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Doing Hard Things

My husband and I met an acquaintance back in November who asked about our sons, sophomores in college. The man said his son had decided not to accept a scholarship to play baseball at a local college and was working in the family day care business.

Then he made a comment that has rankled me for several months now. He said, “He didn’t want to go, and I ain’t gonna make him.”

At the time, I just nodded. I didn’t know how to respond to such a stupid statement. Later I wondered how he would have responded if I’d said, “We had to make all four of ours go.”

Actually, we made ours go several times. Every time they came home during the first year especially, we’d have to encourage them to return. They didn’t exactly hate college, but college, of course, is hard. College classes are hard. Living with new people who have different ways of doing things, different belief systems, and different tastes is hard.

But isn’t it a parent’s job to help a child to do hard things? If children don’t learn to do difficult things while they’re growing up, how will they do hard things when they’re adults?

That comment has rolled around my brain since November and brought to mind many of the hard things I’ve pushed and pulled and prodded my children to do.

Every stinkin’ summer, I registered my children for two weeks of swimming lessons. Almost every day I’d make them climb into the pool. I’d steel myself against the boys’ yells echoing from the side, “Mommy, get me outta here. I’m fweezing!” Knowing how to swim is an important skill, right? So I gritted my teeth and ignored their pleas.

Although our four-year-old boys wanted to play soccer, when practice time came, reality set in. I’d hear from the back seat from one to the other, “Just foyce yourself not to cry.” They grew to love the sport and played through high school, becoming captains and winning coaches’ awards.

We moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina when our oldest daughter entered eighth grade. At the end of the year, none of her new friends planned to continue with band in high school. She would’ve participated in band in the old community, so I wanted her to give it a try at the new school. Her tears were almost my undoing, but we held firm with our insistence to participate for ninth grade. She discovered she liked it and continued through high school as did her siblings, learning to play more instruments and making friends in all grade levels.

Writing thank you notes, practicing piano, earning Eagle Scout rankings, or reading Jane Eyre wouldn’t have happened if not for a firm, parent’s nudge.

My children aren’t perfect by any means, but tough things don’t rattle them. They’ve learned to push through their fears so that they can enjoy the blessings on the other side.

Doing hard things is tough—but worthy—just like parenting.


I started something new this year. I send a quotation of the day to my children in a good morning email. It’s a nice way to start the day and an excuse for a daily email.

I don’t choose the quotation myself. I use a quotation-a-day calendar sent to parents of students by Nido Qubein, president of High Point University.

These daily statements are usually affirming, positive, and encouraging. Lately, however, the daily thoughts seemed a little lacking to me, so I added an extra thought to my morning message. Here are two examples:

1. “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Sagan.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

2. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
The Bible says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you,plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

I like encouraging my children with positive statements.

I like encouraging them with biblical truth even better.

January Thoughts

Christmas is packed up and stuffed into the attic–even the hold-out ornaments that hid while the first boxes went up the stairs. I found them all and sent them in a left-over box. 

With Christmas and New Year’s Day behind us, that means we’ve said, ‘goodbye’ and the children have returned to school again. Saying ‘goodbye’ is always hard, especially when the students don’t want to return to campus. 

I read on some mothers’ forums about other students who have difficulty in leaving home again. The angst is clear in the questions, “Is it normal?”, “Should I be worried?”, “What am I supposed to say?”

I say, it is absolutely normal. I remember the melancholy I felt on Sunday afternoons when I faced an hour-and-fifteen-minute drive back to my university. Why would I want to leave my wall-to-wall carpeted bedroom with a color TV and a Princess phone to return to a shared, painted cinder block cubicle? 

I think about my children who enjoy learning, make friends easily, and mostly make good grades. All of them struggle or have struggled with returning to school after a break. Why wouldn’t they? During breaks, they play games, stay up late, watch movies, play cards, eat snacks (at Christmas we had seventeen different kinds of home-made cookies at the ready), and eat all their favorite meals requested for me to cook. Of course they want to stay.

Why would they want to go back to eating cafeteria food, living with people who may or may not have the same interests or tastes or beliefs? Why would they want to go back with papers to write and tests to study for?

Of course they don’t want to go back, and of course it’s the parent’s job to say, “Go back. You’ll be fine. Nothing is happening here. Spring break will be here in a few weeks.”

And it’s the parent’s job to call and send texts and emails and cards to encourage them, pack goodie boxes to send them, pray for strength and courage to walk on the path God has laid out for them–and for the parents, too.

Nudging them out of the nest isn’t easy or fun. I hate it because I’d love to have them here all the time giggling, playing the piano, shooting Nerf guns, and grabbing me with surprise hugs. I don’t like my empty nest, but it’s part of hard work and the natural order of parenting. 

Yea parenting.