Only One Chance For That First Talk

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I took Sawyer on a morning walk by the elementary school just a block away from our home. School was in session and I smiled as I passed the bustling kindergarten playground in my double wide stroller. I spotted a boy with the same wild hair as Wesley. My smile faded and I felt my heart sink into my stomach.

It was a familiar feeling. The kind that comes when some milestone suddenly sneaks up on me and I realize that the moment I have been counting down to…the moment I thought I would be so excited for…that moment approaches and I realize I’m not ready for it to arrive.

This time next year will be that moment.
The moment I take this very walk with Wesley…to drop him off at kindergarten.

One of those hard-to-swallow-balls welled up inside my throat and I blinked back tears as I pushed on, eyes fixed on three boys running across the playground. They were screaming and giggling and making what I could only assume were super hero actions.  It was cute and I saw my Wesley in their faces. Two boys were running ahead while a third trailed behind, not quite as fast as his new buddies. “Hey guys, wait up. Wait up. Can I play too?”

He shouted repeatedly after the boys.
But they didn’t hear him.
Or they weren’t listening.
I’m not sure which it was.
I just know that the third boy never caught up—just kept trailing behind begging to be included.

In the grand scheme of things I suppose this moment was probably just a blip in this boys life.
Likely something he will never remember.
Or…maybe he will.
Especially if it happens again tomorrow.
And the next day.

We’ve all been that boy before—the one left out.
And we’ve all been the other boy—the one running off ahead.

While I have about a zillion fears and anxieties about sending Wes off to kindergarten,
this is perhaps my biggest fear.
Not that he’ll be the boy left behind,
but that he’ll be the boy who doesn’t stop and turn around.

And how do you teach that to your child?
No really, I want to know.
I need to know.

I need to know how I raise children who radiate kindness and understand compassion.
How can I ensure that I raise children who include their peers, reach out, use kind words, speak softly and bring light to others?

As the boys get older, I spend a lot of my time thinking about what I’ll say when they approach me with life’s most important questions and difficult situations.  I rehearse what I’ll say when they disappoint me–the first time they bring home a poor grade without studying, the first time they really hurt someone’s feelings, the first time they disobey the house rules, the first time they ask about drugs or alcohol or…sex.

I recognize that Ben and I only have one chance to have a “first” conversation about the life lessons that matter most. And while the television shows and books I know and love make those scripted parenting conversations seem so effortless and almost poetic, I know it won’t be quite as smooth when I’m in that moment. There will only be one chance to comfort their first broken heart. One chance to console them after the first time they don’t make the team or aren’t voted in for student council. Only one shot to say the right thing–the thing that gives them the courage to keep trying, the thing that inspires them to make the right choices.

What have been your most difficult conversations in parenthood?

I ask because I have so much gratitude for the lessons you’ve learned along your journey.
I’m in awe of you.
Those of you who have paved the road of parenthood.
Those of you in the trenches at this very moment.
I read your stories, soak in the comments you leave here and give thanks that we now live in a world where it has become more acceptable to remind one another that we’re not alone in our journey–a world where perfectionism is becoming less welcome, and embracing the chaos that is “real life” is encouraged. Thank you for helping to create this type of world. And thank you for taking the time to share your hearts.

UPDATE: Some of your comments and emails made me realize that I may have been a bit unclear at times in this post. Particularly in regard to the “one chance” section. One momma said it best in her comment left here in regards to a rough patch in parenting: I sat back and I thought, next time I’ll do better. I love this. And I agree wholeheartedly. I know some of you thought I was implying that we only get once chance in parenthood. That was not at all my intention. Rather I was trying to talk about the nerves I have regarding those “FIRST” conversations with my children on life’s most important lessons. The FIRST time they talk to me about things that matter. The reality is that there will only be one “first” conversation…and I think a lot about what my children will remember about what I say in those moments.  I also love what some of you have said about finding every opportunity to discuss life’s important lessons with our kids–to take the time to make them a part of our every day conversations so that all the pressure doesn’t lie in that “first conversation” but rather becomes an open dialogue between parent and child. I love this too. Lucky for me, parenthood is full of second chances and do-overs.  For me, parenthood is a series of lessons learned…and as our momma friend said, parenthood is a series of “next time I’ll do better” moments.

