My oldest will be eleven this year and I’m finding the “behavior modification” parts of parenting are happening less and less. We’ve moved into this new phase where I feel more like a sideline coach than an on-field trainer. I’m Okay with it. I think it’s the natural order of things to begin to remove ourselves from the mix and let our little people start to stretch their wings. That doesn’t mean this season is free from hard-to-navigate conversations and situations, let me tell you.
Reality is, my son’s got a pretty good grip on how to make good choices and the consequences that come from making the less optimal ones. But at this age, he’s suddenly much more aware of the choices others around him are making. He’s hearing things during recess. He’s picking up on information from the news. His awareness of the fact there are people who do things differently then we do has been heightened in the last year or so. I feel like his wheels are constantly spinning and he’s dying for a safe space where he can question and share and process. Apparently, that place is now our minivan.
In the last three months, my oldest and I have had some incredibly intense conversations. I’ve done my best to keep my cool and hide the fact that I’m either on the verge of tears, or so nervous about screwing up his world view with my answers that I might puke. Fortunately, all of these conversations have happened when we’re alone in the family van. I think there’s something to the fact that direct eye contact is very limited that makes my son feel more comfortable with asking hard questions. It certainly makes me feel more comfortable answering them.
We’ve covered Santa, sex, the meaning of a few four-letter words, and examples and definitions for words like “racism,” “bigotry,” and “transgender.” We’ve talked about our personal beliefs about God and schemed over how to make the world a kinder, more grace-filled place to live. I’ve sweat more in that driver’s seat in the past three months then all the Oregon summers we’ve lived through.
But as gut-wrenching and difficult as some of the conversations have been, I’ve loved every second of our talks. Yes, I feel totally unprepared and I’m constantly worried about how much information to give and what details to hold back. At the same time, I’m so grateful that my son is asking me these hard and important questions about the world he’s growing up in. I want to be his source of information on these big things rather than his buddies or google or television. I tell him after every one of our minivan sessions, that I’m so thankful he chose to talk about these things with me. I assure him that no topic or question is off limits between him and me. That minivan is a safe space where he can wonder and question and grieve and celebrate and grow under the watchful and careful wing of his mom.
I love watching my oldest start to take flight. As much as I want to protect him from the hard and big conversations, I also want him to change the world. If during our talks, I can help cultivate my son’s curiosity into greater levels of compassion and empathy for those around him and better prepare him for the challenges that lie ahead? Sorry Babe, we’re never selling that minivan.