To my observing children, I was my usual self; physically a little weary but fairly happy and chatty. What was unobserved to them, was the business inside my head. The conversation cogs that turned slowly, mulling over a particular issue I had with one of them. There was a talk I knew I needed to have. I was wondering how I was ever going to bring it up in conversation. I wanted to appear relaxed so that my intentions were masked by a gentle veil of casualness; allowing for a very natural chat. But the truth was this particular issue had been rolling about in my mind for a while, and the more I waited for the ‘right time’ to talk, the more elusive that time became and the more muddled I felt about what to say. The truth was, there was never going to be a ‘right time’. I just had to be courageous and say it straight. But what began as a well intentioned talk, descended into what my kids refer to as “A Mum lecture”; a reference I loath.
You know it’s not going the way you’d hoped for when you get the rolling of the eyes, the side ways glances and the slow backing away to the door. Then the final blow…”Okay [sigh], I know Mum. Stop with the Mum lecture.” In their typical unfiltered, teenage fashion they communicate, “Stop!” With this decisive utterance you are completely shut down.
Why do I loath this? For two reasons: 1. I want to be heard. I want to have a healthy relationship with my kids; a relationship where open dialogue can happen without fear of put-down or taboo subjects. A relationship of respect; where I listen to their point of view and they listen to mine.
2. I want to be that friendly Mum. The kind of mother who is seen as easy going and relaxed. Who kids want to hang out with and chat about life in a very easy, non confrontational way. I don’t want to be perceived as old fashioned, out of touch or ‘too serious’.
While it’s lovely to share relaxed, uncomplicated moments with your kids (fostering a good relationship with them), part of our role and responsibility as parents is to be that significant person in their life who brings rebuke and guidance, correction and encouragement. It’s not always easy or fun, but it is something we are called to do. There are times when we have to be serious. To call out things that are wrong or just communicate things that are important to you, that they may not fully understand.
The challenge is to have these conversations regardless of how uncomfortable they make you feel, whilst avoiding the urge to nag, or to drone on unnecessarily. You may say, “I know you don’t like me talking about this, however I feel it important to communicate that…” Or give them warning that you want to talk, but allow them to choose the time and place. And share the load with your partner, discuss with them the issues you are facing, or the areas you are aware of that need to be addressed, and talk about how best to address them. Parent as a team. Some subjects are easier to discus with a parent of the same sex.
And remember…be kind to yourself. When you think it all came out wrong. If you didn’t say everything you wanted to say. If your kid is cross with you for saying it. If you miss a good opportunity, or seize it only to regret it later. It’s okay. You don’t need to be perfect and neither does the moment. There will always be another opportunity to talk, another moment to teach and guide. And above all, pray. When you bring to God your parenting challenges; looking to him for wisdom and trusting in him to help you, you can be assured that he will.