I have been my children’s mummy since they were born, it’s now time to be their friend.
I am blessed to have a good relationship with my children. We can talk about a lot of things and no topic is sacred or off limits though I must say that I would rather not hear some things they get up to or even wish they ever got up to those things.
I will be the first to say, that I am aware that I don’t get to hear all they’ve been through even though they share a lot of their stories. In my opinion, anyone who thinks they know all that their children get up to is deluded. It will be remiss of me also, to forget to credit Mr. Aisi who made it easier for them to tell him things and who in turn encouraged them to speak their minds and also helped me understand things from their perspectives.
We achieved this ease of conversation with our children by always trying to listen to them, initiating discussions, painting scenarios that we discussed and most importantly telling them severally that no matter what they had been up to, we loved them and they could always come home as our doors would always be open to them.
We talked about everything under the sun and no topic was too weighty or little to discuss. I wanted to deposit as much as I could of myself in my children because I was painfully aware that they were the eyes by which I would see the future I would not be part of. Also, I knew that there are many voices in this world and I wanted my voice to reverberate clearly in their ears.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall my parents sitting me down and talking to me about what informed their decisions on certain topics like finance, morals, values, discipline, their attitude to life and how they acquired the skills required to live it. When they talked to me about these subjects, it was mostly one sided and it was more about what not to do than what to do. The examples they gave were often of someone who failed rather than succeeded. It pained me that I had to reinvent the wheel by myself devoid of the experiences that life had taught them and so I ensured my children knew my thoughts, beliefs, experiences etc on a wide range of subjects.
Sometime last year, I began to be wistful about my life especially after Mr. Aisi’s passing. Looking back, I realized that I didn’t know much about my parents lives outside of their roles as Mummy and Daddy. I didn’t know how they grew up, what informed their decisions and why they turned out the way they did. What I knew about them was mostly from snippets when they talked or from my own deductions and assumptions based on the information that was available to me.
I didn’t want that for my children, I didn’t want to be a stranger to them, someone they knew in only one category – that of mother. I discovered that I really wanted them to know my stories too. I could tell them who they were as babies and toddlers but they didn’t know my history as a child, a girl, a teenager, a young lady and woman. I wanted them to know that there was more to me than just being their mother and didn’t want them at my death to start asking for stories about me before they could write my biography. So, I took a holiday with them, just the 3 of us together for 2 weeks. We spent the days roaming the tourist spots and the nights telling stories, I doing the talking/telling and they the listening/ questioning.
I was determined to tell them my stories from my own perspective and so I started with my earliest memories, why I believe I turned out the way I did, what informed my belief system, my marriage, my history, my present and what I wanted for my future. I knew they had their own ideas about who I was and what I wanted from them but I was aware that didn’t know or fully understand why I was and why I wanted and expected certain behavior from them.
I tried to pass down their history, genetic makeup and ancestry (the stories I knew) so that they would know their past and so better understand their present and future. I tried to be as objective as possible but I really wanted them to see my life through my eyes and judge me accordingly.
My stories covered all the topics from sex, finances, God, the importance of family and friends, emotional intelligence and relationships. I told them about the mistakes I made and how to avoid them, the victories I won and how to sustain them. They didn’t understand why I did some things I did and even told me they would have acted differently given the same circumstances. They asked lots of questions and I answered them honestly (and yes in case you were wondering, I admitted I wasn’t a virgin when I got married) and I became human, not a figure on a pedestal.
It was fun and they thoroughly enjoyed my stories. On the last day my daughter said she saw another side of me she didn’t know existed and how very much like her I was, my son said he understood himself more and knew what and what not to do. In all I left them, certain that they knew me – the real Tara and not just mummy who also happens to be Tara.
I believe that we owe it to our children to give them some insight into our lives. When we become parents it is so easy to be consumed with that role and forget everything we have been before and who we really are. When our children leave home, it’s very difficult for us to remember who we were before their advent but remember we must. We must remember that we were once young, feisty and full of life and we must endeavor to pass down our essence to our children.
Do our children know what jobs we did to get to where we are now, how we built our career, business or first house, do they know what joys we had riding our bicycle around the neighborhood,
Do they know about our first love, stolen kisses, do they know why we married our spouses and what we look for in friends? Do they know what to look for in life and what matters or are we going to wait for them to make the same mistakes we made and come to the truths we have come to too late in life.
An important aspect of our job as parents is to help our children navigate life with the experiences we have culled from it but we can’t expect them to know about us from what they see or hear, neither should we assume that they will know about us because we all live under the same roof.
There is an urgent need to have these conversations as fast as we can because our children are being influenced by so many things and the truth is that time is very short. We have at best only 6,570 days with them till they turn 18 and for those who go into boarding house the days are far less.
So, make the time count.