Last weekend I took my three big kids to see a really bad movie.
Without naming names, it was a poor quality animation, with little story line, designed to make my kids want to spend even more money on pieces of plastic crap and all the merchandise that goes with them.
My kids adored it.
They all know how much I dislike these toys, and they all know why I dislike them, yet they love them. They saved their money to buy the movie tickets and even worked together to pitch in and buy my ticket, so when it came down to it only ‘the meanest mum in the whole world’ would have said no… so I took them.
Half way through the movie, as I sat, bored to tears, Izzy leaned over and whispered to me “Thanks for taking us Mum, I know you don’t like this much.” and I thought to myself… this movie is terrible, these toys are over priced and useless, but this is not a waste of time because I am here with my kids, sharing something they adore, spending time with them, connecting with them in a way that I don’t always get to now that they are getting older, and it reminded me of something I had heard a while back…
“Learn to love what they love.”
This may just be the sanest advice I have ever heard when it comes to parenting school aged kids and above.
It’s easy to love pretty much everything about that gurgling baby because you are their entire world, and they yours. Even defiant toddlers and preschoolers are still pretty adorable and it’s easy to find lots of ways to connect when they still want and need you to be a major focus in their lives. But when they start school, that is when you really have to master the art of holding them close while still letting them go.
As they grow older, with that letting go, that loosening of connection, it is easy to wake up one day and realise that you are just managing your kids, you’ve stopped enjoying them, you’ve stopped being a main player in all that they do. It’s part of growing up, as a child and a parent, and it is a positive thing, but it can also leave you wondering how to connect with your older kids, how to find that common ground, how to have those moments of shared delight again.
Here’s where that advice comes in… learn to love what they love.
What sport are they into? Learn to play and offer to practice with them, or take them to watch a professional game.
What books are they reading? Read them too. What music do they listen to? Listen to it too.
What crazy fad are they obsessed with? Download a gazillion rainbow loom tutorials and spend the afternoon trying to make that ridiculously difficult goldfish! Or take them to that movie that they just HAVE to see… even if you don’t want to.
You don’t have to go overboard about every new craze, or force yourself to do something you hate all the time, but taking a little time and making a little effort can be so valuable. It will show your kids that you notice, that you think their ideas are worthwhile, that you respect them, that you are willing to put your own desires second to try something new or support someone else.
And when things are rough, it’s a way to connect when that feels like the most impossible thing ever. It’s a way to be there for them when most of the time they don’t even want you around, a way to open communication when they might otherwise just roll their eyes at you and stalk away.
It’s a way to build and strengthen your relationship at one of the most import times in your parenting life… when your kids are starting to grow up and define who they are as individuals. I want to make sure I am still part of their lives while they are working that stuff out.
The 80 minutes of that movie may have been tedious and boring for me, but the two hours we spent together afterwards having dinner, talking and sharing was worth it’s weight in gold.