If you’re a parent, what kind of relationship do you want to have with your children, when they’re adults?
Ten years from now?
Five? Three? Next year?
It’s Mindful Monday again…my weekly cue to pause for a bit and reflect on where I’ve been, where I am, and where I want to be.
In Parenting With Intention Part 3, I talked about my family’s life today. For this final installment, I’ll consider the questions above, and how the changes we’ve made in our life as a family may affect my future relationship with my adult children.
I didn’t think much about such things, in the early years of my own parenting journey. I spent much more time thinking about how I could be sure my children turned out to be ‘decent adults’. That’s what drove the authoritarian approach I followed then.
Mainstream media is full of advice and must-do’s intended to ensure that kids will grow up to be successful members of adult society with qualities such as honesty, compassion, work ethic, generosity, and many other character traits.
Today, I’m a lot closer to the point of having
adult children (anyone else see that that’s an oxymoron? Let’s say adult offspring, instead, okay?). My eldest will be 14 in a matter of months, and my youngest is weeks from being 11. They’re not little kids, anymore. I’ve got hints about the type of adults they may be, and the type of relationship we’ll have with one another, when they’re grown.
Five years ago, I was the mother of an eight and a five year old when some family members objected to our shift from control-based parenting to a partnership model. Like it or not, I was told, all teens rebel, and, in ten or fifteen years, my kids were going to tell me all the ways that I had screwed up as a parent.
All the years between then and, both children have been free to tell me when they think or feel I’ve screwed up. As recently as this weekend, one of them has. It’s a regular occurrence – I’m far from perfect, and I’ve still got a lot of things to learn.
Fortunately, their complaints are usually minor things – misjudgments and miscommunications. There’s little conflict in our home, and no sign of teenage rebellion…maybe, there’s no need for it, either.
We talk a lot. About everyday stuff we see on the news, and things that happen, in the course of life. Deeper things, like hopes and dreams and ambitions and how to treat one another. Things that scare us, or don’t make sense . What we’ve learned, wonder, and worry about.
Our family dynamic allows everyone to be equal.
Both kids know their voices count, and their wishes matter to their parents.
Our wishes matter to them, too.
Once upon a time, I thought that unschooling was a kind of anarchy; there must be disaster awaiting the families foolish enough to live this way. It hasn’t been like that, so far. Nearly six years into this venture, it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to be:
- My kids are honest, even when they know that I’m not going to like what they tell me. Humans make mistakes at every age, and talking them through seems to offer more learning opportunities than punitive measures that shift focus to the penalty.
- They’re compassionate and generous.
- Both are willing to work hard to achieve a goal, and they can be very ingenious in their approaches, since we’ve lived on one modest income for the majority of their lives.
- They’re avid learners, funny, creative, and kind.
- They’re passionate people who want to make the world better than it is.
- They think about things, and, they’re learning how to navigate relationships and interpersonal communications.
- They’re practiced decision makers, because they’ve had an increasing degree of autonomy as they’ve grown more mature and capable.
- They like themselves, and their lives.
- When something could be better, they’re becoming more able to take the steps to get to that better place.
- They’re looking forward, to becoming adults.
- They don’t seem to feel a need to escape us.
- Our son is eager to be old enough to earn a paycheck, and to drive.
- He has plans for independence, and a new desire to get out into the world in a social capacity, to try new things and expand his horizons.