It has been seven years since the separation and four since the divorce. I would like to say I am a pro at this but still feel like I fall flat on my face much of the time. I am definitely a people watcher, and I like to observe and learn. Hell, if I can learn from someone else’s mistake, less pain for me, right?
The most important lesson I have learned has come from my time alone when I am not allowed to see my kids. Being divorced from a person who exhibits many sociopathic/narcissistic personality disorder characteristics, this means I have a lot of time alone. I don’t want to get too far off topic, because I feel this is really important.
We, as parents need to stop and think what it is our children truly NEED in order to be successful, emotionally functioning adults. The answer? US.
They need our time. They need us to look them in the eye and put our phones and electronic devices down and stop trying to fill every minute of their free time with activities that show the world our devotion to our children but don’t show our angels the quality time they crave. Does your 10 year old REALLY need to play travel baseball, spending every weekend on the road, sometimes getting up at 5 am, playing several games over the weekend when all they really want is just to PLAY baseball?
I grew up dancing and was a dance teacher. I can spot a stage parent a mile away. I assure you, 95% of today’s little sluggers will be burned out by high school and never get that college scholarship those coaches who want your thousands of dollars are promising. They need us to show them that keeping up with the Jones’ only leads to more emptiness.
They need us to sit down with them at the dinner table and ask about the highs and lows of their day. They need us to keep our mouths shut while they explain and vent and sometimes cry. They need us to listen to their silly story about gym class and the B they got on the quiz they were certain they failed. They need us to share that hideous story how we vomited down two flights of stairs while in 10th grade when they get sick at school. They need to know how our very best friend in the entire world in 8th grade did the exact same thing to us….and we lived. We need to know their friends and their friend’s parents.
We need to get out old board games and sit and giggle and kick their butts; because how will they learn to be gracious winners and losers if they always win? We need to have family “blackout” nights where no one is allowed to touch an electronic device.
Our teenagers want us to take an interest in their music tastes. They want to share new songs with us; and they deserve our undivided attention when they do. They crave finding something to share with us…even my son who is aligned against me most of the time beams when we find something to share, be it a book series, a song, just one small thing.
Our children need us to teach them life shouldn’t be all serious. They need to know it’s ok to dance like nobody is watching and feel safe enough to be silly in front of us. They need to know it is perfectly ok to belt out a favorite song at the top of their lungs in the car even if they can’t hit a note intentionally to save their lives…because they have watched us do it. They need to see we may get knocked down in life, but we will find a way to laugh as we brush ourselves off and stand back up. A child who has never learned by getting their hands dirty or by making 1000 mistakes before finally getting it right will not function well as an adult. They need to know life doesn’t always go as planned, and when it doesn’t, how to react. Our children need to know how to navigate unusual situations because they have watched us, by our sides, navigating. It may take twice as long, but we need to involve them in helping make dinner. They need to know the difference between a flat and Philips head screwdriver and how to use them. They need to know how to tie a fish hook on a line, how to make homemade gravy, shoot a bb gun and match patterns and colors in their clothes no matter if they are a boy or girl.
We need to be their “friends” on their social accounts and parents in real life. We need to KNOW who their other social account friends are. My daughter showed me my 11-year-old niece’s Instagram last week. She easily looks 16 and poses like a love-crazed 16-year-old. She has over 1000 “friends” following her on Instagram and last week posted her phone number. My daughter pulled up the profiles of some of the men following my niece. Scary. Did I mention she is 11? Needless to say, my fingers were on fire texting my brother.
We need to stop spending money on things they will lay down in 5 minutes, trying to make up for the time we are away from them. This STUFF does not bring the happiness many think. They want our time. They need one on one quality time. They need hugs.
They should never have a doubt in their mind that THEY are the most important thing in the world to us while remaining their parent instead of their friend. Nothing is more important, not our conflict with our ex, not our demanding jobs or our “friends” on Facebook, and especially not the endless sports we signed them up for so we can talk about what martyrs we are with all the other parents.
It is time we stop and think about what they really need over what we want or how it will make us look. We chose to be parents, so it is time we take our jobs seriously, no matter how much time we are allowed with them.