One of the things that I absolutely believe – and science is beginning to back this up – is that nontraditional families can raise great kids.
Now, I’m not saying that traditional families – ones where mom and dad are married – do not raise good kids; rather, I’m saying that nontraditional families can also contain the same ingredients that a lot of traditional families have that serve to raise kind, moral, intelligent, motivated, and interesting kids.
I have to believe this because, as many of you know, I found myself raising my own two kids in a nontraditional family when my husband of 14 years came out as a gay man almost a decade ago. This was definitely something that I had not planned for my life. I had grown up in a traditional family and my goal was to create the same life for myself.
So, life sent me a curveball, and I needed to accept the fact that my life – and the life I wanted for my kids – was not going to be the traditional path that I had planned. I needed to figure out fast how to raise good kids in a family that didn’t look like the societal norm, and I needed to do that because my kids’ futures depended on it. I owed them this.
When I first started this blog, I wrote a lot about my little Modern Family, but I stopped doing that as time went on because I felt like we were a work in progress. I might have been able to report on what worked for me in the moment, but I wasn’t sure if what I was doing in the here and now would positively affect my son and daughter’s futures.
Now that my son is 19 and my daughter is 16, I’ve started to allow myself to acknowledge that some of the decisions I made post-divorce actually helped my kids become the young adults I always hoped they would become. I’m beginning to psychologically let go of all of the worries and fears that I’ve kept pent up since my divorce and recognize that the hard work of parenting in a nontraditional family raised some pretty awesome kids.
Now, I’m not saying that I’ve been 100% successful as a parent (there is no perfect parent!), but I do want to share some of our recent news with you in order to:
- Educate others that as long as the basic elements of successful parenting is present (unconditional love, emotional support, and chaos-free stability, etc.) in a family, even nontraditional families can provide a happy home for themselves and their kids
- Nontraditional families can raise successful kids – kids that are kind, moral, and motivated to pursue worthwhile passions and interests
- Challenge the notion of what a “successful family” really means – I think a successful Modern Family is one that supports and encourages the exploration and pursuit of each individual member’s passions and interests while maintaining a close relationship between all members of the family.
As such, I hope you’ll allow me to share with you some of my family’s news so I can illustrate how I believe the above 3 points are so important to Modern Parenting – no matter if you are parenting in a traditional family or a nontraditional one.
The Successful Pursuit of A Lifelong Passion – Even When it Seems Impossible
I’m so happy to report that my son, Patrick, has been accepted to the University of Southern California!
Now, most people think that I’m super happy about this because USC is such a prestigious university – and I am pretty proud of Patrick that he was able to get accepted to such a notable school – but the real reason I’m BURSTING AT THE SEAMS WITH PRIDE is because this represents the successful completion of a lifelong dream for Patrick. Let me explain…
See the picture below? That’s a picture of one-year-old Patrick attending his Dad’s graduation from law school. Where did his Dad go to law school? You guessed it…USC. Since he was a little boy, Patrick has told anyone who would listen that he wanted to grow up and go to USC and become an attorney just like his Dad.
When it came time to apply to college during his senior year, Patrick applied to USC, but didn’t get in.
Devastation does not do justice to the intense feeling of disappointment that I’m sure Patrick felt.
But that’s when the magic happened – Patrick didn’t give up on his dream.
A week after receiving the rejection letter from USC, Patrick also received another letter form them letting him know that they offered an Expedited Trojan Transfer Program and invited him to participate.
I saw him wanting to succumb to the all-too-often comforting feelings of anger, resentment, and victimization, but instead, he decided all by himself to rise to the challenge.
He applied for the program and was offered an interview. He attended the interview and was told to attend another college for a year, but his counselor at USC had to pick his classes for him and Patrick had to report to the counselor at USC on a regular basis. In addition, Patrick had to get all As during this time period or he wouldn’t qualify.
I’m sure you can see why I’m so proud. Patrick took this challenge and ran with it. He did everything USC told him to do to the letter. It was a long wait to hear from USC over the summer, but in August, a tell-tale package was sitting at the front door one afternoon. When I bent down to see what it was and the USC symbol was on the front, I immediately knew what it was and ran it upstairs to Patrick.
I think the vision of Patrick’s face while he opened that package will forever be one of my favorite memories. He did what he needed to do to make something that he was passionate about come true.
To me, this is successful Modern Parenting – being the parent your child needs you to be in order to allow them to become the person they were meant to be.
