1. Relationships with teens are almost always better one-on-one, when you're doing something away from home.
2. It's often easier to talk side-by-side than face-to-face. That way you're traveling together, headed the same direction. (Friends who live in the 'burbs tell me their best conversations happen in the car. I believe it.)
I knew both those things. Really, I did. But like an embarrassingly large portion of parenting wisdom, these insights, these tidbits of insight got lost. I ought to write myself a book of all the pithy parenting things I forget, and refer to it when I want to bang my head against a wall. I might re-learn something.
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For many years I struggled with the story of Adam and Eve, because I couldn't believe they could be so stupid. I mean, it was one tree. How hard is that?! Then one day I thought, What if 'all the law and the prophets' was summed up... could I keep that one rule? Could I hold it in the forefront of my mind all day for a single day? Sigh. No, I couldn't. I forget the basics, all the time. (Sorry, Adam and Eve: I misjudged you. I get it now. Most days.)
Even when we have our priorities in order and work hard to align our days with each with them, we forget. Because, you know, that project is due and the kids are squabbling. Or someone said something hurtful and I'm out of sorts. Or difficulties have multiplied likemanic brooms, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice has set them to sweeping crazily at my composure. Or maybe (probably) because the path of least resistance is broad and easy, and I veer onto it, unthinkingly.
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These are some of the things that I know matter in parenting that I forget:
- touch your children daily
- say encouraging things regularly
- ask questions that show you are interested
- stay quiet if you can't say it with charity
- focus on responding instead of reacting
- know their 'love language' -- and speak it
- assume it will take many times, perhaps hundreds or thousands of times, before they understand and remember basic manners
- laugh as much as possible
- make one-on-one time happen
- remember to notice when they do something right
- spend enough time with them that random thoughts come to the surface
- let them see that you, too, struggle
- let them know what you believe. Often.
- show them how you think through problems
- stories of your (and their) childhood are precious
- new experiences trump new toys