Letting Kids Explore Their Interests

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

I held off on posting last Friday because of the significance of today

School started today…Finally!

In some ways, it’s a relief. I have a quiet home which means I can get my work done. But in other ways, it’s not a relief. There will be homework, after all, as well as early mornings. This morning went well, but if things continue the normal way for us, we experienced the calm before the storm today.

Summer was fun but short. I did learn a lot about the grands during that time, though.

When the kids first came to live with us, everyone kept asking me what activities they were doing. The question came with the strong implication that I should enroll them in everything. Keep them moving at all times. At first, I felt guilt over not doing that, but let’s face it, we needed time to adapt.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…Psalms 46:10a

Why do people feel the need to fill a child’s day with activity from dawn until dusk? I didn’t see the sense in it.

Eventually, I signed them up for gymnastics. Victoria showed a great interest in it and was already turning perfect cartwheels, so it felt like the right way to go. I signed Amari up, too, because once he saw the gym and the children in a class, he wanted in.

People have pushed me to put them in various activities:  basketball, swimming, football, soccer, etc. With Victoria’s height–she’s now taller than me–everyone pushed hard for basketball and swimming. This summer, I decided we’d try a few of these activities in short spurts. The YMCA offers one-week day camps in the summer focused on a specific sport. I signed Amari up for basketball, football, and soccer and Victoria for basketball, volleyball, and baseball.

Victoria hated it. Amari loved it.

When my kids were little, people didn’t push me to sign them up for anything. I listened to their interests and followed that lead. If I listened to other people, Victoria would be frustrated every day. She hates competitive sports. She enjoyed the games but only when she wasn’t forced to play. She wants to play for fun, not as a team.  Amari enjoyed the camps, but he needs individual attention that he didn’t get in the camps. Plus, I’ve noticed that most team sports use up most of your afternoons and evenings. Amari needs his rest. If he’s not in bed by a certain time, everyone pays for it the next day. We’re going to wait a few years, and see about Amari’s interest in sports, then.

We, also, tried a few educational, but fun, camps at the local science center. Victoria begged to do the Lego camps, so I signed her up for two of them: MazeBots and SumoBots. She hated MazeBots with a passion. She anticipated building things with the Legos. They did, but they spent most of their time programming. She was sooooooo bored.  Amari took Candy Art one week and Kitchen Chemistry the next. He was disappointed that they didn’t cook.  FYI, Victoria wanted to do cooking classes, too. Unfortunately, the cooking classes weren’t offered at a time convenient to our schedules this summer.

We hit the jackpot with the last week of camp. Victoria participated in a Harry Potter camp (I’ll blog about that in my other blog next week), and Amari took an Animal Habitat camp. Both camps incorporated science in a fun way. Both played into the way these two kids’ brains are wired. Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

So, now I know. Victoria is not into sports except gymnastics for fun. Amari loves sports but needs time to focus. They both love nature and science and working with their hands.

In the Proverbs verse at the beginning of this post, we’re directed to bring children up in the way they should go. You can’t look at a child and base that decision on their physical appearance. You need to pay attention to what they enjoy, to the things that drive their curiosity, the things they talk about. Now, I have a good idea what that is

And I didn’t spend an entire school year struggling through something they hated to find this out.

I’d call that a win-win!


In the Way They Should Go

 Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

I’ve heard this verse from Proverbs quoted in relation to raising children numerous times. Last year, one of our ministers preached about this verse and explained it’s often applied incorrectly. He said the original Hebrew does not refer to faith in this verse. It refers to helping them discover their gifts and talents. In other words, help them find out what they’re good at and they will pursue that in their later years.

That makes sense to me, although it’s a bit disappointing when this verse has given hope to many parents, myself included, with wayward grown children.

Nevertheless, this task is an interesting one with the grandkids.

We’re celebrating Amari’s seventh birthday this weekend! He was four when he came to live with us. So much has changed over the years, and he’s grown a lot. Just today, I was facing the fact that most of his shorts don’t fit. I’d forgotten about those years where they grow faster than their “Carters wear out.” Of course, when I can I buy in consignment sales, but I’m learning that there’s less available for boys in those stores. Not only that, but boys’ clothes don’t seem to go on sale as much as girls’ clothes. Why is that? Add his interest in playing basketball and football, and his clothes really take a beating (which is why I think consignment stores have fewer boys’ clothes).

He definitely has interests and talents. This summer he’s developed an avid interest in reading. Nothing makes me happier than to go looking for him only to find him engrossed in a book. I read a LOT. I mean really a LOT. My kids were readers but not like me. All signs indicate the reading bug has bitten him. But he also loves math and is quick with his numbers. His mind is so curious, and his questions about everything, including God, keep me hopping.

