Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In the trenches

*If you're looking for this week's Wednesday Hodgeopodge questions you'll find them here.

What do you think of when you hear the word strategy? That's the word for this week's blog carnival hosted by Peter Pollack...you can visit Peter's blog and read more entries here.

I suppose for many people the word strategy conjures up images of battle. Men and women in uniforms and dark suits sitting in a war room plotting their next move with maps, charts and collective brains.

My first thought was something else.

I'm not suggesting my children were in any sense of the word, 'the enemy'. They were in fact the complete opposite, but I think strategy is just another way of saying let's have a goal and a plan in place to meet that goal. I can't think of any job on earth more worthy of some thoughtful planning and consideration as to what the end result will be than raising children.

Simple tasks like changing diapers, buckling shoes, and clipping barrettes into the hair of a resistant, squirmy toddler are best done using a little strategy. If I entered into even the most ordinary of tasks with my babies without first considering my plan of 'attack' and all potential outcomes the result might be-

a. a mess
b. an escaping unclothed tiny tot
c. a crying baby and/or mom, and- on a really bad day,
d. all of the above

A toy to distract, a silly song sung, a cookie in hand...these were often the tools used to meet my goal-a freshly changed, combed, and clothed toddler.

As my girls entered the school years strategy was essential in managing the daily calendar. How do I get child A to ballet in location C while simultaneously ensuring child B is on time for a piano lesson in location D? Add dinner, homework, baths, and Jr high girl drama into the mix and you just might confound a 4-star General.

No more toys and cookies...we needed a new plan. If hubs were in town we would often employ the divide and conquer strategy. He'd pick up one child while I picked up the other. He'd supervise reading stories while I washed up dishes. If he was traveling and I was going it alone I sometimes had to eliminate something from the calendar in order to meet my goal-a harmonious evening where homework could be completed, dinner eaten and bedtime rituals performed sans grouchiness and impatience.

Enter the teen years. Don't even think about going there without a strategy. Kids get smarter ya know! The teen years require a trip back to the 'war room' to iron out policies on a myriad of things...dating, curfews, parties, driving, study habits, part time jobs, and most importantly, how to handle a child inching out from under the safety and protection of your wings to find wings of their own.

Our strategy?
Essentially it was this-

love a lot
listen a lot
pray a lot

That makes it sound like we flew by the seat of our pants but I can assure you we did not. Its just that I think everything we did during the teen years falls into one of those categories. Loving a teenager means doling out hugs and encouraging words but it also means having rules and consequences to go with. Listening means sometimes they pour their heart out and it breaks yours just a little. It means you occasionally re-evaluate the rules and adjust as maturity and situations warrant. Praying a lot means you're not in it alone and I kind of think that's the seret to life.

I'm not implying that my strategies worked all the time, that we never had to corral a tantrum-ing toddler, that every evening was harmonious-ha, or that the teen years were without tough moments...but we had a goal and we tried to keep site of that goal as our children grew.

My girls are both well adjusted young adults in their early 20's and you might think I'd have no more need of a strategy. Sorry moms of little ones, but I'm finding these may be the trickiest years of all. Along with loving and listening and praying a lot, I'm learning there's something else needed in my 'war chest' -

Don't say everything I think.

Raise your hand if you have 20-somethings in your life and you find that last bit really hard. I'm raising my hand. I find that to be harder than negotiating boundaries with a toddler, settling a sleep- over dispute amongst tweens, or explaining to my teen for the 15th time why perception matters.

Daughter2 is finishing up her college career now but daughter1 has graduated and is out in the working world. She has her own apartment, car insurance, weekend plans and money. She does a good job in balancing her life and I try to resist tweaking it. I'm afraid I don't always succeed. See paragraph above.

One piece of advice I give my young adult children is this-set goals and then make a plan to meet those goals. Strategize. Yes, sometimes plans will need adjusting or even tossing out, but rolling thru life with no plan doesn't mean life won't happen. It just means you may not have the life you want. And every now and then God opens an unexpected door and you'll need a new plan. Re-strategize. Listen a lot, love a lot, pray a lot.

I'm not a 20-something but I am trying to follow my own advice.


  1. Great post, Joyce. And it never ends, not even when they're grown and have their own babies. Pray a LOT.

  2. Exactly what I needed today! I am trying to regroup after our move, vacation and sickness. I'm just tired of "surviving" the past months and am ready to do some strategizing in November! Yay!

