I've always cherished those moments with my kids when we have a real conversation - where they ask questions (although they may sometimes be hard to answer), where they seek advice, where they share something they are feeling or experiencing or excited about. And with having five kids, those little one-on-one conversations are too few and far between.
I've been getting a lot of questions from my 7-year-old lately. The kind of questions that really make you pause and think and decide how to explain some of the things in life that are hard to explain, like why there are wars. And I want to make them feel comfortable coming to me with questions or seeking advice.
The pre-teen and teenage years are a time that come with lots of questions, but it can also be a time when kids stop seeking out answers from their parents and learning about things from peers. Sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes it's not. There are many lessons to learn in life and while you are the primary teachers as parents, there are others that can sometimes shed light on a situation in a way that you can't. Early in my parenting career I didn't understand that. I do now.
Once kids approach the teenage years, they can scale way back on the communication. Where the question of "how was school today?" once caused a lengthy explanation of recess-time and the spelling test grade and what the history lesson was that day, the same question posed to a pre-teen or teen usually elicits one of three one word answers "good," "okay" or "boring."
This is one time when those pesky electronic devices can be a benefit. Once in a while between the 200 texts going out to their friends, they take a minute to send you a text. My thirteen-year-old has his thumbs busy all the time, but there have been two occasions where I was so glad he had that cell phone. One was a few months back and I was out running errands and my cell phone rang. I figured it was him calling to ask if he could play video games or go somewhere with his friends or eat the OREOs he found hidden in the closet.
"Hey," I answered after I saw it was him.
"Hey, Mom. Guess what?" he said.
"I don't know," I answered.
"Guess what?" he repeated.
"I have no idea. What?" I said.
"You have to guess," he responded.
"I don't really know. Just tell me," I said, a little more impatient.
"No, I want you to guess," he said, still with excitement in his voice.
There I was standing in the parking lot at the grocery store, bags spilling out, his brother bouncing around at my feet, the wind blowing so hard I could barely hear him. I wasn't in the mood for a guessing game. My voice got more stern. "I don't have time to guess. I'm loading groceries. I have my hands full. I've got to go. What do you want?"
His voice sank. "Nevermind," he said. "I'll tell you later."
Then, riddled with guilt and still annoyed, I conceded. "Ok, sorry. I'm in a hurry here. I'm not mad at you. What did you want to say?"
"I just wanted to tell you I have a girlfriend," he said.
I stopped in my tracks and listened to all he wanted to tell me.
Wow! He called me to tell me he had a girlfriend. Lots of things went through my mind, but mostly I thought about how I never would have told my parents that I had a girlfriend. There was never a rule about not dating as a teenager in my house, but I just always felt like it had to be secret. It felt good that he was calling and telling that to his mom.I felt happy that my child was sharing that news with me, especially being a boy.
Yesterday, my phone rang and it was my 13-year-old again. When I answered, He said, "Guess what?" I answered "What?" even though I knew what he was calling about. He had entered a contest by the Cook Country Farm Bureau and that's where he was at. He brought a pumpkin that he and his grandpa had grown that weighed in at just under 80 pounds. He won first place. My husband had already called and told me, but it was nice to hear his voice and how excited he was. I hope there will be many times in the future where I'll get to hear his voice when something good happens in his life.