Making Faces at Your Kids
My 5-year-old daughter paced past me and proclaimed, "I need a drink."
I nodded and replied under my breath (so only I could appreciate the punchline), "Been one of those days, hmm?"
My wife and I often ad-lib subtle, under-our-breath remarks like this around our kids that only we're tuned into. It's like a daily inside-joke that keeps us sane amidst all the chaos of parenting.
Sometimes our kids are too close for us say anything out loud, though.
That's when we start making faces.
You've probably made your share of these when your real reaction is bursting with emotion and yet you know you need to offer something more composed.
My wife and I do the same thing, offering a quick side glance to each other to reveal what we're really thinking.
In fact, we just made a whole bunch of faces the other day when one of our kids revealed that he'd started talking with a girl in his class who shares one of his interests.
"That's great, son," I said in word and composure.
"She sounds nice," my wife offered.
Meanwhile, the face-under-our-face was screaming, "NO! NOOOOO!!!! WE'RE NOT READY FOR YOU TO START BANTERING WITH GIRLS! OR FOR GIRLS TO START BANTERING WITH YOU! WE'LL LITERALLY BUY YOU ANYTHING YOU WANT IF WE CAN DISTRACT YOU BACK TO CHILDHOOD AND AWAY FROM ADULTHOOD FOR ANOTHER DAY!"
It only took a quarter-turn of our heads for my wife and I to share this exchange with each other. But we also made sure our son didn't see our looks.
This may fly in the face of our culture's platform that we say whatever we want whenever want, but kids need some space and grace to fumble their way forward in life without us intercepting everything with our own reactions.
The way we respond to our kids has as much meaning as the things we say. Body language can even add "extra words" to a conversation, for it speaks even before we do. Just as we wouldn't try to soothe a baby without intentionally shaping our voice and mannerisms, so our older kids need us to soothe them with how we receive them.
Through open and fearless conversations, we communicate unconditional love.
There will be times when our outrage over something our kids do should be expressed, but it's entirely different when they're diving into natural topics that we're not ready for them to dive into (ahem...girls).
By listening we gain the right to speak.
By seeking to understand we gain the right to be understood.
By asking great questions we gain the right to offer wisdom.
By offering nonjudgmental responses we gain the right to show them how we're for them (even if we have to eventually say something that seems against them).
What have been situations when you've ended up making faces at your kids? How are you navigating this tension of transparency with responsibility? _box]