Who knew that grabbing a quick lunch on my travels across the state would turn into a grand case of eavesdropping? As I snuggled between hungry patrons at the only available table, I cracked open my laptop and tried to focus. Before sitting, I caught a glimpse of a young man – maybe early twenties – with his elderly grandmother enjoying lunch.
While doing my best to focus on my laptop while awaiting my lunch, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the manner in which this young man conversed with his grandma. Despite the fact that they were done eating, neither showed any urgency to leave.
Over the next twenty minutes I found myself shamelessly hanging on this wise woman’s every word as she imparted her wisdom on the young man who graciously encouraged her stories. She made bold statements about the difference between the young man and his siblings. While nonjudgemental in nature, it was obvious that all of her grandchildren in this particular family took on a different role: the “good boy,” the “rebel,” and the “quiet, compliant” one. Oddly enough, it was hard to pinpoint which role this young man filled.
While discussing one of his siblings, the young man professed that he had to figure out a way to reconnect with his brother. He acknowledged that despite the fact that they were all grown up, he and his brother had a contentious relationship.
“Well,” she responded, “your view of how you were raised is dramatically different than his. That’s how it should be. You all experience your childhood differently. Have you ever considered that? Maybe he doesn’t see the way your parents handled situations with you was what worked for him.”
WHAT?!?! I wanted to close my laptop and rudely interrupt their conversation. What did she mean each child experiences their childhood differently? Did my brother have a dramatically different recollection of how we were raised? I made a mental note to have this discussion with him at a later date.
Even without the discussion with my brother, I knew at least part of what she said was true. How is it that I have never considered this before? He was the adventurous spirit while I was the homebody whose separation anxiety made even sleepovers a challenge.
In looking at my own three children, it is no doubt that they are distinctly different human beings. There is no way that my tendency towards “one size fits all” parenting works for each of them, even in a very similar situation. How often have I made sweeping generalizations on how to deal with situations, yet am quickly reminded that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another?
As the wise-woman professed, each child perceives their own environment differently. I now realize how true that is for my own children. Their view of their world couldn’t be more different.
My eldest has a fierce sense of right vs. wrong. It’s no wonder that what cuts him deepest is when something takes place that he perceives as unfair. While his big-hearted, symathetic ways at times make him passive, when he truly believes in something, he will clearly articulate what he believes is right.
My middle daughter is unbelievably logical, yet worries like me. She is the peace-keeper who often forfeits what she wants for the benefit of her brothers. While this seems loving and kind, I do like to see when she shows resiliency in getting what she wants.
The baby of our family is the hilarious spirit who, so far, seems to believe that life is one party after the next. He loves big and gets big love in return which often means he gets what he wants from all of us.
It is important to for me to consider their reality and what they need from me as their mom. It isn’t universal. I can’t raise them the same.
It’s with that same spirit that this wise woman who professed her wisdom to her grandson recalled the moment that her eldest son left home. “Every child leaves home differently. They make their break in separate ways.” She went on to explain that parents must allow their children to determine how this departure will take place.
My initial thought is: I am never allowing my kids to leave home! It kills me to consider it, but I know the day will come. Paul and I will have to sit back and let them make the break when they are ready. I know I will secretly be dying inside when that time comes.
Despite the fact that I was not brave enough to thank the young man and the wise woman as I left the restaurant, (who wants to admit they were eavesdropping?!) their conversation taught me a lot that day.
The love we give our children isn’t based on anything. It is unconditional. Unique and special only to them. But the fact that we love them with all we have, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to parenting them. Being mindful of this will help as long as I find the patience to customize their experiences while still expecting them to be somewhat flexible as they learn to navigate their own childhood experiences.