I was texting with my college child this morning when a wave of gratitude hits me. We have a bond I only dreamed of. I’m not parenting expert by any way, shape, or form, but I do have time under my belt. I sat and thought about all the things I had done right, with twinges of heartache for the learning curve I had to experience as well. Building a strong foundation takes dedication, time, and a whole lot of grace. Where do you start?
My 20 year old's words...
My text to her this morning: “I’m writing a blog post about the strong bond I have with you, but also how other parents can build that foundation as well. Tell me…what did I do right? What could I have done better. Don’t hold back.”
“Oh my. I realize now that you were strict, but in the way I needed. I was a completely different kid than Ryder (younger sibling), and you’re a different kind of strict that he specifically needs. Because it’s not a one-way fits all. You made sure you kept our connection close, even though most of the time I resented you for being so strict. But at the same time, you made sure I was still able to have a ‘teenage life.’ I can still remember going with S****(name taken off for privacy) to so many things and thinking how cool it was that we were able to do it by ourselves. You let me slowly become an adult. For things you could have done better, I genuinely don’t know. If you would have asked me this 5 years ago I’m sure I could’ve thought of many things, lol, but not today. I realize that everything you did, you did for me and I love you for it. Our bond is so strong now because of everything you did when I was younger. You’re my best friend and you’re the best mom.”
why i share that
I don’t share her words to toot my own horn by any means. I whole heartedly don’t care if anyone but my own kids thing I’m a good mom. We had plenty of hurdles to jump, but I always think it’s nice to hear from from your children the way they view how they grew up. A couple of things leaped out to me in that text. “I realize now that you were strict, but in a way I needed.” Also, “it’s not a one-way fits all.”
"I realize now..."
As parents I think we get so fixated on the right now, when in all reality, what we’re doing right now is for the greater good of their future. What I mean is that we set up rules to yes, keep them safe right now, but it’s the mold them into the adults we hope to see one day. Why do we limit electronic use? Lots of reasons. Maybe it’s so they are not exposed to things they shouldn’t be or so that they don’t become little zombies in a tech world. I mean, as an adult, how many times have you picked up your phone today? I’m not judging. I’m right there with you. Why do we enforce a strict bedtime? We know they will be grumpy the following day and we want to instill good sleep habits for years to come.
Why do we teach them compassion? To become compassionate adults. Why do we do anything that has regards to our kids? So that they become humble, responsible, God loving human beings. At least that’s why in our household. Does that make sense? Ok, back to the topic lol.
What can I do today?
The best advice I have ever received and live by is to show your children the way. Don’t just talk about it…show them. Children learn what they see, point blank. They are not born instilled with the ability to be kind, nurturing, giving, and humble. They must learn those traits. I was just talking about homelessness and bullying (yes, two totally different topics) this morning in the car. What would they do if they saw someone hungry? How would they react? Which brings me to my first way to building a strong foundation…
Talk, talk, and talk some more
There is nothing these kids can’t ask me. I tell them that constantly. I was just telling my high schooler the other day, reminding him for the millionth time, that he can literally ask/talk to me about anything. Anything. Want to know about sex? Ask me. Want to know why we won’t allow night time driving for our teens until a certain point? Ask me. Want to know what a specific word means that they don’t want to google? Ask away. I’ll google it.
The point I’m making is that they know they can come to me with open arms, with no judgment (I try) and we’ll talk about anything you want to. Except Fortnight…I can’t. Just don’t.
I'm gonna be all up in your business
And I’m not going to feel guilty about it. Did you know a child’s brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25? Yeah, so that rationalization they’re pulling right now…nope. We, as parents are here to make those tough life changes decisions for them. Period. Do we let them in to discussion and conversation about the topic? Of course we do, but the final choice will always be ours.
Example: “mom, can I go over to J**** house today?”
Me: “sure, I just need a contact number to call their parents to make sure there will be supervision.”
“Well, they won’t be there, but we’re just going to play video games.”
Me: “Sorry kid, we don’t allow unsupervised game playing, but I am more than happy to go pick them up so you guys can play over here.”
Harsh? Maybe, but that’s ok. That’s why we have rules in place and our hearts are clear of guilt. Making these choices will not get you a best friend badge with your kids, but it will also keep them safe and away from things like porn, drugs, and alcohol while they are young.
connection every single day
Connection every single day. I know what you’re thinking “how on earth do I have time for that?” Let me say this…find the time. It’s doesn’t have to be long winded conversations about the world, it can be a simple 5 min talk before bed, asking what they learned at school that day. Maybe a new friend they made. Someone that upset them this week. Even stories of your day. Trust me, they care. They may roll their eyes at your story, but the connection is there. I have even come to them with apologies of something I screwed up that day with them.
The other night, my 9 year old was distraut that he was going to miss a birthday party in his old hometown. I mean visibly upset. I brushed him off and told him that it was just the way it had to be (he has commitments with his Saturday class that he can’t miss), I went to the bathroom and this wave of regret came over me. That was not how I wanted to handle the situation. In his little mind, this was a big deal and I swept it under the rug. I came out of the room, hugged him, and told him how sorry I was.
I explained the circumstances more thoroughly and told him that he had a right to be upset, the cry, and have all the feelings. I validated the real of his emotions. It was a connection moment. Was he still upset? Of course, but he knew that he was heard.
It's a million tiny moments
There isn’t a big long checklist to how to have and build that strong foundation with your children. It’s a million tiny choices you make everyday. I know that can seem daunting, but trust me…it’s so worth it. You are the people they learn from, look up to, roll their eyes at, and the ones they will base what they know of this world off of. As scary as that may be, take it with grace and gratitude.