Ashley Stock
I'm Ashley. Sometimes I craft, occasionally I cook, everyday I write, and I'm always Momma. This is my blog. I keep it real while still seeing the rainbows and butterflies in all of life's lessons.
Ashley Stock
Ashley Stock
Ashley Stock

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Comments

  1. Love this post! I have a one year old and am so glad that I have time right now. Time to think about the future and what kind of person I hope to help mold her into. Time to catch my mistakes before I make them. Time to realize that those mistakes won’t always get caught. She’s my first born, but I come from a big family and I’ve learned a few things. I had a sis who had a son at a young age, so we all raised him together. I remember taking him aside as much as I could to remind him how to be a good person. How to always try and include people. How to be polite. How to think about others. We all did this for him. I think if Wesley is reminded of these things daily, but in a subtle way, you’ll do just fine. Our little guy grew up to be one of the nicest, thoughtful kids I know. It’s not that we see it everyday in him, but it’s in the stories that come back to us, by friends, family, teachers, and bosses. I am going to try my best to raise my daughter and and any other child I have in the same way.

  2. Our children are grown up adults with families of their own–but it truly feels like just a few yesterdays ago they were your boys ages. We had those same feelings–are we raising our children to not only be good, but do good in their lives. My Mom and Dad always raised us four girls by one rule to live by–The Golden Rule–Do Unto Others–and it has always, always made an impact on me and my sisters lives. My husband and I raised our three children by this rule also. We gave them lots and lots of love, we raised them with boundaries and responsibilities, and consequences for behaviors, and also to always remember what they do or not do to or for someone else could just as easily be done to them. And how they felt and reacted is the very same way someone else feels. And those feelings are not pleasant to experience or cause. We were blessed to always have our children complimented by teachers and family and strangers that they were kind and polite and helpful to others. They had their moments–believe me! But we have always been proud to call them our children, and are so proud of the adults they have become. From what I can see by reading your blog and looking at those happy faces–you and your husband are doing just fine now and will do so as they grow older…

  3. It’s so tough isn’t it. Before our older two started kindergarten, we sat down and had a talk with them. We asked them how they would feel if they wanted to play / talk / share with a classmate and that person said no or ignored them or was mean back to them. We listened quietly while they said they would feel sad, lonely, nervous etc and then simply said, well what will you do if someone asks to play / talk / share with you? You could see their little minds taking it in. Then they both answered that they will say yes and be nice to them cos they don’t want to make them feel bad. And you know what, that’s exactly what they do. We have little refreshers on the topic from time to time, when they are being a little snarky to each other to make sure it doesn’t carry over to the school environment.

    Both of them make such a big effort with it and they take notice of when others aren’t doing the same thing. They step up and go to the people being excluded, left behind, picked on and ask them to play with them. It’s an amazing thing to see. They still get left out, ignored, etc at times but they have the confidence to just walk away, brush it off and go find someone else to play with. They come home and tell me all about it, I reassure them that it is okay not everyone will want to be their friend, but that doesn’t mean they are bad people or not likeable. They have other friends who they can spend their time with.

    Who to say what we are doing is right, all I know is that it’s working for us right now.

  4. JessicaLynn says:

    I had one of these moments yesterday as I let my pleading for the last week four year old ride the bus, it broke my heart to let him go and he’s begging again this morning to ride again, thank The Lord I have to bring his three year old brother to school three days a week this year so he can only ride the bus a couple of them. I didn’t realize though that I’d been hoping he’s hate it and just want me to take him.

    I also hope to encourage them to not be hurt when they’re left out and to not leave others out. It’s a hard thing to learn myself so I think that makes it harder to teach. It’s amazing how much self discovery happens when we become parents.

  5. Go with your gut. Ask lots of open ended questions and prepare yourself for some wild answers you may not be ready to hear. Always remind them they can come to you with anything. Be yourself. Love them for who they are. Prepare to feel like a failure at times, but just remember that you are doing the best job you can. :)

  6. Despite everything you can say to them – practice what you preach.

    • Yes, that is what I was going to say!! Don’t just tell them, show them!

      “Your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

  7. I am not a momma yet but I remember when I was a teenager and I made some choices that weren’t the best. Instead of yelling at me my parents sat me down in their room and told me quietly and calmly how much they love me; that would never change. They said they were disappointed in me because they know I can do better and that I know better. I remember sitting there feeling awful and wishing they would yell at me so I could yell back at them and then maybe I wouldn’t feel so guilty. I didn’t want to disappoint them ever again! I think that was so effective to motivate me to make the right choices. My parents made sure they knew I was loved but still let me know that I could do better. If they had yelled and screamed at me it would have probably turned into a fight with me rebelling even more. I think it is so important for parents to do their best to be calm in difficult situations and let kids know they are loved no matter what they do or don’t do.

