Are You A Leader Or A Follower?

Have you ever played Follow the Leader when you were a little kid? A person is appointed to lead, and whatever they did you were supposed to do without question. It was a fun and harmless game. But what if the leader of the child’s game would have jumped off a cliff? Would you have followed or would you have questioned whether that was a good decision to make? Basically in the rules of the game you were to follow without question.

I have heard parents make the remark about their children that their child is a follower rather than a leader and it worried them.

As adults we still play the game but it is real in what we call the game of life. The dictionary defines leader as: the person who leads or commands a group, organization or country.

At some time or other we have all been part of a group in school, college, our workplace or in our social and personal life. It has been said birds of a feather flock together. The phrase has been in use since 1545. It means those of similar taste congregate in groups.

I find that to be true in my own life. I tend to migrate to the authors, readers, compassionate, caring groups. I have been led astray during my lifetime when I hung around those who were critical and belligerent about almost everything. It is very easy for me to be that way, especially when the only ones I am with lend to that category. During those times I did not like myself very much, and I have to watch that I don’t get sucked into that abyss again, because we feed off each other. I followed a leader that led me down a path I couldn’t feel good about.

I was reading Max Lucado’s book “In the Eye of the Storm” and that is what brought about this blog post. It zeroed in on my thinking about what a good leader is. Of course, Max was talking about Jesus, which brought me thoughts about where I have been the leader and also a follower.

I don’t think I have always been a good leader. In my younger years I could have been the bully, bullying people into volunteering for things they didn’t want to do. I have probably mislead them on judgements that I now know are false when it comes to other people and my opinion. Thinking back on it my problem was insecurity and so if I judged someone, I thought it might make me feel better about myself, only it had the opposite effect.

Life is a learning curve when it comes to leadership and following, whether you in grade school, high school, college or being an adult.

Bullying is big in the world now, not just in school but our society, and to change it we have to start in our homes and in our schools. We have to look at our actions and how we are leading our families, our friends and organizations. Little children aren’t born with hate and judgement in their hearts, we teach them that by being parents who do not monitor our behavior. We teach them that by allowing social media and television to give them the message if we treat others badly it is acceptable.

I think of when the Bunkers and All In The Family, first came on television. Of course it was funny, but was it really funny the way Archie treated Edith? I never did like the Honeymooners even as a child, because of the way Ralph treated Alice. Because of what I was seeing I accepted it in my own life, laughing off the jabs when it hurt inside. Isn’t that what we were expected to do?

Here is what I think leadership is NOT. Being a leader is not leading by making others feel less then, belittling or threatening. It is not leading others to mimic the same behavior in our society. It is not leading by fear. Leadership is not building a group that stands for anything even related to bullying.

A father and mother lead their family not by prejudice, hate and fear and bad behavior; they lead their family by teaching their children respect, integrity and trust for themselves and others.

Being a follower you can become a leader if you see you are following behavior that harms others, and make the decision to not accept the behavior of the person you are following. I know many good people that follow a leader whose leadership is harming others and make excuses for whatever reason I do not understand.

We can whine and moan and berate the things that are going on with our children, but we are not going to change it or stop it unless we as adults show that leadership by denouncing bullying as being wrong, and quit making excuses for it on any level from the top to the very bottom of the rung.

Are you the leader or the follower? Is the person you are following teaching you integrity and compassion for others, or are they urging you to jump off that cliff from a place you may not be able to come back from? The choice is yours.

A Nostalgia Attack

Featured

cropped-sprinkled-column11.jpgMy column from the Albert Lea Tribune the week of September 13, 2018

copyright September 2018

I had a little nostalgia attack this week. It started with my granddaughter sending me a picture of the new dress she bought for Homecoming. It is her first Homecoming dance as a freshman. Tears came to my eyes as I looked at the photo.

Where had the time gone? My oldest two grandchildren are in high school, the others will be there soon. In a few years, they will graduate from high school and fly the coop. I remember when I graduated high school, it seems like yesterday. In my mind, it was just yesterday when my own kids passed that moment in their life.

As grandparents, we no longer have to babysit when the parents have to work or go out on a night on the town. We are no longer needed in the way we were. In a way, that fills me with sadness but yet I know we are needed in a different way to provide support when our grandchildren come to us for advice. But it is different.

Another tweak of nostalgia brought another tear to my eye. Church choir started again. I quit a few years ago for various reasons but now I am considering joining again. For all the years I was in choir I sat next to my friend Jan. She kept me on the right note, provided me with laughter and gave me courage that perhaps my voice wasn’t so bad after all.  And there was the fact of sharing an experience with one of my best friends. Jan left this world on December 31 of last year yet I still hear her voice when the choir sings and I still see her sitting in the midst of the choir. I am not sure I am ready to go back without Jan by my side.

