Oh the real questions. They are a-startin’ to surface. We are long past the: ” Where did I come from, Mommy? Was I always in your tummy?” cutesy questions and are now entering the: “Did Dad have a girlfriend before he married you?” um-what-did-you-say? phase. It’s loads of fun.
Of course I enjoy sharing stories from my childhood, teenage and early adult years with my kiddos – they are often thoroughly amused at the thought of their mom actually coaching figure skating and wearing her hair in afro puffs like Red from Fraggle Rock. I’m a believer that showing your children that you were once in their shoes, makes you more relatable and approachable as a parent…but what are the boundaries to this theory?
This summer, while attending a summit at The Century Council, I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing from Lisa Graham Keegan, an American education reform advocate and the author of the popular parenting book Simple Choices: Thoughts on choosing environments that support who your child is meant to be. Not only was I blown away by her professional accomplishments, I was also totally impressed by her parenting philosophies and the grace with which she approached raising a blended family. She spoke to use candidly about how we can help our children to be their best selves. A large part of that comes from teaching your kids that they have value and a purpose. They key is letting them determine on their own what that purpose is.
Part of figuring out their purpose means that they will need to face challenges, lose some, and get hurt along the way. This is where things get tricky for me. Naturally, I want to protect my kids from every little thing. No one wants to see their child suffer, no matter how little. I think this is where lessons learned from my past serve as a source of comfort and encouragement for my guys. I can share the story of how ran away from home (for all of an afternoon) and what I learned about myself and my mom during that time (oh and why it’s a stupid, stupid idea). But…do I want to share my stories of bad decisions involving alcohol? Will those stories help them or serve as greenlight for that kind of behavior. I’m not sure.
I think the key is to at least be thinking about those experiences and deciding which are smart to share, and that will serve the purpose of being honest with your kids and allowing them to choose their paths with real information. After spending some time thinking about all of this, I’m leaning towards being more honest than not, but will have to take it on a case-by-case basis (after all, I am a lawyer). In Lisa’s words, “Our job is to teach our kids: ‘don’t lie to yourself, value yourself that much. I know you will lie to me, but don’t lie to yourself.’” Deciphering what is a lie and what isn’t just may come from a story or two that Mom or Dad shared because they felt it would be helpful.
What’s your philosophy on drawing from your past to help your kid navigate their future?
Thank you to The Century Council for inviting me to participate in their sponsored #TalkEarly campaign and encouraging me to process my own thoughts about these issues…happening now at my dining room table!