Every Monday evening I take my oldest daughter to orchestra practice. Every week I look forward to the drive back and forth into Grand Rapids.
Most of the time we listen to the radio and I destroy pop music as she sinks in her seat in smiling embarrassment. We smile and laugh together; it really is one of the highlights of my week.
Sometimes she prefers to be quiet for the ride in as she mentally unwinds from the school day and prepares herself for the rehearsal to come.
Last week I had an agenda for our time together. I had a conversation on my heart that we needed to have. The realization that she is not a little girl anymore has never been more apparent to me.
Lately there has been much talk about a certain young man that she has taken an interest in. He is frequently mentioned and usually there is an innocent smile that comes with his name.
As a realist, therapist, and someone that has worked with adolescents for 15 years I am all too familiar with the scenario. As a father... well let's just say I have moments of unrest.
I have learned that somehow combining all of these traits usually brings me to a sweet spot in parenting that connects me deeper with my girls.
Last Monday was one of those times. We had a very real, deep, meaningful, and appropriate conversation about relationships, emotions, parents, and teenagers. At times I was almost in tears, others times, terrified, and still others full of joy.
Somehow I managed an approach that wasn't awkward or too uncomfortable. She willingly engaged in the conversation, and asked many questions. It actually went much better than I anticipated. We talked from before we got into the car until I turned the ignition off after parking in the garage. At which I ended our time with a simple "I love you".
I think that there are many good points to this account. Here are a few that I really want to stress and encourage you as a parent.
1. It's not unusual for my daughters and myself to have meaningful conversations about life. The more you practice the easier it is. Yes, it is uncomfortable at first; keep at it and it becomes a new normal.
2. When you have frequent conversations with your children you have their ear. You talk and they will listen.
3. If you want them to listen to you will need to listen to them. Remember, I am using the word conversation for a reason. Listen more, lecture less.
4. Talking about the small things makes it easier to talk about difficult things.
5. Don't wilt when it matters. It's better to engage in a difficult or uneasy conversation than to walk away and miss an opportunity.