Can we talk?
I think there are some things it might be useful to hear from someone who isn't your parent. (And to my kids, if you read this one day, maybe you can pretend that I'm someone else for a sec, okay?)
So, listen. I'm not mad and you're not in trouble. It's just that I think we're not communicating as well as we could be. You're growing up and I'm so glad about that. I'm totally not the type to cry about you getting bigger, wishing you'd "just stay little forever." I love watching you become more independent, more aware of the world around you. I do not miss needing to feed you, and if anyone tells you they miss changing diapers you should run away and find a grown up you trust because that person is a liar.
It's just that along with all of this new independence -- with all of the new words you're constantly learning and trying out, with all of the things you think you know -- there's one thing I want to draw your attention to: your parents are people, too.
I know that might sound weird. They're not people! They're PARENTS! Parents and people are two totally different species!
I know, I know -- it seems that way sometimes. But not so, kiddos. Not so.
Even though I'm not your parent, I'm a parent, and I can tell you that yes, I am, in fact, a person. I have feelings that feel confusing sometimes, just like you. I get overwhelmed sometimes, just like you. And there are things I want to do and things I don't want to do, just like you.
But the difference there -- and this is really getting to the heart of why I wanted to write to you today -- is that I do a lot of things I don't want to do, and I generally do it without whining and complaining and tantruming. (I said generally -- sometimes I do whine and complain, like when there's just so much laundry that I can't even or when I need to cook dinner again. Every day with the dinner!) The point here is that I think you're getting old enough to understand more about what it means to live as a part of a family, to live among people instead of just with people. And yes, there is a subtle difference there.
Living with people is just you doing your thing and the other people you live with doing their thing. You might live with people in a few years when you go to college. You'll have your room and you'll be able to do with it what you want. They'll have their rooms. You might be friends and you might not be. Living with people is a pretty casual thing. There's not much connection.
Living among people though? Totally different thing. Living among people -- which is what you're doing with your family -- requires a lot more work, yes. But the payoff is way greater, too, so don't worry. When you live among people, you take their needs into account. You realize how your actions might effect them. Instead of screaming at anyone in your path because you're frustrated that you have homework, for example, you stop for a second. You implement one of the coping mechanisms your parents have taught you -- maybe a few deep breaths, maybe a minute or two alone in your room -- and you think about how it might feel for the other person if you go ahead and scream at them.
Do you see what I'm getting at here? Living among people requires a little bit more from you. You need to think about other people sometimes, and yes, that includes your parents. (Because it's still true -- they're people, too!) Your parents don't like being screamed at. They tolerate it sometimes because they understand that you're figuring stuff out and they're safe people to scream at. They really do get that. I'm willing to bet that, like me, they're not holding a grudge about all of the times you've directed irrational anger their way. But just in terms of actual volume? In terms of how much overwhelming loudness one person can take in the span of, say, ten minutes? Kids, you've just got to tone it down. How would it feel if your parents screamed at you for ten minutes because they were stressed out about the laundry That would be silly, right? And unfair? Exactly. I know you can see the logic here.
And in keeping with the theme above, please realize that it's hard listening to you be mean to your siblings so much. I know it's hard to be a big sibling sometimes and it's equally hard to be a little sibling sometimes, too. I mean, being a plain old person is hard sometimes -- I'm the first to admit that. And living with a bunch of people that you didn't choose but love deeply -- well, it's weird! I know! But be kind. Calm your tone. Remember that your sibling is not the annoying semi-human specimen you believe them to be -- he or she is a real-life person with real-life feelings, just like you. And as much as we try to let you work your business out on your own, it gets tiring to listen to sometimes.
In closing: if you trip over a toy on the floor, pick it up and put it away. (No, not on the dining room table -- that's not away.) Rinse your toothpaste spit down the drain. (I know it's gross, that's why I don't want to do it.) Put your dirty clothes in the hamper, and when I'm folding laundry, please do your best not to knock over the piles. I'm happy to make you lunches for school every day; when I ask you to move your dirty lunchbox from your backpack to the kitchen counter, could you not act like I've asked you to give yourself a root canal?
We love you. We love you madly. We love you so much it sometimes keeps us up at night. Which is why I wanted to write this letter in the first place. We love you and we want living among each other to feel as pleasant as possible. We know you want that, too. And we know you're not trying to be difficult -- you're just growing up, and growing up is weird. I think I can speak for all parents when I say that we're not trying to be difficult either. We just want to be treated more like people you're aware of living among, you know?
Thanks so much for reading, kids. Wishing you a life full of respect, thoughtfulness, and fun.
Until next time,
Emily Ballard is a writer, mama, wife, friend, employee, and over-consumer of espresso. Read more at www.EmilyBallard.com.