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Wise Wisdom When I Was Willing

We have come to the point in life when we turn to the kids for advice, and not just about modern technology and social media, but real every day issues; and, they have some good advice. I should not be surprised, as we raised them, but we are embracing a new era of parenting, where these young adults can teach us parents a thing or two.

MIKE: Whoa, whoa, whoa…you mean we need to listen when they complain about the way we parented them or their siblings? Or we need to ask the kids where we should vacation, go to dinner, talk on the phone or type on social media devices? I mean we love them unconditionally, but really, we are still the parents, right?

Number 2 returned from her second Japan tour as a member of The Young Americans

to spend a month at home. It’s always an adjustment when young adults come home, as the freedom they have lived for the past few months can conflict with parents’ house rules that have not changed since high school. For the most part, the parents and “kids” adjust, but there are thorns among the roses.

MIKE: Number 1 likes to remind us, when she visits, that she lives on her own the majority of the year, and can make good decisions. For the most part she does, yet she still calls when she needs to sign a contract, negotiate a deal or resolve a conflict. And, secretly, I like it. That is my job as her dad, right? I need to impart my wisdom, and kids are always our kids!

As parents, we are in it for the long-term strategic plan, meaning we have visions of who these munchkins will become as adults. Admittedly, however, when they are toddlers, it is more about surviving a day, maybe even an afternoon -- of high-energy movement, temper tantrums and attempting to rationalize with a toddler mind – a tough to one to break. I mean, how do you rationalize with a tiny human who can ask the same question five, six or ten times in a row, and not lose a beat regardless of the answer?

To be honest, however, as the full-time working parent, the long-term impact of our lifestyle was constantly on my mind. All four of our children, spent the developmental years of their lives with dad as the primary parent, while I worked outside the home in full-time professional job. This is a choice we made as a couple, and I have and had full confidence in my spouse. There are few longitudinal studies about the impacts of kids in homes were dad is the primary parent. Would there be some future Freud like study about the parent bond, showing that we ruined some aspect of their development? (yes, so dramatic, but running through my mind.)

MIKE: My wife and I have joked that there is something that we will do, unintentionally, that will put the kids into counseling later in life– too much attention, too little attention, too stern discipline or too little consequences, too much time with laid-back dad or too little time with “intense mom.” Kids are pretty resilient, and thank goodness. As teenagers, tears turn to words or eye rolls, door slamming or disagreements. Some times, we have to say, “because we are the parent and that is why!”

In the case of Number 2, into her second decade in life, she has really grown into her own, and I can see it on her short stints at home. I was dealing with a raw, emotional issue in connection with some other adults in our circle. Normally, I did not engage the kids in this type of “adult” conflict, but I really wanted to hear another perspective. I shared the story with her, and to my pleasant surprise she shared some real adult wisdom, and she included and option I had not considered. Admittedly, it was better than my initial reaction.

To say in the moment that I recognized her wisdom would be a lie. I laid out all the options that I had thought of and then I added her recommendation. I could think of more positives for her option than my own. For a few minutes, I then, in my own mind, had an argument with myself about why I missed what she saw. I struggled with my role as her parent – should I have not had all the answers? After all, I am the mom, with nearly 30 more years of life experience than she had.

MIKE: Yes, I have those inner conversations too, but I don’t admit them to anyone. After all, I am the dad. When my son shares a good idea, I make some guy joke and secretly investigate.

The next day, I sought out my daughter and thanked her for the good advice, just like I would a colleague or a friend who shared some wisdom. She smiled and said you are welcome. Mind blown…we are at a new phase in life and I compared my own daughter to a respected colleague. Life is good in the ZagZig!

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