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How to Talk To My Children About What I Want My Children To Know About What They Need To Know About What I Want Them To Know. (You Know?)

It rained this morning (story of the this summer, I’m afraid.)  Lila came in from the street, where I called her back from circling the brown murky puddles.

Don’t go jumping in the puddles today, please. I said to her.

But I’m not. I’m just walking in them.

Please don’t go in them, not today.

But they clean my feet.

No. I corrected her. No they don’t.

Well, they at least look cleaner, she reasoned.

Just because something looks clean, doesn’t mean it is. 

As she moped her way back out the door, muttering under her breath about how unfair life is and how now she has nothing to do at all outside, I thought of how much deeper that thought was – that appearances are deceptive, that emotions can mislead, that mistakes are inevitable and life is a giant labyrinth of pretty distractions that can keep us from ever achieving our best purpose.

And so, I sat down to reflect on the thought and on other things I might someday like to be sure to remember to explain to my daughters and sons. But, wouldn’t you know, one quick scroll through my Facebook newsfeed assured me that every golden nugget of parental wisdom has already been hashed (and rehashed) by about a dozen or more bloggers out there.

One no long needs to go to the grocery store check-out or sit in the doctor’s waiting room to sift through piles of magazine articles on how to best parent their children or lose twenty pounds. One must no longer call friends or their mother to talk about sensitive issues, like, how to talk to your daughter about her body or how not to talk to her about your own insecurities.

But Twitter-me-this internet, are we really so much wiser now than, say, thirty years ago, when my mother was standing in her kitchen with my siblings and I driving her to wits end? Or are we just more distracted, self-absorbed and anxious over every decision we make and conversation we have with our children?

My parents weren’t perfect. My father once took a moment, as we paused on a bike ride, to let me know that he and I were never going to be models. Meaning, we were average. Meaning, prom queen, never gonna happen.

But that’s okay, he continued. We’re fine.

Now, as a teenager, it stung a little. Nothing permanently damaging, but it obviously has carried with me and I can recall that one small slice of dialogue alone out of the entire bike ride of conversations around the lake.

What stung then: We’re never going to be models.

What sticks now: We’re fine.

Turns out, I am fine.

It wasn’t a stroke of parenting brilliance or scripted advice from an article he found online (because this was from the once upon a time world, back when the interwebs didn’t even exist.) It was my just dad, being honest.

Truthfully, and to his credit, I don’t really think it’s the sort of conversation he would have had with my sister. I think in his relationship with me, in his understanding of me as his strong-headed daughter, he knew that his honesty wasn’t going to be soul crushing. And I think, on some level, I’ve always appreciated that.

I think that navigating parenthood is so much less about cracking a code that somehow works for every child, and so much more about getting to know and relate to your own child for who they are.

Which is why I hesitate when giving or receiving advice that seems too pat, too one-size fits all. How will I talk to Lila about relationships, with herself and with others? I’ll listen to Lila and learn how to best navigate those waters as I approach.

What I know for sure is that how I’ll talk to her will more than likely be different than how I talk to Evaline – and both will be wholly different than how I’ll handle things with Alex or Asher.

The only thing I think for sure that I’ll want for each of them to is that they are loved, unequivocally and irrevocably, forever.

(Even though, while I took the time to sit and write this, they all DID go and jump in those muddy puddles and are now creating a disaster in my shower, which adds one more thing to clean on my “must-finish-before-vacation” list.)

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