Jean Croker Petke

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Last Sunday Son and I were unexpectedly reminiscing with a friend. She shared her challenge of raising her kids in today’s “Age of Entitlement.” The conversation took Son and I to a time of our own, when he and his sister were teenagers.

Divorce had split our family. We were living in a strange town, trying to establish our new family of three. I worked sixty hours per week which left my two teenagers fending for themselves most days, including weekends. It was a terrible wonderful time, to paraphrase Maya Angelou. We forged our way, adjusting as we went. The memories are vivid; the lessons learned became life-tools. Here’s what we shared on Sunday morning.

Trust. Because automatic bank deposit wasn’t available, I gave Son my paycheck, saying, “Go directly to the bank, don’t stop any place for anything. This is all the money we have! You lose it, we have nothing.” He did as he was told. Every week.

Enough. Before we began our new life I prepared the kids. “We won’t have everything we’re used to having, but we’ll have everything we need.” We learned to choose dinner out or a movie, dinner home tonight so we can have ice cream treats on the weekend. We set priorities as a family.

Vacation. We had no time or money for vacation. “I’ll be home for an hour,” I told Daughter on the phone. “We’ll have vacation time.” She and Son figured out what they wanted to do and for one hour, as a family, we had fun. We didn’t talk about chores, work, or school. To this day, we take mini vacations — life-restoring breaks from daily hassles.

Family. We worked hard to have any time together as a family. The kids learned, that if they took care of their responsibilities, we had more time together. It took all of us, communicating and doing, to carve out such sacred time. Fifteen minutes felt like an entire afternoon; one day was like a weekend. Even shopping was family time: each person got their chosen time or activity; we learned patience and appreciation as we waited our own turn.

Money. While we as a family had to live within our means, the expectation when the kids went to college was that they do the same. And they did, most of the time. The first phone call home asking for funds because of a money-management error was humbling. Lesson learned. On their own after graduation, the guiding principle was, “Live within your means and don’t ask me for money. When you succeed, I’ll take you on vacation.” The kids got a vacation they couldn’t afford and I got time with my children. A win-win for everyone.

Problem. I used to think that if I talked (nagged) enough that the nearly-grown kids would do as I wished.  During some particular difficulties, I got the message in my meditation time: “You need to be quiet. Quit talking. You’re part of the problem.” I wanted to argue. “Stop!” came the reply. And so I did. I only responded to communication the kids initiated. And yes, behavior changed.

These lessons are poignant because we learned together — as adult and kids.  We survived the challenges; the lessons learned were for a lifetime — both theirs and mine.

What have you and your kids learned together?

Until next Tuesday . . .

2 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Sally Chiles Shelburne -

    Jean, I read this and am happy to know your stage in life. Obviously, I have lost touch. Yet your words are poignant, amply fill a know gap of “not knowing” and speak of succeeding after a hard tumble. Keep writing. A long ago friend who appreciates you. Sally Chiles Shelburne

    • jcpetke -

      Thanks, Sally, for reading a commenting. I read your column for many years, so I guess we are swapping roles. It’s good to hear from you.

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