As a mom, do you ever feel like you are taking one for the team? Over the past 26 years of mothering boys who are all about everything but the things that a girl like me would be interested in, I felt like there were many, many times I was “taking one for the team.” We would go where they wanted to eat, where they wanted to go, do what they wanted to do, and see the movies they wanted to see. Even their hobbies and passions were all so very different than mine! Even though I am not a girly girl, my boys just thought different, very different, than me. (Obviously I am happy because they are happy.) I guess that’s just part of the journey we walk through when given the honor to raise up children, boys or girls, that see and think differently then we do.
No matter what the differences are, I quickly learned my interest in what they were (are) interested in is very important! From the time they were little – playing with Legos, super heroes and strange pets like tarantulas, iguanas or chameleons (to name a few) to the times when they were older and were passionate about fishing, hunting, cars and sports, my interest in their interests was/is essential. While it did not matter how a girl like me did not get naturally excited about the same things they did, it did matter when it came time to build a bridge into important topics and have deeper conversational responses beyond “yes,” “no,” and “good.”
Being interested in my boys’ interests created opportunities for them and I to bond as mother and son. As I learned to ask questions and gain passion in the things that excited them, I realized how to more strategically encourage them and who they were to become. Some things may only interest them for a season and some things will become a part of them for a lifetime, nonetheless, all interests are worthy of mom’s time and interest. Toys, sports, cars, games, pets, and hobbies became great topics and opportunities to intentionally create conversations with each of my boys. I firmly believe what started with Legos and has now grown into football, sport cars, fishing and beyond is why I can have open conversations with my sons about anything and everything. We all want a healthy relationship with our adult children but that does not start when they are adults, it starts when they are little and be nurtured through as they grow older.
As we are becoming genuinely interested in their interests, we must be sure to be fully present in their presence. The greatest gift we can give our children is the gift of being fully present to and for them. It’s not enough to create relational small talk, it’s about being a great listener and building trust through quality conversation. More often than not, means letting or leading your child(ren) to do most of the talking. This can only happen with intentionality. We so often demand their attention by saying “Look at me while I speaking to you…” or “Put your phone away,” or “Get off social media,” or “Stop playing that music / game” because we want them fully engaged! Well, they want the same from us… for us to be fully engaged with them!
Danny and I create intentional times to be present for our kids. We have found that crucial times for conversation with our children was to and from school, dinnertime, and bedtime. And while you may also get some one-word “fine” responses from your kids to most of the questions you are asking, it’s worth continuing to ask until you ask the right question – the right question will strike the cord in their heart to open a conversation that is important and relevant to them.
Dinnertime is a great and easy way to be fully present as a family. This is a very special, intentional time to hear from one another. Dinnertime is not the time for phones, tablets, computers or TV. When distractions are set aside, so many memories of laughter and conversations can be created together. I urge you to keep “dinnertime” sacred – facilitate as much learning and discovering what was exciting them as.
Last but certainly not least – bedtime. You are never too busy for bedtime! Find your fit for your family and stick to it with great intentionality, being present in their presence, so they know nothing has priority over what they have to say, ask, or show interest in.
No matter what the interest, I became interested. I asked questions; I cared because they cared. I was present in conversation and encouraged in a way to build trust, relationship and connection with my sons through interactive conversation as they shared and I listened. Not everything was long lasting, not all of the interests sharpened their intelligence, but being interested in their interests was always strengthening a better relationship as mother and son. As I gained their trust, opportunities were created naturally for me to teach and mentor – without them feeling like it was forced. These heart-to-heart connections, established over joined interest and being present, were essential and fostered the teaching moments my heart desired to give them.
So Moms, though you may not have many things or anything in common with your children, and while your interests may be drastically different, remember that your children’s differences are gifts. Each of us are wired uniquely and individually. Psalms 139:14 says we “are fearfully and wonderfully made.” So in order for us to connect, relate, share joy and develop passions for the things our children are passionate about – we must be interested in what they are interested in. You will be amazed at how their faces light up as you ask specific questions about their interests. You will be shocked as to how much they know about the things they have developed passions for. You will be impressed with the knowledge of the things they have become obsessed with. These are unique things that are shaping and molding your little people.
I encourage you to encourage your children in their hopes, dreams and passions. Give them room to find themselves in their excitements as you show interest in their interests and are present in their presence. One day you will experience the beauty of a healthy mom and child relationship that stands true for a lifetime and beyond. What you do today will impact how your children raise their children. As you create great habits that can build great relationship and become great memories, they will repeat this in the next generation of your family. And as a grandmother, I can say from personal experience, there is nothing greater than seeing your children impart this heart-to-heart connection with their children. It is worth EVERY moment.