It’s almost 9pm on a Monday, and our children, 10 and 13, have been asleep for hours. Why?
Because they were up all night and well into the morning, chatting with their friends on Skype while they all played Minecraft together. Their friends live about 300 miles from here.
Plans were made for our visit this weekend, and my daughter chatted via text with a new friend in the Philippines. She took a shower at dawn, because she says she loves getting out of the shower to hear the birds singing to her.
Both kids went to visit their grandparents, and, a little later my daughter and I ordered her much-anticipated American Girl doll, which she’ll get to start enjoying a little before her birthday. She received the gift she ordered for her best friend, wrapped it, and decorated the package.
Somewhere around 2pm, after hours of actively living, both were asleep, by their own choice.
That’s just one day in our lives. Other days are different; they might keep more typical hours, or sleep very little – common when we’re traveling, as we will be this weekend. Our family life accommodates them – in that way, and in many others. When they want some time to cocoon in their rooms, and think the kinds of thoughts that growing people tend to, and which do best with long stretches of solitary or parent-free time, we can slow down, and I focus more intensely on my own passions.
When they’re ready to widen their horizons, I’m available to take them places, help them get things they want, arrange and orchestrate things – not nearly so much as I used to, when they were smaller, because they’re both older and more confidently independent, these days, and they’re both, in ways that suit their maturity and their natures, taking steps toward a life where their parents can take a far more backseat, advisory role in their lives.
What there isn’t, in our lives, is a lot of the conflict many parents expect to have with teens and tweens.
That’s not accidental, but the result of
evolving intention, over several years.
I started, when they were 7 and 4, to become, not the mother society or my own relatives or friends thought I should be, but the one these specific people need.
Because, although it seems obvious, I think it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that children aren’t just the adults we hope they will grow into – they are real people, every moment until then, too –
They’re people right now.
They have been since they were born.
Basically, the shift we’ve made is that simple –
We treat our children as the PEOPLE they are.
What they want matters as much as what their parents want. To the greatest degree we’re able, we accommodate them – whether it’s providing a comfortable sleeping environment during hours when many kids are in school, or finding a way to work a longed-for but not inexpensive doll into our modest budget, or taking a moonlight stroll, or driving those five hours there and back a few times a year, so that those four faraway best friends can get together.
This conversation happened here, last night. The people speaking are 10 and 45 years old.
“Mom, sometime – maybe in August – could we go to the State Museum?”
“Sure. We can go just about anytime.” (The museum is a favorite destination, and only an hour or so from our home.) “Any particular reason you want to wait for August?”
“So that I can save up enough money to buy some of my old childhood memories.” She mentioned an all day sucker, rock candy, and a bag of tumbled rocks.
So we’ll go to the State Museum, in August, so that she can have the power to make her own purchases with her own money. The price is negligible, for us, but larger for her. But the purchasing power means more to her, at this point in her life, as she’s reaching a new level of maturity where she wants to work out what money and the ability to save and use it means to her.