Seven Things I Should Have Done

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Katie – College Sophomore in PA

Another school year is upon us. Two of my girls have already begun classes, one in her second of law school and the other in her second year of college as an elementary education major and Spanish minor. The house is quiet again, on most days, as Morgan is back on the field hockey field or out pounding the pavement, looking for a job. This was the first summer since she was eleven years old that she didn’t work, and she’s missing her spending money; but she spent the entire summer traveling, so she can’t complain!

As I sit here in the quiet house and work on my next novel, I can’t help but think ahead to next year when all three girls will be off on their own for the first time. While looking ahead, I’m also forced to look back. For over twenty-two years, Ken and I have had, as our top priority, the task of raising children. It hasn’t always been easy, and it hasn’t always been fun, but it has been worth all of the effort, all of the tears, and all of the pain. Why? Because while there has been effort, tears, and pain, there has been so much more fun, laughter, and joy. Still, there are several things I wish I had done differently. Perhaps, my mistakes can be someone else’s gain. So, here you go. These are the things I wish I had done differently as a parent:

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Reading to Rebecca (and Tucker)

7.  I wish I read to my girls later. My girls all learned to read at very early ages. Quite early on, they stopped needing me to read to them at night. For several years, this was okay because when one stopped reading to me, another was holding up a book and blinking her sleepy eyes while pleading for one more story. But then one day, I turned around I realized it had been years since I had cuddled up in bed with one of my girls and read to or with them. It ended way too soon, and I regret not finding ways to stretch it out. Rebecca may not know this, but the time she came to me in a panic that she had to read an entire novel before the start of 9th grade and hadn’t left enough time to do it, was one of the best times of my life as a mother. Ironically, the book was Rebecca, after which she was named, but she found, as she read, that she was having a hard time following it and knew she couldn’t finish in time. For the next three nights, I stretched out on her bed and read aloud as she packed her book bag, brushed her hair, or straightened her room before climbing into the bed with me to listen to the strange and mysterious tale of Mr. DeWinter and his wife, Rebecca. Alas, that, too, was over too soon. 

6.  I wish I had played with them more. With three girls in the house, there was almost always somebody to play with. Only Rebecca got the chance to have mommy or daddy all to herself for a few years, but even then, I wanted her to be independent, so I didn’t make it a habit to actually play with her as much as I should have. I helped her set up her Barbie house, and I helped her clean up when she was done, but I don’t really remember actually sitting down and playing with her once she was past the toddler stage. Sure, we’ve always had family game night, including Mexican Train Dominoes matches that sometimes last half the night, but that’s not the same as good, old one-on-one play time. How many important life lessons did I miss out on teaching because I wanted her to learn to be self-reliant? How much did I miss by insisting the girls play with each other while I worked or cleaned house? Couldn’t those things have waited? Yes, they could have. Future grandchildren, watch out. 

5.  I wish I had insisted that the girls make their beds every morning. Seriously. I can’t leave my room in the morning unless the bed is made. Why didn’t I instill this same habit in my girls? In his book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg asserts that making your bed each morning becomes a keystone habit, one that results in making other good decisions made throughout the day. He says that it gives you a sense of taking charge which leads to “a greater sense of well-being and stronger skills” such as sticking to a budget.  Author, Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project), even contends that making your bed can actually make you a happier person! Now, two of the three have finally gotten into the habit of making their beds every morning, and they say it really does make a difference in how they keep their room and how they feel about themselves.

4.  I wish I had told my girls what we expect instead of what we hope. I wish we had told them,

  • We expect you to be a leader and not follow others down the wrong path.
  • We expect you to follow our rules and the law and not drink, smoke, or do drugs.
  • We expect you to abstain from sex because you’re not ready, you’re not married, and you’re not equipped to handle the consequences (not to mention the teachings of the Church). 
  • We expect you to study hard and get good grades.

