Life with Ladybug: Bridges over untroubled waters

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

So many times we want to change people.

We marry our husbands and expect to just “tweak” them a little as we go along. We have kids and we try to mold them into civilized human beings, with is good and part of our job description.

But sometimes we ignore their innate personalities and push them toward activities or behavior that we like and appreciate.

Sometimes we want an oak tree when we birthed a cypress.

I’m reading an inspiring book right now that reminds me that one of the best gifts I can give Ladybug is to appreciate what makes her unique and celebrate that. The book is “Grow the Tree You Got” by Tom Sturges and it has really made me think. The book has cover-to-cover ideas for raising “amazing adolescents and teenagers”. There are 100 ideas, in fact.

I never agree with everything I read in a parenting book, but I really like his message and his strategies overall. In fact, one of them spurred me to make a list of “bridges”.  One particular chapter, called “The Seven Bridges Rule,” is all about the author’s theory that before adolescence hits you should build seven strong bridges between you and your child.

He wrote: “These bridges represent anything that you share or enjoy together, that you can love together, that you can have together … dreams, hobbies, practices, aversions, tasks, volunteer projects, even a sports team. These bridges must be built with care, treasured, valued, constantly kept up.”

At the beginning of the chapter, he talks about how several of the bridges between him and his son got suddenly knocked out from under them and he had to look for others.

He advises, “Start building your bridges now, early – many seasons in advance – and be ready to build new ones the moment one of the old ones goes out on you and starts to crumble into the river of adolescence rushing below.”

I was sitting in car line when I read that chapter. I wanted to see if I could come up with seven bridges off the top of my head. So I grabbed one of ladybug’s notebooks and her colored markers and started writing:

7 Strong Bridges:

  • Horse riding/our love for animals
  • Volunteering together to help homeless cats
  • Fun Day Friday (ice cream and fun after school)
  • Singing
  • Art/craft projects
  • Writing/storytelling
  • Books

One of the bridges, our volunteer work, has gone by the wayside, but we recently talked about how we’d like to start volunteering together again. We’ve also started cooking together.

I also jotted down seven of the bridges she and her dad share:

  • Sports (he’s teaching her to play basketball and football)
  • Movies/TV (he recently introduced her to the Addams Family and Godzilla)
  • Building/Fixing projects
  • Fishing
  • Books
  • Bike Riding
  • Fish tanks

He’s also teaching her the fine art of telling a joke. I’m hopeless, always goofing up the punch line.

Since I was getting into the exercise, I also decided to come up with seven bridges between my husband and me. I went a little bridge crazy.

OK, it’s your turn. What are the seven bridges that lead you to your kid?

Shannon Magsam is mom to 9-year-old Ladybug, married to Ladybug’s dad, John, and co-creator of To read previously published installments of Life With Ladybug, click here.