On any given weekend, my entryway would look like this.
Kids and teens and lots of shoes.
Pizza and pop. I always got extra because I never knew how many kids would wander over.
Neighborhood kids, school kids, church kids, homeschool kids.
They would flop on couches, lie on floors, and hang in the yard.
With my four kids mostly grown, it still often happens. College kids, kids from work – they still gather at the Field House.
I have pondered this for a while, because I also have had “anywhere but home” kids. Phases where my own kids would rather be anywhere else but here. Seasons when we rarely spoke and short conversations left a bitter taste and a lump in the throat. Times when I questioned every choice I ever made about parenting, mothering and education.
And I then I remember the noisy weekends of shrieking and games and light saber fights in the yard.
And all those shoes. So many kids have shed their shoes at my door. They still come to bake with my budding baker and play card games. And yes, my son can still swing a light saber like a pro.
My plan for loving my children was that home would always be a grace space. They would know love and warmth and carry that into life as well-adjusted adults.
But my expectations and plans for their futures sometimes made home a judgment zone. The rhetoric paper that wasn’t written to their fully ability, the geometry proof that mixed up steps, the lab report that didn’t fully reflect the science experiment – these were occasions to tell my children that they could do better.
Maybe they sometimes heard, “You should BE better. You are not enough.”
It is a precarious balance to demand excellence from your children and to love them without reservation. In so many settings, they each could have done better. But who they WERE was just perfect.
Teaching kids to think for themselves is treacherous. It means letting them examine their own thoughts, instead of intruding on them with my right answers. Part of the real fun of being a parent is listening to them talk through their positions and opinions. You may know that what they are saying is ludicrous, but they have the right to try on as much foolishness as they want. You did it. I did it. Sometimes our parents and others ridiculed us, or older siblings made us feel stupid. Those judgment zone experiences from your own past can remind you to tread lightly while your young people are making up their minds about life.
So why have all those shoes been in my hallway?
1. Home is a place of warmth and welcoming. My own mother, for all her faults and issues, always made others welcome in our home. Because that was modeled for me, I can give it to others.
For many of my kid’s friends, home was not warm and welcoming. They came from broken homes, angry homes, alcoholic homes and more. But they knew at on the weekends, pizza and pop and pleasantries were at the Field House. It was a great blessing to me to be able to embrace them, with many of them calling me “Mom”.
2. Home is a place you can share your pain. A strong, non-judgmental mother can listen to a kid’s pain without feeling threatened. My kids and other kids always know they can cry here and we’ll talk it out without judgment or chastisement.
3. Home is a place where you can share your thoughts and talk through how you got them. When a teen reaches a conclusion about something, and that conclusion is erroneous or stupid, you can gently talk them through all the surrounding implications. Doing so may cause them to strengthen their held opinions, or maybe budge a little to one side or the other. My generation would have merely said, “That’s stupid.” And the child would have heard, “I am stupid.” Don’t do that to your kids.
Home can be a grace space or a judgment zone. It depends on our willingness to lean in and listen deeply, hug a lot, and talk without expressing judgment or condonation.