There’s such a difference between telling a child, “this is what we expect you to do and how we expect you to behave” and saying, “you shouldn’t do this, but if you do, do it safely.” That’s certainly part of the conversation but shouldn’t be the focus. It’s about creating expectations and teaching them that it’s not only okay to stand their ground but will be better for them in the long run.

3.  I wish I had told them that they don’t have to always be on the top of the heap. I should have told them to try their best, work their hardest, and reach for the stars but not at the expense of their self-worth, sanity or integrity. I wish I had told them that it’s okay to fail as long as you try harder next time. It’s okay to fall down as long as you get up. It’s okay to be number two or three or even five as long as you did honest work and truly gave it your all. It’s not about how you finish but how you got there that counts.

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Morgan on the ramp she helped build in Kentucky

2.  I wish I had shown them the real world. Yes, we traveled–a lot. Yes, they saw amazing sights and had unforgettable experiences in places all over the world. But we never served at a soup kitchen. We never visited a homeless shelter. We took many loads of clothes and goods to St. Vincent de Paul, but we didn’t give enough of our time as volunteers. When Rebecca was a Junior Girl Scout, she earned her Bronze Award by collecting back packs and school supplies and handing them out to underprivileged children through SVDP. She still talks about the little boy who cried as he hugged his back pack as if it was a bag full of gold and precious jewels. Morgan talks about the man with the broken bike of which she and a SVDP volunteer helped fix the tire. When the man left, Morgan learned that he was homeless, and the bike was his only possession. But we never did anything with that knowledge. We never even tried. Thank Heaven for the school mission team. Trips to the Kentucky mountains and upstate New York were the closest my girls ever got to seeing how those in need actually live. I wish we had made sure that the girls did more to help others. I pray they still can and do.

1.   I wish I had paid more attention to my girls when they talked. I’m always distracted, always thinking about what I should be doing, always trying to complete several tasks at once. When I was little girl, I used to love to visit my Great-Aunt Grace. She would pour me a glass of lemonade and offer me grapes or cherries or cookies, and we would sit in her formal living room and talk. That’s it. We’d just talk. Looking back, I’m surprised that I liked going there at all. The television was never on. There were no other kids to play with. There were no toys. There was just Aunt Grace, lemonade, maybe a cookie, and the chance to sit and talk. 54527_1483407733837_6670383And I cherished those little moments more than she ever knew because Aunt Grace made me feel special. She didn’t want someone to watch TV with her, help her do chores, or eat her baked goods. She didn’t need a little kid interrupting her day as she gardened or dusted. But no matter what she was doing, she always, always stopped, made us a treat, and sat down to talk, to hear about my life, to ask me questions about my school or my friends, to pay attention to me and let me know that she cared. Nothing else was more important for those ten or fifteen minutes. It was all about sitting with me and listening to me as I talked. And it was wonderful. If only I can make myself remember, as a busy adult, how that felt as a grateful child.

I’m sure there are many other things I would do differently if I had it to do over again. Thankfully, my girls turned out all right–so far! Hopefully, someday I will have grandchildren and a second chance to get it all right. For now, I just pray they know that I tried, I sometimes failed, but I always loved them whether I remembered to tell them that or not.

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Morgan, Rebecca, Katie, and me at the summit of Uncompahgre Peak in Colorado

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

Raising Adults

DSC07028No offense to any new moms out there, but you have it easy!  Those first few years of parenthood are both wonderful and exhausting.  Sleepless nights, changing diapers, choosing a preschool, putting them on the bus, teaching them to make friends, watching them make the wrong friends, helping with homework, cheering on the sidelines, cleaning scraped knees and wiping snotty noses and tear-stained faces are just some of the painful joys of parenthood.  But I have to be honest with you, looking back, it was actually quite easy to raise children.  It’s once they hit high school that everything changes because that’s when you realize that you are no longer raising children; you are raising adults.

