When I was young, we would be in the car, and like every child ever to ride in a car, I would ask the question, “Where are we going?” followed closely by, “When will we get there?” and “Are we there yet?”
My dad, ever sarcastic, would respond to each with some version of, “You will know when we get there,” followed by, “You will arrive a few seconds after I do,” and “We will get there when we get there.”
These responses were normal to me, and as I grew, could be depended on for their consistency.
When I became a mom, I attempted to use these same style responses with my children. I tried to adhere to the “I’m the parent, that’s why” style of parenting that I was raised with. It had worked for my parents, and generations before them, so of course, it would work with my children as well. (Insert sarcasm font in that last sentence.)
I quickly learned that my children do not function that way. At least not all of them. I have one child who can go with the flow fairly well. He has the ability to adapt to the circumstances as they arrive, and always has. While he prefers some structure, a change in plans does not throw his day off. God knew what he was doing, and he made this child the firstborn. He was easy, and that fooled me into thinking I knew something about parenting, allowing me to have three more children under that illusion that I had it together. By the time I figured out that I didn’t have anything figured out, I had 4 kids who are all amazing in their own way, and all completely different.
In order for some kids to feel secure, they need to know what is happening. With one of my children, a day of grocery shopping would start with a conversation similar to this, “We are going to Aldi, WalMart, the gas station, the car wash, and then lunch, ok?” The child would repeat the list back, and feel secure that they knew what to expect. If the list changed, such as Wal-Mart did not have something that was needed and we would then be going to the hardware store, I would have to verbalize that, “Since Wal-Mart did not have what we needed, we will stop at the hardware store, then we will go to the gas station, the car wash, and then lunch, ok?” Saying the sentence was easy enough.
However, it took me longer than I would like to admit to learn this. I tried to cling to the, “We’ll get there when we get there,” attitude. Running errands became a nightmare. Children would be cranky, they would cry, they would fuss. I could not figure out why they were so upset.
They felt out of control. Even in their toddler and pre-school years, they desired to know what to expect.
Parenting, and life, in general, is all about learning along the way. I am a huge advocate of keeping what is working and changing what is not.
In the case of planning the day, I had to evaluate why I fought it so hard. I did not want to tell them the itinerary. I wanted them to go along with what I was saying, without question. I realized that I wanted that feeling of control, the appearance of having it all together.
The cost was their comfort, and that cost was too high for me once I realized it.
Our children are growing up in a different world than we could have even imagined as kids. We (or at least I) felt safe every day. There was little to no insecurity in my world. My home was safe, my school was safe, my church was safe.
Our children live in a different world.
As parents, it is our job to take the extra step, have the extra conversations, and do everything we can to foster that feeling for our children.