There are days when I feel completely ripped off. I usually only feel this way when I’m not getting what I want. I admit – I like things my way.
Thing is, I rarely get my way when my kids come home from school. Oh, it’s not a snack I want or a mushy hug, necessarily. But I would like a bit of time, a bit of info, and just maybe a little bit of cheer. Is that really too much to ask?
But here’s what’s more likely to happen.
My kids have been at school all day working hard to give their best to the world. Trying to please their teachers or impress their friends. Trying to be a contender for MVP in whatever is happening in P.E. They’re taking notes and writing exams and learning new languages. They’re finding that fine balance between witty and kind and creative, all while hearing my voice in their head to, “help someone around you today!” They’re taking in assemblies on mental health, navigating the swearing and inappropriate humour in the halls. They’re overloading their brains with talk of graduation and requirements and plans for the future.
And, as if that’s not enough, they’re just trying to fit in!
I, on the other hand, have likely spent my day alone. I work from home in front of my computer screen in mostly silence. While I put time and thought and energy into what I’m doing, I haven’t had to deal with outside voices or social pressures.
Our days are different, my boys and I.
By the time they get home I’m ready for interaction. I’m ready to talk. My introverted self has had enough alone and quiet. I’m ready to regroup with my people and gab about all of the things.
But they’re feeling exactly the opposite!
They’ve been out – busy and talking – and come home feeling physically and emotionally drained.
They’re ready for quiet.
For down time.
For no prying questions.
Just time to be.
It took a long time for me to figure this out. Before I did I would get so frustrated. They would come home from school and I would be cheery and ready to greet them. They, on the other hand, were not (cheery, that is). They would give me a shrug and an undecipherable grunt as the answer to every question I asked. If I pushed they got snappy. If I pried they retreated more. If I got mad at their lack of engagement, well – it just got ugly.
It’s a hard place to be – knowing that everyone else gets the best part of your kid. The world out there gets the best foot forward, the carefully chosen words, the laughs and the smiles. I get the tired, the grumpy, the arguing and disengaged.
Once I realized what was going on, I had to learn to change my expectations and my tone. We developed a motto for our home as a reminder. Of any place in the world, home is a safe place to not be okay.
Our kids hold it together for so many hours out in the world. They stuff down the harsh words people speak. They act non-chalant about the jokes someone threw in their direction or the criticism a teacher offered about their work. They build walls to protect themselves. They barricade their heart so they don’t look weak. They pretend that nothing is ever a big deal. “I’m good. Yup, life’s good.”
And then – home. Home needs to be a place where our kids can unravel. Where they know that it’s safe to show weakness. Where the barricades can come crashing down and the emotions are allowed to come out. Home is a place that the pretenses get dropped and we get on with being real.
Spoiler Alert: Real is messy.
But isn’t it in the messy and sometimes ugly that we get vulnerable?
And isn’t it in the vulnerable where real relationship grows?
And isn’t it the real relationships we long for?
It can easily become our bent as parents to want our kids to be shiny happy people all of the time. We set unrealistic standards for them, expecting what we could never achieve ourselves (even with our fully developed adult brains). But what we need to understand is that even when they’re grumpy, even when they want quiet, even when they can’t get out more than a grunt – we’re getting the honest. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the messy but honest any day of the week.
I guess what I want you to hear is – it’s okay.
- It’s okay that we aren’t engaging in deep conversation every single day at 3 pm.
- It’s okay that they just want their headphones on for an hour.
- It’s okay that they lie on the couch and play an app for some time.
Home is their haven too.
This is not just my home to operate in the perfectly slick way that I want it to. It’s the home of six people. Each with their own mode of operation. Each with their own need for time and space. Each with their own need for love and safety, retreat and relaxation, quiet and calm.
Be encouraged parents, if our kids are giving us real. It’s the relationship we want.