Do you remember when your big kids were still little, and you’d sit in tiny chairs, and drink imaginary tea from tiny pink cups (that were covered in drool and germs)? You would happily pretend to be a dog, and crawl around on the floor barking (was that just at my house?). You’d build forts out of pillows and blankets all afternoon and awkwardly squeeze inside like a giant. Your kids would laugh infectious giggles as you would read dozens of stories to them in a variety of voices, and happily read, “Just one more, PLEEAASSE???”
Maybe you would run around the yard with an empty wrapping paper tube, sword fighting while shouting out “Yarrr, Matey!” Falling in the grass, rolling down hills, squeezing our grownup sized butts into kiddie slides, and blowing bubbles all afternoon?
When our kids got a bit older we watched Hannah Montana on repeat, took them to the theater to see movies we cared nothing about, and taught them to play Scrabble and Monopoly and Cranium. We still went to the park, but as they became more independent, we most likely became more disconnected. When we didn’t have to squeeze into the swing or the slide any longer, we probably stared at our phone longer, read a book, or visited with a friend.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand. Of course our kids need that independence. And they probably don’t want us on the slide anymore, anyway. Probably. Maybe. Or maybe not.
In the picture above, I can remember my daughter beckoning me to, “Come climb with me, mom!” and me responding, “Your big enough now, just go! I’ll be right here!” And off she went, happy to be at Central Park. But she asked for me. Then again – once, maybe twice more? Then, she stopped asking. I don’t know if she was ready for me to let go, but she got the message. I was done playing at the park.
Now she’s older still, and I realize how often I’m saying, “You just go by yourself. You’ll be fine.” Or sending her to her room to watch a show I don’t particularly feel like watching. Or turning off her music in the car because I just can’t even listen to that Maroon 5 song one. more. time. And I wonder how much she still wants me as part of her life, but she’s gotten the message; Mom doesn’t want to be a part of yours.
I think about how many times I’ve rolled my eyes at her non-stop chatter when we are driving somewhere, or tuned out when she’s telling me about her day, or about what she read or saw on the internet. I consider how many chances to parent I’ve missed and how often I’ve dismissed what’s important to her, because I don’t deem it important – because in my adult mind it’s insignificant. But in hers, right now, it means everything.
I expect her to talk to me about anything and everything I want to discuss. Yet I don’t pay her the same courtesy. And I pray she wants to tell me about the important stuff – sex and dating, drugs, alcohol, friends, big decisions… that’s the new playground! I wonder if I ruined my chances. And I wonder if I can get them back.
Here’s what I’ve learned;
If our kids are sporting surliness more than joy towards us, perhaps they are learning it from us. When we are regularly too tired to gab, they are getting the message that we are too tired of them. However, the less I roll my eyes and participate in her silliness, the more willing she is to participate in mine. The more Vines I watch and laugh at, the more likely it is she’ll show me things she doesn’t like. And those are conversation starters.
I’ve tried to live by this motto, from Catherine M. Wallace;
Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been the big stuff.
But somewhere in the past year or two, I have lost my way a little bit, and I need to find my way back.
That time is drawing nearer – when we are going to be bombarded by the big stuff! And now that we’ve got tweens and young teens on our hands, we’ve got to show them that we know their stuff is big. Even when to us, it’s little. Music and YouTube and whatever is on ABC Family is the new pretend tea party, or a day playing pirates in the backyard. Let’s remind them of the days when we would happily play all afternoon. Our kids are waiting to reciprocate. As a bonus – they are sure to get tired of us soon enough, and want a little free time of their own! It will be like a little gift! And we won’t even have to ask for it.