Sugarcoating was never my strong suit. Even as a child, I can remember my mother’s surprise and slight embarrassment to my shockingly honest responses to her colleague’s benign inquiry, “And how are you doing today?” As an Executive Coach, my clients value my transparent and direct approach. As a mother, I want my children to understand as they navigate life. It’s not your “who-ha,” this is your vagina and yes, you will get hair on it too one day. Mommy and Daddy are divorced, it’s not a bad word. We love each other best when we don’t live in the same house. It’s a fine line I walk between being telling it like it is to my rising 3rd and 1st graders and ensuring it’s age appropriate. AGE APPROPRIATE.
What does that mean? It is defined as suitable for people of a particular age. But what does that really mean and who decides? I think it is appropriate for my children to know I date. They once asked why they had not met a man I had been seeing exclusively and I responded, “Because he has not earned it yet.” This opens the dialogue of what it means for Mommy and Daddy to date and be available for questions. And for my daughters to understand what it means for a man to earn a place in your life. I don’t subscribe to the practice of, “Mommy has a nice friend who would like to meet you. He is very special. And he would like to be your friend.” That is not how dating works and that is not how I work.
If they see me tear up while looking at pictures, I want them to know it’s because I miss my grandparents and sometimes I miss them so much it makes my heart hurt.
Keeping it real with my children means that when we have to evacuate because of a hurricane, we have a conversation about what potentially could happen and how we prepare. It’s not scare tactics. I want them to feel safe because they understand. I wonder often, do they understand? Is this making sense to their little minds? But they grasp and extrapolate more than I realize sometimes and more than I give them credit. I want them to understand the why behind the decision.
My 1st grader was getting into the habit of unbuckling her seatbelt before we pulled into the driveway at home. In an attempt to deter this behavior, I explained why we wear seat belts. “You wear a seatbelt because you will be thrown around the car if we get in an accident. It is called an accident because we don’t know when it is going to happen. So we are prepared.”
And I reflect if I should have explained this up front. I reflect if it resonated. Is it age appropriate? The seatbelt conversation is going to become the sex and drugs conversation before too long. What is the balance? When is too much? This is journey all parents are on, weaving and bobbing facts while wanting to protect our children. I want to do more than shield them though, I want to arm them. I want them to be informed and armed with facts.