Monday, March 2, 2015

Dream a Little Dream: A Timeline for Middle Schoolers

Well, we had our snow.  And ice.  For Texans- or transplanted Georgians, it’s the perfect amount of time.  Just a few days of inconvenience, a white knuckle grip drive home, kids home on strange days, kayaks, laundry baskets and trash lids are repurposed {for those of us who never got that sled ordered}, a major dent in the firewood pile, free flowing hot cocoa and coffee, messy boots and winter accessories piled by the door.....  But today, life is back to normal.  Streets are wet and there are patches of snow around, but lunches were made, backpacks were loaded and kids were dropped off at school— and today is picture day.

Taking pictures while driving-- precisely why Southerners should not get snow and ice
Brighton didn’t know it until he hopped out of the car at school.  Julia did.  Of course.  Since uniforms are required— I know, boring, but I get it— she chose the largest earrings she owns.  And I wasn’t sure what to do.  So like any good mother, I said this, “Those are the earrings you want to wear in your picture?”  I know. SO original.  So well thought out.  {No wonder teenagers think we are stupid.} I didn’t stop there.  I went on to say, “I think when you see your picture, all you will see is your earrings.”  After about 10 minutes when my words hadn’t fazed her, I couldn’t stop myself.  “Hey, why don’t you stick another pair of earrings in your backpack just in case you change your mind.”  Brilliant, I know.  My mouth kept moving and I couldn’t stop it.  Her earrings weren’t changed and a last-minute-change-of-heart pair weren’t packed either.  My mothering this morning was very effective. {I promise we are getting to the timeline....}

So you might be thinking, if I didn’t like the earrings, WHY does she have them?  Why did I let her buy them?  Well, I didn’t.  They were a gift to her from someone else.  From someone who doesn’t make an issue over the size of earrings a 13 year old can wear.  And that’s okay because I needed to let that go anyway.  So thanks to whatever mom paid for the earrings the size of tea cup saucers for my brand spanking new teenager.  I needed your little push.  Shove, actually.  All of this is happening so fast.  And I’ve got to have my game on and keep the deal breakers and deal breakers.  Today, the size of her earrings had nothing to do with the condition of her heart.

I have a new friend, Becky, that I have already gained so much encouragement from in this parenting process.  She shared something with me a few weeks ago that I latched onto with much enthusiasm and planned to do it with Julia as soon as I had the chance.  She got the idea from Mary Flo Ridley who is known for her instruction to parents on how to make “the talk” a normal part of the parenting journey— starting young and building on information conversation after conversation and not just dumping it all on them at age 11 or something.  Here— this is better:

“Mary Flo can help you approach the difficult topics of birth, conception, and reproduction with your young children in a way that develops a healthy sexual attitude later in life. Her approach sets you, the parent, up as the loving, knowledgeable authority in your child’s life by giving you the tools to talk to your children about sex medically and relationally.”  {from her webpage}

So the idea Becky shared with me.  A timeline.  If any of you have middle schoolers, you’ll know that thinking ahead is not their strong suit.  Naturally, they don’t think, “If I study each subject for a short time every day, I won’t have to cram the night before a test.”  nor, “I should not eat that big bowl of cereal right now {5:30} because then I won’t be hungry for dinner.”  {For those of you who DO have these children, I don’t want to know who you are.}  Life gets way more complicated than tests and appetite and that’s where we need to assist them in this thinking ahead— ahead to life choices and goals and what it takes to get there.  A simple timeline can do the trick- numbered/notched by 5’s or 10’s from 1 to 90 or whatever you choose. First, you plot some significant firsts they have experienced thus far— maybe when they first walked, first bike, baby dedication or baptism, first day of school etc.  Julia’s first response after we marked down a few things was perfect— “Mom!  My life has been really short when I look at it like this.”  This is exactly what you want them to see.  Then you ask them to think about the future— what they hope for, what they are expecting- basic things like driver’s license, graduating high school, college degree, travel, marriage, children etc.  Then invite them to dream a little bit.  Depending on if this is your child’s bent or not, you may have to help them out here.  I’m so ridiculously practical, I didn’t dream much as a kid.  So be ready to help them think of possibilities that COULD be.  Ask them how long they think it would take them to accomplish these goals.  Have them pencil in the when and the what for which they are hoping.  We also made a short list on the corner of her timeline of other dreams that she wasn’t sure about the timing- like overseas missions or other ministry/discipleship opportunities.

It’s important to point out how their teenage years only take up a tiny span of life on their timeline.  That was surprising to Julia too.  Nothing like a picture.  Emphasize here that so many decisions made in this tiny span can affect the rest of their lives.  As parents, we know there are many things that could get in the way of these aspirations our kids have and now is the time to have them think through what could keep them from realizing their dreams.  I called them “dream killers”.   Julia’s first response was “choices I make” and I had to prompt her a few times to get specific, more specific and more specific.  And we listed them on the paper.  Mary Flo’s top four were alcohol, drugs, premarital sex and pornography.  {We actually didn’t cover pornography this time but I will another year and focus on emotional pornography women find in novels or relationships.}  To the dream killer list, Julia added “people I choose to hang out with” and “not working hard”.  It should be interesting to you to hear what your teenager comes up with— what she sees as being obstacles to her goals.

I will keep this timeline someplace safe and I plan to bring it out each year.  I am making notes now on what I want to cover next year— if I don’t see the need before then.  I think it will be effective to revisit it and have her see where she is and remind her of how she dreamed.

Do you see the value in this?!  They NEED to see the brevity of these years.  They NEED to think through "what I do now affects maybe all of the dreams I have for my life".  As I have written before, it must be about their hearts.  It’s not rule keeping and if I can just stay away from these destructive behaviors, I will experience the “abundant life” God has for me.  Becky has a great handle on communicating that it’s all about the spirit of the law and not the letter of it.  It must come from a place of submission to God’s authority in our lives and learning to REST in that security He provides.  Following Christ is not about rule keeping.  Steering clear of these behaviors is not to spoil our “fun” but to save us from a boatload of heartache and pain.  It’s about our kids learning to run in the path of His commands because He has set their hearts free. {Psalm 119:32 “old” NIV}   Free to experience the joy of walking in relationship with Him.  Free to experience what it’s like to be loved, fully and unconditionally.  Free to experience all He has dreamed up for them.


nikki said...

Yes. Thank you for this-great idea💛

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Kidding aside, it's a great idea!!

Sarah said...

Oops, meant to say, my favorite part was that tape you used on the timeline! ;)

Lizzy R. said...

just shared this with my husband too. SO INCREDIBLY HELPFUL...thank you!

Sandra K. (Hooks) Wade said...

Thank you, thank you for sharing.
I am hoping this can help my 14 year old gain some perspective.

Emily said...

Cannot believe I am just now reading this! But this is a great idea, and I am thinking of some of my counseling clients who would benefit!