Becoming a childlike adult

We’ve talked before about our family’s little practice of “communication complete.” In a nutshell, one of the four of us can usually recognize when what is being said is NOT what is being heard.

We know by sad experience that this is definitely not a time when ignorance is bliss.

Anyway, we’ve come to really appreciate the extra step to have the intended message make it all the way to the intended recipient.

That’s when we all laugh a little and act like that guy (or girl of course) who is guiding in the airplanes with the great flashing flares and put our hands down in a “communication complete” motion.

Silly, I know, but it has made all the difference.

Especially now that our kids aren’t kids anymore.

grandparentBut they are still OUR kids, and we are THEIR parents.

And we are still the children of our parents, and they of theirs.

It always will be, no matter how old we all get.

Ahhh. There’s the problem.

It doesn’t matter that I now have grown children of my own. A part of me will always be that 4 year old who is getting spanked for breaking the lamp; another part will always be that 16 year old who lost the argument with the finality of “because I said so.”

Sound familiar?

The irony comes when we feel we should be treated as an adult, but childishly still hear what may have been said years before and miss the real meaning of what is being said now.pouting child

Looking back at how I was when I was a young 21 year old with the world by the tail (or so I thought), I was definitely heavy on the childish side.

Sadly, it took having grown children of my own to finally see it from the other side.

You know what I’m talking about; that bewilderment of not knowing what on earth we said that ruffled feathers and caused a sudden but distinct temperature drop in the conversation.

What did I do?

We’ve all been there. This seems to be an unavoidable part of being a parent. We try to be helpful and, instead, only make the situation worse.

Our natural inclination is to get angry at this snot-nosed kid who doesn’t appreciate all that we have done for them. Sadly, I’ve done it more than my fair share, just ask Alex and Nick.

Bad move.

Don’t do it.

After all, we are the perpetual “grownup” in this situation and our children, well, are our perpetual children.

Even when we are all adults.

Here’s an important lesson I’ve learned during my wackadoodle life: as young children we assume our parents have it all figured out, as teens we presume that they have nothing figured out, and as adults we understand that they are still trying to figure it out.

fatherHere’s another: my children naturally still hear me as a child when I am trying to talk with them as an adult. My mannerisms still bring back times when I was lecturing or they were in trouble, even though I have no idea I’m sending the same unspoken messages.

So, even though we are now all grownup, they still need me to be the parent and teach one more lesson: how to be a childlike adult.

It’s childish when we take offense at the miscommunication or our first impulse is to lash back.

It’s childlike to eliminate offensiveness (and defensiveness for that matter) and, instead, quietly take the time to read the situation correctly – dig for what we are missing.

Being childlike usually requires listening more than talking, observing more than taking center stage, and being more concerned with what is being heard than what is being said.ear

If you are like us, it takes a lot of patience when we are out of patience, and the need to not be offensive when we feel offended, as well as a willingness to acknowledge two adults in the conversation with unique perspectives to share.

One of the great miracles that can come from this is that “Ah-ha” moment when we realize that all those things that we were miffed over that our parents “lectured” us about after we thought we were all grown up, thank you very much, weren’t lectures at all.

They were actually treating us like an adult; we just weren’t acting like one.


The point of all of this?

It took Alex and Nick leaving home for me to see how they can misunderstand much of what I’m trying to say, all because of our history of trying to figure it out together. Much too late, I can now understand that there have probably been many of those same miscommunications between me and the generation that came before.

But it doesn’t have to take that long.

My hope is to help my kids see NOW what I see NOW. It makes sense doesn’t it? After all, we are still trying to figure it out together.

What is required is that we each learn to be a real grown up, by remaining childlike.


Communication complete?

If not, no problem. I’m willing to take the time to figure it out together.

Are you?


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