  8. Very touching! But I disagree 100% about only having one chance! We have 4 kids, ages 1-11 and we talk about all these topics openly and regularly and as they come up. Sex, drugs, racism, sexism, alcohol; these are all prevalent in our culture and the ONLY way to make them a non-issue is to make them a non-issue in your home.
    See those kids running from those kids? Point it out to your boys and ask what they see and how they think the other one feels. Flipping through the station and see an ad for teen mom? Take a moment to talk to your 11 year old about safe sex and respect for ones body. Don’t stumble, go with confidence, and teach them right from wrong, by modeling it and by teaching them instead of assuming they are too young to understand.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, they have inspired me to make an update to this post:

      UPDATE: Some of your comments and emails made me realize that I may have been a bit unclear at times in this post. Particularly in regard to the “one chance” section. One momma said it best in her comment left here in regards to a rough patch in parenting: I sat back and I thought, next time I’ll do better. I love this. And I agree wholeheartedly. I know some of you thought I was implying that we only get once chance in parenthood. That was not at all my intention. Rather I was trying to talk about the nerves I have regarding those “FIRST” conversations with my children on life’s most important lessons. The FIRST time they talk to me about things that matter. The reality is that there will only be one “first” conversation…and I think a lot about what my children will remember about what I say in those moments. I also love what some of you have said about finding every opportunity to discuss life’s important lessons with our kids–to take the time to make them a part of our every day conversations so that all the pressure doesn’t lie in that “first conversation” but rather becomes an open dialogue between parent and child. I love this too. Lucky for me, parenthood is full of second chances and do-overs. For me, parenthood is a series of lessons learned…and as our momma friend said, parenthood is a series of “next time I’ll do better” moments.

  9. ugh! just got a quick moment (while @ work) to read your blog post & so glad I did!! I too am a mother of 2 boys 12 & 8 & still think of those “firsts” that still will come up even at this age. The one I struggle with at the moment is the passing of my youngest sister. This was not one that I was not prepared for in my Parenthood of firsts. My sister passed away a year & a half ago of a heroin OD. Completely sudden. Completely heartbroken. My boys have only known that their Auntie was sick & THATS ALL. While, at this point the 8yr old may be a little young to understand fully. My 12 year old I believe is at the age that he will understand…the only problem is I AM TERRIFIED TO DEATH to talk to him about it. Sure he knows drugs are bad, but when it hits this close to home of this magnitude; you can NEVER be prepared. My husband is extremely supportive of letting me tell him when I am ready & will be by my side when I do…I just wish I did it months ago. So, while I play it in my head on almost a weekly basis of how I’m going to start the convo with my son or get that sickly stomach ache while we are alone driving in the car, just as the words are going to come out of my mouth…I stop & chicken shit out.
    I know one day soon I will get to that point of chicken shitting out & be a big girl because lets face it I have another little nugget to talk to about this when he is old of enough to understand as well. Soon, I say it all the time, but maybe I’m just waiting for that perfect opportunity, that perfect moment when I wont be a blubbering mess. This is one time being the parent sucks!

    • Hugs to you! I empathize in the fact my little sister passed and I do think about what I will tell my girl when the time comes. Sending love and light your way!!!
      xoxo.

    • Oh michelle, this must be so tough and my heart reaches out to you. I am sorry for your loss and I pray for you as you prepare to tell your kiddos. you’ve got this :) xoxo

  10. Sweet Ashley.
    Your boys WILL be kind and bring SO MUCH light to others because they are mini versions of YOU and that is EXACTLY how I remember you as a girl! You learned from YOUR momma and they will learn from THEIR momma. That’s how it works. None of us are perfect, our parenting is not perfect. We do the best we can ALWAYS and somehow it all works out. Never forget that God’s hand is on your shoulder and He will guide you through. Don’t ever doubt that….and stop doubting yourself, missy!!! YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!

  11. It’s never one moment or one talk or one lesson. It’s years of moments, and talks, and lessons and doing unto other and having been done unto… it’s a process full of failure and success.

