Changing Christmas Traditions, Part 1

by Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2012


“But we’ve always snapped photos in front of the tree on Christmas morning in your P.J.s. Remember, just before we christmas-tree-3-1409681-s1 open our stockings from Santa. You do want your stockings, right?” My guilt trips aren’t working, not even on the first day of advent. I pour it on. “You have limited Christmases at home before you graduate. You’ll be sorry some day that you didn’t let me buy you Christmas P.J.s,” I sniffle with a single tear rolling down my cheek.

“Mom, get a grip. We were in grade school when we wore Christmas pajamas. Need I remind you, I don’t wear pajamas anymore?”

Cringing at the thought of my thirteen-year-old son in, well…. I can’t go there. Why won’t they cooperate like when they were younger? “You know how important Christmas traditions are to this family.” Another sniffle and a second tear for affect.

“I’m too old for cutesy reindeer pajamas,” adds my twelve-year-old daughter. “Plus, I don’t let anyone take pictures unless my hair is done. And it better be a good hair day.”

“Just for this year,” I beg to no avail.

I’m about to run towards the mall bathroom for a pity party where surely there are other mothers of adolescents when my son admonishes me. “Lighten up, Mom. It’s not that we don’t like celebrating traditions. It’s just that we’re almost adults. Remember, we convinced you a few years ago we were too old for photos on Santa’s lap?”

I painfully recall that year. “It was hard, but I survived…somehow.”

“Mama, we loved all the traditions when we were younger. We don’t want to give them up, just adapt them so we’re not embarrassed,” my daughter adds. “Oh, and we want to include our friends just like we do the rest of the year.”

I’ve already been forced to give up some traditions. Now they want to change traditions, AND include other hormone-laced adolescents? What will it be next? The two of them insisting on an artificial tree to help save the environment?

Disturbed by these new fangled notions, I consider my options.

I can force them to celebrate and they’ll resent me and the reason we celebrate Christmas, to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday! Oh, I remember the Jesus Birthday parties we celebrated. The neighborhood kids brought canned food for the Angel Tree Project, listened to the Christmas story, and played fun holiday games. We already gave that up.

“Lord, why is changing Christmas traditions so hard for me? I’m letting them grow-up in other areas.”

The answer arrives in my own question. The meaning of traditions: handing down beliefs and customs, from generation to generation, especially by practice. It isn’t so much the specific way we express the traditions, but our beliefs behind the traditions.

I recount Luke 2:11: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (NIV). Then it dawns on me. Maybe it’s past time my kids learn the deeper meaning of Christmas and get involved serving others.


Looking at my two children, I mean, adolescents, I begin, “Never mind new pajamas. You’re not kids anymore. You’ve reminded me how important keeping our beliefs are, but how we practice our traditions can be modified. You’re becoming young adults who need to adapt expressing traditions that help you demonstrate that Christ is Lord of your life. You can tell me all about your ideas on the way home.”

P.S. Stay tuned for Part 2

“Are You There?” Hope Street: My Journey

Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D.

“This will be good news,” I hope, answering the long-awaited call. It’s the nurse from the clouds-and-blue-sky-1387467-sneurologist’s office. “The doctor has reviewed all your records. He’s referring you to Stanford Neurology,” she reports.