I liked raising children so much better than raising adults.  I have such a hard time letting go.  It just seems so much easier for me to fill out forms, contact teachers, cry to (and about) coaches, and make the tough decisions for them.  I want so badly for them to advocate for themselves, but I can’t help myself!  I am always fighting the urge to step in, and I often lose the battle.  If you think that watching your child fall off a bike is hard, try watching them fall in love, fall into the wrong crowd, or fall on their faces literally and figuratively.  Being able to pick them up, cradle them in your lap, and kiss the hurt away is infinitely easier than mending a broken heart or being on the other side of the slammed door.  Being a guide and mentor would be easy if I didn’t want so much to be at the reins, controlling everything that happens in their lives.  As if I could have stopped that bike from falling…

Raising adults is a lot like raising puppies.  You discipline as best you can, hoping they understand that it’s out of love, you scold and yell to stop them from doing something harmful, you keep them on a short leash for as long as you can; but then you realize that there comes a day when you have to trust them, leave them alone, let them wander, and pray that when you or they return, nothing has been damaged beyond repair.  There will be accidents and incidents, and no matter how old they are, they will try your patience and make you so angry you see red, but deep down, you know that all they really want from you is your love and attention.

I still have a lot of learning and letting go to do.  It’s not an easy road, and there are many bends, dead ends, yields, and U-turns, but I know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  My mother and I don’t always agree, and we had our share of arguments when I was becoming an adult, but there’s nobody in the world whom I love, respect, and enjoy spending time with more than her.  I can only hope and pray that I can be as lucky with my three girls.  Correction, my three young adults.  Loving them while letting them go is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know that someday we will all reap the rewards.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online. Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Is It Worth It?

snowconesThe dog days of summer are upon us, and in our family, that usually means one thing – snowcones!   For several years now, our family has owned and operated a snowcone business in the tiny, tourist town of St. Michaels on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Ken and I support the business by maintaining the stand, ordering product, and financing the equipment; but the daily operations, inventory, record-keeping, etc. are all done by the girls.

I am often amazed by the number of children these days who do not have a summer job.  Our girls have been working the stand since Morgan was about nine years old.  And while it sounds like fun, it’s hard work.  The daily set-up itself is a real chore, and there’s no respite from the sun or heat.  On some days, the line of families stretches down the whole block, and whichever girl is working needs to keep moving hand over fist as quickly as she can to satisfy her waiting customers.  It’s demanding, boring on slow days, but overall, very rewarding.

Recently a girl in Morgan’s class called her spoiled because she owns both an iPad and iPhone.  Morgan rebuked her saying she paid for both items and pays the monthly fee with her own hard earned money.  When we travel, any and all souvenirs that the girls want, they have to buy.  The number one question they have to ask before making any purchase is “is it worth it?”

That’s the same question that Ken and I ask ourselves every spring when we dig out the machine and assess the shape of the cart.  The answer has always been a resounding yes.  Every time the girls deposit their money into the bank, they do so with the great satisfaction that they earned every penny of that money.  Every purchase is carefully thought out, and big items are saved for only by dividing up their earnings into savings and spending so that they are always putting at least half of the money away.

As with most things, the girls have grown up and are starting to move on.  This summer, Morgan does more babysitting than making snowballs, but she’s our backup when Katie can’t work.  Rebecca has worked for the past two summers at a law firm, gaining the experience she will need in her future career, but she, too, jumps in and works the stand when needed.  So while many of the other teens my girls know will be sitting by the pool this 4th of July weekend, my girls will be working hard.  Is it worth it?  Ask Rebecca tonight after she finalizes the purchase of her very first brand new car.  We think it’s worth every hard earned penny. But more importantly, it’s worth every lesson learned, every hot, sweaty day in the sun when not wanting to be there isn’t an option, and every time someone remarks on what the girls have and they can be satisfied in knowing that they earned it.  In a world where young people spend most of their time lazily lying around, playing video games, and doing things that get them into trouble, at least I know that my girls are learning the value of a dollar.  Yes, it’s worth it.