Oh my. It occurred to me this morning while walking with my oldest daughter, that she’ll turn 28 on her next birthday. We’ve had countless discussions during our walks over those 28 years. Our walks have morphed from the early practice of taking along a bag in which to carry the treasures she found along the way, to cautioning her to stop at the next intersection and not cross the street until I caught up, to our present-day routines of walking as fast as possible.
The important thing, though, is the conversation. Which, as I understand, is something many parents don’t do often enough with their children. Maybe they don’t have the time, or don’t take the time, or think they have nothing to talk about. An old friend once told me he hoped he would someday have the same kind of relationship with his daughters than I have with mine. I just wanted to say to him that it’s all about respecting his daughters and encouraging them to be individuals. If they make choices that differ from what he wants them to make, he shouldn’t criticize them. Don’t expect perfection. Let them make mistakes and allow them to learn from them. And tell them how much he loves them and is proud of whatever they do. I don’t think I said any of that. I’m not sure he’d have gotten it.
My friend, JP, and her daughter were weeding my garden recently, when she came into the house to tell me how much fun she was having. It wasn’t about the weeding. It was about the conversation that the two of themf had; she didn’t give any details but simply said how much she had learned from her college-age daughter while they worked side by side.
This is something I learned long ago. If I want to really engage in a conversation with one of my daughters, I have to find some alone time with her. The interesting stuff really comes out when you’re doing something together like walking or gardening. Don’t interrupt. Just let them talk. Don’t laugh at them, but laugh with them. If they say things that shock you, let them keep talking…keep the criticism to yourself.
Admit your own mistakes. Come on, you made them. You know you did. As they grow into adulthood, you have to treat them as such. They’ll appreciate knowing you weren’t perfect and did some silly things along the way. Do things with them even if you have other plans.
Here’s an example. A few years ago, my husband’s office pool of OSU games produced for him the tickets of the decade: the OSU-Michigan game when they were 1 and 2. I was finally going to go with him — he’d always taken the girls to those games. We were in the car with our youngest daughter when she asked if he still wanted to go to the Doo-Wop show of some of their favorites (i.e., The Drifters), and then named a date. Same date as the game. Suffice to say that he sold the game tickets at a hefty profit. We went to the concert.
Moral of the story: Listen to your kids. Really listen.