Stanford. Five years ago. My mind flashes back automatically to grand mal seizures that started at, of all places, McDonalds in East Palo Alto. Aren’t they supposed to serve Happy Meals there? Next, the terrifying ambulance ride to Stanford Hospital’s Emergency Room. Between seizures I weakly plead, “Can you make them stop?”
Nurse. The nurse interrupts my thoughts. “Ma’am,… Ma’am, are you there?”
“Yes…, I’m here,” I hesitantly reply while silently questioning, “God, are You there?”
I’m physically on the phone, but  my mind’s recalling my body seizing over and over again for three more hours on a narrow hospital bed shoved somewhere along the ER’s neglected hallway. I softly implore, “Why can’t they make them stop?” My husband shakes his head while gently holding my hand. Then my body forcefully thrashes again.
Questions? The nurse rattles off more information jolting me to the present. “Do you have any questions?” she finally concludes. “No, …No questions,” I whisper.
I hit end on my cell phone. Did I really just say, “No questions?” Yeah, I’ve got questions, but not for the nurse. “God, are you serious? Stanford? I can’t go back there. Do You remember how traumatic it was?”
Prayer. Recently I prayed, “Should I continue pursuing medical options or accept the reality of my brain impairment?”
You answer, “Stanford Epilepsy AND their Sleep Center?”
Returning to Stanford is the last place I’d choose for medical treatment. Maybe I should’ve made more specific requests, like, “Should I continue homeopathy treatments? What about acupuncture? Continue supplements? But Stanford?” Last time I was dismissed like a crazy woman voluntarily producing seizures.
Make Seizures Stop. I can’t force that horrendous day from my thoughts. Then the radiology tech inquires, “Can you make the seizures stop long enough for a CT scan?”
Can I make them stop? For hours my voice begs anyone who vaguely looks associated with a hospital, “Please, please stop my seizures.”  Shaking my head No, “I can’t make them stop,” I mutter.
Relief. Finally, a kind soul pushes medicine through my I.V. The seizures stop within seconds. My body is quiet and still, almost lifeless. As my body begins relaxing, calmness returns. Someone directs, “Your C.T. scan is normal. Sign these papers and you can go home.”
Another Nurse. A second nurse’s voice draws me back during another phone call. “We’ve scheduled you to arrive at the Stanford Neurology & Epilepsy Center on October 15. You’ll be staying with us for up to a week,” she explains. “We’ll be monitoring your brain 24/7 and videotaping you. Do you have any questions?”
Questions? How many can I list? The questions I asked God over five years ago are still unanswered. Sometimes I wonder, “Are you there, God?” But the question I asked Him a few months ago is now answered. Not in a way I expected nor desired. Today He answers in a clear, calm, reassuring voice. “I’m here. I’m sending you to Stanford.”
 

Seriously, the Phone Book?

by Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2012
“Seriously Mom. You’re going to use the phone book?”
While contemplating the Yellow Pages’ value, my daughter types in Papa Murphy’s, our zip code, and locates a coupon…all on line. In seconds, she’s ordering our garlic chicken pizza and cookie dough. I’m still wondering where I left my phone.
 “My six-week-old granddaughter is going to grow up without knowing about phone books,” I mutter. “When she’s older, she can use it as a booster seat,” my daughter jokes, trying to make me feel better. 

I don’t feel any better. How different will my grandchildren’s lives be from mine? How different than their parents’ lives? My two-year-old granddaughter has a “game” on her Grams’ phone, a recent Child Development Professor. How did I allow that? That’s not developmentally appropriate, I chastise myself.
Yesterday my four-year old grandson inquired, “Grams, where’s the video?” as I strap him in his car seat. “Gram’s car doesn’t have one. We can talk,” I proudly reply.  

Moment’s later my daughter directs me to Kylie Ann’s one month photos. “Just use the mouse and click on each photo,” she explains.  “It won’t work on the glass.”

“Just use the phone book,” she chuckles. “Now there’s a use for your phone book.” For a minute, I feel a little better. My phone book is still useful!
I return to my thoughts. My grandchildren won’t even know that phone books existed. What a different world they’ll live in; probably just as different as my childhood was from my great grandparents’ childhood. They didn’t know what telephone phone books were either.
.

 

Choices: Fast Food or Leftovers?

    by Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2012

While reading the latest magazine and waiting for an x-ray at the busy clinic, an eight-year-old girl hamburger-1198649-swith dark eyes and a curly brown ponytail catches my attention. Anything is more interesting than a magazine a few years old that no one has bothered to steal yet. The girl whispers a secret in her friend’s ear; they both giggle.

Anticipating an afternoon playing together, the mother casually inquires, “What do you want for lunch?”

