I was reading some parenting advice lately that stressed the importance of building a relationship with your children, and how a healthy parent-child relationship will generate more responsiveness and cooperation when those difficult conversations come along, which they most surely will, as our children and their problems get bigger.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently.
My parents did a good job of building a comfortable relationship with my brother and me. To this day, we’re all quite close. But I struggle with this. I enjoy my children, some stages more so than others, of course, but oftentimes when we are in the car or at the breakfast table, there is silence. It’s a comfortable silence, but silence nonetheless.
I often think that I should be initiating light conversation. Sometimes I try to ask questions or point things out along the road, but often I allow music to fill the void in the car, and the breakfast table can be remarkably quiet. (And I detest those silly car ride games, even though I know I should play along.)
I’m trying to get better about at least sitting down to the breakfast table with the kids in the mornings, not removing myself to enjoy my coffee with my Google Reader. It’s been hard this summer because the kids all get up and eat at different times, but once school starts, I am making it a priority to be present with my kids in the mornings. The computer will have to wait until the bus leaves our neighborhood.
This summer has been a nice break in the school year routine. I’ve enjoyed having my kids around more, particularly my oldest, who I don’t see much during the school year. He’s been helpful and pleasant, and he likes to help me cook and push the grocery cart when we run errands. (Although I can’t say I’m not looking forward to school starting up again. Fortunately for us all, they are looking forward to it as much as I am.)
The other day we were all walking into the grocery store together, and I reached my hand back towards my 3-year-old, as I often do when we’re walking along. But the hand that filled mine was not the soft, pliant paw of my littlest one. It was the long, lean, firm hand of my 9-and-a-half year-old son.
I hadn’t expected that.
I gave his hand a squeeze and loosened my grip, but he didn’t let go. So I continued to hold his hand and started to swing our arms in camaraderie as we bantered about something trivial and silly. He walked with me like that all the way across the parking lot and into the store, where he grabbed a cart and started ordering his sisters around like a typical first born.
I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that my almost-10-year-old son will still hold my hand in public. I’m sure those days are numbered, so I treasure that memory.
As I was driving home, I thought about that article, and my insecurities about cultivating a comfortable relationship with my kids. And I thought to myself, “I guess I’m not doing too badly after all.”