Friday, March 06, 2015

On Relationships And Kids

Some days my conversations are hardly what I'd call "elevated". With four sons under the age of ten, at times my conversation is as fascinating as Brennan (5) looking at me and saying, "Mom, I totally farted just now."

I never know what to say to that.

My mother, who raised me to have good manners (I promise, she really did), echoes in my head, telling me to remind him to excuse himself, and that such things needn't always be announced.

But really I just want to tell him, "Good job, kiddo. Yay!" because, well, because that's more fun for me. And because darned if he doesn't cheer everything I do. Honestly, I joke about it, but how did I ever go to the bathroom before I had someone cheering for me every time?

Questions for another day, clearly.

Other days, the conversations with my kids are somewhat more complex.

Piper (12), for example, has a new Significant Other.

"I didn't put it on Facebook, Mom. I mean, it's not that I don't want everyone to know, but I wasn't sure if Dad knew." she said, nervously, as we cleaned up together this evening.

"Of course your dad knows." I assured her, "I told him about it."

"Well, then why hasn't he asked me about it?" She was genuinely perplexed. She saw this as a significant event, and surely her dad would want to discuss it with her.

"Sweetie, your dad and I trust you to tell us what we need to know. And we trust that you'll answer our questions when and if we have some." She looked happy with that response, and secure in the knowledge that her parents trusted her. Which we do.

We talk about everything and we know that our kids will talk to us when they need to. We also know Piper. We know that she will talk this thing till it's lying on the floor, begging her to stop.

And of course, we know the love lives of twelve year olds. They're somewhat fickle things, subject to change on a whim.

I've seen parents try to control the relationships of their children. And I've seen parents ignore the relationships of their children. Neither approach have I seen been very successful. Because kids sometimes date each other. That's a thing that happens. And you'll never do well trying to manage it for them, and if you try to pretend it's not happening, then you can't help them when they run into trouble.

We're trying to take the position that our kids need to forge their own paths with their friends and relationships, but we'd like to sort of be included, in a way that's involved, but not in charge.

We want be their sounding board. The place where they can get some insight and wisdom. Where they can get advice and guidance.

We like to think that this will allow them to navigate things themselves, but with a safety net.

Of course, this requires trust on both sides. They have to trust that we are there not to meddle, but to help. While we have to trust that they're basically kids who make good choices. And when they don't, it will be a learning experience, not the end of the world.

Sometimes I miss the days when the most complicated choice I had to make in my conversations with my older kids was deciding whether or not to take a moment to instill the manners my mother tried desperately to instill in me. But most of the time it's kinda great to watch them grow-up.

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