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12 Important Lessons I Learned at the School of Parenting

I'd love to say I passed the following lessons with flying colors, but I just know I'd get called out by either one of my sons or their friends (ok, or their moms...), so let me just describe the lessons here, and let history (and my boys) conclude what grade I received.
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A university, much like life, is a pretty big establishment. Also similar to life, it is often composed of at least a few schools or colleges; a collection of distinct environments tailoring to particular courses of study. One of the distinct environments in "LifeU" that I've been a part of for the last almost-30 years is The School of Parenting. I don't spend all of my life attending classes, of course... but it does take up a good chunk of my time.

A while back my friend Elizabeth, who blogs over at Guilty Chocoholic Mama, published a post about lessons she'd learned from parenting her daughters. It was a great post: funny and yet oh-so-true! Being a mom of two of those creatures, I could relate so very well to her points. (Not that I'd necessarily aced all of the "classes" she described...)

But I'm also a mom to three sons of varying ages, and so I began to think of what I'd learned at the School of Parenting Boys.

(This is a picture of the two boys still at home... My oldest son is grown and married.

I'd love to say I passed the following lessons with flying colors, but I just know I'd get called out by either one of my sons or their friends (ok, or their moms...), so let me just describe the lessons here, and let history (and my boys) conclude what grade I received.

1) Boys never talk, and don't even try to push it if they're not in the mood.

2) However (and somewhat surprisingly) boys can talk just as much as girls when they are in the mood, and you'd do well to listen!

3) And related to both lesson 1 and 2, food always encourages conversation. Pizza is usually the preferred choice here ☺.

4) Make your son earn your trust. When he hesitates answering the question: "whatcha doin'?" while he's on the computer, you should walk away and then just saunter back and stay awhile. Afterward, you should move the computer to the kitchen table where you can see it, too! And keep it there. Forever. Just sayin'...

5) Teach him to do his own laundry, but never expect him to do it -- even when he has nothing to wear. Just accept that once or twice a week you'll need to strongly suggest he run a load or two. Then encourage him to move it from the washer to the dryer. Then ask him to take it from the dryer to his room. Then tell him to move it off the floor to his bed. Then insist he fold the clothes up. And then, finally, follow up by recommending he put them in the drawer. {sigh} But even if it IS easier to do it yourself -- don't!

6) Give your son time alone with you on a regular basis, no matter how casual or cavalier he is about it. Yes moms, date your sons, too. And I'm not talking anything weird here. A "date" can be anything between "Hey, I need help at the grocery store -- wanna come with me?" to "Let's go get some lunch, just you and me!" You'll never regret carving time out for him.

7) Don't stop hugging your boy. Even when he's taller than you. Even when his friends are around. Even after you've had to move the aforementioned computer and he's not happy with you. Even then. Especially then.

8) Tread lightly with his emotions, because your son has a sensitive heart. That rough-and-tumble angel with his cherubic face can crumble in a second under your angry yelling. His cool teenage façade can break with gut-wrenching sobs when the love of his young life spurns them. Even a young adult can cry or close-up after being continually frustrated with his parental units. Don't ask me how I know this.

9) Don't be afraid of embarrassing your son. Hug him in public... say "goodbye, honey" as he heads off to school... ask him how his day went in front of his friend. Because if his friends aren't cool with his parents, maybe they're not really good friends. Really -- this lesson came straight to me from the mouth of one of my own teenagers.

10) Find ways to help him build his self-confidence. Teach him to be happy in his skin. Show him that he matters... that he's important... that "it takes all kinds" to make the world go 'round. When he's comfortable with who he is, well, he'll really be quite fun to be around ☺

11) Let your growing boy play with Legos. Also, don't worry that when he does, this means he's stuck at a younger developmental level. There are entire enterprises dedicated to those little plastic building blocks. There are grown men and women who work designing, producing and building stuff with them, too. (And your son will remind you of that at some point.) Plus, sometimes it's a good way to alleviate the stress of growing up...

12) When you want to have a serious talk with him, go for a drive. I don't know why, but for some reason, you get in the car with that guy and (provided there are no hand-held electronic devices in his hand) voila!: instant talking machine (see lesson 1).

I'm sure there are other things I've learned, and, being that I still have teens at home, there will be more lessons to come.

One thing I DO know from my years at the School of Parenthood: I'll never know it all!

Lessons are continually delivered during a lifetime of being called "mom."

Read more from Pat about the joys and perils of parenting and homeschooling on her blog: