The other night while putting my eleven-year-old man-of-few-words son to bed, I asked him, "How's your life going, bud?" 

He replied, "What do you mean?"

"Well, like, how's school, family, friends, church… that kind of stuff?" I answered. 

"I'll give them each a grade!" he said.

Awesome, I thought, both surprised and pleased at his suggestion. So we started on down the line of how each area was going, him giving it a grade between A and F, adding pluses and minuses along the way.  Once we got to family, I had him break it down to his relationship with his dad, with his sister and with me, along with one thing that's going well and one thing he wished were different.

This was eye-opening. Forty minutes later, I felt like I totally knew how my son was doing and how he was viewing his life. I even went on to do this exercise with my thirteen-year-old daughter. Again, new information. 

They both said something that piqued my curiosity, so I went on to ask them both, separately, to rate my anger level... more specifically my yelling at them, on a scale from one to ten (one being I never yell, ten being I'm out of control). 

I got 2s and 3s. (I'm a self-proclaimed work-in-progress, what can I say?) 

This not only was fascinating and new information, it was the springboard for a few pivotal conversations I went on to have with my kids. One topic being about how sometimes we pass some things on through generations. I made a list of health-related things-- like my allergies -- and sin issues -- like my anger -- that I struggle with.  This, in part, is what I shared with them after making this list.

Physically, you both have characteristics that Dad and I have. Like, Jack has Dad's eyes and Sara has mine. And environmentally, meaning, where and how you grew up, you are getting some things from us. That's one of the reasons I am going to counseling to specifically work on handling my anger better. So you two see how it can be handled in a healthy way, and you hopefully don't take on my unhealthy ways of handling it. 

But there are other things I want to talk to you about in our family that have taken place… some things are physical and some things are emotional. (I then went on to list a handful of choices and traits that I felt were age appropriate for them to know about.)

I need to stress that just because someone in your family has had these things or done these things does not mean you will automatically get them or do them. In fact, most of these things, now that you are aware of them, you can work on not letting them be a part of your legacy (what you pass on to your children). 

And we need to keep in mind that no matter what, God has all of this held in his hands. He knows what is going to happen to you on every day of the rest of your life, and he's in control and he loves you no matter what happens and no matter what choices you make.  But we want to make the best choices that we can. 

Moms, be open to asking really good questions of your kids, maybe even really difficult ones, and then be prepared for the answers.  They might just blow you away.

(c) Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2010

Elisabeth lives her with husband and children in Illinois.  She is the author of He Is Just That Into You: Stories of a Faithful God who Pursues, Engages, and Has No Fear of Commitment (WinePress), In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother's Heart (Xulon), and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom's Weary Soul (Kregel).  All of her books can be purchased on Amazon or through her website at www.elisabethcorcoran.com.

Check out her book trailer for He Is Just That Into You at http://www.vimeo.com/7093233.

Visit her blog at http://elisabethcorcoran.blogspot.com/.

You can follow her on Twitter at ekcorcoran or friend her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/people/Elisabeth-Klein-Corcoran/1301703500.

Watch Elisabeth and her friends spread hope through Africa with Samaritan's Purse at http://www.vimeo.com/7919582.