Raising Richmond: Falling deep and deeper in like

The love we have for our kids is beautiful. But liking your kid is fan-freaking-tastic.

Editor’s note: Kelly is off this week. But no worries, she’ll be back soon!

Hold on to your butts. I’m going to start this column with a quote1 from Dance Moms:

“My most important job as a mother is to raise [my child] to not only be someone I love but someone I like. And I really like [my child].” — Christi Lukasiak

I know, right?! Who would’ve thought you could glean such wisdom from a Lifetime show? And while I’m appalled by the behavior of pretty much everyone2 on that show, I almost applauded when those insightful words found their way out of that lady’s mouth. Because she’s right. Crazy but (in this case) right.

Before I expand on this idea, let me make one thing clear: I don’t equate “liking” our children with “being friends” with our children. My husband and I are not friends with our son JR. I hope he enjoys our company, and I look forward to the day when he asks us I to meet him for a beer and chat. But we are not his pals; we are his parents.

That said, the quote above offers a solid and not-so-intimidating focus for our parenting end-game. We parents (when we’re not stressing over the day-to-day tasks of making our families “go”) often feel overwhelmed by the bigness of raising children. We all desperately love our kids–of course we do, we are built to. But we need to make sure that this very right devotion we have for them isn’t blinding us to the people they are becoming. Lukasiak takes it down to brass tacks for us: if you genuinely enjoy your kid’s company (and it seems that others do as well), it’s probably safe to say that you’re doing a good job. If you don’t, it could be time to re-evaluate some habits…or maybe have a come-to-Jesus meeting with the kiddo.3

I’m happy to report that six-and-a-half4 years into this whole parenting adventure, I like JR very much. I like him more and more each day, in fact. He’s one of my favorite people to hang out with, and I’m pretty sure I would feel the same way if I had met him under different circumstances–like at church or the grocery store, as opposed to a few seconds after the doctor pulled him from my body back in November of Aught Eight. Is he perfect? Hell no. But I delight in my time with him more than I dread it, one thousand times over. Here are a few examples why…

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He knows his style.

Skinny jeans and long-sleeved thermal Ts in the fall and winter. Basketball shorts, white T-shirts, and athletic socks pulled way up in the spring and summer. His hair long and NEVER tucked behind his ear. The kid likes what he likes. I respect that.

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He’s loyal.

Even though JR is two years into life as an elementary school student, complete with a whole new crop of friends, he still stays true to his first friends: Raynie and Jack. Raynie was born five months after JR, and Jack came along just after JR’s first birthday; they’ve been a pretty solid crew ever since. When his birthday rolls around, he has little interest in big parties with a big crowd and hoopla. Instead, all he wants to do is have those two over to watch a movie, eat popcorn, and play with his toys–a quiet evening at home with his lifelong buds.

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He has no time for nonsense.

Back when JR was in preschool, his teacher shared with me that any time any the other students in class got into a kerfuffle, he would just move to another part of the room until it was over. As she put it, “He wants nothing to do with any drama whatsoever.” That’s still the case today. He doesn’t stir the pot or try to cause riffraff. We joke that (like his father before him), JR was, is, and always will be “the dad” of the group. If things every get rowdy or if questionable choices are being made, he doesn’t hesitate to A) say something and B) remove himself from the situation if he’s uncomfortable. That this trait continues into his middle school years is something I pray for every day of my life.

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He’s really weird.

JR holds his iPad with his feet. He sometimes sleeps with one arm straight up in the air. He refuses to try mashed potatoes or ranch dressing. He likes to pretend he doesn’t know how pajamas “work” when he changes his clothes at night. He provides a constant soundtrack for himself that consists mostly of bleeps and bloops. He doesn’t like riding bikes, for Pete’s sake! But, as they say, it takes all kinds. Let your freak flag fly, kid.

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He cares about people.

At the beginning of the school year, JR’s Spanish teacher got in a serious motorcycle accident that required multiple surgeries and a long absence from school. During that absence, JR asked me every single night to pray that his teacher get better soon. Now that his teacher is back, JR–without prompting, mind you–gives me weekly updates on his teacher’s ongoing recovery.

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He’s quick to laugh.

He laughs easy and he laughs big.5 Who doesn’t want to be around that?

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His interests are specific and focused.

Minecraft, Pokemon, LEGO, and soccer–those are the things he’s into, those are the things he wants to be good at, and those are the things he wants to talk about. As someone who can be a bit scattered in her interests and efforts, I admire the steadfastness of his pursuits. Even though I never want to talk about Minecraft ever again as long as I live ever.6

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He seeks out forgiveness.

When JR does something wrong, he’s not one to mutter “Sorry” in a huff. More often than not, he looks you in the face and says “I’m sorry.” But he doesn’t stop there; it’s always immediately followed with a hopeful (and sometimes tearful and wobbly) “Can you forgive me?” Whether this practice is motivated by a true desire for reconciliation or just fear of someone being mad at him is something we can’t know for sure. But considering most adults (myself very much included) have a hard time with this, I’m consistently blown away by it.

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My husband and I try to model the behavior we want to see from JR, and the time between ages two and four is pretty much a blur of sighing, time outs, food battles, and crying over socks. But I’m not sure how much of JR’s current likability we can chalk up to good parenting. We’ve always said that JR has been JR since the moment he was born: he’s looked and acted like himself from the get-go. The way I figure it, we’ve been to tasked with show him how to use what makes him him for good…and to do our best to not screw him up in the process.

  1. It’s a paraphrase, really. I was going to go back through old episodes on Netflix and verify this, but I can only take so much looniness in one sitting. 
  2. The adults, I mean. The kids are very respectful of one another and, more often than not, are wonderful examples of good sportsmanship…I obviously have thoughts about this show. If you ever want to chat about it, hit me up on on the Twitters
  3. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of these meetings, and I do believe that sometimes they are the ONLY things that will achieve a “hard reset” on behavior, if you will. If you need coaching on how to conduct one of these, I can put you in touch with my mom. She’s got it down. 
  4. Wut. 
  5. Yes, his laugh is pretty much the same. 
  6. Although he did make me a bed in his bedroom in the Minecraft house he and his dad are building. I think that’s the highest compliment he’s currently capable of giving. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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