After my husband my children are my best friends. I can tell them anything and have shared as much as possible with them as they were growing up. We have laughed and cried together, shared happy and sad times, our hopes, our dreams, disappointments and uncertainties. They have always taken time to listen to me and given me advice when needed. I am truly blessed to have such well formed, intelligent, wise and prudent children by my side.
I haven’t always ‘got it right’ with some of them and found it hard to accept some of the choices they have made. Actually, some of the choices I have made haven’t been that great either! Anyway, over the years I have slowly learned to respect their freedom and try to communicate in such a way that unites rather than divides. This is not easy for me as I have a strong personality and am very demanding with myself and the children. However, over the years I learned – mainly through making mistakes and asking forgiveness – that I needed to discipline like someone wielding an iron fist in a velvet glove! This takes a fair amount of reflection, detachment, affection and heaps of patience. I am still learning as the family continues to grow!
My husband and I did our best to provide a warm, loving and stimulating environment for our children to grow and develop emotionally, humanly, spiritually and intellectually. Some research suggests that the stronger the friendships parents have with their children the calmer and more serene their children are. Well, we have many strong friendships with our kids but I can assure you the majority of them are far from calm and serene. In fact, most of our children are strong willed, independent, noisy and assertive.
For example, one day one of my sons came home from high school stressed out. I was thinking…
But trying to be a good mother I asked,“What’s the matter?” “You look a little stressed.”
He replied, “I have to go to this meeting, then they want me to go to this other meeting. I just can’t, I just can’t. I also have to write an essay for English and I have a Geography assignment. I can’t, I just can’t do everything.”
“Well don’t,” I calmly replied. Acting as if he hadn’t heard me, he continued,“I just can’t do everything everyone expects me to do, I just can’t.”
Again I said, “Well, don’t. Just choose what is most important and do that.”
“Thanks for your advice mum, I have to go.”
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“To do all those things I just said I couldn’t do!”
Although exhausting and time consuming I knew it was important to take the time to listen to him ‘sound off’. We all need to ‘sound off’ at times. However, we need to be respectful to those we are ‘sounding off’ to. If we cause offense we need to admit fault and apologize. The art of apology and the art of forgiveness are necessary qualities to aspire to in order to build healthy and long lasting relationships. Remember to err is human to forgive divine.
Not all of our children have the same personality some are outspoken and forthright, some more reflective and considered, some talk too much and others not enough. It is amazing just how different children from the same family can be! With so much going on in our household, it was essential to use every chance to talk to our children – chatting with them while preparing dinner, driving in the car, shopping, going out to lunch, watching their sports and going for walks. These have been wonderful opportunities to get to know and bond more with them.
While we have always wanted to be great friends with our children, we never wanted to join their peer group. They want us to be their friend, confidant and mentor. People they trust BUT not go clubbing with!
One day as I was preparing to give a talk on “Developing Friendship with Your Children” I asked one of my teenage sons why it was that we connected so well with him and his friends. His response was that we made time to kick back and relax. Have a drink or two, smoke a shisha (tobacco not weed) and connect with his friends.
When one of my sons was in high school, a mother informed me a few boys including her son and mine were seen sitting on a park bench drinking beer. I had visions of an unshaven, disheveled homeless son wearing dirty old clothes sipping beer from a bottle in a brown paper bag!
When this particular son arrived home I casually asked, “How was your day, darling?” “Great!” he replied. “How was the club?” I asked (he would often go to a boys club after school).
“Good, I got a lot of study done.”
He paused then looked at me quizzically and asked,“Who told you?”
I played innocent for a while until I squeezed all the juicy details out of him. Then we had a chat about drinking. The bottom line was: if you want a drink let’s talk about having a drink at home with the family. Don’t go sneaking behind our backs sitting on a park bench like some homeless old man. The point was made.
By keeping a sense of humor and not making ‘a big thing’ out of it, I gained his respect, confidence and friendship which has endured the test of time.