I drive carpool as much as I can. I learn much about my kids and their friends as “chauffeur.” Have you noticed they forget that you’re there? I’ve heard sweet moments of encouragement and plenty of teen snark. During one drive, my 12-year-old and her buddy were chatting about the day, and I overheard the friend nonchalantly ask my daughter about her boyfriend. Say what? I don’t know about any boyfriend … my sixth grader!?
Of course I wanted to pull over RIGHT THAT MINUTE and TALK. THIS. THROUGH. To look her in the eyes and ask why I don’t know about this boy and explain just how I felt about the whole thing. But after a deep breath, it dawned on me that maybe confrontation was not ideal. AND, thanks to some good advice, I had something in my bedside table to help me out.
Earlier that year, my amazing friend Mercedes let our daughters choose their favorite journal from Hallmark and suggested to me that we — the moms and daughters — begin writing each other. I was convinced that this was just one more great Pinterest idea that I would not follow through with and feel guilty about when I saw the empty book lying around. But, she is a persuasive friend and hey, she bought the book!
In an effort to cheat the inevitable “I don’t want to talk to my mom” stage, my daughter and I began to engage in written dialogue — just in case — expecting that our face-to-face dynamic would become uncomfortable sometimes. We were prompted by the trusty Internet to start with a few innocuous questions to get our conversation going. (See photo below for our first stab at it.)
With low expectations — because honestly, if she doesn’t want to talk to me, why would she take the time to pick up a pen and WRITE? — I wrote a quick note, asked three questions, and left the book for my daughter.
The next day, the journal showed up on my pillow with questions answered. She said she was willing to try it! I wasn’t going to feel guilty about an empty book! Or was I? The book sat in my bedside table … for a month, maybe three.
Until the day there was a BOYFRIEND I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT!!
Ah HA! — THE BOOK!! As I sat down and wrote the story of my first crush, I remembered that I had also been in 6th grade, and maybe my daughter’s news wasn’t so shocking after all. (Yep, good thing I didn’t sit her down right and read the riot act when I heard!) But I did ask a few follow-up questions …Who is this boy? Do you like him? What’s the scoop?
Amazingly, she answered again! Turns out, there was no boyfriend, just a boy who liked her. The end of her note said, “If I do say yes to someone someday … I will tell you. I promise.” I was relieved, of course, but more importantly, it was an important connection with my teen. A moment to “talk” without embarrassment or confrontation. In that shared story, the book became our thing. A safe place for just the two of us.
My daughter is now 15 and a 10th grader. Every few months, I leave the book on her pillow. I ask: How are things going? How are you feeling about school? Thank you for helping clean up after lunch yesterday — etc. In return, she’ll periodically thank me for a gift or something we have done for her. And every once in awhile, I’ll come to bed and find the book on my pillow — with a question or situation that is easier shared in writing and without eye contact. Sometimes, we’ll talk out loud about the issue, but mostly, it stays within the pages of our on-going conversation.
There are more adolescent and high school challenges ahead as well as many joys and successes. I hope our book gets well used and dogeared. In just over four years, we’re only on page 40. We have no expectations. This is not homework or a chore.
We’re simply grateful that the book is there when we need it, a tool for better communication.More On