Friday, April 01, 2011

Conscious Conversations #2

Here it is...the end of the month when we focused on Conscious Conversations, and it took me weeks to get to THIS conversation with you. Isn't that the trickiness of our lives? How to make time for what matters, when the minutia of everyday gets in our way.

My daughter is nearly 12 and we've been having the most fascinating conversations lately. Nothing about the lack of a father in her life -- other than her recent thought that if I had a husband I wouldn't have to work so hard. Nothing about the donor who helped me create her life, someone she knew once upon a time when we all lived in the same city but who she has not been curious about since she was seven.

We've been talking about things like how to pick your friendships. How to engage emotionally with friends, when your natural inclination might be to protect yourself from having them know how you really feel. Politics. Religion. How to make a difference in the world. Whether to sell the house and -- now that I've largely decided NOT to move to a smaller place, why I'm making that decision, based on logic, not simply emotion. Why it's okay to not be perfect. How to avoid being bossy. Career options (she's currently leaning toward forensic anthropology). College options (she's currently leaning toward Cambridge in the U.K.). The fear that overwhelmed us when a classmate she knows was reported missing, from the end of the school day until she finally returned from a friend's at 10pm.

And this is just in the past two months.

What we haven't yet talked about is the time I sat down with a man we've been spending time with, who asked for her weekly help teaching computer skills to the elderly in an adult education class. About how I had to consciously ask him questions to ascertain why he is an unmarried, childless man in his 40s who loves working with kids.

I haven't yet talked to her about what I learned in a PTA-led discussion with a police detective, after a released sexual offender moved a block away from my son's school. Including the fact that statistically the highest prevalence of sexual abuse comes when a single mom gets a boyfriend who becomes entrusted with care when she's gone. Or about my own history with date rape.

These are all big, scary conversations. And as she gets closer every day to the time when she will socialize with adolescent boys, what is her model for how to interact, and protect herself, and focus on becoming true, trusted friends before anything else happens?

What might be of interest to some of you -- especially Thinkers and Moms of young children who are starting to ask questions about "dad" -- is that most of the conscious conversations we have with our children have nothing to do with their origin story.

It's an important conversation to have regularly, of course. But what it all comes down to, really, is that we build the kind of relationship with our kids that enables us to HAVE these deep conversations. It starts with those "simple" origin stories -- why are you here, why did I make our family the way that I did, who matters to us. But then we graduate on, with that openness and honesty as backdrop, to the bigger questions that concern our kids as they get older: who am I, and what do I require from the people I choose to be in my life?

-- Mikki

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