Saturday, July 11, 2015

Children Will Listen

Parenting has been on my mind lately.  I'm sure this is because we are all blissfully enjoying life before the Teen heads to college next month.  Yesterday, I found myself getting weepy in Costco when I realized I would no longer have to buy gallons of orange juice. It is also because of the eighteen, yes EIGHTEEN, out-of-town family members we hosted during June. Then there's the recent baby explosion. No the babies didn't explode. At least four close friends have welcomed babies into this world in the past few months and at least two more are on the way.

Some qualifiers before we go further:
I never intended to be a parent. 
I had one kid.
I'm amazed at what I learned.

What Worked For Me
Stay mindful of the grand task - The grand task is to guide another soul as they find their way into and through this marvelous, mucky world of ours.  You want them to grow, you want them to develop, and you want them to leave.  Yes, you do.  Remind yourself frequently of this task.
Let them fall, let them fail.  The earlier, the better. - Don't scream and gasp at every fall or tumble, whether physical, spiritual or mental. This tells even the strongest of young humans that falls are to be feared.  They aren't.  
Falling is a part of life.  Be there to confidently pick them up.  Pretty soon, they'll figure out how to do it on their own.  Which means you will have taught them how to be resilient. They'll come to embrace falling as a part of life.  So will you.  

Concerned that they'll seriously hurt themselves?  You will know when the fall is serious. It's embedded deep in your DNA.  Trust yourself.
Be with your kid - Get down on their level.  Look at the world from their perspective.  Shut off the device and look into their eyes.
Children Will Listen is a remarkable guide - "How do you say to your child in the night, nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white?"  These are the first words in Stephen Sondheim's timeless song Children Will Listen: 

Here's the text. Worth the click.
For those of you on your mobile devices, this link should get you to the video
Start the college account.  Yesterday – This one sounds practical, doesn't it? You're correct, it is very practical. But if you hit your kid's high school graduation and you don't have enough money for college, it will feel incredibly emotional. Don't do that to yourself, your partner and your kid. Start the account. $5, $10, $20 every month will make a difference. Tell the relatives to contribute to the account instead of purchasing another cute outfit.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am that Beloved and I took this approach. As we stare at those first-year numbers, I feel both relieved and joyful.  Relieved that there are enough funds to begin this part of the parenting adventure without extra worry. Joyful that we are able to provide for the Teen without extra pressure.  Join us.  You'll be glad you did.
Tell them the truth - You're tired.  You're sad.  You don't know what to do.  Tell them.  They know anyway.  They know before you do.  As soon as you lie, you start them down the path of emotional confusion.  This does not give you permission to become an emotional mess, blubbering away about all of your woes.  But do express emotions in as healthy a way as you possibly can.  If you can't, learn how.

You know I aspire to being as positive as possible, but there is an ugly truth out there that doesn't get spoken out loud enough. Here goes....
How Kids Mess Up Your Perfect Partnership
Having a child will be a huge stress on your relationship - Here's just one article about what having children does to a couple's relationship.  Yes, I know it is from 2009, but it's a good one and I'm quite certain we haven't solved this problem in the last six years:

Perhaps your experience will be an outlier.  I sure hope so.  But I will still counsel you to be prepared to encounter aspects of your partner that you never dreamed were possible once you add children into the mix. 
Be clear about why you are having a child - Hoping to repair a broken relationship is not a good reason.  Satisfying grandparents is also not a good reason.  Hoping to distract yourself from your personal situation is a terrible reason.
Parents need to be on the same page on the big issues – The little things don't matter. So your partner didn't put the Cheerios away. Hey, at least the kids got breakfast.
But, if that Cheerios box is masking a bigger issue, then you've got to start the conversation. Or continue the conversation. The one about the things that really matter, the ideas that make a life. These conversations go on and on; while that can be frustrating when you don't agree completely with your partner, compromising, listening and patience are all practiced. Tell your kids about that.
Beloved and I talk constantly about the big issues. Issues like respect, passion, resilience, compassion, honesty, commitment. Have we seen it in our kid lately? Did we have an opportunity to discuss or show one of these traits? Have we changed our minds?
The Cheerios can stay on the counter forever as long as you both agree on those big issues. And, if the Cheerios are bugging you, check in with yourself. If that's you being fussy, let it go. If it is the tip of the iceberg, it's time for that conversation.

As you can imagine, I have more thoughts on this subject.  If you're interested in more, please comment here on the blog.  Comment even if you're not interested!

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