This Teacher’s Nightmare (or My Dream Last Night Before I Forget it)

I have to write this down before I forget it.

It was mid July and I received a letter in the mail. “There have been some changes to your position and you will need to come to @#$#% School (Note to reader: The symbolized curse words will be in the place of things that I have forgotten) to the Parent’s Night to find out about your new position.” I couldn’t believe it. I had three years left before retirement and I wasn’t going to be doing the job that I loved so much at Smithland Elementary School in Harrisonburg. I interrupt this dream to ask especially, my teacher readers: Can you imagine this nightmare? Coming to a Parent Night and not even knowing what you’re going to do? And no, I don’t know why I didn’t call @#$#% School to find out what I was going to do.

It’s Parent Night. I must have called my Mom and sisters because they all came along to @#$#% School for the big reveal. Jack sat dutifully beside me and my Mom and sisters were behind me. (Insert some psychology: This must be a metaphor! 🙂 ) The lights begin to dim. The spotlight lands on a large sequined woman. It’s Mrs. @#$#% , the school principal. She begins to sing some lyrics that go like this: “It’s a new school year at @#$#% . Our jobs are so important. Our jobs are so important…” and then it goes into what can only be described as a Broadway Back to School Spectacular Spectacular (nod to Moulin Rouge) Frankly, it was raucously inappropriate for a Parent Night, but this was not reality, friends. I need to remind everyone that this was my dream last night. Mrs. @#$#% starts introducing the teams of teachers. Three teachers got up with the 5th and 6th grade team so I decided I’d go up and introduce myself. “Hi. I am Mrs Rimer (this is weird because I haven’t ever declared this at a school event) and I received a letter that I would be teaching here. I really have no idea what my job will be.” Mrs. @#$#% whispers like Shere Khan the snake in Jungle Book, “There has been a change of plansssss….stay after the program.”

And in the Blose sister way, I went back and told one sister what she said, and then another would ask “What did she say?” because no one listens in my family or they come up after the story is half told and then you have to start all over again. It’s a family trait. 🙂

Mrs. @#$#% invited me into her office where there were plenty of pictures of her from previous Parent Nights in different sequined dresses. I was pretty sure that our educational philosophies were going to clash. “Mrs. L (wait I thought I was Mrs. Rimer), you have been hand selected to be a teacher for a very special group of 12 8th graders. They need your energy and your excitement. And because they can’t behave for anyone else, you will teach them math, reading, science, social studies, art, PE, music and computers. (Ok. At least I don’t have to teach library) You will get a 30 minute lunch break each day unless they get out of hand.” I didn’t say anything which is not like me. I leave her office and everyone is standing there. I tell them about my new job. Everyone is furious. Jack said, “You are not doing that.” I have no choice! “I need to teach 3 more years or I have no retirement!!” I shout. So I go to my room, and there aren’t 12 8th grade boys but there are 24. I notice one has salt and pepper hair. I recognize him. “Wait. Aren’t you @#$#% ? I taught you in 1991.” “Yeah. It’s me, Mrs. L. I never got past 8th grade.” “Why didn’t they just push you through and give you a participation diploma!?”

And that was it. I don’t remember anything else. The good news is that I can do anything for three more years.

Faith, Hope and Love

I sit in a chair reflecting back upon my life
And I have so much yet to learn and so much yet to see and do

It’s love that holds it all together
I just had to let you know
That it’s love that’s holding back the weather
And the same will let it go

King’s X, 1990

Tony loved this song. King’s X was a musician’s band, and this song was a single from their 1990 album, “Faith, Hope and Love.” It seems fitting that this band and these words came to my mind today. Yesterday marked ten years since Tony passed away from a courageous battle with cancer. And despite moving forward with my life and finding personal happiness and true love again, grief continues to be the sneaky wave that hits you from behind. It simply doesn’t go away when you love someone. For me there are mostly regrets over everything he has missed with Aaron and Lauren: learning to drive, graduations, countless move-ins and move-outs, heartbreaks, celebrations of success, and so much more. I will also admit that I occasionally feel resentment over a songwriting career that never brought the success that he dreamed of and deserved. Lauren had posted something on Instagram yesterday that caught my attention, and it wasn’t her tribute to her Dad but something that in my mind relates to how we deal with times like these. Lauren is an empath and always has been. It’s her superpower but it can also be a difficult role to navigate. She shared a post of Nine Rules for Empaths. Two of them caught my attention for this milestone.