During Patrick’s childhood, he needed me to be the parent that believed with him in his dream. There were other times that I needed to be the parent that reminded him that studying instead of playing video games allowed him to stay on track with his dream. On the other hand, when he got older, I needed to be the parent that let him figure this out for himself – even if that meant backing off and letting him get a bad grade or two.
And then on the day he received his acceptance package, he needed me to be the parent that beamed with pride with him. And I was SOOOOO happy to be that parent for him.
I’m not saying that I knew exactly what I was doing during my kids’ childhoods, but I did try to always ask myself what kind of parent my son and daughter needed in each moment in order to assist them to figure out for themselves how to become who they needed to be.
Over time, I learned to trust that my kids both have a unique future path all their own, and if I set their environment up correctly by allowing them to pursue their innate talents, gifts, and passions, then they would figure out this path on their own.
Patrick is well on his path to attending USC and becoming an attorney, and now my daughter is beginning her path of conquering her own passions as well. I’m sure I will update you soon on her story of pursuing her passion.
Maintaining Positive Relationships In a Nontraditional Family
Another development in my little Modern Family is that my kids’ Dad is marrying his longtime partner very soon.
Both kids will be in the wedding and I will be attending as well.
Maintaining a warm and positive relationship with the kids’ Dad and his partner since the divorce was really helpful in allowing the kids to grow up without a bunch of unnecessary chaos. I’m not going to lie and say that it was always easy, but I believe it truly benefited the kids to be able to have their parents together for important events.
In the past, the kids and I would get together with their Dad and his partner more frequently – we would even do fun family day trips and vacation together – but with the kids getting older, their Dad moving farther away, and everyone getting busier with school and work, it’s been harder to make those little events happen.
Now that my kids are older and more independent (especially now that they both have their driver’s licenses), I’m giving myself permission that I don’t have to micromanage the relationship between the kids and their Dad anymore.
Again, this goes back to being the parent that my kids need me to be in the moment, and I think that my kids are at a certain stage in their lives where they are ok managing that relationship on their own. In the past, I felt obligated to make it a priority to take my kids to see their Dad when the occasion arose, but now I see that they are ready to take charge of this important relationship on their own.
In the future, I see all of us continuing to have a great relationship with each other.
Supporting Each Other’s Passions, Values, and Beliefs
I’ve written before about how smart Modern Parents identify their unique family passions, values, and beliefs so that they use these items as a guide in making parenting decisions. In my experience, parents who are not absolutely clear on their passions, values, and beliefs parent reactively (i.e. they parent in response to a specific emotional event). Smart Modern Parents use their passions, values, and beliefs to parent intentionally; thus, during an emotional event, they already know how to act.
As I touched on earlier, one of my family values is to allow both myself and my kids to pursue their passions and dreams.
Now that my kids are older, I’ve noticed, and really appreciated, their support while I’ve pursued my passion with my career.
As many of you know, I went through graduate school to become a psychologist when my kids were younger. My Son was 14 and my daughter was 11 when I graduated, so they definitely observed all the effort that goes into getting a degree.
Now, they are witnessing me use that degree to pursue a career in my community and online. During the day, I work in administration in County government. I really love this job – it puts me into contact with great people and I get to do some really rewarding work. My son and daughter have also been there to see the beginning of Parenting The Modern family and my other writing pursuits.
It’s been so heartwarming to have my kids wish me good luck out of the blue when they know I have an important event at work or they know I’m working on something new for the blog. My son evens edits my blog posts and Huffington Post articles and my daughter gives me some great social media advice.
This awesome support from my kids has shown me that they’ve picked up on one of the values that guided my parenting decisions – the value of the importance of pursuing individual passions and interests.
Take Home Message
The point of this blog post isn’t about bragging about the accomplishments of my Modern Family (believe me – I left out all of our embarrassing mistakes on purpose!!). Rather, the point is to show how any kind of family can raise successful kids – and be happy in the process.
Maybe you don’t agree with my definition of a successful Modern Family, and that’s ok. What’s important is that you know what your definition is so that you can work towards that goal.
I believe that as long as certain core elements are part of a family, then any kind of family can be a successful one. Take a minute to evaluate whether or not your family includes the following factors:
- Unconditional love for each other
- The support and encouragement to pursue individual passions and interests
- Prioritizing warm, close relationships with one another
- Creating a family environment that is free of unnecessary chaos and stress
- Having the confidence that your child is a worthwhile person and that they will discover their path in life – all you have to do is allow them to explore their interests.
What do you think? Did I leave anything out?
My hope for you after reading this post s to take some time to really think about and envision what you want your family to be like in the future. Then ask yourself: is what you are doing now contributing to or hurting your goal of a future successful Modern Family?