SHARE YOUR KIDS
Posted by Melissa Thorson
I’m learning that friendship, as a parent, is even more life-giving (life-saving?) now than ever before. And this says a lot coming from a friendship-nostalgia-freak who has a file box of every single note I received in middle and high school organized by name of the sender. (If anyone under 25 is reading this, a “note” is a piece of paper that was meticulously decorated in milky gel pens and folded into the shape of a Chinese star, passed discreetly during Mrs. Lombardi’s lecture on hypotenuses.)
Friendship back then had a narrow span of depth—the easy stuff was choosing who you would go to lunch with on early release exam days. The “tough” stuff came when you consoled a friend who was dumped the week before prom. But now, in the days where many are drowning in diapers and debt and strained marriages and miscarriages, friends can be the lifeblood that help keep us going.
The trouble is, finding time and energy to invest in friendships when your time as a parent is so monopolized by caring for your kids. Amid the constant advice to prioritize our marriages, be present with our babies, and lean into our careers, little attention is given to focusing on our friendships. And truthfully, there’s something about trying to make new friends, as a parent, that seems a little more intimidating. Now we aren’t only putting ourselves on the line of potential rejection, but we feel as though we are being sized up on our parenting styles and children’s behavior.
It’s easier to settle for a second-rate sense of “community.” We can read a blog (ahem, thank you for reading this one) or join a secret Facebook group where we can post our most embarrassing questions about toddler bowel habits or decoding teenage text-speak while we unload the dishwasher in our sweats, ne’er to be seen by a non-family human that day. These connections are a great way to be reminded we aren’t alone, but they can’t replace authentic, face-to-face friendship. The kind that is built on a couch over coffee or a front porch over appetizers.
In our family, we are very fortunate to have doting grandparents and aunts and uncles–so many branches of the family tree that have helped us celebrate and mold our kids. But the blessing of our friends, who we now refer to as “aunts and uncles,” have helped our family tree thrive.
These friends entered the delivery room with teary eyes and beaming smiles within minutes of our babies’ arrivals and were some of the first arms my kids felt loved, though. They’ve shown up with hugs and comfort food and listening ears to help us process the miscarriage of our third child. They’ve been sideline cheerleaders who made our peewee soccer player feel like a FIFA star. They’ve told us they are proud of our children’s character (even though they’ve seen it at its worst). They’ve said “Good job, mama,” when I’ve skulked out of the room with a bucking toddler who needed some correction. They’ve allowed us into their most intimate marital and childrearing struggles and triumphs while loving us through ours. They’ve let us be “aunts and uncles” to their kids, too.
It can feel risky to introduce yourself to the parent wrangling a child into a puddle-jumper at the pool or cheering on the sideline of the soccer field. It can feel burdensome to come up with a menu and hide the clutter in order to invite people over for dinner when you’re just trying to survive the witching hour.
But these initial steps are what build acquaintances who become friends who become family. I’ve never met someone who didn’t want to be noticed and pursued. We are all busy, but someone has to take the first step to build adult friendship and family community.
Invite some neighbors over for a clean-out-the-fridge potluck before going on vacation. Have you child’s teammates and their parents over for hotdogs after the big game. No fancy prep needed–sometimes the more spontaneous and low-key the gathering is the more comfort it builds among the guests.
Aside from gaining our own friends, when we invite more adults into our homes and lives we can also be opening doors for powerful influence on our children. The neighbors you invite over for s’mores today might end up being the sounding board for your angsty teen tomorrow. Now, go text that person you’ve been hoping to get to know better and invite their family over for pizza.
About the Author:
Melissa is a former high school English teacher turned stay-at-home mom who traded in the essay grading for diaper changing . . . both of which offer their fair share of crap. She has always loved teenagers and feared little kids until she had her own. 90% of the joy in her life comes from her husband, Steve; her sons, Crosby and Miller; and her amazing extended family and friends. The rest comes from cooking and taking online personality assessments.
Why Your Kids Need Five Other Adults in Their Lives
by Carey Nieuwho
I have something like 1,300 contacts in my phone. No doubt, 1,300 is a crazy number. You might have double that, or half that. It’s just the world we live in.
But even if you only had 100, you wouldn’t really know each of them well. Not deeply. Not personally. You couldn’t. Our relational span just isn’t that big.
But there’s also a “favorites list” on my phone, as there probably is one on yours. On that list are the people who are one touch-of-the-screen away from a call or a text. My favorites list is much shorter. In fact, there are less that twenty people on that list. If I were to get even more granular, there are really only about five that I call or text all the time. These are the handful of people closest to me.
These five know me inside out…my good points and not so good ones. My dreams and my struggles. My favorite and least favorite things. They’re the ones who are not only great friends, but great advisors.
I’m sure you’ve got those people too.
But do your kids?
When your kids need to talk, who do they talk to? I mean beyond their friends and beyond you as a parent? Friends are of limited help; sometimes the last thing a 16-year-old needs is advice from another 16-year-old. And sometimes the last person they want to talk to is a parent. I’m sure there are parents who say, “my kid will talk to me.” But let me ask you something, did you tell your parents everything? Exactly!.
So who do they go to? To whom can they turn?
I dream of a culture in which every child has five adults, other than their parents, they can talk to about the important stuff. Like school. And girls. And parents. And the future. And God. And faith. And their problems.
If you were fortunate when you were growing up, you might have had someone you could talk to other than your mom or dad about the big stuff and the little stuff. Maybe it was a coach who took an interest in you, a teacher, a neighbor, a grandparent, or an uncle who always seemed to have the time for you. If you had someone like that. you know what a difference those relationships can make.
That’s why I wanted my kids to have at least…
five other adults in their life guiding them and giving input.
five people who know their hopes and dreams,
five people who know their quirks and good points.
five people they can talk to honestly about what’s really going on in their lives.
five people who can offer wisdom when life gets confusing.
five people who care about them and pray for them.
My question is simple: who are your kids’ five? Who will they text and who will they call when they don’t know what to do?
If you don’t know who those five are, you’re not alone. But you can change that. Soon.
I would encourage you to spend some time over the next month identifying people your kids can build a trusting relationship with.
My guess is between small group leaders, neighbors, family friends, uncles, aunts, grandparents, coaches and teachers, you will find a few who will be willing to spend a little one on one time with your child periodically.
Ask them if they’ll spend some time getting to know your child or teen, and even pray for them regularly. And then watch what happens.
If every child and teen ends up with five adults on their phone’s favorite list, we might indeed be raising a wider, more secure, more grounded, more Christ-centered, more joyful generation than we’ve seen in a long time.
And if you’re still not convinced, I have a simple question. Don’t you wish there had been five other adults in your life growing up that you had a great relationship with, trusted, and could talk to?
I do. Which is why years ago, I sat down with my sons and drafted theirs. It’s a different world out there. And it can be a better world.
About the Author:
Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and author of several books, including Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (with Reggie Joiner) and his latest book, "Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow." Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and parenting. He writes one of the most widely read church leadership blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com and hosts the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews top leaders each week.