Who would be a ‘fly on the wall?’ I sometimes feel that to be the best you can be, whether as a family or an individual, a ‘no consequences’ family discussion may be cathartic and empowering at the same time. What do you think?
You see, I’m not certain that within the family unit, we all know or appreciate each other’s strengths, know, or understand each other’s weaknesses, or even, in some cases, are certain of each other’s roles within the family dynamic. In fact, especially as our lives are evolving so quickly during our years, when we go from being nursed by mama, to being nurtured as a pupil to studentship, to higher education and becoming an adult.
We go from dislike to like, because there is, as a child, a very fine line between the two, to admiration, from a look to a love, from the joy of that love to togetherness, to parenthood. We go from “do this and do that,” to “please do this and please do that,” through the frustrations of “I asked you to do this and that,” to the sweet surrender of a rare, “Oh, you shouldn’t have...”
All the time we are changing, and we are changing not only ourselves but how much we know of each other. It’s no wonder that especially among parents the often-heard sentiment, accompanied by a long sigh... of “I just don’t know them anymore.”
Of course, if we think about time passing, growing up, and the entire conundrum of life’s constant changes, the realities and consistencies are few and far between. Our faith doesn’t change, our lineage can never change, our culture and traditions evolve, but very slowly embracing each generation, and there is the stumbling block to our parental potential to having all the answers, generation. We will always rarely be any less than a generation, twenty or so years, behind our offspring, and in today’s world, that twenty years sometimes seems like a dozen lifetimes away, a universe, a galaxy away from who and what we were, and still are.
This gap, this yawning abyss between our world and that of our children, is what makes parenting so difficult, because our experiences have so little relevance to our conceptions of what their experiences will be. Suffice it to say however, that though mankind and technology are shooting for the stars, our kid’s journeys may be less fraught with danger than ours, but with so many more obstacles.
Childcare and education expert Maria Montessori said, “Never help a child with a task where they feel they can succeed.” So, it’s incumbent upon us therefore, as parents to be truly aware of the directions these young people’s lives are taking, and that awareness allows us while we are preparing them for life ahead, to be there, at the right time, and in the right place, to catch them when they fall... as they almost certainly will. Not to say “I told you so,” but to be whatever they need at that moment.
Oh, I know, some of you are thinking, “I took some stick when I was young, and it did me no harm.” Or the old adages that the ‘school of hard knocks,’ and the ‘university of life, will teach them.’ Well, maybe, maybe not. But do you really want to see your kids with a succession of bloody noses, split lips, scraped elbows and skinned knees? Of course not. Yet you would see life teach them its harshest lessons when you have the power to make a difference? No, I thought not.
So how can we help them navigate this Amazonian new age? Be aware, ask questions, maintain an interest, but above all be a practical and pragmatic listener. Young people may dislike being questioned, but they hate being told! So be good listeners, and having listened, and knowing what you want to say... wait until you are asked for your thoughts, and if you are clear, concise, and precise, all will be well.
Some fairy tales, some dreams, do come true... Princesses do happen, as do astronauts, and heroes, but most of our kids have slightly less lofty aims, that we are perfectly placed to support by enabling them, and sharing their journeys. Not leading them but inspiring them. Listening... to save them.