be able to live in, work in, and relate to the larger culture; being the influencer, rather than to be influenced
As a next step we asked ourselves the question: What milestones do we want to see at different ages of maturity, to know that our children are on their way to fulfilling these goals? We actually spent a date night writing down a list for each of the following ages: 5, 10, 13, 16, 19/High school graduation, and 21/College graduation. These skills include age-appropriate chores, spiritual milestones, self-care, career exploration, finances, etc.
From that list, then, and from the ideas in Lewis' book about purposefully planning rites of passage, we came up with the following rites of passage:
At age 13, the child goes away for the weekend with the same-sex parent, the same-sex grandparent, and a mentor. During the weekend, the child listens to the adults flesh out the passage from 1 Timothy 4:12 (Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.) and receives a symbol of purity. For the boys, they each received a watch with the following inscription on the back: God's timing is perfect. For Mariana, whose 13th birthday is coming up, she will receive a ring or necklace. Of course the weekend is also filled with many light-hearted moments such as going to see a movie, eating dinner out, going to a sporting event, or even Cirque du Soleil! The idea is to bless the child, to impart wisdom, and to expect a new level of maturity. (Side note: Age 13 may seem a little young for a purity pledge but we decided 15 or 16 seemed too late)
At age 15, Mom and Dad take the birthday child out to dinner and present him or her with a list of requirements that need to be fulfilled in the following year, all before getting that coveted driver's permit (highly motivational, to say the least). While some children may be motivated to accomplish this all within the first month, there are others who prefer procrastination techniques and who are busily trying to complete "the list" in a two-week time period before that revered birthday (I won't mention any names). Some of us just work better with a visible deadline. While the requirements might change for each child (for example, Mariana can already find her way around a kitchen making anything from yeast bread to a full-course meal to an elaborate dessert so she will not need to spend a week in the kitchen to prove it), the goal is always to encourage the child toward the goals stated above.
So, for those who have asked, here is what Andrew received one year ago:
On this 15th birthday, “Mom and I” want to bless you and encourage you as you grow to become a young man. We have seen how you are a leader in your own way. We want you to know that when you turn 16, we are planning a very special day for you—a day that you will never forget. But in order to prepare for that day, we have some “assignments” for you to accomplish. These assignments will be challenging, but hopefully very fruitful. It is our desire that you will see these assignments as opportunities to grow and mature as a man. With these assignments, we commit to supporting you financially and with any transportation you need to accomplish these goals.
To accomplish by March 13, 2011:
• I would like you to plan a special evening with Mom. Figure out how you could plan a special evening for her and then accompany her as she goes that evening. Dinner, movie, theatre, concert, etc. How you plan the evening is up to you. You are free to consult me with anything, including financial needs for the evening. During this evening you can expect some input from her about dating and how to treat a woman.
• I would like you to find a project to accomplish around the house. An outdoor or an indoor painting project, redoing a room, building a fence, or a significant landscaping project are all options, but I would like you to look around and plan on the project. You can solicit help from anyone in the family you would like. I commit to being your helper. The ideal time to accomplish this is summer, 2010, so let’s start planning now on what that project could be.
• I would like for you to have a part-time job/business of your own. This job can be something like working at Brother’s Pizza, etc. Or it can be a business of your own that you start, such as a video business, lawn mowing in the neighborhood, or something related to violin playing, etc. I would be glad to help you as you start thinking about this. The goal is to have this going by March 13, 2011.
• I would like you to upgrade your own banking account. Change from a savings account to a full-fledged checking and savings account. As you start earning money, put together a plan of giving, saving, etc. I will be glad to help you with this, or you can talk with someone at church that you trust how to do it. Also, as part of this assignment and the last one, you will now be responsible for buying your own clothing (hand-me-downs and thrift shop finds will still be free) and providing the funds for your own entertainment (we will continue to fund regular church and school activities).
• I would like you to plan an all-day adventure for our family. Hiking the Appalachian Trail, biking, picnic, going to Gettysburg for the day… all great options. Choose wisely and plan in advance, taking into account all the children and their needs.
• I would like you to be the cook for the week for our home sometime during the next year. Mom will help you as you plan, shop for, and prepare all the meals. And we’re sorry, fella, but there will be no fast food allowed. ☺
• I will give you driving lessons in the church parking lot and teach you what I know about driving without being on the road. (Did I just say that?).
• I will take you to a sporting event of your choice (Hockey, Football, Basketball, Phillies, etc.). Make the choice, understanding my Sunday responsibilities @ McBIC (meaning that Eagles Tix might be difficult).
Andrew, I hope that you see these “assignments” as fun and meaningful for you, and yet they require special planning on your part. I so much want to share this time with you this year as you grow up into adulthood, so let’s continue to keep talking about how I can help you.
Age 16: Well, I can't tell you what this step is because it's a secret and Andrew doesn't know what it is yet. Check back in a few weeks.
Ages 19 and 21: TBD
So, there you have it. I'm sure you are surprised at some of the items on the list and have already decided that you would include assignments that we left out. That's fine! You need to think about your goals for your children, the steps that need to be taken to get there, what ages you want to acknowledge, and how you want to do that. We have friends who take their children to New York City to celebrate 13th birthdays. The weekend is to spend time together, and to talk in the context of a very different culture. Many people plan a diinner to celebrate a special birthday and invite people to speak. I know several families that ask friends and mentors to write notes to the birthday child and then make a scrapbook of the letters of encouragement. Sometimes it's an elaborate party with friends and mentors.
Whatever you decide, the good news is, you're thinking about it. John and I have both come to believe that rites of passage are very important in a culture that invented the idea of teen-ager and that allows a person several years after childhood to sit back, relax, and goof off before embarking on a life-long journey of adulthood. John has been a youth or young adult pastor long enough for us to see the importance of challenging our children to move beyond dependence and mediocrity. We want to be purposeful in our parenting to raise children who will be wise and responsible decision-makers, able to live independently of us (we love our children dearly but John is already afraid that his empty nest days are too far off to envision).
Here are resources I would recommend to get you thinking:
Raising a Modern-Day Knight and Raising a Modern-Day Princess by Robert Lewis
Celebrations of Faith by Randy and Lisa Wilson
Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris