When was the last time your kids said to you, "Mom, how was your day?" "What did you do?" "Dad, so how was work?" "What's something interesting that happened to you today?"
Alvin Rosenfeld, a Manhattan-based child psychiatrist who studies families and their interactions, recently talked with Jeff Zaslow of The Wall Street Journal.
"In America today, life often begins with the anointing of 'His Majesty, the Fetus,' (Dr. Rosenfeld) says. From then on, many parents focus their conversations on their kids. Today's parents 'are the best-educated generation ever,' says Dr. Rosenfeld. 'So why do our kids see us primarily discussing kids' schedules and activities?' "
Yes, having discussions with our kids about their day and their interests is important. Drawing them out in any sense, especially when they hit what may be the tightlipped teen years, is key to communication and to helping our kids navigate some choppy waters. And, in fairness to my own kids, I don't remember asking my own parents anything about their day.
But I did know that they had a life, including interests and passions, that was separate from me. I knew there was an exciting, interesting, adult world. It kind of seemed like ... something one earned.
I certainly remember a lot of conversations between my parents, or with their friends, during which I just had to be quiet and listen, whether or not I understood what was going on. Nor could I interject every few moments. That's if I wasn't asked to leave because "the grown-ups were talking." (For some reason a "no-no" today.)
Anyway, too often now, and sometimes in my own house when I fall into the trap, I'll hear adults trying to have a conversation (I'm not talking here about things kids shouldn't hear). And the children are constantly interrupting to either derail the conversation altogether or at least bring the conversation down to their own level. So then from the children there's a lot of "Huh, what?" "Who said that?" "What does that mean?" "Mom, wait a minute, well, why did he do that, Mom? How come?"
Pretty soon, the adults give up, and it's back to telling Susie how beautiful the picture is that she's just drawn, or raising Jimmy's self-esteem by focusing on how great his block tower is.
What a shame, because then we deprive children of a chance to be elevated into an adult world, and especially a world that's not all about them.