“You are not responsible for the things you cannot control.” Yep. I tried. I could not save him with all of the dietary changes, the prayer, the essential oils, elixirs, smoothies, surgery, chemotherapy, clinical trials, Vitamin C and yoga. I tried. His doctors tried. He tried. He didn’t give up. I will say this again and a little bit louder: He didn’t give up. I also can’t control that I still feel sad about this ten years later. I can’t control that Aaron deals with this by studying and going out with friends, probably not even telling them what yesterday was all about. And I can’t control on the flipside of this coin that Lauren feels it very, very deeply. Her way of navigating the milestone was not Aaron’s way. I personally cut down overgrown holly, cried a little and taught two yoga classes. My way isn’t their way either.

“You are not responsible for your trauma, but you are responsible for your healing.” About a year after Tony’s death, I met with my pastor at the time, Chris Joiner. I admitted to him that I did not want this to define me. I felt that I had been given an identity (Strong, Resilient, Widowed Mother of Two) that I had never asked for and didn’t want. I remember his advice and it went something like this: “It shouldn’t define you but it is now part of your story. There is no changing that.” Even though I acknowledge that I still don’t want this to define me as I feel that would have held me back from personal growth, moving forward and finding love again, I have allowed it to be part of my story. For within this chapter of my story, I think I have been able to help others.

As I often do when I am looking for some pearl of wisdom, I either call my Mom or find something in my many Anne Lamott books. Here is what Anne has to say about faith in times of trouble: “Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” My hope for my two children, Tony’s family, his friends and anyone who has lost someone they love is to feel it all; but look for that light, and it will unlikely be in the form of a bonfire but more like a flickering candle.


My daughter, Lauren, is in New York City in the middle of a pandemic.  I have been fairly quiet about it because frankly, I am a bundle of nerves. Every time I get a text, I fear she is sick or she has bad news about her job.  I also feel some judgement from friends and family.   I sense it in the messages and even in the silence from some of my friends. Why am I letting her stay there? Why haven’t I gone to retrieve her?  Am I not taking this seriously? Is she one of those typical Generation Z’s who don’t care about anyone but herself? 

For the most part, I have stood clear of sharing or posting anything of a political nature regarding this crisis. Lessons will hopefully be learned from policy decisions and will be righted.   But warning, this post is actually political and it deals with a segment of our population being demonized by both the left and right. 

It’s about Generation Z. If you are in Generation Z, you were born in the early to mid 90’s through the early 2010s.   I am a pround member of Generation X where the music was truly the best of all generations.  We gave you 70′s rock and grunge, yet also disco and hair metal, but I digress. 

If you were born in the earlier years of  Generation Z, you had several years of bliss before the proverbial crap hit the fan.  My kids were six and four on September 11, 2001.  They remember little but don’t know a world when the United States wasn’t involved in war or responding to terrorist attacks.  That changes your outlook on things.  

The message that I repeatedly see is that Generation Z doesn’t care about the sick and elderly.  I have seen loving people categorize them as selfish, entitled brats who are too self-absorbed through this crisis to care how it affects  their grandparents. We see them congregating on beaches and it’s easy to paint them with the broad stroke of selfishness. 

Let’s look at the message that we have sent this generation since 9-11. Our elected leaders can’t agree on anything. Apparently, compromise is an antiquated notion that only the framers of the Constitution could manage.   And if politicians do try to meet in the middle, they are jumping off a political cliff. Therefore, being reelected matters more since there are no term limits and you get a cushy retirement with guaranteed healthcare.  No one cares enough about this generation to compromise on affordable health care or to help them with burgeoning student debt.  No one cares enough to listen to them about common sense gun laws or acknowledge data on climate change.   They see organized religion as hypocritical and categorize themselves more than ever as spiritual, not religious.  They consistenly get the message that those in charge don’t care about the future of Generation Z. Why should they care?  

