So I haven’t decided my exact feelings on the movie “Frozen”, which is apparently some form of child cocaine that my three boys are currently addicted to…. but constant learner that I am, I decided that there are some nuggets of golden parenting wisdom lodged in this funny, musical, over-dramatic, animation sensation that’s sweeping the nation. So – I’m sharing them… on the internet… cuz that’s original. Mostly, I am talking to me… not judging anyone. But my counselor and parent instincts are going crazy so here goes nothin’.
1) Parent with discernment, not in fear and paranoia.
(Frozen translation: Don’t lock your kid in her room, fire your servants, and tell her not to feel anything)
Yes, this is an obvious theme of the film, not living in fear, but moms especially need the reminder. There are plenty of terrifying things in this world of ours and I hate it. I hate that my little babies have to know about it. But as parents, our job is to give our kids the skills to see the world for what it is and courageously face it, and even work to make it better. Yes we must work to protect our kids, but not overprotect to the point that they don’t know how to cope with life. There’s the terrible possibility that they won’t always have us protecting them. You know… teach a kid to fish so that if you die in a shipwreck they know how to find dinner.
2) Don’t parentify your oldest kid.
(Frozen translation: Don’t make your oldest protect her sister by withholding truth)
This is also hard. Our oldest child is naturally more responsible and level headed than our #2 and he is very helpful… so it’s hard not to over-rely on him as almost a 3rd parent. Yes the oldest has responsibilities and sometimes privileges that the others may not, but we can’t sacrifice the childhood of your numero uno because it makes your life easier.
3) Always encourage siblings to be best buddies.
(Frozen translation: Teach your kids the response to “Do you want to build a snowman?” is always “Yes!”)
Our two oldest kids are very different, however, we are constantly working to get them to appreciate each other, and, come to think of it, brainwashing them to always think of one another as their best friend. This takes a lot of annoying, repetitive conversations with my kiddos trying to help them see each other’s perspective, a lot of “Say, ‘I’m sorry,'” and “Say, ‘I forgive you,'” and of course “Aren’t you so lucky to have such a fun brother to play with?”.
4) Know and celebrate each child’s awesomeness.
(Frozen translation: “Let it go!” ha.)
I know, another super obvious theme, but still a valid conversation piece. Kids are amazing and unique from the second they are conceived and you notice it from the first moment they put the tiny, wet squishy mess of them in your arms. Personality development occurs early and rapidly, and a good parent, or even 3rd party nurturer (it takes a village!), spots areas of strength, weakness, and just plain originality in kids, and works to nurture, correct, redirect, strengthen, reassure, build confidence in those things. There are things that I wouldn’t be as good at if my parents hadn’t noticed and encouraged me to pursue. Conversely, there are areas of my personality that are dark and nasty that I wouldn’t have grown out of or been directed away from without their intentional, personalized, guidance. I hope to do the same for my kids. Again, it takes time, attention, and many conversations.
5) Avoid unnecessary family secrets.
(Frozen translation: “Conceal it, don’t feel it” is a bad plan and too hard for a little girl.)
Kids obviously must learn that there are certain topics that aren’t safe to discuss just anywhere, and the family is a place of trust and knowing one another that is different than any other place. But teaching kids to keep unsavory secrets I think could set them up to be exploited by someone outside your family. If your family is facing something difficult that you want to keep private, then definitely talk to your kids about privacy, boundaries, and discretion… but the burden of family secret guarding sets kids up to be a cog in the gears of family dysfunction.
The lighter version of this is, don’t be embarrassed by your kids. If they are a little weird, or forget their manners in public, or you realize in public that you forgot to teach them about a particular social more`… don’t let it embarrass you. Children have to know they have the support of their parents, especially while they are learning how to navigate society, so be a big enough person not to feel embarrassed by them. News flash – people are going to judge you even if you manage to be the most perfect parent ever and your child is a saint… so don’t worry if people judge you when you find your kids falling short of perfection– no one hits that mark.
6) Teach your kids about love.
(Frozen translation: Teach them to know true love when it rescues them on the North Mountain.)
There’s a lot of sex ed out there, and a lot of shows about confusion in dating and relationships, but I don’t think there are quite enough good and thorough conversations between kids and parents about love. Lasting love is not about butterflies in your stomach, or sheer sensual attraction, or even having similar hobbies. Love is self-sacrificing. Love requires two people deciding to put one another’s needs and desires before their own. This is a beautiful thing and worth waiting to find, or even intentionally pursuing. Kids will learn to think about relationships and love by the observing their parents model adult relationships, and by the conversations you have about them. Obviously not everyone has the opportunity to parent from a two-person relationship, but even single parents or caretakers can teach kids to value themselves and value others. Love is so much bigger than temporary happiness. Urge your kiddos to take delight in patience, caring, and self-sacrifice.
