OK, I know I should be practicing the Story for All Ages puppet show for church tomorrow. Or finalizing the meeting notes for the new Story Circle Group. Or going over the information we've gathered about how other churches implement OWL when they're small and have no building. Or even preparing for our first youth group meeting of the year. But I just can't concentrate. I have had such a great day with my family. I was gone for just a few days in San Fransisco with my friends, but I MISSED my family. I missed my kids. And today we were together for almost the whole day. I'm still flying.
And I wonder, how can this be? Everyone laments the teen years; says your kids will drive you crazy, you'll be so excited to get them out of the house. Well, that's all true, sometimes my children drive me crazy. I have threatened to start hiding their shoes from them if they leave them in the front hall once more (I HATE when people do that, we have four official places for shoes to go in the house....tripping me in the front hall is not one of them). And they talk to each other in ways that they would never consider speaking to anyone else, which breaks my heart and makes me want to scream at them to stop hurting each other. This is no perfect house, not even close.
But the secret is; I like my kids. Really like them. They're lovely people, I enjoy being with them, I like to talk to them, I value their opinions and their humor and their commitment to the things and people that matter to them. I miss them when we're not together. Maybe it's some awful co-dependent relationship and I am completely ruining them as "Monster Mama"; in fact, that's probably it. But I'll share the things I think we've done that have helped us build a friendly parent-child relationship despite the fact that we still make them do laundry and mow lawns and floss their teeth and do their homework.
Top Ten Ways to Like Your Kids
10. Treat your kids with respect, and they'll treat you with respect. That's a whole lot easier to like.
9. Talk to the other adults in your life the way you want your kids to talk to you, yes even your annoying neighbor and your crazy Aunt Zelda. Kids watch everything, and copy it. Again, easier to like kind people.
8. Create chunks of time that put you in proximity to your kids, that way you can get to know each other. Tell them you want company at the library, need help choosing pudding at the grocery store, want help picking out the right pizza for dinner at the take out place. Talk about things that interest you and then; shhhh.... listen to what they have to say.
7. Find common interests. Like cars? Go to the car show together. Airplanes? Get french fries and park near the airport and watch planes take-off and land together. Music? Go to lunch time concerts. This builds common bonds that ferry you over rough waters.
6. Play games, unless like me, you hate games. I've learned to play short games, like "I Doubt It" while we wait for our food at a restaurant. But my husband plays poker and cribbage with the boys and while I'm a little green over the snorting laughter they have, playing those games would make me scream.
5. Be honest. But not too honest. Say "Yes, I'm crabby and having a really bad day", but don't dump on your children. I've learned this one from my oldest who was kind enough to explain it to me. He's right. Growing up has enough trouble built in, no need to add to it beyond a simple explanation.
4. Tell your kids that you appreciate them. Simple right? We tell our kids we love them, that we're proud of them, but do we get down to the core? Not too often. "I really appreciate your sense of humor, thanks for making me laugh" "Thanks so much for noticing that, you are so perceptive" "Hey, the way you helped your friend reminds me of just how very kind you are." Tell them!
3. Laugh together. Watch funny videos on youtube or old comedies from your childhood. Go see puppies or kittens who fall all over each other. Do Madlibs. Relax, enjoy. Childhood is really, really short. Trust me, my tiny baby turns 18 in a very few days. It's good to have memories of laughing together because if you're like me, you know they will have memories of you yelling at them!
2. Deal with your adult issues so that you are likable. Not sleeping enough? Figure that out. Stuck in a dead end job? Either accept it or figure out how to have a new job. Hate your house? Fix it or move. Living with an eternal crab will suck the joy out of a kid, and a crabby kid is a no fun.
And the number one way to like your kids?
1. Keep all the mess and busyness and chaos in perspective. It is a huge gift to share the life of a child! In about a week and a half they're going to move out and win the Nobel Peace Prize just like President Obama. So don't forget to relax and enjoy the ride!