Tonight Nic helped me make dinner. Yielding my super sharp chef’s knife, he turned around animatedly and almost castrated his father. Rob’s words were something along the lines of “Watch it Nic, you almost cut off my penis!”… to which Nic gilgglingly replied… “SO?” And Rob said “Well I still need it, you know” and Nic gave a knowing nod and said “OH! To make more babies?”
Knowing that Rob sometimes diverts these topics, I rescued him with “No… to wee.” Of course, the topic of babies was much more intriguing, and so Nic began to ask questions about that… his first being “So I have been wondering, how do I learn about making babies? Do I have to watch you two?”
Managing to control our gasps of shock, I explained that I was sure when the time came and he was married (I can try!) and ready for it, I was pretty sure he would know. He then said “But what if I don’t know how?” and I said “Well then I will tell you.” Nic – “But what if you are dead?” Rob – “Well then I will tell you” Nic – “But what if you are also dead?” Rob – “Then I’ll leave instructions for you.” Nic – “That’s just wrong daddy! Ugh… the thought of you writing those instructions… ugh” (But apparently watching a demonstration by his parents would be perfectly acceptable?) Me – “I will type them for you.” Nic – “No still creepy.” Me – “Nic, I promise you will figure it out when you are ready to do that.”
And so the conversation continued, with some equally eye-opening dialogue, but while it was happening I couldn’t help think how awesome it was that in the middle of making supper, our son was having this conversation with us as naturally as if we were talking about how clouds form, or how to make the pasta dish we were working on. What a blessing.
Getting your kids to talk to you is one of the issues most parents struggle with. But when you get it right, what a wonderful thing to achieve. Knowing that they will tell you stuff – ok, probably not everything and sometimes a ‘censored version’ – from little, opens the door for them to tell you stuff when they are big. And the bigger they get, the bigger their ‘stuff’ gets.
All of us tell our kids “you can tell me anything”… but do we really mean it? When your kids come flop on the couch next to you, do you just keep reading your book, or working on your computer, or do you see that as the “I want to chat” signal that it is and stop and listen. And when you listen, do you really listen? Or do you look at them while your brain is making lists of things you need to do, and watching the clock and thinking about what you still need to get done before the day is done?
Watch for signs that your kids give you that indicate that you aren’t communicating properly… do they sigh and walk away? Cross their arms? Get quiet? Roll their eyes? Change the subject? Get that glazed look?
Just listen… make them believe you understand what they are feeling. Make them feel accepted and heard. This will encourage communication with your kids, and from your kids. You will be building a solid pattern of communication and openness that will ensure they will come to you and tell you anything for years to come. Things like, “Can I watch you guys have sex so I can be sure I know what to do when the time comes?”