It has been an emotional day for this mother–comparable to those days leading up to the start of kindergarten, what seems like just moments ago. My oldest son went for junior high school orientation today. He is still eleven years old, but puberty is upon us, fast and furious. Time does not relent during the passage from one chapter to the next.
It is hard to believe that we are finally here. A mother and son on the precipice of the unknown, about to leap from the stable terrain of the elementary school years into the murky unfamiliar territory of the junior high school years.
But are we really leaping? Haven’t we spent years developing the relationship that will hopefully serve as a bridge to help us during this and other times of transition and change?
Tonight, I make a list of things that I have tried to do, and hope to continue to do, in order to build solid relationships with my children. It is my dearest hope that these actions, though not always executed perfectly, will serve as a bridge for me and my children as they enter each new stage of their lives.
1. Ask for forgiveness. Last night, I snapped about something silly: a requested bedtime snack. It was not an unreasonable request, but I was tired and the kitchen was closed. After re-thinking the conversation and my hotly-spoken words, I found my way to the foot of my son’s bed. I told him where I was coming from but also asked for forgiveness for my quick-tempered response.
I realize that he is getting older and some of his rules are about to change. He said this to me in response: “That’s okay, Mom. You’re the most awesome mom ever.”
When we ask for forgiveness from our children, we show them humility and transparency. When we model sincere apologies, it will pave the way for our children to do the same.
2. Laugh with your children. My children are known for their strong personalities and clashes of wills. Not one of them was born to back away meekly: they embrace challenge and conflict. I tend to do a fair amount of Mama Bear growling to the cubs, reciting repetitive chants like, “Why can’t you all just get along?” But, when I stop to just absorb the beauty in the chaos, I see the humor of it all. And sometimes, I can get them to see it too.
3. Eat, pray love. I have found that when we take time to sit down as a family to eat meals, the best conversations are to be had. We have had some crazy meals during which noise levels lift the roof, but there have been just as many golden ones in which we’ve been drawn closer together through the sharing of our thoughts and ideas.
Praying as a family, about the little and big stuff, is another way to learn about each other. And when we consistently show love through the good times, the difficult times, and those insanely busy in-between times, it makes it all worthwhile.
4. Talk. I have found that I am continually getting to know my children through conversation, and I make a point of doing so even more as my older ones start to show signs of clamming up. It is helpful to mentally establish a time every day when you can make an effort to connect–whether that be in the car as you drive towards a sports practice or in their bedroom when you tuck them in at night.
I ask lots of questions. The more I show genuine interest, the more they are inclined to share. I like to ask my children about their friends. The connections that are made now will only make the years ahead better, widening those pathways that lead to our children’s growing group of friends and classmates.
5. Accept your children for the people they are–and try not to limit them to the people they use to be or the people you want them to be. Times, they are a changin’, and we as mothers need to be ahead of the change. We must run in advance of the pressures and demands of the middle school years, or whatever phase of life we happen to be in now, so as to make ourselves aware of the issues facing our adolescents and teens.
This is not a time to stick our head in the sand. Rather, we need to have eyes wide open and ears listening. Hearts accepting the change, yet braced for the transitions. These new chapters of our lives are uncertain times, but that does not mean these years, these moments, are exempt from making their own powerful presence. They may be touted as the worst of times, but I am certain they can become the best of times with a little patience, love and prayer!
If I can hold on to these reflections but for a few moments in the fading light of today, then in tomorrow’s dawn, I think I will be able to take a step forward into this new stage called junior high school with confidence in the bridge that my son and I have spent years creating.
QUESTION: Do you fear the change of moving from one chapter of your child’s life as it flows into the next? What ideas have worked for you to allow for smooth transitions in between growth phases?
CHALLENGE: Find one area that you know to be a weak spot in your relationship with your child and make it your purpose to improve on that area over a two-week period. Show gratitude for even small changes and see if that doesn’t change your perspective on the relationship.
Originally published October 17, 2012.
Images provided by the author.