I am the single mother of four. My daughters are in their early twenties now and my boys are in their teens. It’s been rough, but we’ve survived a divorce and a brief encounter with homelessness, among other things. Two of my children have learning disabilities. Two are high on the intelligence spectrum, but struggle with depression and/or other personality quirks that often come with higher than average development. It has been a struggle to raise all of them, but I’ve been told by more than one source that I’ve been doing an extraordinary job.
I consider myself an unusual mom, not for what I’ve had to deal with but by how I’ve dealt with it. By this I mean that I do not resemble in any way, shape or form the typical soccer mom type. I play video games with my children – sometimes I’m the one to hog the gaming systems. I make fart jokes right along with my sons. I love playing dress-up on Halloween; make-up, costumes and decorating our home until it resembles a walk-through haunted house. I have embarrassed my children repeatedly with my antics.
I also speak openly and directly with them when they have questions, especially when it comes to the difficult subjects. I consider each of my children as a friend of sorts and a confidant on occasion. I’ve let each of them know that I am always there for them.
And yet I am still the authority figure. I am the emotional heart amp; core of our household. I am the one ultimately ‘in charge’. I am Mom. And yes, that is with a capital ‘M’.
They talk to me about all sorts of things. I never know what’s going to come up next with any one of them at any given time. And when a difficult subject arises, I push all my personal doubts and concerns aside as best I can. If you show ‘fear’, they are far less likely to listen. When a child is ready to learn about something, they will ask questions. Or they’ll let you know up front what opinion they have already formed on a topic. I give them my own take on things and hope that they understand the lesson underneath. We exchange information.
We have conversations. Like one human being to another. Even when they were little, I’ve done my best to show respect for their opinions as well as impart upon them my own. Yes, there has been discipline when their behavior spirals out of control. The rest of the time, we share things.
It’s the best way. Lay the foundation early and maintain it. So when the tricky subjects arise, there is already a conversational basis for talking it out.