Call me naïve if you must, but I have to admit that I have been surprised by every stage of parenting.
I feel like I expected it to be hard.
That is all.
No specifics. Just hard.
And largely nothing like anything my mother said.
I didn’t expect to be so tired when I had a newborn, I didn’t expect to be so frustrated when I had a toddler, I didn’t expect to miss him when they went to kindergarten, or cry when he graduated fifth grade, or be so darn nervous when he tried out for the high school soccer team.
I’ve spent the past 15 years basically just like…
And they’re all so different.
I was way more tired with my first baby than my third, my second toddler was the most frustrating of all, I missed my third son the most when he went to kindergarten and, when my middle son graduated from fifth grade last year, I didn’t shed a single tear because we were both so ready.
Maybe that’s the most surprising thing of all -the unexpectedness of things that should otherwise be the same.
They’re all so different, and which means my parenting of each them is too.
My intentions and my goals are the only thing that remains consistent -to raise healthy, well informed, emphatic, kind, hardworking young men who are happy, well-adjusted contributing members of society.
No big deal.
Sike, totally a big deal!
I’ve tried all kinds of parenting strategies -I dabble in free range when I feel like it and get all helicoptery as needed.
But mostly I do a lot of talking.
Lots and lots of talking.
We talk about the hard things and the easy things, the fun things and the not so fun, super awkward things that I try not to make weird, but totally make weird.
They hate it a little, but I think they also love it a lot.
Even when I don’t know quite what to say or just how to say it, things seem to work out.
Talking to Tweens: How to Get Your Kids to Talk To You About Basically Anything
Don’t be weird. Normalize your chit chat. My kids expect me to ask all of the questions and tell them all of the stories and give them all of the advice. Because I have been for like, ever. I seriously don’t shut up and they’re used to it so it’s less awkward. They aren’t weirded out when they come home from a party and I ask them to tell me who they talked to, and what kind of music there was, and if they had really good snacks, or if anyone offered them a drink. It doesn’t have to weird, in fact, it’s only weird if you make it weird.
Be in the know. And no, that doesn’t mean you say things like “on fleek” and “so basic”. In fact, never say those things. It means you stay up to date on things they care about -the friends they hang with, the bands they listen to, the season finale of Pretty Little Liars. That way you have something to connect with them over and you can easily note when something is different. At the very least when you accidentally on purpose overhear that Aria and Ezra are hooking up, you won’t spend hours texting your mom friends to find out whose kids they are.
Listen. With your mouth closed and your ears open. Don’t lecture, don’t judge, don’t make assumptions -just listen. They will talk if you do and they might even learn how to do a little listening themselves.
Trust them. And teach them that they can trust you. They need to know that you’re not going to use things they tell you against them. That you won’t hold grudges or betray their confidence to their siblings. That they can tell you the most embarrassingly awkward thing that happened and you won’t laugh in their face. You might laugh with them, but not at them. And they know it.
Go on a date. Plan a day to chill together or to do something really cool (like go to a Twenty One Pilots concert). I plan Dude Dates with my boys, one on one, a few times a year. It gives us time to enjoy something alone together, no siblings, no friends, no dad. We get plenty of time to talk and it’s always a great way for us to reconnect. Plus, I love Twenty One Pilots so everyone wins.
Looking for more low key tips for parenting kids? Check out DudeMom.com.