Under the file marked “My Family’s Quirks” is the knowledge that granddaughter Joslin has a rough time saying goodbye. She loves her family and friends with such fervor that whenever it’s time for her to part from any of them, she struggles with her own bereft sorrow. Knowing this, we plan ahead to be sure we give her time for her farewells, offering up our own with calm reassurance and understanding.
Joslin may have come by this trait honestly, because I also have a hard time with goodbyes, although I’ve acquired some self-regulation skills to manage my emotional responses which Joslin will also learn as she grows up.
And so it is today that my heart is full as I share this final installment of “Let’s Talk Kids.” My professional life is taking me in some exciting new directions and I’m finding it difficult to meet a weekly deadline for this undertaking.
It’s been over 12 years since I began “Let’s Talk Kids,” and in each year I’ve produced 52 segments for a total of around 600. Each one has been a learning experience for me.
Every week, I’ve been inspired by a story I heard from a family or from child development research or from a news item which made its way to me. We’ve addressed topics as diverse as managing toilet training to saying goodbye when kids leave for college.
Some topics have been related to changes in our society—like the use of technology in families—and others have been as old as time—like sibling rivalry. In most segments, we’ve had the opportunity to tell the stories of families who generously shared their experiences.
Collaboration between families and professionals like teachers, librarians and medical providers has been encouraged as these committed adults become allies for our kids. Reading, play and interaction have been explored as real boons for kids’ development.
We’ve affirmed the unique choices of each family, recognizing that no two families can (or should) function exactly the same. Recognizing that culture is carried forward by parents’ choices, we’ve come to honor rather than judge or demean parental decisions about their own children.
One of my goals has been to give parents permission to be human. To feel ambivalent. To be tired and frustrated. To worry, and wonder, and forgive themselves when they get it wrong. I really believe parents want to do well by their children, and for the most part they do, even when they feel they’ve missed the mark. The relationships parents build with their kids equip them with resiliency for the lives they’ll lead.
I hope that sometimes my segments gave you a chuckle as I told about my own parenting foibles or the funny antics of kids. And I also hope you may have shed a tear or two as we considered more sobering topics such as the stories of refugee families or parents who wait long months to adopt a child. Tears and laughter have been regular occurrences for me in my writing process.
This opportunity to communicate with listeners every week is one I have cherished. Much feedback has come my way from parents, but also from grandparents and interested others who’ve not raised children themselves but recognize the importance of making sure kids grow up with what they need for wholeness. I’ve enjoyed conversations in which people continue the dialogue a segment may have started, gifting me with their wisdom and experience.
So today, instead of a painful goodbye, I’m saying thank you. I’m grateful to many people who made both my newspaper column as well as these segments possible, as well as Millikin University whose Bronze Man Books published three volumes which are collections of these segments.
My heart is full of gratitude to my family and friends whose kinship tales could fill thousands of segments. I must also share my gratitude to NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS and my producer Bob Meyer for providing “Let’s Talk Kids” as a weekly segment through which children and families have taken center stage in their programming.
Finally, I’m grateful for inspiration from The One who is the author of kindness and wisdom, and grateful for every parent who brings hope to our shared future by raising a child in love.
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