The long and short of it: know, listen to, and talk to your kids…. always, about everything. There are days of course where you need a parenting break, which sometimes looks like them watching Frozen 5 times in a week…. but more than anything, I encourage all the parents out there just to be physically, emotionally, and mentally present with your kids at least for a little while each day, or whenever you are able to be with them. They need you, and in a way you don’t realize, you need them. 🙂
Recently while messing with clock settings in order to get a program to install, I discovered a silly little computer thing-a-ma-bob. My Mac allows you to set something called the “announce the time”. This is exactly what it sounds like it is. There are even 6 different “custom” voices to choose from. I thought it would be funny to set my computer to announce the time on the hour. After all, while working I tend to get sucked into the vortex of concentration and shiny computer colors and could use a wake up every now and then.
It’s been 2 days. At first it was funny. Now… it’s slightly less than funny. And the more I think about it, I feel as if my computer is mocking me. I am focusing quite intently on completing something that may or may not be slightly… or a few months over due (long story). Every five minutes I must intentionally suppress the guilt-invoking, nagging thoughts that creep in when there are six top priority things I have to do… “I really need to do the dishes”…. “I have to get that ready for Saturday”… “I am out of gas and have to drive to school in the morning”… “That’s finally boiling – time to add to the pot for dinner”… “Is that the baby crying?”… “What will I have the boys do when they wake up?”…. “Did we finish EVERYTHING for home study today”…. “Gosh I have no clean underwear…” “SHUSH – silence you foul thoughts! I HAVE to finish this – it’s my only chance for the rest of the week!!!” Then, interrupting the inward battle I’ve nearly won…
“It’s 4 o’clock,” says the ever-helpful ‘Victoria’. Waves of guilt come crashing down so hard that I actually remove my hands from the keyboard. Pounding heart. Anxiety through the roof. Enter chest pains. (it’s cute that you think I’m exaggerating). It’s like she’s mocking me. “It’s four o’clock…. your family needs dinner!” …. “It’s 4 o’clock… ha ha – the boys’ nap time is nearly over!”… “It’s four o’clock… what have you done with your day?”… *evil cackling* “It’s four o’clock – why are you wasting your life sitting at the computer?”… “It’s four o’clock – you won’t get to bed for seven more hours and when you do – – you won’t sleep long…”… “You’re behind… you’ll always be behind! You’ll never complete all the things you have to and time will march on leaving you in the dust of your own horrific failure” **dissolves into evil howling**
Yes, I can turn everything into a self-defeating guilt trip. It’s amazing. It comes from swimming in an ocean of expectations too often, and too deep.
Well, it’s here. I have friends who have been playing the tunes of winter festiveness since two seconds after trick-or-treating… the slew of red and green, blue and white, (and what have you) shiny and lighted things are blinking and glowing everywhere… in fact, the batteries are starting to die and the electricity bills are sky-rocketing. Everyone is especially grumpy and frustrated – that’s how you know it’s especially close. Yes, two days ’til Christmas and you can definitely grasp the spirit of it.
The perversion of Christmas extends beyond the the gross over-commercialism in this wildly-capitalistic society. This year, all of my favorite shows (a string of fantastic comedies on NBC) all poked fun at the religion of Christmas. Now, I am definitely capable of taking a joke and a realize there is MUCH about pop-American Christianity that more than deserves to be roasted, but this year the “joking” seems trite and intentionally caustic. It seemed that the theme was that people who find the birth of Christ to be important are simpletons, hypocrites, and incapable of celebrating the “goodness of mankind” to the fullest.
I know, I know, I know, that I should expect the world to hate God, and therefore Christ and his bumbling followers. Jesus was very clear that he was hated and his true followers, therefore will be hated also. But this doesn’t mean that I can’t be a bit annoyed that in a place as “tolerant” as America, it is actually becoming offensive to say “Merry Christmas”. Christmas, after all, is the actual holiday. I don’t get annoyed that Muslims celebrate the month of Ramadan. I certainly am not offended that the Jewish population celebrates Hanukkah. If I were with or near a group of either who were celebrating, I would not be offended is someone wished me good tidings related to the respective holiday.
I suppose we deserve it though. I don’t like Christians who get their panties in a bunch (a favorite expression of mine) and demand that the government, or someone important, enforce our “right” to say “Merry Christmas”. Yes, it is bothersome that it has become offensive to wish a happy holiday by the name of the actual holiday, but we have so embraced the American noise that has been layered on top of the true purpose of Christmas that we don’t really deserve to demand others to respect “our” holiday. We love Santa Day, and Goodwill to Mankind Day, and What Did You Get ME Day as much as those who don’t have a reason to cherish the birth of Christ. In fact, I almost wish that we would just surrender Dec. 25 altogether and let it be Consumerism Day, and celebrate Christ’s birth at a time closer to when he was possibly actually born. Afterall, the Christ’s Mass was proposed by the Roman Catholic Church, not by Christ himself!