We need them to care. It’s ok to remind them to do their part in this social distancing. It’s critical to our healthcare system. My point is to handle them gently. They are the future of America and they deserve some empathy from those of us who haven’t managed this country very well for them. They don’t get prom, high school graduation, beach weeks, college graduation, trips, summer jobs and internships.  They don’t get to finish their sport seasons or possibly even start back up school in the fall.   There is going to come a time over the next few months when we need to make some decisions about not only their future but of other generations’ futures, but that is a  controversial opinion piece that I will reserve for now. 

Recently, a friend from Nashville shared her thoughts on home schooling her three daughters while trying to work.  She admits she’s not cut out for it but her teenage daughter, Clara, sent her a clear message about  Generation Z.   After arriving home from work she asked them to present what they had learned in their independent study for the day. All three had written their notes on paper.  She asked why they hadn’t used index cards.  Clara explained, “Well, my school was destroyed by a tornado, and then 3 days later a global pandemic closed all the schools in the nation..and my index cards were in my locker. ”   As Brooke said, “While I’m worried about my kids losing a couple months of education, they’re learning a certain level of resilience that most us could never appreciate.”

This is Generation Z: resilient and fearless because they have learned it as a means of survival.  Imagine the possibilities of what they could do if they took an honest look at the failed policies of the older generation and made decisions that are for the common good and for future generations.  

I have an independent, resilient kid.  Currently, she is sheltered in her lower Manhattan apartment.   She ventures out for groceries every couple weeks; hopefully using the supplies we have sent and listening to the advice I have given her about the dangers of being in public for even a short time.   I won’t share why she is choosing to stay rather than come back to me in Virginia, but I will just say that I am proud of her reasons.

“Together, Apart” has been the rallying cry for this crisis.  Can we learn from this experience and after the dust settles change that mantra to “Together, Connected?” Can we be resilient and fearless and work together for the common good?  The future of this nation depends on it.


An Abrupt End

I was completely and utterly wrong. For weeks, I predicted that school closures in Virginia would extend through the middle of April.  We would be back to finish our year. I even looked forward to a spring of deep learning unencumbered with the pressures of state testing. Yesterday, the governor announced that our year was over. Poof. Over. It reminds me this passage from Ray Bradbury’s science fiction classic, All Summer in a Day (read it online. You have time).

“It was as if, in the midst of a film concerning an avalance, a tornado, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, something had, first, gone wrong with the sound apparatus, thus muffling and finally cutting off all noise, all of the blasts and repercussions and thunders, and then, second ripped the fim from the projecor and inserted in its place a peaceful tropical slide which did not move or tremor. The world ground to a standstill. The silence was so immense and unbelievable that you felt your ears had been stuffed or you had lost your hearing altogether.”

From my writing chair, the world outside of my window looks the same as it does every spring. The same birds have returned and are buzzing around the house trying once again to get their nests up outside of the front door before we notice. The daffodils came up again just like they always do. The cardinal continues to throw his body into the window over and over and over again. All of the natural world is certain and predictable, but our world does not feel the same.

I see my social media friends setting up learning stations for their children: a daily schedule, plenty of books, online resources, a computer for each child, even decorations to mimic a classroom. Your kids aren’t the ones I am losing sleep over these days. They will be fine. In fact, they will be great and may even learn more in a quiet place without the constraints of the regular classroom. They won’t have that Kid in the room who comes to school angry. You know, the Kid they tell you about at dinner every night. “Guess what Kid did today? He threw something at the substitute and then said a bad word.”

What teachers worry most about is not your kid, but that Kid. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one in each classroom. Not all of the ones at risk are behavior problems. We worry about the quiet ones who ask if they can take home the extra fruit and milk from breakfast and snack. We worry about the ones who have told us about drugs, alcohol abuse, bad touches and physical and emotional abuse. We worry about the ones who don’t have a computer or internet. We worry about the ones whose parents are probably losing their already low paying jobs. We worry about no one being able to help them with their bag of work. We worry about no one at home valuing education enough to turn off the tv or video games and set aside time for learning.