As for his sister, she finished grade school this year and is headed to middle school in the fall. Last night, I realized that she has grown another inch and is my height (5’6″). She grew three inches over the last school year and another inch in the last month! The doctor says she’s going to be at least 5’10”, but I’m wondering if that estimate is a bit low.  Because of her height, everyone tries to push her toward basketball, volleyball, or swimming. No one has mentioned running yet, but she’s all legs. The thing is, she’s not interested in playing competitive team sports. She does gymnastics, yes even with her height, and she’s very good at it. But she’s still only interested in it as a hobby.

Victoria loves science and art. In fact, she won her school science fair this year and received an Honorable Mention at the district level. She likes to read but would rather be crafting something. My biggest battle with her is getting her to leave things in the trash. She wants to save every cereal box, scrap of paper, and empty lotion bottle to use in her crafts. I replaced her comforter this year because the old one had a rip in it. Before I could do something with it, she cut it up and started using it to make things.

So, there you have it. They are growing and we continue to try to nurture who they are. We’re headed for the teenage years with Victoria. You know that’s going to be so much fun!


Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: What Are They Feeling?

domestic violence

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

As promised last week, this week’s post continues the idea of providing empathetic support to grandparents raising grandchildren.

What is empathy?

Empathy is acknowledging what the person is feeling. You do not have to agree or feel the same thing. You just need to recognize and acknowledge it. Empathy is NOT sympathy. When you reflect your own pity or sorrow onto the person’s situation, you are sympathizing not empathizing.

As I tell the participants in my communication and customer service training workshops, empathy is the most important tool you have to connect with another person. Just the effort of trying to see where they are helps. When someone empathizes with your situation, they build rapport with you. You feel a connection AND relief that someone gets it.

How do you empathize?

Words that should never come out of your mouth include:

  • I know exactly how you feel
  • I  understand

Why? Because you don’t. You might come close to understanding based on what you’ve experienced in your own life, but no one can fully understand what someone else feels in relation to a situation. If you listen to the person, often you’ll gain clues of what they’re feeling. It’s ok to express what you think is going on in them. If you get it wrong, they’ll correct you and still appreciate the effort.

Another phrase that doesn’t empathize is I’m sorry. That’s sympathy, not empathy.

It takes some practice to change the way you respond, but some of the easiest ways to express empathy are:

  • It sounds like you’re feeling ___________.
  • I’m sensing that you might be _____________.

Identify the emotion you think they’re feeling and insert it in the blank. That’s where the hard part comes in—trying to identify that emotion. Again, if you listen, you will gain clues from what the person says.

In business, I suggest you don’t use the words angry, mad, or upset. These tend to add fuel to the fire. In a personal relationship, you want to be careful about using these words, too.

What do grandparents raising grandchildren feel?

When I wrote my post, Don’t Throw Me a Pity Party, I spoke for myself, providing insight to my own journey; however, I received enthusiastice responses from several people in the same situation. One person’s comment was: “Nailed it!” Believe it or not, I needed to hear that because I feared people might judge me as uncaring.

So keeping in mind that I’m writing this from my own perspecitive, I am going to suggest some of the emotions grandparents raising grandchildren feel.

Tired and Exhausted: We are not as young as we were when we raised our children. It had been thirty years since I’d had a four-year-old in my home when the grands came to live with us. Yes, we’ve adapted over the last three years, but we’re still bone-tired. We don’t bounce back like we did in our twenties and thirties.

Worried about finances: We’re nearing the end of our careers if we’re not already retired. That means there’s a limit to the income coming in and the income we will have to support the kids. Our bank accounts hemorrage money at a time when we can least afford it.

Distanced or separated: Because we’re focused on children, school, homework, activities, we’re thrown into a world far different than the friends we’ve had. I’ve discovered some friends disappear. They don’t try to stay in contact. That hurts. I make an effort to spend time with friends when I can, but it’s a two-way street. I really appreciate the ones who reach out to me instead of waiting for me to contact them. I am making new friends among the parents of the kids classmates, but it takes time.

Alone: This is related to the one above, but it includes the relationship with our spouse. At a time when we’re supposed to be doing the things we’d planned to do once the children moved out, we’ve taken multiple steps backward. By the time we will have the freedom to do those things, we probably won’t have the energy, health, or money. Plus, babysitters are $10/hour! That’s more than minimum wage. When my children were young, babysitters did not make more than minimum wage. We need time to ourselves, but often we can’t afford it.Between exhaustion and the need to keep an income source going longer, we’re missing out on what was supposed to be our time.

So, there you have it. There are more emotions than these, but this will give you some idea how to reach out to us (and by us I mean any grandparent raising grandchildren).