Big talk is fun. It’s fun to spout an opinion, especially when a warm body is in the room. It is particularly convenient if, by virtue of having given birth to this being in the room, he or she is under a certain obligation to present a facade of interest.
I don’t know about you, but a particular topic will produce a lot of chatter in my mind. I prepare my statements to my children prior to my big “press release.” I choose my words carefully and can actually present an argument so logical and wise at times that Socrates himself would perk up. The result?
Usually, a big belly-flop.
To truly channel Socratic wisdom, one must ask questions. To truly channel parental wisdom, one must keep one’s big mouth shut. And listen.
This is especially true if we don’t like what we are hearing. Don’t talk….listen.
For the first 10 years as a parent, we spend most of our time in “protection mode,” and we do a darn good job! Do you know how many near misses I’ve prevented? Cement, coffee tables, cars, stairs, open gates, swinging bats, I’ve conquered them all. Now, I have teenagers, and yep, you guessed it; things have changed.
Instead of the powerful mama-bear, I’ve somehow become a behind-the-scenes force which considers the best consequences and the most alluring carrots. My husband is a co-conspirator, and while our kids undoubtedly see our scheming as nefarious, we know that we are still protectors.
Rather than sharp objects and blunt surfaces, the dangers now lurk in the shadows. They gather in movie theaters, song lyrics and on Snap Chat. It might be a message from the fresh-faced new girlfriend wearing the Vineyard Vines. It might be your son’s favorite coach. To find the dangers, I have to intuit, surmise, guess and be ever on the lookout.
To really get the best intel into my child’s world, I have to listen.
The truth sometimes hurts. The truth might confirm that the world is morally defunct. (You mean to tell me that some parents really do complete their kid’s homework?)
Or that the social pressures are winning (Don’t tell me everybody sexts!)
Or that feelings simply get hurt the old-fashioned way (Your teen is home alone on a Saturday night.)
I’ll admit, I’m not the most sentimental person. But a kiss and hug to heal a scraped knee sound pretty good about now.
Listening gets us as close to the truth of our teenager’s world as we will be allowed.
I learned that my kid might have missing homework, but he knows that school is ultimately his responsibility and he knows that his parents aren’t willing to cheat the system so that he can “do better.” No action required.
Listening revealed that skipping a party on a Saturday night (and the conduct that is taking place there) is sometimes the right choice. Let’s order a pizza.
And the truth about sexting? Yes, it’s frightening and we, as parents, must keep fighting the good fight on this one. It’s not OK, and our kids need to keep hearing this from us.
Talking is easy. Listening is harder. Sometimes what we learn confirms our worst fears and fuels our tinderbox of worries. The best way to manage that worry is up to you. Go for a jog, have a beer, say a prayer, but keep listening. You are still the protector, and your kid still needs you.