If you are reading this blog today, you are fortunate, and I am by no means denouncing your homeschooling. I am truly grateful for your dedication and love for your children. You are a teacher’s dream. Thank you. But please take time if you are so inclined, to pray for those who depend on the structure, the stability and predictability of school. Thanks.

Stopping by the cemetery on New Year’s Eve



I had some time this morning and thought I’d swing by and get the wreath that we place on Tony’s grave each year.    I’m not the type of person who feels closer to my loved ones at their gravesides.  I know others feel a great sense of peace, but it’s not really where I feel connected to him or my Dad.  As I pulled in, I noticed an open grave and workers preparing to lower a crypt into the ground.   Holidays are difficult for those who grieve.  This holiday, I’ve shed tears for two families I don’t really know from Tennessee who lost their noble sons to senseless violence.  My heart breaks for a former colleague who recently lost a beloved three year old nephew.  Life on Earth is an emotional battle.

To combat the never ending pain of loss, the kids and I keep Tony very much alive in our lives and speak of what he would think or say frequently.    It was cold today so it was a good thing my conversation with Tony had already started. I’m not going to share much, but it involved our conversation ten years ago as we talked about the next decade ahead.  I remember he mostly talked about his plans and dreams of musical success as he had just received a song writing award in late November and felt he had to strike while the iron was hot.   Changes were coming.

I spent a great deal of time living very intentionally in this last decade.   I’m a big do-er.   If there is a problem, I figure out how to deal with it.  When someone needs to be addressed and a truth needs to be spoken, I cut to the heart of the matter.   Better to say what needs to be said then to hold a grudge.   This is how I had to operate as I spent most of the decade as a single parent guiding my children through high school, college, decisions,  broken hearts, moves and successes.   I credit my yoga practice with much of my balance and helping to get me out of my head and into a flow.  Funny, yesterday I did a warm power class, jumping back, twisting and popping into arm balances that reminded me of my power and vitality.   But today, after leaving the cemetery, I took a yin class where my teacher gently reminded me that “change can happen in stillness, too.”  By not trying to force anything, I allowed my body to settle.   No sweating.  Not trying to wow anyone.  I just stayed in the pose.  “Now.  Here.  This.” (Credit to Sister in law Jen).  It was a powerful experience.

A new decade approaches us tomorrow.  It’s a chance for new perspectives and new hopes and dreams.  Some dreams will come true and some won’t.  There will be laughter and heartache.  There will be times when you need to be alone and sit in stillness.   There will be times when you need get up and make things happen.   Balance it all and embrace the change.






What Boys in a Cave Half Way Around The World Can Teach Us

I rejoice this morning with scores of people around the world as the last boy and coach were lead from that cave in Thailand.  This ordeal has left me breathless  over the past couple of weeks. There have been more than  a few nights where I have sat up in bed, feeling anxious for the boys and their parents and fearing for the brave rescue team.   It could be that any story involving kids always tugs at my heart.    It could also  be that I am claustrophobic.  I break out into a cold sweat at the very  idea of going several  kilometers into a cave and then having it fill with water.   Double yikes.   I won’t even go on a water slide in an enclosed tube!

What strikes me most about this story is the connection of humanity.   It doesn’t matter that these children and their parents don’t speak our language or salute our flag.  It doesn’t matter if they are Buddhists.  What matters is that they are children whose letters revealed courage,  a fear of being bombarded with homework, and a love of fried chicken and barbecue.  I think I know some kids who can relate.

I can’t help to wonder if God smiled hearing a common prayer spoken in multiple languages over the past two weeks.

People are people.  We love.  We worry.  We cry and mourn.  We care.  For the first time in a long time this story gives me hope for a peaceful, connected world.