    Yes, I have a 21 year old, 18 year old, 9 year old and 8 year old. The older two are harder, but like you, my two are well-adjusted and faithful to the Lord, but trying to keep quiet becomes an art form for parents. :)

    That's why I'm also trying to really enjoy the two younger girls, cause I know these are the "golden years" (what we call around here - out of toddlerhood, not quite a tween yet.)

    Anyway, I was right there with you today. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Excellent advice, Joyce. I have a 20-something daughter who recently got married. There's so much advice I'd love to give her. :-) But I try to wait until asked. Yesterday she called and asked. Whew.

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. They are helpful.

  4. I'm raising my hand. I find it quite challenging to not say everything on my mind, but also realize that some things need to be said because all adults need "adjustment" from time to time. I am referring to some of the selfish decisions my children make in the name of "independence" and "being an adult now." For me it's the amount of help I get around the house compared to the bennies they receive for living here. Seems out of kilter. And also how much extended family get their attention when they fly in from out of town. I want to say, "No, you may NOT go to that concert. Your aunts see you every 2-3 years so don't even THINK about doing what you could any time." I might have said that this weekend?? It backfired.

  5. Well said, Joyce! I'm right there with ya'!

    As our kids grow older, get married, then have children of their own it gets a bit harder--to remember to keep quiet. LOL In many ways, the early years of child-rearing was easier--we had control!

  6. I like this post! I have a sneaking suspicion you're talking about me when you mention your new strategy: "Don't say everything I think"... hmm. But I love you and all your wonderful strategies and advice over the years.

  7. Excellent post -- I'm nodding my head in agreement all the way. And yes, I have to keep a firm hand over my mouth these days!

  8. I will be visiting this post again and again. I'm afraid "not saying everything I'm thinking" is one of my bigger personal struggles.

  9. Parenting 20-somethings is not an easy task! I often find that my new role involves the tiptoeing challenges of a diplomat. : )

  10. It is difficult not to speak your mind to a 20-something year old! The "hard core parenting days" are over by then, but you're left with a child who speaks his mind (because you're the one who taught him to do it!). The late teenager/early 20's has been the most difficult for me. Maybe it has something to do with the whole "control" thing? :D

  11. Joyce, thanks for sharing your experience.
    I am single with no kids, I can't imagine how hard it is to raise children nowadays. But you've got a great strategy: listen a lot, love a lot, pray a lot.
    Actually, it can be applied to any human relationship.
    Thanks for the advice!

  12. This is great: I'm currently in the trenches with a teen (just turned 13!), a tween (will be 11 this week!), and a toddler. My strategy some days = coffee, chocolate, and a nap (for ME, not them!LOL).
    It is so encouraging to me to see families who have successfully raised kids who are what I want for mine: responsible young adults, functioning independently and well adjusted, making mistakes, and yet, having goals in sight and adjusting accordingly. I believe a lot of that - for me - will take much more PRAYER than any thing else!

  13. I really admire you for everything you've done in raising your daughters, and for trying to let them live their own lives now. I'm sure it's very hard!

  14. Great advice. From experience, you never come to a place where you don't need strategy. Grown children, then grandchildren, there is always the need of a plan. My first step--a chat with God about the situation, then visualizing the objective, prioritize, and then get with the program.

  15. Raising my hand here!

    That said, I do tend to say pretty much MOST of what I think and I believe the troops expect no less from me. Ha.

    P.S. Loved Daughter 1's comment. :)

  16. Thanks for sharing the journey. I loved the part about "Don't even think about going there without a strategy. Kids get smarter ya know!" :D I don't have kiddos yet, but I can imagine how fun it was for my mom when I was growing up :) Tee hee.


  17. Joyce, this should be published! Absolutely the truth, every word. We're a tad ahead of you with our children, but our strategy was much the same. And, yes, it's still hard not to "say what we're thinking" but we're getting better and better. Great, great post!

  18. what a great post.. that makes you think as a parent.. I am a parent to two little ones and take it day by day.. THanks for sharing this.

  19. You are a wise women and have obviously done a good job with your girls...so great advice. I agree love a lot , listen and pray...brilliant!

  20. I loved that line, "Don't say everything you think." That has gotten me into trouble more than once. I spoke before I thought. :-)

  21. Love this post and seeing all the pictures of your sweet girls! :)

  22. Hard to believe mine are 30 & 32, they left the twenties so my hand is raised really high.
    Great job with strategy, I agree with you.