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Bayou Kidz: Encouraging our Children

By Katie Sloan
In Bayou Kidz
Jul 31st, 2017

Happy back-to-school eve, BayouLife readers, as I am sure this column will find many of you buried on the school supply aisle or racing to the check-out with savings on your child’s back-to-school clothes. Wow…that was a mouthful.

Yes, here we are at the month I like to think of as the “holiday eve,” when everyone starts scratching their heads and wondering where their year went. Get ready…the holidays, they are “a-coming.” Seriously, a lot of local retailers are already putting out holiday decorations, including Christmas trees. Friends, I’m still sweating and praying I don’t get West Nile…I don’t have time to think about what I’m going to put in my hot chocolate. So, to quote my good friend, Decie, all of that has me simply “shaking my head.”

So how are things in the BayouLife nation for each of you? I really wish this column could be interactive sometimes (well, not really, because I might be afraid of the feedback I’d get about this looney-tune column I write), and I could ask a question that my readers could respond to. That would really help me on the months when I’m not quite sure what to write about…like this month, for instance.

On a personal note (I say that like I don’t make this entire column a personal rhetoric), I’ve been busy getting my son moved to college (sadness and teardrops are falling like rain, clouding the emotions of my pain, overshadowing my disdain, while my son hopes a college degree he will gain), and I bet no one realized what a Robert Frost this writer really is.

But, let’s not talk about my problems this month, for crying out loud, I’ve been talking about the actual move to college for the last year, and even I’m tired of hearing myself. No, let’s fast forward a few weeks when many of the children in the BayouLife community will be starting back to school.

First things first, right? Before they start picking out their Halloween costumes or making their Christmas lists, they have got to think about backpacks and textbooks and colored pencils. That time, sadly, is upon us. I got to thinking about what a transition it is every year, no matter what age you are, to start back to school. My son has already started summer school, four hours away from home, so he’s had a somewhat difficult transition (and I have been crying myself to sleep every night, but hey, this column isn’t about me).

No matter the age, however, starting to school can sometimes be hard: getting everyone back on a schedule; going to bed early, getting up early; meal schedules; homework; and extra-curricular activities. In one word, it can be a circus.

Sometimes, it’s not just about our schedules, rather, it can also be an emotional transition. For instance, if your children are really young, perhaps they just don’t want to go to school, or they are scared or worried. If you find yourself with a young one (they don’t necessarily have to be pre-K or kindergarten) who is worried about starting to school, I highly recommend one of my favorite children’s books The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It is also one of my 19-year-old son’s favorite books, who himself did not want to start to school, which prompted his mother to write a book about him.

If you are not trying to overcome the fear of being left at the classroom and forgotten about, perhaps it’s just a good time to sit down with your children and have a good old-fashion, somewhat forgotten pep talk. Now, I don’t think anyone needs to dress up like they are in the pep rally, but I do think “rallying” the troops around the dinner table for an encouraging talk before school starts is a great idea. To be clear, I’ve never done this, but I got to thinking about what I would say if I did.

To be more precise, I got to thinking about all those years ago, when I lived on the prairie like Laura Ingalls Wilder (also some of my favorite children’s books), and what would I have said to my elementary/middle school self? For one, I would have told myself to work hard. You know parents, not every child will make cheerleader or be in the band or play sports, but every child will sit in a classroom every day and have the opportunity to learn.

Perhaps their learning capabilities fall short of a 4.0 GPA or a 30 on their ACT, but if they are applying themselves, if they are working hard, if they are trying as hard as they can, then we should encourage them. I KNOW (yes, I capitalized that word, and for all you non-TECH parents, that means I am screaming the word) I will have parents that disagree with this philosophy or have expectations for their children that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them, but the truth is, we should all know what our children are capable of. Right?  I subscribe to the parenting philosophy that my children are both very different, in their learning capabilities, in their study skills,
in their classroom performance and therefore, there are different outcomes at report card time.

But effort, that’s what I want to see them both giving. The next thing I think I’d want to hear is to play nice (and fair), and this is not a hard attribute to develop. Encouraging our children to just be “nice” kids and to treat others the way they would want to be treated is not a high expectation. In fact, it should just simply be an expectation in every home.

Which leads me to the final thing I think I’d want to hear, and it’s something I write about frequently in this column, and that is to be kind. Always. Listen, I could write for hours about times I’ve been the brunt of someone’s cruelty (think 6th grade, I was 5’10, big feet, big hands, neck like a gazelle and clumsy…oh, and bucked teeth…a perfect formula to be made fun of), in fact, we all could. But as a parent, I have made it one of my parenting goals to instill in both my children the importance of being kind to others. I think back on those tough middle school years, when we are all awkward and we are all clumsy, and I remember some of the harshness, but I also remember which of my friends (still my friends to this day, by the way) were kind. And encouraging when I was going through a very disappointing time (when I didn’t make cheerleader in 7th grade and I had a crush on Tracy Edwards, and I was convinced making cheerleader would win him over, so I was crushed when my plot to win his heart failed.)

I know there are plenty of other things we can encourage our children with at this back-to-school pep rally I know our Bayou parents will be having. It doesn’t take any time, readers, to sit down for “family time” and reiterate some very basic attributes that we should all have in common. Especially our children, who, for all of the modern conveniences they have at their fingertips, can still have a difficult time in school, with friends and with extra-curricular activities. It’s just part of growing up, and oftentimes shapes us into adults, adults who will one day be parents, too.

So there you have it, hot off the press for our August issue of BayouLife, once again talking about how easy it is to be a parent. Ha. Wait, I just laughed out loud again in my column. Being a parent is the single hardest thing we will ever do, but it’s also the most gratifying (that is borderline very Hallmark Channel language.) And it’s full-time, I mean, we don’t get to call in when we get sick or we want a vacation. And I, like you, want to be the very best I can be, and hopefully, with a lot of prayer, lots of co-parenting with good friends, sage advice from my own parents and in-laws and just some “dumb luck” (to quote my late, dear friend Barbara Harkey), these kids will turn out to be the very best of me and Scott…certainly with our very best efforts.