A Girl Looks at 80: Family

Today, my mother is 80. Celebration time is here as relatives, sisters and grandchildren start the drive to Harrisonburg. Half of the fun has always been the anticipation of a gathering.   There will be steaks and Kline’s black raspberry tonight and a big chicken barbecue on the river tomorrow. We think about food a lot in this family.    My children never want to miss a Blose family gathering where you are always loved, celebrated and accepted and you can guarantee your sides will hurt from laughing by the end of the evening.  Oh,  the stories we have to tell!

My Mom grew up in the same environment that she and Dad created for themselves: loads of love, laughter and hard work balanced with fun.    But my Dad didn’t grow up in this type of home.  In fact, from the stories I’ve heard, most of my grandparents didn’t grow up in joyful, laughter-filled homes.  There was judgement, anger,  stress, tension and at times, emotional abuse.   After years in public education and studying family dynamics, I strongly feel  that  the family you seek doesn’t just happen, but must be created with tenderness and intentionality.

Last night at dinner, we were talking about our love of Disney World.  Lauren recalled an incident where a big water ride shut down, and we were stuck in the blazing sun for twenty minutes before they emptied the water and hurried us behind the scenes to disembark. They were more concerned with us not taking pictures of the ride without its magic water than our discomfort. She talked about  how I talked the park  into Golden fast passes for the rest of the day.   What was really remarkable is that she talked about that trip with a smile.  You see, I took them away  three weeks after their Dad died, not to forget about what had happened, but to temporarily set aside the new normal of life without Tony and  to remind them that we were still a family that could laugh and experience the joy and thrill of a roller coaster.  The memory of that trip could trigger sadness and regret and perhaps to an extent, it does, but that sadness is balanced with happy thoughts.    Intentionality is what I learned from this family and from my Mom’s family.

This past week Anne and her kids took Mom on a Virginia history tour, visiting Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown.  When she was in one room at Monticello the tour guide offered her a chair for  “old and decrepit people.”  (Mom’s words, not the guide’s words) She said she wished she could have seen the look on his face when she politely declined that old person chair.   Today Mom is officially an octogenarian. A new number.   I recall my nephew Billy crying when he turned four because he was going to miss “his old number.”   Will she miss her old number like little Billy? Maybe there are some new normals that she will have to adjust to with this new number, but she’s done it before.   But the big things about her, the essence of her, won’t change.   She will still be our Mom, wise and strong.  Wife, confident and devoted.  Grandma, keeper of sugared cereal and candy. Great grandma to two, keeper of juice boxes.  Sister.  Mother in law.   Friend.  Mrs. Blose to some.  And most importantly, Ellen.

Happy birthday, you old brown-eyed girl! Let’s celebrate!


A Girl Looks at 80: Love and Marriage

I recall an adult Sunday school class some years ago when the teacher was talking about relationships within the home.   He read that your relationship with God should come first, then your relationship with your spouse and last is your relationship with your children.   This was ultimately best for the children because they would  receive the modeling that they would some day emulate.   I was certain that I was screwing that up within my home more often that not, but it was something to consider.  With seven children who had varied schedules and interests, it wasn’t possible for my parents to put themselves first very often, but they did steal time away together, took trips without us at least once a year,  and you certainly could never pit one against the other if you wanted something.

My Mom was a year ahead of my Dad in high school.  He was outgoing, athletic and a friend to everyone.  She was reed thin, bookish and serious about school.  She says he fell in love with her brain because she wasn’t exactly built like a starlet.  Her words, not mine.  He pursued, she resisted.  She ultimately caved when after missing prom because of rheumatic fever, Dad showed up to her bedside with a wrist corsage.   She finished college and encouraged him to do the same.   They married and started having babies.   The flower child/Woodstock era of the 60s passed them by as they spent those years growing a dairy business, washing diapers and just trying to keep toddlers alive.   I’m going to cheat now because this blog below by Mom written two years after my Dad died is a better tribute to that 43 year marriage.

July 16, 2006

It’s a hot, sultry day much like one 45 years ago. It’s the day Bill and I were married, and my girls were all trying to find something for me to do to take my mind off the date. They knew that anything they did would be appreciated but not successful. 

