Have you opened up and told your kids stories and experiences you have had — so they know the “real you” and not just “mom?” We were driving around doing errands the other day when Alfs started scanning the radio stations for music he liked. As we passed one station, I asked him to stop. I glanced at the display and said, “This used to be your dad’s favorite radio station. He won the trip to Barbados from there.” Alfs looked at me like I was an alien. “Huh?” he asked. And it occurred to me we hadn’t been very good about telling the kids some of our stories — you know, the tidbits that make us who we are, and that make us more than just parents (and uncool ones at that, according to our adolescent).
Of course we’ve told the kids some stories, but we’ve missed some fairly interesting ones. Actually, more than just a few. Sure, we’ve talked about our childhoods, but there was stuff missing. These are the stories that help make us human in the eyes of our kids; they make us real. Our kids really should hear more of them.
All kinds of lessons
Sure, I want to be a perfect parent. But I’m not. I’m not a perfect human being by any stretch. The stories from my life before I was a parent are the usual mix of humorous, embarrassing and hard, with the occasionally “really cool” thrown in. It’s what everyone’s life is, really. I’ve occasionally used some of the embarrassing and hard stories to demonstrate my own learning of lessons my children are facing and how I might have approached issues better — but I’ve not let on as much about the fun stuff…The stuff that demonstrates that I’ve enjoyed my life and shows how my interests have developed. Those are really good lessons, too. By not telling my kids more of my stories, in their eyes I’m someone who didn’t exist prior to childbirth, and that’s just not the case.It’s very lopsided, if you think about it. As a mom with kids this age, I know all their stories, but they know so few of mine.
Keep it age appropriate
Not all my stories are appropriate for all my kids (yet). Mild as they were, some tales of college antics can wait until the kids are a little older. But stories from my neighborhood growing up and the crazy things our group of 20 kids under the age of 10 did are very appropriate. I’ve told them about the asphalt walking contests, but not about the movie a couple of friends and I made. My husband has told the kids about the movies he and a friend made, but not much about some of the great camps he attended. It’s true that a few stories that should — and will — stay buried, but only a very few.We’ve decided that, during our family dinners, we’ll prompt each other now and again to tell such a story. I can say to my husband, “I was remembering today the story you told me about….” He can say the same to me. Then we can see where the conversation during the rest of dinner takes us.All of our stories — fun, embarrassing, hard, humorous and everything in between — make up who we are. I want my kids to know who I am in addition to “Mom.” With a little effort in telling my stories, I think they’ll have a better understanding over time of who their mom is. And that can only help us build and maintain our bond.