How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You

kids jake mj and pascal so called mom

My last post was about fighting, so it only seems right to follow up with talking—to the kids!

Since we have seven kids with vastly different ages, I always have to temper my conversations to some kind of age appropriateness. This is difficult because their ages are always changing.  I recently read about what I’m supposed to be doing on the pamphlets that my pediatrician sends me away with. One of the big no no’s from our family doctor is that apparently I should’ve been helping them communicate better and make friends. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have any kids in the house for them to get to know! There are 4 teenagers, two tweens and Leopold. Surely there’s someone to befriend. I say we get a pass on that rule. Still though, every age group is different and, as they get older, it gets harder to talk.

kids so called momWhen I talk to my teenagers, I feel like I’m playing ping pong—with a baseball bat.

I’m so “not doing it right.” I’m so “embarrassing.” I’m so not even sure anything I’ve said makes it into their ears because of the damn headphones. Those things have become so discreet, but also so huge. I suppose it depends on the day—whether they feel like wearing the headphones that are as big as a billboard or the ones that double as Q-Tips. Plus, these days, they are basically fused to the kids heads, no matter how big or small they are. I think I’d like it more if it was music and not videos. Or videos about video games. Or videos of people we don’t know playing video games.

And I’m the one who’s not fascinating?

Let’s take dinner last week. One of my four daughters, Milla, was able to make it through an entire meal with them on, without me knowing it. Her phone was on her lap and when she laughed, I thought it was because of something I said. Sneaky.

I think I’m worth the conversation. I think they are too. But having quality conversations—the stuff that KEEPS you in their life, can be tricky.

Since we homeschool many of the kids, I obviously can’t ask what they did at school. Instead I spend our daytime together being a tyrant over their education. So this gets annoying. To all of us. My daughter Earth has learned not to approach me directly after I’ve had my coffee. I’m all over her with schedules, to-do lists, extra credit and electives. She was only wondering if we had more milk.

The tweens are a little more easygoing AND still think Im fabulous. It’s easier to talk, because I still have their attention. I can still take them out and just about buy their love. I know that’s probably not in those doctor pamphlets but hey, when your kids get older, you try anything for together time.

kids so called momLeopold, the baby (OK…. he’s 5, but he’s MY baby), is still a dream to talk to. I am his everything. We talk about explosions and boogers. Dinosaurs and my pretty hair. He is the only kid who is following my footsteps in ballet, for real this time. Everyone else has dropped out.

I am into together time. Even if it means holding some kids captive, against their will.

This is done best at the dinner table. Seven years ago, I became convinced I was losing touch with my children….and I was. So I began a nightly family ritual at the dinner table “What I Liked About Today and What I Didn’t Like About Today,” designed to get the kids talking—to Pippin and me and to each other. (Even though the teens have retitled it What Sucked and What’s Awesome) You get the idea.

“What I liked about today is that I learned how to ride switch to fakie on my new board. What I didn’t like about today was that I fell and hurt my shoulder.”

“What I liked about today was that we all got to say goodbye to the turtle. What I didn’t like was that we had to put him to sleep because the dog ate him.”

“Whats awesome about today is that I’m finally going to a normal school. What sucks is that I’ve been stuck in the basement in front of a computer so long, that I don’t know how to talk to other kids anymore.”

“What I liked about today is this dinner. What I didn’t like is that the dog just farted. You guys smell that?”

kids so called mom

By the time we cycle halfway through these, we are either laughing, annoyed or both.

There is a lot of talking over one another. I have spent almost a decade getting everyone to listen while others are talking. It doesn’t work. It is chaotic and overwhelming. But the point is, they are talking.  Even if, by the end of it all, we can’t hear each other speak and it doesn’t look like how I want it to, I can still feel like I’m a part of it all.  And with any luck, those headphones are somewhere else for an hour.

Good Talk,

So Called Mom

Next Post: To Homeschool…Or Not.

The Benefits of a Good Fight

pippin kristen kissing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I love a good fight.

I love fighting with my husband, because it helps restore order. Like how I imagine the day after the apocalypse to be. Fighting makes us love each other more; it makes our family tighter. Whenever we experience an imbalance in our relationship, we let loose and drag it through the house, because displaying confrontation is important. You can be sure the dog, the chickens, the kids and maybe even the neighbors know when it happens because we aren’t shy about it. Fight.

Wait.

Did I say we fight in front of the kids?

You bet.

I know this might sound crazy, but hear me out. There are a few reasons why we fight in front of the kids:

  1. Having an audience keeps our fights fair. I tend to fight like a Queen, but having them watch reminds me that I don’t have a pedestal to scream from. Heads don’t need to roll—every time at least!
  2. Kids can learn conflict just like cooking and balancing a check book in Home Ec. They’re watching what it looks and sounds like to be heard. They are witnessing two people work through understanding each other. The kids are taking mental notes for their own future conflicts. To us, we’re modeling healthy ones.

While there are so many subjects to fight about, let me focus on just one of them:

Making plans.

pippin kristen driving The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomI am the type of person that needs to know what the plan is. I want to know the plan, and then I want to know plan B. I just think this is responsible parenting. My husband is not like this. He can board a plane at the last minute and arrive without anything lined up—no accommodations, no map, not even any luggage. We took a red eye to New York City in August like this. I was 8 months pregnant. I had swollen ankles and wanted a plan really, really bad. But our relationship was still new, and I pretended to be more adventurous than I really was.  We arrived with no hotel room, no toilet, and no idea how to get out of the airport.  I learned early in our relationship, that Pippin’s laid back nature, may work when it comes to building sand castles, but it crossed a line when it came to plans.
Plans of any sort.  We are currently selling our house.  We’ve outgrown it with seven kids, four of whom are teenagers.  Pippin has no problem selling our home, going on a (mostly unplanned) vacation and returning, without anything lined up to return TO.  Sounds crazy, no? Well this is about to become my future. Hawaii sounds nice, but what’s going to happen after  Hawaii?

“We will figure it out. We’ll survive!”

But I don’t like Survival Mode.

kristen sun bathing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I like Relaxation mode – whether it’s vacation, weekend plans, or even Sunday breakfast—life is stressful enough. When I’m forced to survive and play like I’m enjoying it, that’s when shit hits the fan. (And side note:  not one of the kids is on board with this type of whimsical lifestyle). So I fight.

A typical fight starts like this: I go nuclear with little warning.  Pippin might be surprised but is so non-confrontational, he will probably feign complete confusion. Then he may bring up some completely unrelated “transgression” that I did.  A common tactic to confuse and divert the prey!  So begins the circular arguing that, like most conflicts, has nothing to do with the subject.  It’s about power and who gets to win that round.  This goes on until we are finally speaking the same language – mine. And I’m usually crying (it’s exhausting being right). It’s OK, though. I like a good cry. Anyway, I truly believe fighting is the sound of our relationship evolving, and I think after ten years, we are getting better at it.

The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomONE upside is that I am learning things about myself.  Our 5 year old, Leopold, recently hushed me with, “Mommy, you are being really rude to Daddy.” As a So Called mom, I have learned to be wrong. That I don’t have all the answers and can still be loved and accepted by my family. It takes the perfection out of motherhood, and replaces it with being human.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Next Post: How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You