It was a good summer. Thinking about my 50-year class reunion brought another few drops of moisture to my already dewy eyes. I loved seeing my classmates and remembering, but in those memories are those who did not live to see our 50-year celebration, especially my best friend, Karen. I thought of all we shared the giggly nights, the talks about boys and our hearts as we got older. She is my son’s Godmother. I still miss her, especially at reunion time.

You might think all this nostalgia is sad because of the tears. You would be wrong. Yes there is some sadness that life is not the same but yet in the nostalgia of our lives is the story of joy, sadness, and laughter. There is a transition in life which brings hope in the nostalgia that life continues on and each person helped shape today. Our memories contribute to that future and who we are as a person, which for me is that of wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.

All memories with each other weren’t perfect. Raising kids was tough trying to find the right balance between being the parent who spoils and who disciplines. There are the joys and regrets of not always being able to be close by to enjoy every single minute of the grandkids lives and at times there is the feeling we are no longer needed.  Watching Jan go through all she went through because of cancer was hard. And those high school friendships were sometimes rocky with a few spats along the way but always forgiveness and making up.

That is what nostalgia does. It puts the good and the rockiness together to make a life well lived and well-remembered, ours and our lives with those we love.

 Julie Seedorf’s column now appears Thursdays. Email her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.

How Did We Survive Our Childhood?

IMG_0769

And this isn’t dangerous? Mall of Ameria.

It’s amazing my children grew up. It’s amazing I grew up. After all, my kids played with toys and had experiences that now would be considered unsafe. I grew up with toys that were much more hazardous to my health than children’s toys today and yet, here I am.

Recently I read an article that said Grandparents were a detriment to their grandchildren. In fact, there are classes for grandparents to teach us the new rules of parenting and taking care of children when we are sitting with our grandkids.

I don’t dispute we need to know the new rules for feeding and I learned no talcum powder on their little bodies. When my grandkids were born I remember having no idea what a diaper genie was, and I wondered how in the world I heard my kids without baby monitors. Some of these new gadgets are wonderful.

This week there was news which I thought was a little over-the-top. First I heard about the bus driver who always took the busload of kids to the Dairy Queen for a treat on the last day of school but this year a parent complained.

Another news item caught my attention at the same time. It was a note a teacher sent home to a mother chastising her because they didn’t approve of the packed lunch for the child. The teacher felt the treat the mother sent with the lunch was not an appropriate food choice because it was full of sugar, the offending food item is an Oreo cookie.

The final news story which caught my eye was an article about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending no fruit juice for children under one year of age. The reason—it will cause obesity and cavities in children.

In regards to the bus driver and ice cream— apparently, the bus driver’s job and the yearly tradition of taking kids to Dairy Queen on the last day of school by the bus drivers is now in danger. Bob Collins of MPR News addressed the problem with this statement: “This might be a tradition best left to die in a changed world. Thanks to the creeps among us, school bus drivers can no longer be trusted with kids.” That is a harsh statement in my estimation. If the bus driver was known to the community and trusted the entire year to drive those kids, and he didn’t take any of the kids alone but in a group then he should be trusted to take the kids to Dairy Queen. Don’t stop the treat, just change the communication and let parents sign a release for their kids to have a treat. It was an act of kindness made into a something the kids now might think of as a scary option on the last day of school. Don’t judge all because of a few Mr. Collins. We need to not parent out of fear.

As far as packing a school lunch is concerned, notes like this seem to pop up all over the country. Since when have parents lost the right to package a lunch and include a sweet treat? I would take offense at the school deciding what I can feed my child. I would rather my child ate something for lunch instead of throwing it in the trash because they didn’t like it.

The fruit juice recommendation threw me a little. Fruit juice, cereal and more were all healthy recommendations in the “olden days” for our toddlers. Fruit juice used to be healthy and now it is a detriment to those young children’s health right up there with candy.

I may be one of those grandparents who need a grandparent class to learn how to raise kids in 2017 so I can keep my grandkids safe.  I will admit that I did get hurt growing up and so did my kids.

I will share one instance with you. I had a tin wire tower for marbles. It wasn’t fancy like they are today. I decided to see if my fingers fit in the holes of the tower. And what did I find? They fit but they wouldn’t come out. The tower had to be cut apart with tin snips so my parents could get my fingers out. Did they call the toy manufacturer because it was a dangerous toy? No! They told me I should never do that again. Were they bad parents for this accident happening? No, it was an accident made by a silly decision of a kid.

All of this news made me anxious and thankful I don’t have any more kids to raise. It would be stressful trying to remember all these rules so I wouldn’t get in trouble as a parent. It seems we have thrown out good old-fashioned common sense when raising children.

My advice is to love your children. Make sure they know you love them. And use common sense when keeping them safe and in how you take care of them. The news and recommendations will change tomorrow. What you do today will be wrong tomorrow. And you know how we all dislike being wrong?