When the kids were smaller I knew every show they watched, I answered 2,000 questions a day, so I knew every thought in their head and I was aware of every single bowel movement, including whether or not it looked like a duck.
I maybe had less of an idea of who I was, but I knew my kids inside and out.
Now my oldest can Google the answers to all the questions. I had visions of us working on homework together and her sharing glimpses of her day with me. The reality is that she gets most of her work done at school and somehow has already surpassed my math abilities. Apparently, college calculus has got nothing on fifth-grade tag.
And heaven forbid I ask people to tell me three good things about their day. I mean ... lame.
The other day, the oldest went shopping with her grandma and came home with brand new bedding, asking if she can repaint her room. Her favorite color is blue now and the whole world should adjust accordingly. The favorite color was purple, but I learned it was blue when I bought something for her in purple and she was incensed that I had no idea she had changed it to blue. Oh yeah? What number am I thinking of right now?
The bottom line: The kids are changing every day. They all of a sudden have interests I didn't know about and friends I haven't heard of. One day they are best friends with someone and another day it's someone else. Sometimes these realizations can be unsettling and you can feel like you're dropping the ball as a parent. Maybe not as much as having to tell one of your older children you're not supposed to drink mouth wash, you're supposed to spit it out and they reply with an "Oh" accompanied by a look of "this is brand new information" but still, if feels a bit like a fail.
The point is unless you are a lame parent that insists on carrying on a daily dialogue, you may never truly know what's going on inside your kid's head or why, and that's assuming they choose to include you in their ever-changing world. You can only ask the questions and be present so that on the odd day they do decide to share you're ready for the the important details of their life, like they no longer like that brand of cheese that you buy.
The conversations some days will seem one-sided, where they refuse to offer anything and you start monologuing about your day, sometimes forgetting they are even listening until you over-share, saying something like "I'm on my ladies days and I just want to throat punch someone and take a nap" and they yell "Mom!" and you're like, "Oh, you heard that but not anything else! Of course!" Maybe my over-sharing will encourage them in their everyday life to be real and talk bout their feelings and at the very least help them build healthy relationships with their peers ... I mean hopefully.
How else do we get through to them? This is a real question. I'm open to suggestions.
Other than encouraging them in their communication skills I guess we just continue to train them in the ways of independence.
For instance, if you don't feel like talking, how about folding? Folding laundry always helps one retreat into the inner thoughts because no one wants to think about the job at hand. The never-ending laundry reminds me of "Karate Kid" - wax on wax off. Steady patience with continued hard work is the way through everything.
I will continue to stay close, opening up the lines of communication and handing out the chores of independence, hoping they will divulge enough along the way to give me a window into their world and and idea of where they are headed.
Like, is the money we're saving for college or bail.
Jen Reekie was born and raised in Quincy and received a communications degree at the University of Kansas, which has come in quite handy as she communicates every day with four children who don't hear a word she says. This stay-at-home mom enjoys the challenge, though, and shares her experiences in this blog, "Mum's the Word." She welcomes your feedback, questions and stories about staying sane while raising kids.