If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.
Recently, I was at a meeting and the topic of parenting came up. There was a mom like me who has older children- one high school graduate and one still in high school. She was sharing that she believes ECFE* classes should continue throughout all stages of parenting as she has found parenting older children is challenging! What an understatement!
Because my children are now 26 and nearly 23, I often tease that I am a semi-retired parent. The truth is my kids would like me to fully retire on many days…… that is until they need me. My kids still ask me to edit papers for them or give them a bit of advice on handling relationships with roommates, teammates, or significant others. I can tell you it’s darn scary to offer up advice when your child is talking to you about the person they love and would like to spend the rest of his/her life with. No one wants to mess that up. Mostly, I ask questions and listen a lot.
Simple idea…… listening to our children. How often do we take the time to set aside everything else including cell phones, television, and cooking dinner to listen to what our kids have to say? Have you figured out how to get your child to open up to you? Years ago, I read that boys have an easier time talking to adults when they don’t have to look right at you or have you look at them (face it- there is judgment in a look sometimes), so I would take my boys in the car or on walks with me. There were many times in the car when concentrating on driving became difficult because I was getting an earful about the life of my child! I have a friend who found that bedtime with her daughter was the very best time to listen. I specifically said listen & not talk….did you notice? Try to avoid talking at your child. No advice unless they ask for it or you ask permission to give it. No judgment. No consequences. Can you do it?
Invest time to find the place where your child opens up to you. If you haven’t found that place yet- don’t give up! Keep trying. Maybe your child is highly active and will talk on a bike ride or jumping on a trampoline. Perhaps your child is introverted and you will need to have an abundance of quiet time before opening up to you. You might find that once your child starts talking- the talking won’t stop! Just keep listening.
So, back to my original question. Do we ever get to retire from parenting? My soon to be 89 year old mom would say absolutely not! You will forever be a parent- your role will change through the years, but you will never stop wanting the best for your children and worrying about them. The hope is by creating a relationship with children where they can safely talk and we can listen, you will not only survive this lifetime career with no retirement date in sight, but you will enjoy the ride.
*Early Childhood Family Education offers classes for children up to age 5 with parents. Education is intended for both parent and child.