I had to go and open my big mouth.
A few weeks back, I got this grand idea of asking the kids what they thought about being part of a blended family. In the last post, the 13-year-old shared her story.
There were a few surprises in there. She didn’t say much that was “good” about being part of a blended family and while it would be easy to chalk up some her responses to burgeoning teenage angst, it gave me a way, way better idea.
I used it as an excuse to talk to her. In fact, I used it as an excuse to talk to each of the kids in the mid-age range (neither the two-year-old, nor the 20-something had much more to add than “meh.”).
The ensuing conversations were intriguing for a couple of reasons. For one, they each described a similar challenge – time. When you join a big family, you don’t get as much time with your parents (surprise). You’re always rushing here or rushing there. It’s a jostling feeling when you’ve spent the better part of a decade with one parent to suddenly share them with so, so, so many people. And while we like to fool ourselves into thinking “they have more siblings, we put them in more extracurriculars,” they notice. They notice a lot. Each mentioned a few other things, but this was a theme they came back to again and again.
Which brings up the second, more intriguing thing – these conversations have been like some sort of supermagic wonder gift. They’ve given the kids a forum to express themselves directly and they’ve taken well to talking about those feelings. When the 13-year-old Leader in Training mentioned that she didn’t get enough recognition, I started by asking, “What does recognition look like to you?” Then we had a frank exchange where I showed that we constantly did recognize (flowers after recitals, freedom, etc.), but that perhaps that it wasn’t registering. I challenged her to tell me what she needed and I’ll deliver against that.
So there you go. Want your kids to talk to you? Want them to tell you what they really think about their lives? Tell them you’re writing a big, fancy magazine article – and they get to be the stars. Talk about a conversation-starter.