It isn’t so sad to remember, and in many ways it is complete joy to think of our marriage-its beginning, its many years of love and happiness, and its end that came too soon.  The  thing I find so difficult to  put into words is just how all those years and the relationship that grew between two people sustained and fed my soul.  

In many ways we were so differently- he liked hunting, bird dogs, and being with lots of people. Friday night football was as essential as air and water to him. On the other hand, give me a good book or a Broadway show, a few close friends, a hot bath, and I could shut out the rest of the world for a time.  

How we were different or how we were similar was superseded by a profound love and respect for each other that gave us each what we needed in our lives. I told Bill not too many months before he died, that if I were to die first, I wanted him to know that he had made me as happy as I could have possibly been.  His sweet reply was “You make it so easy!”

  I thought that perhaps I should tell our daughters what made their Dad’s and my relationship so special, but I don’t really need to do that.  Who they are as young women speaks  more eloquently than my words about a home that allowed them to be all that God meant them to be.  I’ve always felt that what a child (or what all of us need) is to feel safe physically and emotionally, and to be loved without conditions or limits. Bill gave that great gift to his house of women, never condescending or expecting less of us because we were female. Our daughters rose to the challenge, and whether they were playing basketball or tennis or singing in a musical production, they always gave it their best. And when I wanted to have foster children, even with  seven of our own, he never questioned my sanity.  I, on the other hand, wondered if I was a bit daft!  

Forty-five years, Bill.  Wasn’t it just yesterday when you first loved me? Wasn’t it just yesterday when you made the Dean’s List at Tech after we were married? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we held our first baby and marveled at what love could do? Wasn’t it just yesterday when we milked cows and made hay, grew a garden and watched our girls get on school buses?  Wasn’t it just yesterday when teenage boys started hanging around our house?  Wasn’t it just yesterday when our first grandchild was born?  Wasn’t it yesterday when we finally had time exclusively for each other?  Wasn’t it yesterday when we talked of growing old together and that we were ok with that? 

But it’s today, Bill, and my heart is broken. 

Sigh.    I don’t doubt for a moment that this 80th birthday celebration would be better if Dad were around. Our hands have grown weary of the boot strap pulling over the past fourteen years.  All seven of us have had sustaining marriages that have been challenged by a myriad of circumstances but we have our parents to thank for modeling affection, patience, and undying commitment.





A Girl Looks at 80: Finding Ellen

One of the most remarkable achievements of my mother’s life didn’t involve her identity as a devoted wife  or mom to seven daughters or even the church she loves.  Rather, it involves what she would call  finding Ellen again. Any person reading this with children probably understands the tendency to lose a bit of that person you were before the marriage and kids.  You put that former “you” on the back burner, and unfortunately, some people do it forever.  Is it any wonder that a study from 2016 shows that 7 million adults over the age of 65 experience depression each year?

The truth is my Mom didn’t plan on becoming a widow fourteen years ago.  It was sudden. Within two weeks, our patriarch was gone.   There was a trip planned for Ireland that they had put off for years because college and weddings were expensive.  There was a plan on the horizon to move past the debt and live comfortably.  They always talked of taking the grandkids to Disney World and I’m sure they would have done so.    For the first time in her life, the woman who planned meals, paid bills, organized weddings, took care of grandkids, and managed multiple responsibilities at church  found herself  at a complete loss of control.  What was next? How would she ever feel joy again?

I think it all got better when Anne bought Mom a blog site for Christmas.  Before there was a husband, and kids and cows to milk, Mom was a gifted student and writer.  She had been valedictorian in her high school class, a straight A student at Madison College (now JMU) and editor of the school newspaper, The Breeze.   The only writing she had done for years was in a little diary where she wrote about her babies.  Even that became increasingly sparse as the family grew, and I can only imagine that she fell into bed each night completely exhausted.  Of course she would edit our term papers and interject some of her style when needed, but that’s not really writing from the heart.