  12. I recall all those feelings as though they were a week or two ago. The best is that they see us doing what we hope for them. I recall my son’s teacher telling me about what a champion he was to the challenged children that had their classes at his school. When I spoke to him about it and how pleased I was and how did he know them and all the other questions a mother has when this sort of pleasant surprise arises. His explanation was that they needed defending and he knew it was the sort of thing his mother would do. whoa !! talk about a glimpse in the mirror. The irony is that his second child is Down Syndrome. I call his a God thing.

  13. Wow, that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself….only one chance to say the right thing. Sure, we all want to have the perfect words at just the right moment to make their world all right. But the truth is, we’re human and imperfect and just trying to figure it out as we go along. The hardest conversations? A the single mother of a 16 year old and a Special Needs 12 year old, both boys, most of them are hard. I hit a rough patch with my oldest and had some yelling and screaming stints that I’m not proud of. I sat back and thought, “Next time I’ll do better.” And I told him so. I get frustrated with my youngest and at the end of some days (like yesterday!) I tell myself that tomorrow I will do better. I enjoyed your post, as I do all of them, but I really hope we get more than one chance.

    • thank you for sharing your thoughts–they have inspired me to make an update to this post:

      UPDATE: Some of your comments and emails made me realize that I may have been a bit unclear at times in this post. Particularly in regard to the “one chance” section. One momma said it best in her comment left here in regards to a rough patch in parenting: I sat back and I thought, next time I’ll do better. I love this. And I agree wholeheartedly. I know some of you thought I was implying that we only get once chance in parenthood. That was not at all my intention. Rather I was trying to talk about the nerves I have regarding those “FIRST” conversations with my children on life’s most important lessons. The FIRST time they talk to me about things that matter. The reality is that there will only be one “first” conversation…and I think a lot about what my children will remember about what I say in those moments. I also love what some of you have said about finding every opportunity to discuss life’s important lessons with our kids–to take the time to make them a part of our every day conversations so that all the pressure doesn’t lie in that “first conversation” but rather becomes an open dialogue between parent and child. I love this too. Lucky for me, parenthood is full of second chances and do-overs. For me, parenthood is a series of lessons learned…and as our momma friend said, parenthood is a series of “next time I’ll do better” moments.

  14. Love, love, love this! I have that same welling up feeling right now as I think about it. I love the open dialogue idea. But I too have those same fears. What I say in those first conversations, and how I react is important. And I am afraid I will say the wrong thing. Or it won’t be good enough. Thanks for always being honest, it is so helpful and refreshing.

    xoxo,

    Misty

  15. This is soooo true. Last night, my four year old asked me about heaven. My sister died as a baby, so he has visited the cemetery with us and between that and when our cat died last year, he’s starting to ask about being buried and going to heaven and things. MAN I felt the pressure. I wanted to be honest, but not upset him or say too much as to have him ask the horrible questions, like will he go there, etc.

  16. I have been struggling with this too, especially since my 5 year old seems to be picking up the opposite of what I hope to teach him! Thanks for bringing up the topic & putting the request out there. One way I have succeeded so far is to always be honest with my boys. They both know they can count on me to give them a real, true answer when they have a question, big or little.

  17. I have always said that other people raised my children. By this I mean: I always took my children on a lot of day trips, shopping, etc. On one trip we seen a small child having a fit because his mom wouldn’t let him have something he wanted. I then talked to my children and pointed out all of the people who looking at the scene. I then asked my children if they would want all of those people looking at them like that. I think they were embarassed at the whole event. And every opportunity I had I would make the children to look at the event and of course they didn’t like what they saw. You will do fine through your love and God’s help. We would play games like when we at the grocery store and people has sad faces I said to the children to smile at the people and see if they smiled back and sure enough the people did. I could go on and on but now you can see why that other helped me raise my children.

  18. I cried when I read this. Caitlin has been that “left behind” child. And it not only hurts my mama heart, but it’s hard to stay positive in those situations. I try to always tell Caitlin that sometimes that’s just the way things are, but that we should continue to be kind. I’ve even helped find other children for her to play with, and we have fostered other friendships. It is so hard. Conversations like this, about different personalities, about people who behave differently than us. Hang in there. You will find the words, you will find the grace, and you always have the love for your two boys front and center. No doubt. Soon the child that was left behind, is now the leader. And if we do it right, they are leading with kindness and grace.
    XOXO
    Megan

  19. Pray Daily. You and Ben together. Pray Alone. On your knees at their bedside while they sleep. Fervently Pray for wisdom, patience, guidance. Raising kids, boys especially, requires wisdom of Solomon and determination of an Olympian.

