When I was growing up, there were still the vestiges of “a child should be seen and not heard.” Despite this, my parents did try to talk to me, with me, and involve me in the realities of life. Lately there seems to be this weird trend to keep children free of worry and hardship.
“I want my child to feel happy and free and enjoy his childhood.”
“I don’t want my child bogged down by the realities of adulthood, that will happen soon enough.”
“I don’t want to crush their spirit.”
It seems as if there is a lot of mollycoddling going on.
And while I do believe that childhood is, and should be, filled with magic, fun and learning, I also firmly believe in preparing mine for the inevitable realities of adulthood. That starts early, with activities that are within her ability to accomplish, and with many, many moments spent talking with her – explaining life, listening to her questions and concerns, and helping her make sense of a confusing world.
I thought that it went without saying that she could come and talk to me about everything – but then I realized she is young, and easily confused by my reactions. She might come along when I’m in the moment of composing a story line, or trying to sort out a multitude of priorities. I try to stay open and approachable, I really do, but when inundated with dozens of self-imposed projects (and their accompanying deadlines) I can be an intimidating force of nature. Or so my husband and eldest tell me.
Also I recently was reminded of her when reading a memory on Facebook where I had posted about her endless questions. The post was four years ago, and I’ve noticed that she doesn’t ask as many questions now as she did then. Had my responses discouraged her? Had she decided they weren’t worth asking? That she wasn’t worth my time?
So yesterday, as we were driving to meet her dad at Barnes & Noble on the Plaza, I said to her, “You know you can talk to me, right? About anything. I know that sometimes I’m distracted, or busy with projects or thoughts and I can be rather abrupt with you. Even when I’m that way, you know you can ask me anything, right?”
Em said she did, but I think that she has been in her own world for the past few months, watching way too many Minecraft videos and barely interacting with us at all. And I need to do something about that.
While a good deal of it is age-related, she is nine years old now and peer relationships are becoming more and more important, in some cases taking precedence over familial relationships, I know that I tend to go off on my projects and not spend enough time with her.
My solution to this is to include her in more of our daily tasks – cooking or some basic cleaning, for example. Increase our time spent together – nature walks in temperate weather, crafts indoors during the winter, and add in some date nights with each of the adult members of the family.
I want to talk more with her, and less at her.
In the end, I want her to know that she can always count on me to be there – to listen, to give advice, to answer questions, to guide, and to simply be a companion as she grows into an independent, resourceful young woman.