First, let me start this post by saying that if you are currently parenting a tweeny-pre-teen/teen-ish aged child- I. Am. Picking. Up. What. You’re. Putting. Down. Whether you are a single parent, co-parent, or part of a parenting team- this is uncharted territory, is it not? (unless of course, you’ve done this before and recently, in which case, I’d love for us to forge a “me-relying-on-you-for-sage-advice-sort of relationship. 😉 pm me! kay???)
Apparently, my tween-ish/almost-teen-ish daughter has had a multi-child sleepover in the works for her friends the last week or so, but the way it was brought to me was a casual sort of slide into a conversation yesterday that went thusly: “Hey, Mom? Wouldn’t it be kinda cool if I could have like 3-4 friends over all at once? Remember how we did that for my birthday? And how you said I should reach out to more friends at my school??????”
Me: “Yeah, baby, that’d be great! Let’s start trying to plan something, ok? But not this week, because it’s your little sister’s birthday and we have a lot going on, ok?”
Fast forward all of TWO, count ’em, T.W.O. days later and it’s Thursday and I get a phone call from a concerned Dad wanting to know if we’re doing this because he’d like to meet me first. Stop, collaborate and listen: I am not judging him, nor in any way condemning him. In fact, let’s take a moment to let me, let YOU know how much I appreciate the fact that my kid is making friends with kids who have families that love them, care about them, worry about them as much I do about my children, and want to know more about me before letting their most precious gift come stay at my house. , mmmm-kay?
I spent nearly 45 minutes talking with a stranger, a father, on the phone about our values, our lives, our children, because, honestly, it’s important to me that my kids grow up with friends who love them and who they love in return. I have strived to teach my kids to be kind, to quiet the impulsive sides inside of them and listen to a greater voice about the other, to stand up for kids who might be alone, to befriend and be kind to everyone, even if everyone else shuns or laughs at them. They don’t always do this. We’re all human after all, but I try to teach them. I listen to each situation, each day, and point out what I see from an adult perspective: “You’re right. That was a really mean thing to say, but what if that is the only way that child knows? What if no one ever taught them to be kind? What if no one ever says to them that it’s ok to make a mistake?” I always try to reflect on the other side and make sure my children know how to take up for themselves, but also are not jumping to judgments and burning bridges. It’s flipping hard. It’s a dumb show to some- but I love the quote from Michael from The Office that “Everyone deserves a second, second-chance.” You know, just in case.
Nearly 45 minutes I spent on the phone with this man, and not only could I not tell you his name right now (though I know his daughter’s AND her “valley-girl”
name that they gave themselves this year as a joke), I still wish I had told him so much more. I wish I had said that we are a family who believes anyone can be a good friend regardless of their background, where they live, or what they look like.
I wish I had “warned” him that we sometimes come off as “strange.” That I grew up Catholic and Cajun, which is “strange” in the South of Alabama, but that we’re good people who strive every day to do good and spread Good. That Nadia’s Dad is the best Man I ever met, that he loves his children and proves it every single living day, even though many STILL classify him as “weird.” I wish I had said that his family LOVES him and that I’m so lucky to have them in our lives, helping to look after us. That they let him be who he was and that they are amazing and how they make me proud to carry their name into the world.
I wish I had said that I grew up in a family that took in people, we took them in for Thanksgiving dinner or random Tuesdays or weeks at a time and we loved them. My parents fed them, chased them with slimy, boiled okra and yelled, “It’s A SQUID!” grounded them when they were acting ridiculous, Momma sang in the car with them as embarrassingly and unapologetically wonderfully as she did with “just us.” She spoke to them in confidence and never told a soul what they said. They LOVED them and accepted them, and because of their example- I will always strive to do the same. I don’t care if your child loves softball or video games or both. I don’t care if they are sassy or quiet, straight-A, honor roll students, or struggle to comprehend even the basics of math. I don’t care if they dress sweetly or have purple hair and sharpie-drawn “tattoos,” I will love them, and feed them, and if I need to, I’ll ground them, but they will always be welcomed here- because they are a friend to my child.
They see in her the things that I see- her silliness, childishness, goofiness, but also her bravery, her intelligence, her sense of humor, her gigantic, passionate, wide-open, willing heart. Her confidence to be herself in the moment- even if in that “moment” I let her dye her hair a vibrant violet-red (it will fade more than it’s already faded and it’s only hair), Even if in that moment she *thinks* she has a “piercing” when all she has is ONE ear hole that attaches to a cuff that in no way pierces her ear. Even if she draws sharpie-tattoos on her wrists on random Tuesdays, painted her previously hot pink converse shoes sorta-black, is still learning to put on eyeliner. Your child, in some way, SEES her, relates to her, or for whatever reason- cares for her. That’s enough for me.
That’s enough for me to protect them here, to make them feel welcome here, to call you if they should need you here. Sometimes I worry that I come across as the “hot mess” mom. The one who you might secretly think spoils her kids or indulges them beyond what’s healthy for them. Or tells them too much, too soon; But I’m in the business of loving tiny humans into respectable, passionate, COMPASSIONATE people. We do have rules. We do have chores. We do have “oh, no, hun. No youtube, social media, Minecraft, or otherwise until homework is done and you’ve read a book and done SOMETHING else- kind of structures ’round here.”
I hope you trust me with your tiny humans. Even just for a night, even if we’re different and you’d never let your child dye their hair or “pretend” pierce their ear. I wish I had told you that I’d never let them watch maturely rated tv or movies or even borderline material, that for all her bravado and bravery- she’s expected to be nothing but a child here. I wish I had told you, fellow tween-ish parent, that your child would be safe here, and that for all else- we are good.