Looking back: 9 things we did right as parents

carpenter family portrait

I didn't support my youngest when she wanted to change majors — and universities — midway through her college career.

I didn't call parents to tattle on their mean girls (and boys) who made a living hell of several academic years for my middle daughter.

I didn't demand my oldest break ties with unhealthy boyfriends.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg. As a mother, I did so very many things wrong.

Once the nest empties, it's easy for parents to look back and see all that could have been managed differently. Correctly. Responsibly. Kindly. The ghosts of errors large and small haunt and hurt. 

Which is absurd. Parents who manage to raise their children to be compassionate contributors to society, young adults who head off into the world to make a difference large or small, should applaud themselves rather than consider all the if onlys and should haves of days gone by.

That's easier said than done. Applauding all we did right can be a challenge.

I accept the challenge, though. In contrast to all I did wrong as a mother, I offer here 9 things I did right as a parent — with my husband and parenting partner, of course.

Instilled a strong work ethic. Our daughters had chores for which they weren't paid, as I firmly believe that family works together to maintain the shared living space, without payment. That said, our girls were given the opportunity to do additional chores to earn money, such as pulling weeds or washing windows. Once they were old enough to babysit, they did. When they reached the age they could secure employment, they got part-time jobs. All maintained decent grades, participated in sports... and paid for their car insurance, gas, school clothes, entertainment and more. They worked to get what they wanted in high school. In college. They still do.

Encouraged communication. One of my pet peeves has long been children incapable of communicating with adults (or being rudely unwilling to). Kids who don't speak to the parents of friends when spoken to. Or don't converse with relatives. Or don't respond to "safe" adults in "safe" spaces who offer compliments and kind words. My three girls learned at an early age how to politely and concisely communicate with adults. They always made me proud. They now list non-communicative kids — and adults — as a pet peeve, too. That also makes me proud.

Believed. Despite not coming from faithful church-going families, Jim and I took our daughters to Holy Cross Lutheran Church (fairly) regularly, beginning when our oldest was five. We expected them to be good, to listen, to learn, to participate. They did all of that and more — sometimes only because we forced them to. Ultimately, though, each embraced God and forgiveness, compassion and acceptance. And despite some early adult wanderings and truth seeking of their own, each still faithfully embraces such things. In their own ways. Always.

Stressed ♫Your mouth is a house where your teeth all live, and you must give the very best care that you can give♫. Our three daughters graduated from high school without a single cavity in a single tooth. Not a one. Not in any of the three. Thanks in part to an earworm of a long-ago children's song. 

Tracked them down. Back in the day, there were no cell phones; our teen daughters had pagers. If they received a 9-1-1 page from Mom or Dad, they knew they MUST call ASAP to let us know where they were, what they were doing. When they didn't, we got in the car and found them. It was never fun, never pretty. We did it anyway — for their sake.

Threw period parties. When each girl started her period, a family party was thrown. A Black Forest cake, a gift box of pads, Urge Overkill's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" blasted on the stereo were the norm. It marked their maturity. It made the monthly mayhem less dreadful — for all of us.

Didn't buy them alcohol or host co-ed slumber parties. We weren't the cool parents. We were the mean parents. The world needs more mean parents. Our daughters now agree.

Had college expectations. Jim and I expected our daughters to go to college. At least for one year, we demanded from an early age. To try it out, to take advantage of the opportunity. The girls were the first of many, many generations — on both sides of the family, mine and Jim's — to have the privilege of a traditional college experience. At least one year of it. Two of our three girls made it four full years. All three now understand the advantage a college degree provides.

Felt the fear and did it anyway. I was an overprotective, paranoid mother that needlessly and irrationally instilled fear in my daughters in far too many ways. I hope my personal example offset a bit of that. My daughters have seen me jump from an airplane, stand tall when a celebrity called my name, persist in pursuing my goal despite rejection again and again, keep plodding along when the plodding is <cussing> scary. Similarly, I've often seen my daughters feel the fear and do it anyway. I have faith they will continue to.

Jim and I together were miles from being perfect parents. As I list the things we did right, though, I'm pleased to know that much of the right outweighs some of the wrong.

Right being relative, of course, leaves me eager to see which of our right things will be put into play with their own children by our daughters — despite their angst-filled, door-slamming annoyance with much on the list when our nest was their home.

Today's question:

Looking back, what did you do right as a parent?