I don’t have any idea where these words find you. I don’t know if you’re a young mommy to be who is getting a jump on this parenting stuff or a seasoned mother in the trenches. The trenches. What a scary phrase on raising children, and yet, so accurate to our feelings and theirs some days.
Maybe you’re aware or maybe this is news, but open lines of communication are often the most needed and least accessible tool between parents and our pre-teen/tween kiddos. As we approach the years when they will start being away from us more with friends, sports, and commitments, I see so many people posting things like “I wish I had known”. I don’t want that to be a sentence you or I ever utter about our children.
Now, don’t peg me as an expert, because I’ve only been in this gig for 11 years and counting. Compared to some of you, I’m still a baby parent. I’m aware that I don’t even know what I don’t know, but last night around 1am, I had a HUGE moment with my oldest son and I thought more moms could learn what we did.
You see, I was raised with all boys. I know the conversation barrier. Especially when dealing with “feelings” or mistakes or any of the hard stuff. I’m also married to a 40-year-old man-boy so it doesn’t escape me that part of it is likely just how guys are wired.
None of that, however, changes the absolute fact that I’m a mom. It’s my job while my kids are young to communicate with them. I get to hear the hard stuff, the good stuff, the farts. All of it.
So when my kiddos started having troubles that they didn’t know how to navigate, I was so thankful they came to me. We talked late into the evening about friendship, temptation, integrity, and the care and keep of other humans and their hearts. But as I was leaving, I had this divine moment where I blurted out something to my son that I think changed forever the way we communicate.
While we were talking, he had said “Hang on mom. This will be hard for me to say.” He was so worried that something he could say or do would change the love I have for him. He didn’t want to disappoint me. He told me there is a little voice in the back of his mind that tells him I’ll get really mad at him when I hear he has done something “wrong”. Anything. Lying, being selfish, etc. What a lot of pressure we forget we were once under as children and still have to face as adults.
As I left his room, I thought we were done but I wanted the door to stay open.
“You know buddy, if there is ever anything you need to say to me but don’t think the words will come out, you can write it down and just slip the note under my door.”
At 1am I heard a noise at my door and then little feet running to the other side of the house.
There was a note on the floor.
“What you said made me think and I wanted to tell you about this issue I’ve been having. I need your help.”
We stayed up until 2am talking on his bed. He asked questions and I answered them. I reminded him of the truth that the presence of conviction is a sign that none of us are in our battle alone.
Sometimes we just need to remember that words don’t always have sound. Sometimes a note under the door and an open option for communication are all they need to say what they need to say.
If they aren’t talking, offer them the option to write it down, text it, email, whatever. That gives them the freedom to get it all out without interruption or a look of disappointment they can’t stand the weight of, and it gives us parents time to really hear what they want to say before we jump to conclusions or get upset.
My last words to him last night were:
“Son, Daddy said to tell you that it takes a strong man to admit he needs help. That’s who you are. Remember that. You’re strong. I’m proud of you. I’m thankful to be able to help you. Thank you for trusting me.”