This post is part of my compensated role as a #TalkEarly blogger, an initiative from Responsibility.org. Talking with your kids about alcohol is an important topic to me which is why I accepted this role. Please note that all opinions expressed here are my own.
When I served my time as a middle school teacher many years ago, I swore to myself one thing: that I would never, ever have children.
If you have a middle schooler or have experience with a child in the 12-14 years age range, you probably know what I mean. It’s probably the most schizophrenic age range of them all. One day, they’re grown up and the next day, they’ve grown back down.
Let me give you an example.
I had a student who was walking around my 7th grade science classroom. “Turquoise,” I said, for that was her real name, “you need to get back to your desk and get your work done. “I AM!” she snarled at me as she slowly turned away and mumbled, “B*tch.” She denied saying it but I was in a state shock. And even more so, when she came in the next morning, bubbly and happy, anxiously to show me the crafts she made with her aunt the day before.
Although my son is only 8 years old (8 1/2 to be more precise), I’m seeing some of the same things. One day, he’s too cool to be seen with his arm around a friend he’s known since he was a baby and hasn’t seen in three years. He even looks like he’s holding a cup of coffee or something!
But another day, he happily sits out in the sun making fun little crafts at a neighbor’s house.
One day, he’s kicking butt and taking names at his local tae kwon do school. (Sparring is actually his favorite part).
But on another day, he just wants an ice cream cone that he still wears all over his face when he eats.
One day, he’s old enough for his first pocket knife and declares “carving sticks” to be his new favorite hobby and insists on whipping out his blade to show all his friends. (Don’t worry – we put a stop to that.)
And another day, he’s holding my hand, hiking along in the woods with me, learning to skip stones and marvel at the wildlife we encounter.
And so it goes. Some days he’s just out of my reach but most days he’s firmly planted beside me and the ebb and flow between us works for one primary reason. We spend time together.
One thing my husband and I have learned is that Evan is a different kid around the both of us than when he’s just around him or just around me. So we’ve fallen into this rhythm of having some dedicated time with him, each of us on our own.
For my husband, it’s usually when I go out of town. They sit around and watch movies I’d never approve of, eat cheeseburgers and ice cream, and do whatever boys do with power tools. And the conversation flows freely.
For me, summers are the best time for Evan and me. Although I still work, it’s from home and I try to build more flexibility into our schedule. We stay up a little later and sleep in a little later. We go out to lunch together for no particular reason. We head to the pool where he complains that I take too long to get into the water and I complain that the water is way too cold.
And I also try to schedule these Field Trip Fridays where we find a day every week to just get out and explore together. Sometimes it’s a planned day (this week we’re going biking on the NCR Trail) or it’s an impromptu trip to the Howard County Fair for the second time in a week.
We went to the fair last Saturday night with my family and had a lot of fun but when my husband said he was working late on Tuesday, we decided to take a trip to the fair again, this time all by ourselves. As I was walking with him, I said, “this is nice being here – just the two of us.” And he echoed that same phrase back to me several times that night.
Whether we’re riding in the car or walking the dogs in the evening or just spending some time outside of the house together, it’s that time alone that lets Evan know he can safely open up a conversation about anything with me. We’ve talked about friendships, divorce, alcohol, bullying – you name it and we’ve covered it.
As he heads back to school, we’ll have less of that alone time and I know that simply asking him about his day isn’t going to open up the doors of conversation. But as he’s growing up and growing back down, I’m going to make sure we still take walks. But I’m also going to make sure the family is talking at the dinner table and that he’ll have a chance to talk at night as he gets ready for bed, just as he’s done for eight years.
Communication is a process we’ve been working on since he was born and we know the job will never be finished. We’re just looking to keep it flowing as much as we can as he grows up more and more every day.
I’d love to hear not only how you get the conversations flowing with your children, but how you really get insights into what’s going on in their day to day, especially now that school is starting again.
Dammit – that video always makes me cry!