In my house we talk about everything. EVERYTHING. Literally nothing is barred from being asked about, discussed or questioned. Now, I will of course be age appropriate in my answers and will even occasionally shut down conversations that I don’t feel need to be had but for the most part, our kids know that if there is something they want to know about, or talk about, they can do it here.
I have been known to have conversations with my children about a wide range of topics. Genocide, doctor assisted suicide (a recent law spawned that one), dating and relationships, sex, movie violence, the holocaust, emotions, puberty, books (this one comes up A LOT) and music. We talk about religion and religions of the world, cultures and specifically our own Irish heritage.
In fact, if you come to my house, the one thing you will notice right off the bat is that it is loud here. Really loud. Because we’re always talking. Sometimes I am having more than one conversation at a time. And it’s not just confined to the house, I find that when we’re out in the car we have some of the best conversations of all time!
The kids know so much about heart disease and heart attacks now. They also understand better, through watching me go through quitting this past year, the seriousness of addiction. I quit smoking. For real. It’s been five months.
It’s also not unusual in our house for one of the kids to call me off to a private discussion. This is for the really serious stuff, the questions they don’t want their siblings to hear them asking. And it’s cool. They all understand that when mom is off with one of the kids for some one on one talking, don’t bother us unless it’s really important. Blood. Fire. That kind of thing. The same things, incidentally, they are allowed to interrupt me at work for. Anything else can wait till I get home.
But I digress.
I think that in this day and age when so many parents are counting on schools to do the providing of information, and taking into account the vast amounts of news and “news” available to kids on the internet (and we all know they are on their devices day and night) we forget that the best sources of information for them is us. Ourselves. And not only are we excellent sources of information, we’re even better and helping the kids to muddle through the information they’re getting from other sources. I can’t even count the times anymore when my kids have come home with something they “learned” at school from a friend and have had the basics of an issue really, really wrong. The Irish commedian Tommy Tiernan puts it best when he discusses how he learned about sex as a kid, from an older kid who had cable. “Your mickey goes hard” the kid told his captive audience of ten year olds. “and then, you put it inside her”. One kid from the group pipes up to say “but I don’t like cider”.
Hilarious it is, but it is actually a true rendering of how kids talk to one another. They’re not equipped to have these conversations without an adult to balance out the funny and the untrue with real facts and information.
And if that is not enough, let me say this. Some of the greatest conversations I have had in my adult life have come from talking to my own children. To give them the facts on something, and then pepper it with my own opinions of course, and watch them process and formulate their own opinions is a marvelous thing. I want to raise children who are aware of the world around them. Who are not just smart, but who can think for themselves and formulate their own thoughts, feelings, reactions and emotions to a given situation and then decide what, if anything, they want to do with that information. I want them to be proud of this trait. I want them to use it, all the time. I want to raise thinkers and doers.
So, for those of you my dear friends who have kids, sit down with them tonight, or thrown them in the car and go for a drive. Talk to them. Listen to them.
And…if you don’t have kids of your own, talk to your siblings and your friends. We as a generation spend so much time hunched in front of computers, in front of televisions and over our phones and tablets, it’s time to rediscover the lost art of excellent conversation.