"Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters." ~Dau Voire
Every parent wants their kid to talk to them, about what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what they did at school that day etc. What parent hasn't asked their kid the questions: "How was your day?" or "What did you do at school today?" only to get the one word obligatory answers of "fine" and "nothing" in return? So when I was asked to do a video interview with my daughter for Huffington Post's #TalkToMe campaign, I immediately knew I wanted to do it. Anytime I can get my daughter talking to me and with me, and also expose her to cool ways to spread the good word about good things, I love to do it. That's just a no brainer in my book!
But, when the Huffington Post sent a list of potential questions for the #TalkToMe interview, one of which was "Tell me something about you that I don't know", I couldn't think of anything I hadn't already told her. I ran my list: I had told her that I smoked pot a few times when I was younger but that it didn't agree with me. I told her that pot is now legal in other states, but that it is still illegal where we live. I told her that if she is offered drugs she should not take them because you never know what else they are mixed with -- but that if when she is older, she does, she should tell us! I had told her that I used to smoke cigarettes in my late teens. I told her that I really enjoyed smoking and that if smoking wasn't so bad for you, I would still be smoking. I told her that I stopped because smoking can lead to cancer and cancer is bad and I want to live a long healthy life. I had told her that in high school I was peer-pressured once to shoplift. I told her that I knew it was wrong and that I didn't really want to do it. I told her that I did it so poorly that I was immediately detained by the security office who felt so bad for me that she called my mom and told her to go easy on me. Clearly I was not career criminal! I had told her about the birds and the bees -- and the many ways a kid can be conceived. She has two moms, so this one was inevitable. I told her these things, and many others, so that she would learn them from me and not from her friends or other unreliable, seedy sources. I continue to tell her things like these because if I want her to talk to me, I also have to be willing to talk to her -- it is a reciprocal relationship.
My kid has always had a firm grasp of language, among many other things, and she has always seemed older and more mature than her years. That confuses me and my wife as parents, because we sometimes cognitively expect more from her than is age appropriate. Even so, before she was born, we both agreed we would always be honest with her, as much as we possibly could -- for example, we didn't lie to her about Santa or the Tooth Fairy. Now I know this may seem wrong to some, but I would argue that starting out a parent/child relationship built on lies, is what is actually wrong. And honestly, she wouldn't have believed us even if we had. When she was 4 years old we took her to Disney World, Tigger the tiger from Winnie the Pooh walked by, and I asked her if she wanted a picture with him? She turned to me and said "No, I know it is just a person in a costume." The phrase "too smart for her own good" rang so true even then.
There is a balance though between allowing her to enjoy childhood and teaching her about life. A balance between being honest and protecting her from things she may not be quite ready for. A balance I think we do fairly well, but a balance that is sometimes difficult to maintain. My wife and I have always been very open and honest with our kid, we have always talked with her about most things, we include her in conversations and decisions (up unto a point). But sometimes we wonder if we tell her too much, it is really hard to say.
But in return, she does talk to me, and my wife. She tells us everything. She tells us when she is not supposed to be watching a show on TV but does (sometimes even before she does it, she tell us). When she is supposed to be asleep, but stays up late to read or write in her journal, she tells us. When kids in her class say or do bad things, she tell us. When she is on the internet and a website pops up that is not appropriate, she tells us. And that is what we want, so that going into the teenage years she continues to talk to us and to tell us everything going on in her world. So that when she is being peer-pressured into doing something dumb -- again, its inevitable -- or when she is being offered drugs, or when she wants to try smoking, she will tell us first and we can be the voice of reason. What parent wouldn't want that?
Communication is a two-way street, and parenting, if you are not looking both ways, can be a dangerous highway. I have said it before, it is like being hit by a Mack Truck. But, if you are checking your rearview mirrors, looking both ways, and also looking ahead, anticipating what is coming, it can be one heck of a ride. Enjoy it!
You can watch our #TalkToMe video here.