Their faces beam as they simultaneously declare, “McDonald’s!”

Of course they want McDonald’s. What kid doesn’t?

“Well, we’re going to have leftovers from last night,” the mother casually comments.

The girls’ smiles fade.

No Intention. Leftovers, I ponder. Who wants leftovers when you think you’re going to get McDonald’s? My joy observing the girls dwindles. Another parent giving children a choice while she never intends to let them choose. It won’t be the last time I witness this dilemma.

In my last column, At What Age? the key question was, how are you intentionally allowing your child to make increasingly more choices and God honoring decisions as he or she launches into adulthood? Today we’ll explore giving children choices, benefits of choices, and building basic decision making skills.

Making Choices. Learning to make choices actually begins in toddlerhood. Parents and caregivers can give simple, either-or choices to children. “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt?” “Would you like yogurt or applesauce for snack?” Even toddlers can point to what they want. “Choices offered to young children must be legitimate and meaningful to them and acceptable to adults,” explains Dr. Sue Grossman in Early Childhood News. 1

Follow Through. Don’t give a choice if you don’t intend to follow through. The mother in the waiting room could have stated, “We have leftover casserole and macaroni salad for lunch today. Would you girls like to eat lunch outside on a picnic blanket or in the kitchen after our appointment?”

Simple Choices. In preschool, children can begin choosing from more than two options. My four-year-old grandson loves grocery shopping with Grams. Besides organizing the shelves, he proudly selects juice from a number of varieties or yogurt flavors. “Limiting the quantity of choices is actually helping your child be successful in the decision-making process,” notes Dr. Alexandra Delis-Abrams, author of Children, Choices, and Consequences. 2

Avoiding “NO.” In an effort to increase children’s choices, sometimes parents give children more choices than they’re developmentally ready for or are beyond their cognitive abilities. For example, “Do you want to go to bed now?” will most assuredly be answered, “No.” Where do you want to go on vacation may be answered, “Disneyland!” while you’re planning on a camping budget.

Contribute to Choices. Children do not get to make every choice, however, within many parent-made decisions, children can still contribute to choices. “Next week we’re going on a family campout. Do you want to go fishing, boating, hiking or swimming on Saturday?” “Do you want me to read you a story or would you like to read for ten minutes on your own before the lights go out?” Our daughters became so accustomed to making choices, that sometimes our response was, “This is not, Let’s Make a Deal. This is a parent decision.”

Choosing Activities. As children enter elementary school, helping them determine outcomes of choices becomes imperative. “I want to play soccer this year,” our six-year-old daughter shares. “It looks like fun.” But what does she really know about being on a soccer team? “Too many times a child is given the power to make the decision without the information first,” notes the founder of ABC Feelings. 2

Engaging Questions. Does my daughter understand that she must practice three times a week? Does she recognize that a coach will be teaching her how to play? What does she comprehend about teamwork, winning, and losing? Have we explained that if she chooses to play she’s expected to complete the twelve-week season? Although this may sound overwhelming for children, this discussion develops reasoning skills and accepting personal responsibility for choices which will serve them well for a lifetime.

Problem Solving. Helping school-age children determine possibilities before adolescence is invaluable and builds strong problem-solving foundations. Asking situational questions like, “What would you do if a stranger asked you to help him find his kitty?” to “What do you think about the decision Joey made on TV last night?” require critical thinking skills. Setting up situational scenarios and asking thought-provoking questions play a critical role in adolescence when the stakes are higher and the costs are greater.

“You are capable.” Allowing children to make choices helps them developmentally in several ways. Children build autonomy, a fancy word for independence. Adults make so many decisions for children, that when children get to choose they possess a sense of control. They feel validated when parents and other adults send the message, “You are capable. What you say is important and matters.” Training in problem solving empowers children for future decision-making. Children are more committed when they’ve made the choice for themselves.

