I am now an empty nester. My children are 19 and 24. In hindsight, my parental mistakes are easily spotted, but I also know what I’m glad I did as a parent.
I Read to My Kids.
Read with your kids. Studies show that reading fiction builds empathy. I kept both of my children immersed in literature. The snarky younger one has even referred to her love of reading as Stockholm Syndrome. So be it. Reading gave me a common ground with my both of them. Discussing moral issues with their mother in the context of a book is much easier on some 10-year-old boys than just addressing the issues. The stories of my children’s childhood stay with me today, from Tuesday and The Napping House to the Warrior Cats and Harry Potter.
I Learned Not to Ask My Kid, “How was your day?”
The inevitable response, “Fine,” tells you nothing. Instead, I asked my kids, “What was the best thing about your day and the worst thing about your day?” With that question, the stories poured out and I learned about the inner sanctum of my kids’ lives. “Fine” would never have told me a thing about them and their worlds.
I Loved My Kids’ Friends and Welcomed Them Into My Home.
I learned this from my mother, who was adored by my friends. Embrace the community of people your children have chosen. Knowing and loving my kids’ friends taught me about my children. More importantly, I could stay in touch with my kids and their lives. Along the way, I met some amazing young people who gave me so much hope for our future.
I Tried to Adopt My Kids’ Interests.
Adopt your kids’ interests. I never watched or cared for sports until I realized my pre-teen son’s love of sports and video games was surpassing his love of books. I started watching football and asked my son for his opinions. I stayed involved in his interests. (I tried the video game thing, but found I couldn’t escape the training session of his favorite MMORPG and ended up, to the amusement of the group of boys at my house, trying to talk to a sheep.) My daughter loved a comic about a college hockey team, featuring a former figure skater who became a hockey player. I grew up in Texas and know literally nothing about hockey. But I read every single issue about Bitty and Jack in OMG Check Please because I saw how much it meant to my daughter. I downloaded the Hamilton soundtrack because I saw how much she loved it. Both gave us a way to open a dialogue. Funny side effect: I love the Dallas Cowboys, OMG Check Please, and Hamilton. We learn from our children.
I Learned to Be My Child’s Advocate.
I do not mean to insinuate that you shouldn’t hold your kids accountable for their actions. Absolutely. But when an unjust event occurs, be the voice for your child. I do not regret any situation in which I spoke up on my child’s behalf, from the time my son’s third grade teacher made him write a letter saying he would never laugh again to the time my daughter’s principal was allowing “preachers” to eat lunch with the kids without parental knowledge. We teach them to respect adults, so we must be the voice when those adults cross the line.
The rest of my parenting might be a total disaster. You would have to ask my kids, and I’m sure they have stories. I do know, however, that I am proud of those five items above that I did as a parent. Looking back from this empty nest, I can see the good with clarity.
This post originally appeared on Jen Screams Into The Abyss.
Jennifer Gregory is a former teacher and school librarian who lives in rural Texas. She is the proud mother of two adult children and the grandmother of one perfect grandson. She now shares her home with her beloved, but neurotic Dogue de Bordeaux. Read more of her daily rants at jenscreamsattheabyss.wordpress.com