When you have kids your focus seems to pinpoint. Things that you never paid much attention to seem insanely important. When it’s an infant you quickly learn that your home is full of danger and needs improvement. Toddlers make the rest of the world seem like a minefield, and every day that your child survives is a victory.
School-age kids still have dangers, but we aren’t as focused on the basic survival of our kids as much as we are their long-term success. Are they learning enough? College is around the corner, will they be ready? Will they know how to survive in the world on their own?
Looking into the future
My biological kids are still in elementary, and we talk about setting goals. I think about their prospects after high school from time to time, but it’s in the distant future. However, my husband and I are now raising our niece as well and she’s already in middle school. We don’t have as much time to prepare her for the “real world” as we would like, and there are so many areas for improvement to concentrate on.
With all the struggles that come with raising a child, the pre-teen years are rough. They’ve been especially rough for our niece, Rana, because of all she’s been through. The transition from her previous neglectful home to our disciplined home has been difficult. To be honest, Rana’s first 12 years of life have been tough to survive, and I wouldn’t wish her childhood on anyone.
Dreams and Opportunities Await
She is resilient and strong. We want so much for her. Right now her dream is to become a veterinarian. We would love for her to go to college in order to pursue that dream. We would love for Rana to travel and see the world. In order for her to accomplish these goals she’ll need to work for it, and like I wrote in another article, there is nothing we can do to guarantee her success.
Our amazing niece has to learn things that other kids have the opportunity to master at much earlier ages. Simple skills like table manners or falling asleep by herself are now being learned. Rana was never held accountable for any sort of standard and is still getting used to her uncle and I asking how her day went. The thought of her entering college or the workforce in six short years is overwhelming.
Small Improvement To Make Big changes
What we are doing instead is focusing on a small improvement every day or week, and celebrating when that improvement is made. Here’s a glimpse into her growth over the last 8 weeks, since being with us.
Rana was on seven different medications when she got here! Now she’s completely off all medications and doing quite well.
She wasn’t able to sleep without taking 3 different pills at night. Now when it’s time for bed she simply gets ready for bed and goes to sleep, on her own!
Rana didn’t know how to use a fork and knife and now uses them with relative ease.
Rana’s vocabulary when she started living with us was horrible, and she spoke in a manner which made her sound both uneducated and disrespectful. Today she speaks like a typical 12-year-old girl (which can still drive me mad), but she sounds intelligent and respectful.
All of this small improvement (and there are more, trust me) add up to big changes! As we’ve explained to Rana (repeatedly) the small actions you take in life comprise the bigger picture of who you are.
This Isn’t Just For Teenagers!
I think Rana’s situation is more dramatic than most kids her age, but it can teach all of us an important lesson. We should look for small improvement in all of our kids. Take things slower, and do not stress about where they’ll be in six years! Look at where they are today and help them better themselves for tomorrow.
Set small daily goals for how they can improve and talk every evening before bed about how they met, fell short or exceeded those goals. It’s a great time for reflection. We’ve also found that Rana’s self-esteem has improved as she’s seen herself improve, which is a beautiful thing to witness.
Remember to treat yourselves with this same kindness and understanding Mamas! If you are trying to lose weight, pay off your debt or conquer laundry mountain…look for the tiny areas in which you’ve improved. You’ll see success and use that as motivation to launch you even further.