Fond Memories. Our daughter chose soccer year after year. She even played a few winter sessions in the mud and rain, her favorite way to play. When my husband and I see children in soccer uniforms on fall Saturday mornings, it brings back fond memories…. watching her valiantly defending the goal, her excitement when she wins, and forming strong friendships. Then we remember the year she chose not to play soccer. And that’s another story.

Sources:

1. Dr. Sue Grossman, Ph.D. Offering Children Choices: Encouraging Autonomy and Learning While Minimizing Conflict, Early Childhood News. www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychldhood/article_print.aspx. Accessed June 20, 2012.

 

2. Alexandra Delis-Abrams, Ph.D. Children, Choices, and Consequences. www.abcfeelings.com Accessed June 20, 2012.


Dependence to Independence

by Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2012
 
Your blotchy, wrinkled newborn baby lays in your arms. Quickly forgotten is the pain of childbirth and angry threats, “I’m never having sex again.”
 
“He’s got your eyes,” coos daddy.
 
“We’ll be the best parents ever,” mommy tiredly suggests.
 
Your newborn or adopted child is a gift from God. And this gift is 100% dependent on you – the parent. The newborn needs you for everything: feeding, diapering, burping, rocking, holding, more feeding, more diapering. You capture all the “firsts” in pictures. As junior takes his first steps away from you, he is gaining independence.  You cry on her first day of kindergarten, certain that she will always be your little girl.
 
That is, until the day hormones kick in and your child retorts, “You can’t make me.” Your son begins middle school. Your daughter wants a strapless dress for 8th grade graduation. You comfort yourself that you still have four more years of high school. But the years continue to fly by even faster, and your young adult daughter or son stands at the threshold of adulthood crossing the graduation stage with diploma in hand.
 
With tear filled eyes and pride swelling in your heart, you wonder, “Did I prepare him? Does she know how much I love her? Will he remember the importance of God in his life? Will she become successful?”
 
The answer to those questions actually began before birth. What was your purpose and goals as parents? What plans did you make to help your son launch into adulthood? What skills would your daughter need to live independently?
 
Remember that 100% dependent newborn? Imagine that at age eighteen, your child is leaving the nest for college or vocational training, is serving our country, or becomes employed and is beginning to live on his/her own. Consider that 18-year-old 100% “independent.” Some young people will leave their homes earlier, while others leave later. However, for this example, if we use age 18, that means that at age nine, your child is 50% on his way to independence. At age 13 1/2, your teenager is 75% independent from you. Sound scary?
 
It is, unless you plan ahead and intentionally prepare your son or daughter to enter adulthood. Our intentional parenting purpose was, “To raise our children to live independently, become a contributing member of society, and love & serve the Lord.” Every parenting decision made was aimed toward that goal.
 
Whether your child is young or already a teenager, it is not too late to determine your parenting goal or philosophy. What’s your parenting purpose?   

At What Age?

 
At what age will you allow your children to DECIDE…
  • the condition of their bedroom?
  • the clothes they wear?
  • their hairstyle?
  • what television shows they view?
  • the music they listen to?
  • the movies they see?
  • the friends they choose?
  • pack their clothes for a trip?
  • how often they use their phone & texting?
  • what they do on their computer, IPod & other electronics?
  • when they do their homework?
  • the classes they take at school?
  • whether to attend church with you?
  • how they spend their money?
  • who they date & when?
  • where to work?
  • where they will live?
  • what career they’ll choose?
                 
In the last article, Dependence to Independence, the analogy of your children being 100% dependent on you at birth and becoming 100% independent from you as they launch into young adulthood, is the foundation to these questions. Is your nine-year-old making 50% of his/her daily decisions? Is your 12 1/2 year-old making 75% of his/her decisions? Of course, this isn’t an exact formula, but the key question is, How are you intentionally allowing your child to make increasingly more choices? I realize this concept is frightening, but it is even more frightening to launch a young person into today’s secular world not possessing the life-skills, responsibility, and decision making abilities to make God honoring choices throughout adulthood. It’s your privilege & responsibility to decide how you will train up your sons and daughters in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).