Sunday, May 20, 2018

Graduating to the Future-Let's Help Them Learn to "Walk"

It's graduation season. The "walk" that began with a toddler's first steps all those years ago is about to become a full-on gallop into the future. I remember when I walked across my high school graduation stage. I had a mixture of relief, exuberance, and sheer fear! 

I remember when my daughters walked across that stage. I had a mixture of relief, exuberance, and sheer fear! I bet you can relate.

Graduation is more than a rite of passage. It is more than a celebration of accomplishments in the past. It is a gateway to what is ahead. Some graduating students are headed to the next level of higher education. Some are headed to the workforce. Some are headed to the armed forces. Some don't know where they are headed. All of them are looking into that scary thing called the "future." Will it be fun? Will it be hard? Will it hurt? Yes, yes, and yes.

As parents, grandparents, friends, and co-workers of these graduates, we have a responsibility. We are charged with helping them find their way, helping them define their goals and dreams, and with guiding them in the best ways of achieving those goals and dreams. How do we do that?

Here are three suggestions.

Listen to them. The graduate in your life is happy. Happy to be OUT OF SCHOOL. Happy to be FREE. (Yeah, I know. They'll get that reality check later.) Happy to be INDEPENDENT. (That one, too.) But, they are also scared. They are moving into new territory- whether that territory is middle school, high school, college or grad school. They have fears about what awaits them. When they talk to you about those fears, resist the urge to tell them "It will be okay," or  to say, "This is how I handled it,"  or worse, "This is how you should handle it." Sometimes, your graduate doesn't need to hear your advice or platitudes. Sometimes, they just need to talk. Let them. You might be surprised at what they work out on their own, just because you had the restraint to LISTEN and let them talk through things out loud.

Be available. When my daughters went off to college, I felt like a piece of my body had been torn off. I seriously felt physical pain. Can any of you relate? When I saw their cell numbers pop up on my phone, I felt instant healing. And, I don't care if I was talking to my boss, my mama, or my preacher, I instantly took their call. Sometimes they were calling with a problem they needed help with. Sometimes they were calling for money. Sometimes they were just calling to say "hey." Sometimes, I wonder if they were testing me just to see if I would answer. I always did. When your graduate is navigating new and scary territory they need a safe place they can go... and they need it when they need it, not when it's convenient for you. Be that safe place for them.

Be an encourager but not a fixer. It's hard for parents to let go. I get that. My daughters are in their 20's and I still want to rush in and fix everything for them. That's not doing them any favors. If you want your adult children to survive and thrive in this world, you need to let them handle some things on their own. And, you need to encourage them in their efforts to do that. How? By reinforcing their good ideas for solutions to problems, and by GENTLY guiding (not prodding or forcing) them away from questionable solutions/people/situations. A good way to do this is to ask them questions like: "What might happen if you did this?" and "What might happen if you don't do that?" Trust that you raised good kids. And, don't be afraid to let them fall. They will learn how to get up again and they will be stronger for it. Hug them when they are hurting. Let them cry. Then, tell them how proud you are of them, whether they succeed---or fail. Then, tell them again. And, again. And, again. 

These are just 3 of my suggestions for helping graduates move to the next stage of life. I bet you have some great advice, too! I'd love for you to post that advice here on the blog,  or on my Facebook Twitter pages. Hashtag it #graduationadvice2018 and let's see where it takes us and where it takes them! 


Sunday, May 13, 2018

"That" Mom

I am "that" mom. You know. The one who saved every daily progress report from her daughters' pre-school. The one who saved every coloring sheet from kindergarten. The one who saved every pair of ballet slippers, even the ones that smelled like a dirty gym bag. The one who actually saved the tiny paper holes her 5-year-old sat on the floor punching for HOURS! Yep. I saved it all.

Except for the afternoon I didn't.

I'd had a day. In the newsroom where I worked as an anchor, I'd faced one obstacle after another. On the drive home, I'd hit every red light and traffic jam, and gotten behind every bobo driver on the road. My day had been filled with clutter.

While unpacking the girls' things I pulled out a fistful of coloring papers. I just couldn't face the idea of any more clutter. So, I (gasp) looked over my shoulder, saw the coast was clear, opened the kitchen waste can, moved the things on top around, stuffed the papers inside, and covered them up. It was just one day's worth of coloring papers, right? I felt so guilty, I almost pulled them back out. Almost.

A while later, she came bounding into the kitchen. At some point, she opened the waste can and... you guessed it! She spied the papers, dug them out, turned her sweet little face and big blue eyes up to me and said, "Mommy! Why did you throw my art away? Don't you like it?"

Moments like that make you realize just how important the job of mothering is. Children, regardless of their age, look to us not just for love, but for guidance, encouragement, and even validation. We have to be mindful of our words and actions, even when we are tired or upset. Our words and actions have the power to wound or to heal. Healing words can change a life for the better. Wounds from words may take a lifetime to heal if they ever do.

Yes, mothering is a big job. We face sleepless nights ruled by a colicky 3-month-old. We face fearful nights the first time our teenager drives away in the family car by herself. We face heartbreaking nights when our child cries herself to sleep because of hurt feelings, lost love, or the cruelties of life.

