I'm watching as moms all around me are weathering little squalls with their tween children. It's not anything any of us cannot handle, but still--we ask one another almost daily, "If it's like this now, what will it be like then?"
Well, there's no way to know and no way to guarantee the future, right? The best we can do is pursue connection right now and cultivate our trust that our children can stay close to us in their hearts, even as their developmental tasks ask them to take a little time here or there to be more independent and sometimes pull away.
Here's my stay connected strategy for the in between years:
Follow her lead. Each child has her own way of reaching out; your willingness to take the invitation will carry you both a far way. While it's easy to overlook Madeleine's constant invitations to "come here and see this!" as an annoying interruption, the truth is, she is including me in her interests and world. By saying yes as often as I can, I'm meeting her where she's happy to join me.
Stay on the lookout for new openings. New interests provide new opportunities to connect and discuss what's going on from a slightly different perspective. One of the most delightful things about watching my kids grow up is realizing that each new development challenge always carries with it a new opportunity to reconnect. Carter now enjoys reading to me, for example, where the ritual used to be me reading to him.
Take charge. Kids aren't responsible for staying close to you; it's your job to remain a constant available resource to them. If you're struggling to make a meaningful connection, take the initiative to create the environment where something can happen. Long car rides, new outings, asking for input, trying new foods, inviting kids to help you mastermind logistics or scheduling--all these things can really open doors for easy breezy conversations that can take you somewhere fun and new.
Don't apologize for your desire for connection. All kids go through phases where they want to assert their independence and pull back a little. Don't let this fool you into thinking that they need you any less. By continuing to state your desire to be with them, to spend time together and to hear their thoughts, you keep the door open and release them of the burden of making up the difference during developmentally trying times.
Be affectionate. I'm determined to keep the love flowing over here--even though Madeleine feigns disinterest in my cozy displays of affection. I know her well enough to understand that there's a lot of security for her in knowing I will reach out--even when she's moody and appearing indifferent per her tween age script.
How are you staying connected to your kids during difficult parenting times?