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When Dad Does Know Best and Mom Learns New Way

After all these years, and now that the kids are teens to young adults, I have to admit that my husband, the two-decade full time dad of our four kids, handled something much better than me; and now I am trying to catch up to adapt my ways.

MIKE: Finally! I will still take it, even if it is years later. Now, what did I do so well? I am dying to know.

As a working, career-professional mom, time is a valuable commodity. Actually, it is valuable for everyone. As a parent who works outside the home, it is a matter of juggling commitment time – enough for the career to continue to bloom and enough so that the kids and family still feel like they are a priority in your life. Some days, the split was 60 career/40 family, then 70 family/30 career, and on the rare occasion it may be 50 family/40 career and 10 me! The trick is to not let the family or your boss know which one actually gets more time that day.

MIKE: I am surprised she capped her scale at 100. Do you think by family she means kids and spouse or just kids? I am going to go with kids. When she traveled for business it was more like 80 career/20 kids. Now, for me, on the other hand, the kids and the family manager career were one in the same. When she joined us at the end of the week, we were still in no-mom mode and we had to adjust when she reinserted into the family.

Parents know talking to and LISTENING to kids remain two of the most important activities for relationship building, and listening is even more important in the teen years. What they don’t tell you is that kids want to talk on their own timeframes. In case you have not encountered this yet, here is a heads up: they want to talk, not during scheduled time, but usually right at bed time; or not during dinner time, but right when you are in the middle of a project.

This is not a new concept; however, it has taken me a long time to get it. You see for me, a scheduler and a planner, I build in time during my day when I am most alert and I am at a stopping point on a project. This means I spend time probing and asking questions, and when the kids don’t answer, grunt or show some emotional reaction, I continue to push more. The spiral in my mind starts to spin – they don’t want to talk with me? What is wrong? What happened at school? How do I fix this?

MIKE: Ah, yes, I have seen this many times. My wife has many wonderful traits, and patience with time is not one of them. She is mentally trained to seize every moment, while I, on the other hand, like to chill.

My husband takes another tactic where he waits. He asks a few questions and waits. If there are grunts or shrugs, he has the calm confidence of knowing they will come around when they are ready.

I, on the other hand, start to worry more. What if they don’t want to confide in me? What if I assume all is ok and it really is not? What if they are keeping something inside for fear of how I will respond…or they don’t trust me enough to share? And, all of this parenting insecurity leads me to probe more. I don’t know how my husband can sit back and wait while our kids might need to go to counseling.

MIKE: Okay, time to cut her off. These mind games are going too far. They will come around, each in their own time. If they don’t, my wife will be on top of it – checking on counseling, setting up phone calls, planning a family meeting.

This is top of mind for me this week as I visit one of our children, and I am trying a new, non-push tactic that Dad knows best. I am practicing letting my young adult child take the lead on a conversation. Due to out-of-state school and international travel we have not seen each other in about a year. I am excited to see this one, and at the same time have learned this one in particular does not like to be pushed and probed. My push personality created a lot of conflict in the past, so I am focused on the “wait.”

I had to call my lifeline for encouragement. The love is there and the conversation is occurring but not at my pace. Of course, unrealistically, I want to know all the joys and concerns over the past few months so that we can create a roadmap for success. My lifeline told me to breathe and be patient. I am learning a new skill and it will take some time.

MIKE: So nice that she thinks of me as a lifeline! Two compliments in one day; I am not sure I can handle this. I am right and I am a lifeline. All those years of waiting paid off.

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