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Count Your Marbles!

Despite all the parent-teen “discussions” lately about homework, getting ready for school dances and perhaps yelling about misplaced folders, I am feeling a bit emotional...about the marbles. I am losing marbles by the week and somehow I can’t get them back.

Let me explain. Our (Mike’s and my)

mutual friend shared these three jars with us and told us a story. In the picture, the most full jar includes 936 marbles, one for every week in the life of a child from birth to 18. As each week passes by, you remove one marble. The middle jar represents the weeks that remain from age 16 to 18, and the jar with the least marbles, shows the weeks that remain for an 18-year old.

It is an impactful visual about time. While we know and recognize that at 18 years of age, many children still depend on a parent; the reality is that this is the point at which the parent-child relationship shifts – and technically the kids become adults. With Number 3, entering his senior year in high school, I am reminded that this is the point at which we realize that time goes so fast and once he moves on to the next step in life, our parent-child dynamic will go through adjustments.

With Number 1, the 52 marbles (18th year) put me in a panic and we ended up with a third dog. I had watched a television show where the main character said once a child moves out, the parent-child dynamic is never the same. It can still be close, but not like it was. Number 1 had always wanted a lap dog, and I convinced my husband that it was necessary considering our relationship would forever change next year. I now raise that dog.

I wised up with Number 2 who wanted a cat her senior year, but I still paid the price. I had always told the kids that in our house we focused on being fair, and not always equal. This meant, for example, among the four kids, one might get three gifts one year for his/her birthday, while the other got one really big one. For Number 2, I ended up buying few cat-shirts and she got a few extra perks, but no live kitten in the house. Fortunately, she was okay.

Now, in our house, the remaining two kids represent the jars with less marbles; and as time ticks away, I can’t help but think what should I do each week to ensure that we are spending the right time – the most valuable time. Number 3 too wants a dog someday, but so far I said I would buy him a bulldog once he graduates college. (Phew!) Number 4 is content on the animal front, but informed me he wants a really expensive red car. Somehow, I don’t think this is a fair exchange – bulldog for car.

More importantly though, gazing at the marbles, I question if I have given them the right tools to be caring, compassionate, successful young adults. Have we modeled for them to enjoy the ride they are on and be present in the moment, while turning to faith in times of challenges? Have we equipped them with solid morals and an ethical framework so that they can make decisions that align with values in times of adversity? Have we taught them to take personal accountability, which will make the good times rewarding and the bad times a test of character?

Have we taught our soon-to-be high school graduate son, how to stay organized and to not forget what is needed for the day? That I can tell you is a big NO. We have tried multiple methods, and yet just this morning he realized the folder he needed for the day, was not where it was supposed to be. After retracing steps and walking through the day backward, it is still missing. I have not yet said, “told you so or see if you had only tried the method I taught you or put it in the designated basket…” That conversation will take place two days from now when all order is restored.

It does not, however, mean I won’t be losing my marbles today – in the proverbial sense of the meaning. My brain is near the point of explosion, living in teenage logic, a land where they know all, and we, as parents, are a mere vessel of cash and big shoulders when needed. This will pass, the marbles in the jar are finite, and some day, I will miss the discussion of lost folders when the marbles are all gone.

Kori Reed is the author of ZagZig Parenting: (Mis)Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and A Stay-at-Home Dad, a collection of authentic stories from a nontraditional family.

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