January 23, 2021•873 words
In her book - Get out of my life, Suzanne Franks mentions what a parent may get out of all this in the end. I started to wonder if I had attained this level of accomplishment? And so I decided to write this small post and ask for comment from my boys, who are now aged 19 and 24 for those who do not know.
There is a pleasant irony to all this. If parents can hang on through the teenage years, they may get all that they ever wanted at the end of the process: an adult child who genuinely likes and respects you and is at ease with you; a person genuinely considerate of others and, amazingly, considerate of you; a grown child who now appreciates all that you have done for him or her.
We all change over time
I have learned a lot from my boys over the years through many hundreds of thousands of small interactions in their lives. As I write this it sounds a lot however in a book I am reading called The Nuture Effect Anthony Biglan quotes research by Betty Hart and Todd Risley where the estimation was that depending on certain circumstances children may hear between 10 million and 30 million words from parents in the first three years of life! Has this changed since smartphones? - I digress - that is another post.
None of us are the same people we were 2 years ago or 10 years ago. Imagine the difference before and after kids! I feel comforted that both my boys have established themselves as mature adults despite having to put up with me and the mothers... (another post perhaps). In terms of me, I have changed immeasurably in the last couple of decades and wanted to share two ways I have changed as a result of things that my boys taught me.
When my oldest was aged 15 he saw me in the kitchen acquiesce to my wife's wishes on some subject as she left the room. I have no idea what the subject was now however I remember turning to the observing son and expecting him to make some comment about me giving in or about who wore the trousers in the household. He surprised me by responding before I spoke with the phrase "happy wife - happy life" which he had not heard in my household.
This was actually a phrase that was not familiar to me and I loved the fact he had responded in such a completely different manner to my expectations. I teach a lot about assumptions and perception as these colour and dictate your responses if you are not noticing them.
This interaction had two effects on me. Firstly that the phrase in itself showed an understanding and maturity I had not expected. As someone who had been married for years he summed up something I had not thought of in one simple phrase. What is the cost of having your own way?
Secondly, we have an inbuilt defensive negativity which we all need to curb or at least keep an eye on ((another post)). I could have launched into a diatribe defending why I had capitulated, even discussed the phrase from work I do - "strategic capitulation", however more often than we think people are not perceiving the interactions the same way as you believe they are. "The meaning of my communication is the response I get!" however perception is a post for another time. He opened my eyes that day and I have I learnt a lot from my son as he grew up, I still do, and this event is embedded in my mind.
I am sure I have posted in Hanlon's Razor...
My youngest and I had talked a number of times in months leading to this event on subjects such as - it takes 21 days to form a habit - like writing a blog :-). And positive psychology conversations such as about the changes that happen in brain chemistry when someone writes a "what went well" diary for 21 days, creating changes in their brain becoming more optimistic. Both of these things are behavioural in nature and should be considered valuable points of discussion, however applying these things to yourself seems somewhat different (another post I feel).
And so at 18 years old, my youngest was politely listening to me in the kitchen spout on about me knowing how to lose weight and how I needed more days in a row on diet before a day off. So quietly and slowly - he challenged me - to 21 days without a day off. I have subsequently written about 51 days. I learnt a lot from that one event and continue to learn from him on a regular basis.
The important issue here is have I created healthy adults who fit the target in the quote at the top of the post? Well, I will not post this till they have seen it and if they want to comment or stop me it won't get posted! - not in this format.....