Village Voice – Driving the Message Home

15 Jan

There were 13 of us enjoying our Annual Up North Christmas Eve Dinner – Gary, myself, three of our good adult friends (Read more about The Importance of Mom Friends) and a group of eight kids, our own offspring and some of their friends.

Ranging in age from 13 – 17, there were seven boys and one lone 14-year-old girl who is like a much-loved sister to many of the boys. We have always tried to make our friends feel like family and as the years have passed, we see that our kids are so comfortable with each other and with the adults who have surrounded them for so long, that their friends felt instantly comfortable and part of the ‘family’ too!

 

The evening began the way most restaurant dinners do – with all of the adults at one end of the table threatening to take away all of the kids’ phones as we looked down the table to see every single head bent in oblivion over an iPhone. Never mind that they were chatting while their fingers were speeding along. Never mind that they were exchanging notes on fantasy sports or asking for the answers to Trivia Crack. So one could argue (and they certainly did) that they were highly engaged and interacting with each another.

 

But we insisted and they kind of complied (not entirely happily, as you might imagine). Without their phones to distract them, they ate and ate (we all did – I’m still carrying around my third helping of prime rib in my thighs) and then a Christmas miracle happened… as we all got up and down to go to the buffet, we switched seats or sauntered into the lobby of the restaurant’s hotel and that’s when the conversations got interesting….

 

And I realized once again that great things can happen when kids feel safe with each other and adults – especially adults other than their parents – and older friends chiming in about any number of things.

 

At one of the table, Gary was having a deep conversation with our 13 year old friend about gun control.

 

In the middle of the table, one of the 17 year olds was reassuring a 14 year old about college applications and essays. Later, he told me that he also made sure that the 14 year olds – now freshmen – knew that they could call him if they ever were in an uncomfortable situation at a party. Even though this is a conversation all of their parents have had with them numerous times, somehow, it meant more coming from someone who was currently cool!

 

Ben, who dislocated his kneecap recently, took the advice being given him by our friend who happens to be a personal trainer and has a degree in exercise physiology very seriously, even though we have said similar things to him a hundred times. Although, when she made her last point about protecting his ‘patella’, Ben innocently corrected her, telling her he didn’t injure his ‘patella’, it was his ‘kneecap’. She hugged him and let him know they were one and the same! (Don’t judge – he hasn’t had anatomy just yet!)

 

One of the kids remembered that we once had maple syrup with our ham years ago and ordered some for the whole table to try!

At some point, I was in the lobby with a small group of the kids as they were comparing Instagram photos. We ‘happened’ upon a conversation about why girls have to try and look so sexy in their Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram photos and what that looks like to boys – and each other. The boys chimed in that so many girls in middle and high school try to look older, sexier and more mature and the boys pretty much think they look fake and ridiculous with their lips all pouty and punched out, their hands unnaturally on their hips and their chests out as far as humanly possible. The words slutty and unattractive were used by almost all them. Wouldn’t so many of those girls be surprised?!?! I wished their entire school populations were there to hear that!

 

We took photos by the tree, hugged and expressed love to one another’s children and each other. Another reminder that it not only does it take a village of adults to help us all raise our kids, but what really works is to build a community of close friends around your own family who will back one another, share experiences and be willing to talk through the nuances of life together.

 

When I was telling my friend back home about our awesome night she – the mother of much younger kids – asked how we created that kind of environment with our kids and one another. My answer to her was two-fold and lies in a lot of my previous blogs, really.

 

Somewhere along the way, I made a conscious decision to surround myself, Gary and Ben with friends that feel like family and set out to create a ‘village’. We were lucky to find incredible people with great kids, but we also had to initiate lots of social situations where we openly and freely helped each other raise all of our kids.

 

And because of our combined ages and experiences as parents, we could openly talk about the frustrations and wonder of raising a family, which is key – no one-upping each other and lots of turning to each other for help with our difficult children! As people are honest with each other, so is their ability to face harder issues. Always respectful of our kid’s ages and development levels (I promise you I didn’t talk about sex or drugs with Ben when he was 8!!), we kept appropriate topics at the forefront of our conversations, so that now as our kids are in high school, we can bring up more sensitive issues (like sex and drugs).

 

This isn’t a Norman Rockwell painting – please don’t get the misperception that Ben or any of his friends actually always enjoy talking to me – or us – about well, almost anything…but one thing they know for sure is that our love for them and the teachable moments that come with it are not going away anytime soon!

 

 

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One Response to “Village Voice – Driving the Message Home”

  1. Erika January 16, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    As usual…well said! Any and all experiences in which you feel the way you described in this blog can (hopefully) only help us all grow!! Thanks for sharing:-)

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