No better way to continue a blog called CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE MOTHER KIND than a fun comparison of raising kids to a card game…

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em;

 Know when to fold ‘em.

Know when to walk away

 And know when to run.

 You never count your money when

 You’re sitting at the table.

 There’ll be time enough for countin’

When the dealing’s done.

Kenny Rogers brought those words to life years ago in a song about how a gambler stays alive in a card game. It’s not a bad philosophy when playing cards…or raising kids.

Kenny Rogers got a great movie deal out of it. I doubt that the average parent will get a movie or bestseller out of their experience in raising a family but the rewards are worth it anyway. Like a good card game, it takes practice; lots of practice. There is a method or two that helps along the way. Here are a few card tricks.

Number one: Knowing when to hold

Knowing when to hold your tongue from criticism is the applicable point here. I learned early on not to major in minor issues. You’ll get over a glass of spilled milk a lot quicker than a cuss word slipping out of your little darling’s mouth. You’ll want some leverage when little Joe-Bob “cusses like a sailor on leave” in front of Grandma and her adoring friends.

He’s likely to listen to what you have to say if you didn’t go ballistic earlier over the spilled milk. It was probably an accident anyway. The spilled milk episode will be repeated many times in his future and quickly forgotten. I doubt that Grandma’s memory will fade as quickly. She will probably remember it long enough to tell your grandchildren.

So, the lesson here is, “don’t major in minors”. They could come back to haunt you later on.


Number two: Knowing when to fold

This one is for when it is major enough to raise a ruckus. Personally, I’m not nearly as affected by how they keep their room as I am about how they behave in public. Dirty socks and being rude are two totally different entities. I’m more into building character than smelling socks. Someday my grandchildren will teach them about picking up after other people. So, if it’s a major battle where the lines have been drawn and then rebelliously crossed over, I say, fold your cards. You can fold them because you know that you’re right, they know you’re right and there’s not a thing that they can do about it. That is, if you have made it clear what can be negotiated and what is never to be tolerated. In the case of the latter, I say – Go for it.  Make the little buzzards howl!  Make it count.

So, the lesson here is, “do major in majors.” They’re likely to consider their steps a little more cautiously in the future.

Number three: Know when to walk away

Do walk away before you offer unsolicited advice. We parents are quick  to jump to conclusions. Just because you hear some strange things come out of their mouths, doesn’t mean that they’re thinking about doing it. They hear a lot of stuff in their day-to-day routine, and then they have to repeat it a few times before they can either process it or spit it out. If we jump too soon, we’re bound to alienate them before we get a chance to share our great views on life. Someday they’ll thank us for them, but not if we offer it unasked for. Check your facts before you jump.

Lesson here is: Wait for opportune times to enter their world.

 Number four: Know when to run

Here, you want to run, not away, but to your kids when those moments arise. They’ll be ready to ask questions and share about themselves if we have allowed them to knock on the door of opportunity. Here, great mysteries are discovered and unraveled. This is a good time to build on a foundation that won’t crumble when things aren’t going so well.

Number five: Never count your money or…

…your chickens before they hatch. Just because you have an intelligent, bright child one day and the next day they resemble an alien life form looking for a place to land__ don’t panic! They won’t always be this way.

Let’s say your son comes home grinning from ear to ear because he bought a twenty dollar tee-shirt with wrestler’s faces on it. You want to say,” You paid money for this?” or “What is it?” Instead (if you have been using your new parenting skills) you will say, “Nice shirt.” You learn to love it because he does.

Hopefully, he’s not going to grow up and become a “TV wrestler”. But in the event that it did happen, I’d rather hope that his greatest moment would be followed by a wave into the camera at his mom.

Those good seeds that we plant today may not come up for years to come. But we’ve got to keep on planting and watering our tender little flowers.

So, the lesson here is: Train them up according to their particular little bent, water it, nurture it, and it’ll bloom____eventually.

Number six: There’ll be time enough for countin’ – later on

There will come a day when all you can do is look back on your lives together as a family and realize that it was worth the gamble. There will be some wins and there will be some losses. Some losses can be recouped, some not. You’ll find that you didn’t raise “two of a kind” and there was a “joker” in there somewhere always keeping you “flushed”.

In any event, count your winnings, cut your losses and move on to enjoy a whole new stage of life. If all goes according to the master plan, then you should be content with a job well done and a “full house” of grown-up kids looking to you to teach them how to play the game. Of course, they’ll have to supply a fresh deck of cards. But you won’t mind. You’ve already “aced” it once!

  • Hire Expectations

    RAISING KIDS: WORTH THE GAMBLE was very entertaining and more importantly, it made a profound point! Rearing children is worth all the effort that goes into it even though it’s the least prepared for task parents will ever embark upon. This is especially true with the first child…

  • Tammy

    Hire Expectations, A few years ago, I was a part of a grant for a boot camp for juvenile court and I wrote several columns on Tough Love. I’m going to post those at some point as the points in them are similar, but different.
    I think what I’ve learned the most has been to learn how to choose your battles and know the personality of the child you’re dealing with. I think it was James Dobson (or Dr. Kevin Leman) that said we need to become a “student” of our children. My kids are grown now, and each one has their own talent (one is a business woman, one a personal trainer and marathon runner and my son, the military). The two youngest compete with each other in races, ironically, the two strong willed ones – lol
    Actually, my oldest was the easiest and they got harder the more I had….from oldest to youngest…compliant (daughter), strong willed (daughter) and more strong willed (son)…lol The wrestling t-shirt story is true. My son always was the one that was the most fascinated by lights and whistles – I just had to draw the circle around him a little larger than I did the other two – lol

%d bloggers like this: