Youth Mentoring

My Children are such special individuals, each with his or her own talents and personalities and so different from the other even though all three were raised in the same household.

The first born child is thought of as a reflection of the parent and probably the most difficult to nurture because so much is expected from them as well as the knowledge of the parent and this was the case for my first born daughter. It has always been my belief that children are gifts and are on loan, and as parents we should be careful how we teach them and discipline them. Too many parents when angry lash out and strike the inner person with cruel words that hurt the self esteem. It was the action they did that was bad, not the child that was bad. It seemed that to be a successful parent your child had to be one of the first and the best at reading and math and of course do well in sports especially in the elementary grades. We are from a small community where most know each other and of course we moms compared notes on how well our children did with each other. You learn what will and won’t break in the course of raising the first one and especially if there are some years between the siblings.

My oldest and I have always had a special bond and are able to visit about anything that might have happened in her day’s events. She would come in at her curfew and sit at the foot of our bed and talk about her friends and the things that upset her or made her happy. We have had a couple spats, but because we are able to visit can come to an agreement. She is three years older than her sister and eight years older than her little brother.

She was a good student through high school and probably most certainly could have done better scholastically, but you know how turbulent being a teenager is and how they need their friends. On occasion she did have some bouts with the blues and everyone was stupid and she hated her school and someday was going to get far away from this dumb town. She didn’t have a car, depended on friends for rides to school, wore over sized t-shirts and baggy jeans and had a part-time job at the local theater. One day in her senior year she came home angry and mentally crushed from the not so carefully spoken words of a guidance counselor who told her that she was not college material and probably wasn’t going to be successful in life and though she was a good artist, there were many starving artists in the world. As a mother I told my disheartened young daughter that the guidance counselor was very wrong and that she had the power to show this teacher how wrong she was.

At this time there was a popular television show “Cops,” and you could usually count on my daughter watching this show and singing the opening tune, “bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do when they come for you?” As time approached for graduation I must confess that I helped pave the way for her to talk to an Army recruiter about going into the career of an Army Military Police Officer and hoped it would give her some direction.

When she graduated from high school and went off to join the Army that was my most challenging time as a mother. She took the oath and was hustled off to parts unknown, so petite and young, thinking that she knew it all, but knowing nothing about the world. I worried about her making it through boot camp, but I knew that she had the fortitude and determination of any boy. They had her paint a picture of a tough Army GI Jane on the wall of her dorm that stated, “Who said it’s a man’s Army?” She finished Boot camp with a stress fracture in her upper leg, but she did it and was sent off to another destination where she knew no one.

So much we Americans take for granted. I remember getting a call from her at three in the morning our time when she was in Germany, she was all excited about the sound of a flushing toilet after having spent time where running water wasn’t available. I worried about her when she was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Times when you wanted to pick up the phone and just hear their voice and you can’t. Or times that you don’t hear from them for weeks and are aware of about where they might be and you know that the news papers and television is blaring events from around the world that are horrific and you know in your mind and heart, that no news is good news.

I’m happy to say that my daughter finished her contract in the Army. She is now using her much earned GI bill for college and has earned her first degree with honors and is getting ready to start her next degree at another well known eastern university as she climbs the educational ladder in the field of Mental Health. Whether she is a counselor helping teens or a psychiatrist helping our military with post traumatic disorder syndrome, I know that she will be giving someone else the guidance to feeling better and hopefully contributing to our society for the better. That she will tell them they can, instead of they can’t.

It seems a lot of children are put into dance, gymnastics, or any number of different sports. Always busy doing something and going somewhere, but in a way that’s alright because before you know it, they are all grown up and the scraped knees, braids, curls, and ribbons are gone and they are moving to different parts of the country or world. Guard your child’s inner self, enjoy them and get to know them, they are with you such a short time.