Cultivate the Relationship, and They Will Come
Recently I took my 10-year-old daughter to get some shoes for her upcoming First Communion. Originally, I was thinking we’d run into the shoe store on our way home from her class, as my mom was watching my other two daughters at her house and I didn’t want her to be stuck with them for too long. Thankfully, I decided to press pause and enjoy some much-needed 1-on-1 time with my eldest.
We made it into a little date night–nothing fancy but definitely special. We shared a meal together and then walked over to the shoe shop. We walked up and down the aisles laughing and trying on all sorts of styles.
During dinner, my daughter said, “This is nice. Just mommy and me, time alone.” She then proceeded to talk my ear off. Most of what she said was 4th-grade gossip from school. But I kept reminding myself to pay attention and show interest. Don’t judge. Don’t insert my opinion. I’m building trust here so that as she ages and things get tough, she knows she can come to me with anything. I also want her to know that I care about what she cares about.
I can remember from teaching first grade for many years that problems that may seem minute to us as adults, such as breaking a crayon or a friend saying she wasn’t inviting you to her birthday IS A BIG DEAL to first-graders. And the level of stress it causes is comparable to what we as adults would experience if we lost our job or moved house. So even though I may not think the 4th-grade drama my daughter was storytelling is a big deal, she does. And that was enough for me to care, or at least pretend to care (let’s be honest;).
Taking time for these 1-on-1 conversations with my daughter have opened other doors so that it feels normal and easy to talk to her about her online presence, like what she searches for and watches on YouTube and who she chats with and what they chat about. My daughter is still only 10 years old, and I know that things may very well change as she approaches her teenage years. But I do know that if I try to start having open communication with her at 13, it’s way too late. By cultivating this special bond earlier on, I have a much better shot at continuing our conversation.
Parenting is tough, and finding time to meet the needs of each child is sometimes unrealistic. But, I have to say, carving out time to make your child feel special, not with gifts, but with your presence and full attention, is an investment that will pay off over a lifetime.