Some parents complain about how their children will not connect with them on social media, or have them blocked. I have also heard other parents declare that they would not allow such behavior, since they pay for the phone, etc. This makes me a little sad, but really, how can you stop them? Honestly, it’s possible that my kids may be blocking me from some content. I would have no way of knowing that. This fact doesn’t worry me. I think that they trust me enough to not feel the need to hide things. Besides, I believe they are entitled to some level of privacy. I don’t have to (nor want to) be involved in every aspect of their lives.
I am thankful that my children talk to me and feel that I know them pretty well, but to be honest, it is what I have always expected. Why do they let me in? I think it comes down to trust and respect. I have always told them that they can come to me with anything; that I will love them no matter what. I expect that they will usually make good decisions, but know that everyone sometimes makes mistakes. If their mistakes are big ones, I want to know that they will come to me to help them, rather than making them even bigger.
As a teenager, I talked to my parents. I didn’t tell them EVERYTHING, but they knew more than most other parents did. I didn’t realize this was not the norm until having a discussion with one of my girlfriends and casually mentioning my dad’s opinion on something (likely related to a boy). A wide-eyed, “You talk to your dad, about that?” was the reaction. My response, “Yeah, why not?” My mom was my go-to person for almost everything, but my dad was a guy, so he could see the other side.
I always assumed I would have the same relationship with my kids. We have talked about the big things, drugs, alcohol, sex. With drugs it is clear cut. It is the family joke that our drug talk is “Don’t Do Drugs.” Period. When it comes to drinking and sex, things are not so easy. Our society has placed sex and alcohol front and center. There are very few books, movies, even TV shows that don’t at least hint that the characters are engaging in one or both. Social occasions frequently revolve around alcohol (happy hours, cocktail parties, even most networking events seem to be at bars) and sexual innuendos are even found in movies aimed at children. “Just say no” just doesn’t work.
So we have had the talks. More than one. I have expressed my opinions and my desires that they wait, at least until they are mature enough to make a good decision. However, I am very aware that the decision is theirs to make, not mine. But we also talk about everyday things, the things that are really important in life: relationships, values, what we are learning (yes, I am still learning too and I talk about it), what our hopes and dreams are and how they change over time. Though I am a parent, my relationship with my kids is also similar to that of a friend.
I trust them. As they got older, I gave them opportunities to make their own decisions, about things that have consequences, but not life altering ones. I let them have tastes of independence. I made them pack for camping trips themselves (you only forget that crucial item once). I had them chose between activities when schedules overlapped, knowing they wanted to do it all, yet knowing that missing something was inevitable and sometimes had consequences.
I accept them for who they are. They are not little versions of me. They have their own interests, thoughts and values (which I hope that I have done a good job to influence). We don’t always agree and that’s okay. Life would be boring if we were all exact;y alike.
I have faith in them. I believe in them, sometimes more than they believe in themselves. I know that they are good people who will sometimes make mistakes or even outright bad decisions. How you act when you realize you have made a mistake is more important than never making one to begin with.
I try to respect boundaries. This one is tough for me. Part of me wants to do things for them. They are no longer small children who need hand holding to cross the street, or to do anything else for that matter. They want and need to be fully independent and I realize that this is a learning process. Of course, this goes both ways. When they are feeling unsure and vulnerable, they try to go back to that safe place we all yearn for where someone else makes the call. It is my job to not let them. I can advise them, but ultimately they are the ones who need to act. After all, I want them all to move out someday.