    I have two boys as well, 5 & 7. My heart just ached as my oldest walked aimlessly into his kindergarten class the first day of school couple years ago…my heart burdened with the same thoughts and fears as you have. Guide them and LOVE them…TRUST them that they were raised to know to make the right choices. You and Ben will have hurdles, but deal with them one at a time…they won’t come at you all at once :)

    I LOVE your blog and look foward to your posts.
    check out :”Bringing up Boys” by Dr. James Dobson. It’s amazing.
    Blessings,
    Brooke

  20. Ashley, I don’t have children but have heard wonderful things about the book “Bringing Up Boys” by Dr. James Dobson, a Christian author. It might offer insight for some of those difficult conversations. Just a thought :)

  21. Oops…just realized after my comment posted that the one above it also recommended the same book. Didn’t mean to be redundant.

  22. Ashely, this post came at the perfect time for me. My 6-year old just switched schools, and each day after school he tells me plays alone at recess. It kills me inside to think of him all alone, but I know this is a phase, and it will all work out. I agree with your update, that as parents, we have many “redos” (thank goodness!). Here is what I try to do: express my unwavering love for my boys, talk often about our family rules about kindness, and praise them for talking to us openly (the good and the bad). Your heart will lead you to the right words as those moments come.

    Thank you for your post!

  23. Ever single day I have dropped my 6 year old off at school for the last 2 years I always kiss him, hug him and say “make good choices today.” I feel like it gives him some empowerment and also makes him think. Throughout our experiences the last 6 years I have always pointed out bad choices people have made and good ones. I know he is only 6 but I hope it works. :)

  24. It feels like you described me. Like, yesterday.
    But my baby boy is 14 now. He will turn 15 in December.
    My second baby, a girl is now 12.
    My last baby girl just went to school for the first time this month.
    (she is in first grade. I had her at home up till now)
    I think the whole school thing was and still is the hardest thing I have done with my kids. almost 10 years since I put my “wesley” in Kindergarten…I still get a ball in my throat. I still remember that day I let him go and I sat up at the top of the hill, where I could watch all those little faces line up, and I sobbed.
    It feels like such an unnatural thing. You have wrapped this being up in your arms and cocoon and protected them and nourished them with all the lessons you could. And then, just like that, you send them off and let them go. You don’t really know what they will do that day. you don’t really know if they will be “that” boy who gets left behind. Or
    that boy” that turns around and reaches out.
    It’s with a leap of faith every single day that I still do it.
    You will lay awake at night wondering if you said the right thing about that mean girl at lunch. If you gave them good advice. If you have taught them well enough to this point.
    But, you have tomorrow and the next day to teach them, to lead a good example by reaching out to that person behind you. Holding the door. saying thank you to everyone. Sticking up for yourself in the most sincerely kind way that you can in those situations. Telling them sorry when you know, you were wrong.
    I think my biggest fear, was that I would send them off and that they no longer would learn from me. And what if someone taught them something wrong. What if someone was not kind to them? What if I couldn’t protect them? But you know what, I was wrong. They have us. They have me in their hearts and minds. Yours will have you. They know how to do the right thing. It will be okay. It will hurt, because you would do anything for those tiny humans. But you have poured your whole self into them. SO they will have it. Even when, you are not right there.

  25. I think those conversations are important – those big milestone ones. The ones about what truly matter to us. But I think even more important is who we are. I know I focus so much on what I do and how I treat my kids and what I say and whatnot, but deep down, who I am matters more I think. I was just reading an article about mean girls who have mean moms, and I’m just not sure mean kids come from nice parents. Yes, of course, everyone will be mean at times and act in disappointing manners. But who we are speaks much more loudly than what we say to our kids. If they see us act with compassion, if they see us responding from a place of self respect, if they see us building up rather than tearing down, I think deep down they will strive for the same.

    I don’t know how many million nights I have lied awake worrying about this very issue. Since my childhood I remember believing that I would rather raise the bullied than the bully. But now that I have kids, I fear the bullied. I see how deeply it can affect a child’s self-esteem. So now I find myself worrying about how to emulate compassion along with self-respect. I want to teach my girls to love unconditionally and to teach them that a bully’s opinion of them doesn’t matter.

    We all know sex and drugs and the Internet are scary worlds for parents. But for me, this stuff scares me a lot more.

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