For some reason this week, I’ve spotted a few different articles on how to talk to your kids. They are all very well-meaning, and some offer great advice. But that doesn’t mean I have don’t have a problem with every single one.
Here is my issue: there are no experts in how to talk to your kids because you are the only expert in your kids. Here’st he caveat: you have to talk to your kids in order to be experts in them.
Oh sure, in the early days, it’s easy to be an expert. You do nothing but pay attention to them. You know every coo, every gurgle, every cry and can decipher their meaning from across a crowded room if necessary. It can be very heady knowing so much about something; more than anyone else, in fact. Parenting babies is both humbling and empowering all at once.
Then they grow up, even a few years, and suddenly you feel like you don’t know anything anymore. Wanna know why? Because you don’t. And neither does anyone else, except the people who are really paying attention.
Please, hear me when I say that I understand that paying attention is hard. I have three kids, each different in their way. One talks all the time. You’d think then it would be easy to know her. But when the chatter is constant, it’s easy to stop focusing on the important parts because you tend to hear it as a dull buzz unless you really try.
I have one who never talks, except when things boil over into such a state of unrest that ALL THE THINGS come out at one time. That’s hard because as a parent, and a counselor, I often don’t know where to look or listen first. It’s easy to miss something really important unless you really try to hone in on what’s behind the avalanche of words and emotions.
I have one who is so far into his emotional state that he’s deeper than most adults. His highs are high and his lows are low and while they are becoming increasingly predictable both highs and lows are still hard to manage unless I really try with all my mental and physical energy (including that often reserved for jobs and other chilren).
See, at the end of the day, no matter what the experts say, that’s all we can do: try.
Try to listen.
Try to engage.
Try to learn who they are, every year because it changes all the time while actually remaining exactly the same as when they were cooing and gurgling.
Try to really hear them how they talk.
Try to meet them where they are-even if the places are different from the other kids, or change every day.
Try to make time, real time to do all of the aforementioned things.
Kids don’t care if we get it all right. They care if we try. Even if you think they don’t notice, even if they’re self-sufficient, even if they don’t seem to need you as much, or they are quieter than they used to be, they notice if we notice. Our efforts matter. And isn’t all we want at the end of the day is for them to know we did?
Vaya Con Dios parents. It’s a wild and awesome ride. Here’s to us trying our best to hang on.