When I started blogging, I was expecting my first child. Hard to believe this child just entered fifth grade, nearing 11 years old. Throughout this time, I’ve detailed my misadventures as a mom and a wife -- the chaos, silliness, and frustration that results from spending my days with now two young kids who focus mostly on playing video games, eating ice cream, avoiding bedtime, and pushing my buttons.
But over the past year or so, I have noticed a significant change in my interactions with my son. We are starting to have interesting conversations about real issues. Actual, insightful, back-and-forth conversations.
Sure we have talked before about situations at school or in the neighborhood, about what to do if someone is mean or makes him uncomfortable, about people from different walks of life, but those always were a bit one-sided.
Now, my son is starting to ask challenging questions about history, current events, and social issues. No longer “why is the sky blue” but “what if” questions that do not have a definitive answer. We’ve talked about the impact of terrorism, about civil rights, about the realities of life outside our privileged bubble. He has his own opinions, which though perhaps less informed than mine are equally valid. We used to disagree about things like the necessity of dessert after each meal, but now we disagree about President Obama.
We have been having a lot of conversations about finances lately. He has become very aware of advertising and marketing ploys as well as the value of a dollar. We ask him for his input to evaluate costs versus benefits of everything from groceries to toys to hotel rooms to vacations. And the boy who used to say, “It’s okay if we run out, we can just buy more” now reconsiders the need for more, especially if it involves something his little sister wants.
I believe he may be having even more financial conversations with my husband, because as we were walking through a furniture store recently, he would stop at every grouping and exclaim, “This costs how much?! I would never pay that for a (insert furniture item here)!” He also knows the value of a freebie, asking to visit sample-heavy Costco at lunchtime and openly telling employees, “That was delicious, but we aren’t going to buy such a big package. Can I have another sample?”
You can see how proud our son is to be included in more grown-up discussions, so we schedule parent-son dinner dates where his younger sister can’t distract or pow-wows between their bedtimes.
While he can still talk for hours about his favorite video games, he is more likely to intersperse these conversations with random thoughts like, “I like individual sports more than team sports because you are only competing with yourself. In team sports, you can’t really be happy, even if you win, because somebody has to lose.” Or this tidbit about staying away from risky situations, “You wouldn’t go home with a bunch of drunk strangers, so why would you stay out in a bar with them?” (I’ll admit, in context this seemed more appropriate for a 10-year old than it does here.)
Because our discussions are getting more mature, I sometimes have to remind myself that my son is still a kid. I may think we’ve had a perfectly logical discussion with a perfectly logical conclusion (usually mine), but I’m trying not to be so surprised when the same question comes up again and again (usually in the “why can’t I” category). I let him vent about what bothers him, even when it may seem a small thing to me. When I ask, “How bad is it on a scale of 1 to 10?”, I realize that my 1 may be his 8, and have learned to validate his views rather than get frustrated at his sensitivity (most of the time).
The other day I sat down with him to discuss some upcoming changes in our day-to-day schedule as I plan to increase my working hours. I was worried the variation in routine would upset him, as it would have in past years. But he was supportive, eager to know how he could help, and willing to take on more responsibilities. He seemed to truly understand the reasoning behind my requests rather than just viewing them as criticisms or lectures. I’m trying to keep my expectations realistic, but I’m more hopeful than usual.
At the end of this conversation, he asked, “Mom, when you’re done being a therapist, can you thera-pi me?” My response - “I’ve been trying to thera-pi you for ten years.” Guess it’s time for him to read my old columns.