I’ve been mentally swirling around all these competing thoughts and feeling a bit at a loss for explanation this year, mostly because my oldest son is 2 and I now feel the responsibility to begin the conversation about why we have Christmas. It’s hard to explain that we are celebrating Jesus’ birthday, who is God’s son… these are very intangible (albeit important!!!!!) beings! It’s much easier for him to grasp the Santa idea. After all, he sat on his lap at Disneyland and will probably get the toy he asked him for. So weird. I think after this year I will be over the Santa thing and will explain Santa as a sort of game most kids like to play, in honor of the kind, historical St. Nicholas. But then there’s the fact that we do have a Christmas tree… do I can that too or just explain that it’s just a weird American tradition and it’s pretty and festive? I can’t make sense of it all.
I personally love all of my childhood Christmas memories. However, I can’t decide if my desire to impart a similar experience to my children will be benign and fun or detrimental to their spiritual health. I suppose that no matter what we make of Christmas, it is most important that I teach my kids that at some point, God, the creator of all that is, who is justly wrathful toward mankind who spurns his sovereignty, did send his son, Jesus, who being God, humbled himself to live as a human, to show us how to live, and to ultimately die as a substitutionary death for those who will believe, and conquered death and sin with might and finality. The coming of Jesus is the incarnation of a most holy, priceless, and mighty grace and I beg God that my kids will one day understand that. It’s going to take more than one short season of the year to explain all that… and I plan to make a habit of it… so I guess Santa, trees, lights, family dinners, etc. will eventually fade into the background when compared to the daily pursuit of knowing God.
Ok, I feel better about it now.
People get MEAN when they know they are wrong. Ew.
We should all take a lesson from the Kennedys… live to make a difference and as if you don’t have much time to do it in.
Our society has a lot of interesting ideas about love. If you ask a Disney movie, love is meeting someone beautiful or handsome, singing a song, marrying, and living happily ever after (which is often left to the imagination as some sort of unimportant, vague concept), with an emphasis on being happy. If you ask Akon, “love” is a word you substitute for the f word in order to make your song playable on the radio. So love and “unabashed monkey sex” (to quote Michael Scott) with strangers are essentially the same in that context.
In my random life, I have recently witnessed an intense, realistic portrait of what love really is. (The human kind, from one person to another). My grandma recently passed due to liver cancer. She was diagnosed some time a go, and thankfully, she was only bed ridden for the month of July before she was gone. We spent some time visiting her, watching her body sort of disintegrate from the inside out. I was amazed as I watched my family rally around her. My grandpa, cousins, uncles, and dad took turns giving her hospice care so she could have her wish to be at home and not alone. They also took care of my grandpa, making sure he didn’t get so focused on my grandma that he forgot to eat, take his medicine, or whatever. He didn’t have to cook a thing, wash a dish, or fold a scrap of laundry. My family loved my grandma and my grandpa through her last moments with such a natural tenacity, I was blown away.
Having been married to her for 62 years, my grandpa really deserves the focus of this musing. My grandparents met and married young… she was 16 and he was 21. These days, people would probably say they were too young and didn’t know what they were doing… but their story speaks louder than any speculative criticism ever could. Together they owned and operated 3 different restaurants, raised 4 boys, buried 2 babies and many relatives, moved across the country from Virginia to California (leaving their families behind), weathered my grandma’s alcoholism in her younger years, survived each other’s selfishness and orneriness, saw the birth of and loved 8 grandchildren and 3 (she almost made 4) great-grandchildren, traveled all over the U.S., managed my grandpa’s diabetes and my grandma’s lung & bone problems, and through it all continued to exude love and warmth to each other, their family, and all they encountered.
When my grandma really took a turn for the worse and was restricted to bed, she had to wear adult diapers – which I’m certain was a bit humiliating for someone as vivacious, stubborn & independent as my grandma. We were there the day a priest came to pray with the family for healing, strength and peace (a more modern version of last rites). My grandpa sat with her and held her hand through the whole thing. The look on his face was not of sadness, but love, devotion, concern, and strangely, peaceful acceptance. After the priest had gone, my cousin and my dad’s cousin were helping change my grandma, and in that moment, possibly one of my grandmas worst, my grandpa came in and kissed her, calling her by his typical pet names, showing her the same signs of love that I’m sure he did early in their realtionship. That moment struck me as one of the most intense examples of real love that I’ve ever even heard of. That is the kind of love many pledge in the line “til death do us part” but few really mean. Even in her last days as she slowly lost all muscle control and lay nearly lifeless in her bed, mouth gaping, my grandpa still looked at her as his dear bride and spoke and interacted with her in the same way.
I am so thankful that in all the random messiness of life, I was able to observe this fantastic thing. My grandparents are no where near perfect, but they didn’t need to be to demonstrate love… real love. The kind that fights through even the worst times, is active and specific, not lifeless and vague… the kind of love that grows despite lapses in personal happiness or temporary dissatisfaction with one’s spouse. Thanks to both of you, Grams & Gramps, for showing us this.