And what happened next was a miracle.  She wrote.  And wrote.  Vignette after vignette.  And then there was a self published book and then a second one.  The light returned to her eyes as she would proudly proclaim that someone at the store had heard she had written a book and had to have one.  She had more spring in her step on her daily morning walk  at the local mall.  Once again she became indispensable at church.  She took up yoga and hiking.   She started to tutor  at local schools.  And when she declared that she was through with yard work and cleaning a big house, she got rid of things and moved into a manageable duplex. She is the great grandma who says yes to playing football with the first great- grandchild.  And she was the only one who said  yes to dancing with me at a vineyard recently.    It was she who made the decision to not sit around as a spectator, but to fully immerse herself into life again, to laugh and find a new normal.  Interesting how that self-empowerment parenting style works.





A Girl Looks at 80: The Magnificent Seven

I remember the first time it struck me that people were shocked at the fact that there were seven girls in my family.  I think we were on vacation and a stewardess asked my Dad if we were Catholic.  “No.  I’m a farmer.”  She must have thought it was a way for him to have free labor on the farm!  People would say, “Oh.  You just keep trying for that boy, huh?”   Never once did my parents say yes to that.  And friends, that is how you raise confident and capable women:  by telling them they are ENOUGH just as they are, penisless and perfect.



Imagine having seven girls.  And then I’ll throw in that the first four are 28 months apart.  Seriously.  I’m number five, and I’m just happy they wanted more kids after not sleeping or taking a bath alone for that many years.  The struggle was real with toddlers but then personalities began to emerge.  How do you parent when one is more athletic than another, and one is tall but she could care less about basketball? What happens when some have to study to make good grades and others don’t crack a book in high school and do just fine?  Mom would  say, “I’ve already made grades.  You do your best for yourself and not me.”   Don’t get me wrong.  There were expectations but there was never pressure.  If you had done your best and worked hard, then  that was good enough.  Any pressure to succeed was truly internal, but because we were taught to be grateful for the gifts we were given (see blog 1), no one was distraught  over not being as good at sports or music or academics as another sister.

I just read an NPR article yesterday about the importance of taking pressure off of kids.   Depression, anxiety, drug use and suicide rates are higher than ever before among students in high achieving schools.  The school in the article reminded me of Brentwood High in Brentwood, TN  where my children went. The kids at this school are fairly priveleged.  They have money to travel and  most live in two parent/college educated homes.  They are polite, go to church and play sports and are involved in band and choir.  They are high achievers (good thing I prepared my kids that there would always be peers who were  smarter and richer before we moved to Tennessee) yet many are stressed out and burned out before they turn 18.   The truth is that it is much more difficult to get into college these days than it was when my sisters and I were applying.  Last night, my sister Anne described the ultimate helicopter parent who has micromanaged the life of her high school senior son.  Hopefully he will be fine, but is he living his life and choosing a path for himself or for his Mom?

My mom would tell you it’s all about balance.  Balance summer weed pulling  with trips to the pool and a candy bar.   Balance responsibilities as a member of a household with freedom to explore personal interests.  Balance high expectations with letting your daughter paint her bedroom Pepto-Bismal pink.  Don’t freak out over messy rooms because eventually your kid will need something to wear.  Not everything your child does should be done to check off a box on a college or medical school application.   Accept your child for the gifts they bring to the world and  be realistic in what they aren’t capable of doing.  She would say that artists, musicians writers, social workers, teachers and stay at home parents are just as worthy to our world as a doctor or lawyer.  Trust that there is  a college that fits your child’s abilities and more importantly,  what he or she wants to do, not what you want them to do.

I’ve asked Mom what it was like to manage seven different personalities, talents as well as PMS.  She said that she and Dad would talk about it at night.  From time to time, he would hold her as she cried from worry or frustration. But mostly she says she survived because she didn’t micromanage.   She let us be who we were and didn’t rob us of the opportunity to do the work of self-awareness and self-empowerment. She told us what she thought, but once we were on our own, never gave unsolicited advice. She let us make our own way and our own decisions about careers and spouses.   All seven of us, unique in many ways, are all the better for not being the children of a helicopter Mom.