Mr. Awesome and I have been attending a parenting course for the last couple of weeks. Its geared toward parents of adolescents and the material covered is mostly about how to help them navigate the sexual minefield of our culture. In one of the sessions the speaker talks a lot about the need our kids have to identify and bond with each parent, especially at this time in their life. He talks about the intentional positioning parents must do to hold a their place in their child's life, the do anything, move any mountain mentally that parents should have when it comes to their tweens and teens.
So how do we stop this?
I'm not sure that there's a one size fits all, sure fire way to keep our kids safe but I do believe that being present, talking and expecting more from them is a start. Being physically, mentally and emotionally present is vital. Like many other women in my stage of life, I've thought about going back to work full time. The kids are all in school full days, can stay at school for lunch and let's face it, the extra cash would be nice but I can't do it. I need to be here. I need to be present to celebrate awesome days at school and walk through the rough patches with pals.
Being physically present isn't enough, though.
I need to set aside my phone, close the laptop, put down the book and hear, feel, experience my kids' world. I need to be aware, engage and know what's going on. I find it can be much harder to be present mentally than physically. Responsibilities, lists, menus, chores and errands crowd my mind and try to steal my focus. I have to discipline myself to really see and hear the kids some days.
Talking. I love to talk, chat, gab, fellowship, catch up, fill in, story tell and hang out. But talking kidspeak is a different thing entirely. I'm good talking about friends, school and projects. I'm less good with Lego, stunt planning, hypothetical battles between Gandolf and Dumbldore and what colour shoes go with what dress for the Barbie Gala of the Century but those are some of the things that matter the most to my kids right now. I need to enter their world, understand what's important to them. I need to talk about the mundane and the ridiculous so that when they want to talk about the important, life-stuff, of dating, peer pressure, relationships and teen life, they know that I am hear, still caring, still listening.
I also need to expect the best from them. I need them to know that I believe n them, that they will make wise choices, walk in kindness and compassion and live with integrity. I need to set the bar high and be willing to give them a boost when they need it. I need them to know that I believe they are capable of greatness and that mistakes aren't fatal. I need them to know that they are spectacular, magnificent and wonderful.
Present. Talking. Expecting.
It was with all this filling my mind and flooding my heart that I dropped the kids off at school yesterday. We had hit a rough patch with Crafty over the previous couple of days, she was all prickles and tears, and I wasn't sure of just where we stood. So when I parked the car and got out to help Dude unload his tuba (yes, my kid plays the tuba now and that's a post for a whole other day!) I wasn't sure just how the good bye was going to unfold.
Dude gave me a quick side hug, told me that he loves me (sigh!) and wished me a good day before he disappeared into the throng of grade seven kids flooding into the building. I turned to Crafty, said good bye and wished her an awesome day and she just stood there. I wanted to hug her but her friends were gathering and frankly, she was giving me some serious stink eye ... not the most welcoming feeling ... so I just looked at her and she looked at me. I took a step towards her and she just kept looking.
I felt awkward and stupid and completely exposed. I wanted to hug the kid but I was afraid that she was going to reject my affections, I was afraid of being embarrassed. Then I realized what a moron I was being. This is my one daughter, in this one moment in the only life I'll ever have. It's these moments that I need to be present for, that I can't be afraid of, that I need to show up for.
So, I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer and pulled her to me in a big bear hug. I mumbled something about hoping that its not too uncool to hug your mom in front of your friends.
"I don't care if its not cool. I need you to hug me. Always!"
I guess I said good bye and I guess she joined her friends and entered the school. I guess I drove away. I guess because all I remember is being so thankful that I took the chance in that moment to be present, so thankful that my kid opened her heart to me and told me how much she needs me. I was awkward and stupid and completely exposed but not for the reasons I first thought.
I was awkward because I put the judgement of her peers above what Crafty needed of me, I was stupid because I let my self doubt cause me to downplay the importance of my presence in her life and I was completely exposed by my own insecurity and pride. Lord willing, never again. Never again will I quash my natural parenting instinct because it feels awkward and silly. Never again will I leave my daughter questioning whether I love her enough to look past the prickles and embrace the soft hearted girl who will need her mom always.
I am one lucky gal to have this life, these kids and I can't afford to ever overlook the blessings, honour and privilege it is to be called mom.
Present. Talking. Expecting.