Teachable Moment: Approachable Parenting Part Two and my "First Kiss"
Last blog I introduced the new-cool-hip attitude to parenting called approachable parenting or also referenced as being an askable parent. My style is proving day in and day out, that yes, I am an approachable parent. Proof in the last few days, I fielded all the following questions from the humans in my household:
Female age 7: How did my little baby cousin come out? What did it feel like? Do I have a hole for that, or does it grow when I have a baby?
Male, age 9: Should I be wearing a nut cup? Maybe I can borrow dads until I can get one?
Male age 40: How can I make it through all this puberty stuff without a nervous breakdown? Female age 11: It is ok if I video chat online with boys, cause I have an online date? How old do I have to be to go on a real date? Mom, my friends are kissing already can you believe that? When was your first kiss?
I will honestly admit that I wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out. It was like a barrage of bullets, each hitting me hard where it counts: the heart, the gut, the frontal lobe. All three of those organs had a different opinion and response to each question. I was also managing some pretty lengthy graduate assignments this past week. I didn’t have time, and truth be told, I did not want to talk about this stuff!!!
I have had prouder moments as a parent; I wanted to dismiss the interrogations and run away with a very tall glass of wine. Like an esteemed politician, I put on my game face and responded confidently. It was the questions from my oldest daughter that got to me the most. Since we have already had the big talk about sex, pornography, and gay/lesbian/queer due to the Google search drama, I thought surely she needed a break. This is all really heavy stuff.
Oh no, this can of worms was officially opened. Here is how it went… It is important to know much of this was narrated in my head… and what words came out were mostly a bunch of stuttering…When my child asked me to divulge the details of my first kiss, I remembered it was not the millisecond peck on the lips kind of kiss, it was the real deal, the insert tongue-in-mouth kinda kiss. The whole adage “do as I say not as I do” came to mind. I always told myself I wouldn’t lie to my kids, but in this moment I wanted to lie. Surely a few Hail Mary’s and a half dozen Our Fathers would do get me outta this one? No, I promised I would use my experiences as ways to engage and connect intimately with my daughter. She can handle it. I told myself I don’t have to go into detail, but I will be truthful.
I will admit it was pretty dreamy thinking back to my first kiss. I remember planning it for weeks, maybe months. It was a rite of passage that I took very seriously. “It was the summer after my 8th grade year, I was about to be in high school and desperately wanted to be kissed. He was a few years older, and I am pretty sure I was not even close to being on his radar. I will never forget I was wearing braces. It was nice, wet, and thoughtful, and I am sure it didn’t last nearly as long as I remember.”
Ok, done. I thought I handled that pretty well. Not too much, just enough to appease her, right? Regret immediately sinks in. “Do you remember this boy? Like did you ever see him again?” she asked. “Of course! That would be pretty irresponsible if I planned this great kiss with some random kid. We were friends, and as a matter of fact we are still friends to this day.” After a few more details about how this “boy” was, we were laughing and giggling together.
The boy, well he remains a constant reminder of just how giddy we gals can get at such a young age. More importantly, it is crucial for us parents to recall our experiences and what we went through in order to relate to our children.
My friends and I have a running joke about mothers with “momnesia.” That is the idea that we easily forget about the mistakes we made as youth, and our distorted sense of the past becomes “I never did anything like that”. My own parents do this more than I do, but they have many more years separating them from puberty than me. For me, recalling my past helps normalize my child’s behaviors and experiences. As I reminisced conquering my first kiss, I asked myself, is this what I want for my daughter? The pragmatic sensible parent in me was thinking, “it would be great for her to have a similar intimate moment with a boy in which she can feel proud, and furthermore recall with a sense of pleasure and fondness.” The important thing is that I can talk to her about it, and if and when she decides to engage in kissing or whatever intimate experience, she will talk to her “cool, approachable, hip” mom before it happens. And at that point, I will want to do my damnedest to talk her out of it until she is 18! Because let’s be real, the mama bear in me thinks I will have no young cavalier boy lip locking with my baby girl. Whoever this little punk is, he’s going to get a tongue lashing in more ways than one! The truth is, finding the balance on how we can influence our kiddos to make the right choices, and trust that they will do so, is hard.
I won’t lie, I had my kids watch an episode of the TLC reality show, 19 Kids and Counting, the one when Jill starts courting and they set courting rules like only side hugs, a chaperone on all dates, and no kissing til marriage. I admire the Duggar family values, I do, and I would support my child in that decision. I also know that growing up with all the temptations in this world make it difficult to adopt this philosophy. I fully embrace my child making mistakes and likely choosing to do things I prefer she not do.
Lessons Learned: How can we embrace the evolving levels of attraction our kiddos are experiencing? I talked about being an approachable parent in my last blog, and this past week continues to support my philosophy to engage with my kids especially so they can learn from my past. I have to share her response to my first kiss story:
“ehhw really, braces mom? That’s gross! Please tell me you didn’t look anything like Sara, (Jimmy Fallon) in the “EW!” videos. Do braces make you slobber like that? I am sure that was sooooo unattractive.”
The two of us have agreed to talk openly. We continued this conversation over time weighing the pros and cons to courting and dating. We are reading “Before you meet Prince Charming” a book that talks about purity, as she is already discovering that her values and morals are important to her. I think it is important that we don’t underestimate our kids’ ability weigh risk and reward especially when they have a supportive adult willing to listen. In these moments remember to give facts, and do not pass judgment. I think it is so crucial that we also don’t assume our tweens and teens are naïve. I know I am not naïve, and despite talking about purity and abstinence, I will also have conversations about contraceptives and pleasure. I struggle in times like these, and find myself responding to my fears and worries. In that struggle, it is easy to forget about the question they are seeking guidance on, so respond to your children, tween, and teenage not from a place of dread or burden, but of honesty and with factual information.
Do you consistently brush off moments when your kid asks a question you can’t answer? I know everyone who watched the World Series with their kids got asked what erectile dysfunction is. Yowsa! It isn’t too late to overcome your coyness. Start with a strong, open, honest heart. I think our kids have a pretty great chance at success in this crazy thing called life if we stand by them all the way!