But, we also face deliriously happy times. The first smile, tooth, or step. The way they look for you when they score on the soccer field, dance stage, or spelling bee. The nights they poke their head in your bedroom to say "I'm home, Mom. Night, I love you." 
Mothering is a big job. The stakes are high. You're handed this tiny, wrinkled little bundle of newness and you panic, thinking, "Okay.. what now?" Then you pray that you won't mess it up. You pray that somehow, God will give you the wisdom- and the wits - to raise this living, breathing creation of amazing wonderfulness into a bright, happy, productive human being. You pray. Then you pray again.

I'll never forget the mornings my daughters were born. When they were handed to me, they looked straight into my eyes. From that moment on, we were forever connected- not by an umbilical cord, but by a connection stronger than any piece of steel. We were connected- through thick and thin, good times and bad, joy and sorrow. My daughters are the only two people who have ever heard my heartbeat from the inside. I love them just as much today as I did the mornings they were born. More- if that's even possible. 

And, God must have heard my prayers. Because I did mess up. I said words I shouldn't have. I didn't say words I should have. I gave bad advice. I lost my cool. I tossed coloring papers in the trash. But, God, and my daughters, were bigger than my mistakes. My girls, Avery and Lauren, have grown into beautiful, bright, happy, successful young women. 

Am I still "that" mom? You bet. I keep every text, email, and card I receive from them. I press flowers they send me in wax paper, frame their artwork from years gone by, and fill up my office and home with books and bibles from their childhood. Clutter? Absolutely not. They are cherished memories of a lifetime of love and laughter. They are a reminder that we continue to make new memories... as mother and daughters, and as friends. And, on this Mother's Day, I give thanks to God that He placed these incredible human beings in my life. I am better for having known- and grown- them.

Happy Mother's Day? You bet it is.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

It's Time to Date Your Mate!

     May is National Date Your Mate Month. Who knew we needed an entire month to remind us of the importance of dating our mate? I mean, really."We've been married forever. We're together all the time, right? She knows I love her. He knows I appreciate him. We have jobs, kids, laundry, civic obligations. The days are long, but the time is short. Who has even a minute to plan and actually go out on a date? Seriously?"


     One of the major reasons couples grow apart, become lonely, and even end up parting is because they lose the sense of passion, spontaneity, and intimacy of the early days and years. Holding hands, full-on kissing, dancing, and even talking fall by the wayside. They're replaced by colic, bills, household maintenance, and long hours on the job. This isn't about assigning fault. It's not intentional. It's just life getting in the way. But we don't have to let it! Who wouldn't want the opportunity to add a spark to the days... and nights? Scratch that. Don't aim for a spark. Aim for a 3 alarm fire! 

     Date Your Mate Month provides you with the perfect opportunity. I'm going to help you with suggestions for fun ways to infuse your relationship with romance, passion, and fun! Starting today, I'll be posting daily "Date Your Mate" tips on my website Use some of them. Use all of them. Mix them up or take them in order. The point is to use this month to become intentional about expressing to your mate just how much you love them. Don't just say it, though. DO something about it. It doesn't have to be expensive or involved. Sometimes the simplest gestures that come straight from the heart are the ones that make the most impact and stir up the passion.

     Let’s get started.

     For guys: Remember how your dates used to start… and end? I’m guessing it was with a kiss. Not just a peck on the lips or Heaven forbid- the cheek. No, I’m thinking you laid a lip-lock on that woman that made her toes tingle! It’s time to get the electricity flowing again. Today, every time you see your mate, kiss her. Full-on kiss her! Follow that kiss by whispering “I love you,” into her ear. Ask her out on a date, then begin making plans. Yep. I’m advising YOU to plan the date. Sure, it will take some time. But time is one of the most precious gifts we can give the person we love. Low on ideas? That’s okay. I’ll be posting “date night” suggestions in the coming days. You just keep checking the website. In the meantime, pucker up and kiss her like you mean it!

     For gals: Today, is your warm-up. All day long, I want you to demonstrate to your mate just how much you appreciate him. Don’t point out anything negative about your mate or your relationship. Instead, be intentional about telling him positive things you like about him. Explain why you appreciate it when he brings you flowers, rubs your neck, diapers the baby, or puts the toilet seat down! Scientific research shows that being appreciated in a relationship lifts us up, releases endorphins, and causes us to feel loving toward our partner. A little appreciation might lead to some acceleration… in the romance department. Keep the momentum going by making a date with him. I’ll be posting suggestions for fun date nights starting tomorrow. I think you’ll appreciate them!
     P.S. Don’t want to wait for the dating and romance tips? You can order “30 Days To Better Love: A Guide for Men here  
Many of the tips work as a guide for women, too! Cheers to love!

Drexel Gilbert is a career TV journalist, relationship coach, and speaker. Her practical advice for couples brings healing and breathes life into relationships. 30 Days to Better Love: A Guide for Men is used by couples’ counselors and by men and women just like you.