I’m a talker. I’m a spill-the-beans, over-sharing, rambling on about my latest fascination chatterbox. I love words, and so do my kids. I’ve spent over a decade listening to my kids share—often, as they all talk at once. They go on and on about their day, rambling about how their sibling has been driving them nuts, their shenanigans with their friends, and never-ending factoids about video games. So many words, so many significant and yet simple thoughts brought to life in our bustling conversations.
Sometimes I love all the chatter, and sometimes the sheer volume of it drives me to take an extended trip to the bathroom, but they’ve been talking, and I know their words are important. All of them. A day will come when they need to know they’re safe. Their words have value, and I will always lend my ear.
So I’ve done my best to be intentional. To pay attention even as they’ve waxed on about the latest video game cheat code. They needed to know I cared about each conversation—whether big or small—because somewhere down the road they would need to know I would listen when their words were difficult or painful to share.
We’re there now. As they straddle the world between teenage angst and childhood innocence, they are holding so much emotion. Jittery excitement and curiosity as they dip their toes in the waters of independence and anxiety when it all feels overwhelmingly confusing and scary.
Their conversations have expanded. It’s not just games anymore. It’s topics that seem way beyond their years. Things that thankfully they have no interest in yet but are clarifying after an uninvited education of sorts on the bus ride home. I find myself shocked and sadly, not surprised all at the same time. The world wants them to grow up too fast. Childhood is being tugged from under their feet, and often it feels like they’ve been violently pushed as they stumble into the world of adolescence. Sometimes it feels like society just wants them to skip a step and throw them into adulthood in one fell swoop, but that’s a whole other issue. They are growing up at a pace that seems jarring, not just for me, but for them too. Thankfully they’re talking about it. And I’m here. I’m listening.
Lately, I’ve been saying it feels like I need a psychology degree for this stage of parenting, and I’m joking, obviously, but there’s a part of me that feels it’s true. I’m in the stage of “The Talk.” Not the sex talk, the birds and bees were spoken of long ago, but it’s all of the big conversations that come in this phase. Deep thoughts and even deeper emotions. The fast-paced days that make you feel so maxed out it’s hard to put it into words. It’s heavy, and I’m here to help them carry the load.
They speak and I internally coach myself through it. Don’t panic! Remain calm! All the while praying for the wisdom to say something, anything that might be helpful or comforting to them. I’m terrified I might somehow break this fragile trust we’ve built together.
After it’s all said and done, I lie awake at night feeling the sheer weight of all of it. Really—I feel so much of their big feelings, just in different ways. Excitement and curiosity for their future, and so much anxiety and trepidation at all of this change that I don’t understand and can’t control. It’s a lot.
Last night was another heavy night, I listened as they shared and I soaked it all in, recognizing this is where we are now: deep conversations. At first, I got anxious, feeling utterly unequipped for this responsibility, instantly afraid of all of the hard talks that lie ahead, and then I couldn’t help but smile.
My kids feel safe. All those years of listening to stories of schoolyard squabbles and excessive details about video games paid off.
I can’t honestly say I’m prepared. I’ll probably overreact, and I know I have and will continue to say the wrong thing from time to time. But I must be doing something right because my kids still talk to me. They share the awkward, embarrassing, and gut-wrenching stuff of their days, and I’m so grateful. They say that kids often shut out their parents in the teenage years, and who knows, that day may come, but for now, I’m so incredibly lucky.
I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’ve got a lot to learn, but I did learn a long time ago to listen, and I’m so thankful I can say I’ve done something right. My kids are on the cusp of a whole new world, and in a way, they are bringing me into it.
So I’ll keep listening.