GET DOWN! ON THE FLOOR!
I have screamed this many times to individuals that I didn’t know, many times helping them along the way. I did it in the dark, I did it in the daylight, I did it in foreign countries, and I did it while getting shot at.
With all that being said, why can’t I get down and get on the floor? Why can’t I take these same actions that seemed so easy for me to command others to do?
It’s difficult to get down and get on the floor to connect, relate, and interact with your children. At least it is and has been for me. I have tried to determine the reasons why as I lost my connection with my son many years ago for not getting down on his level. I tried to raise a man and lost the time to be with him playing and hanging out just as he was then, a kid.
Now as I struggle to get down and get on the floor with a 16 year old stepson who is taller and bigger than me at 6’2 / 220 lbs and a 13 year old stepdaughter who is probably smarter than I am, I find myself trying less and letting more time pass that I can't get back. It is difficult to connect with kids, especially when the ability to have fun and just relax was sucked out of you and replaced with skepticism and frustration, anger and resentment. I chose to hide in my room eliminating chance encounters in the house, avoiding interacting during arguments when I used to burst in and attempt to take control immediately of the situation. Neither tactic worked. I realized that I didn’t need tactics, I needed patience and understanding.
We are different people than our children. We are obviously older with a greater span of life experiences, both good and bad. We are from a different era with different likes and dislikes and sometimes what I think is ridiculous and small is actually huge and heavy to them. They haven't seen reality of the world that I did and for their sakes I hope they never do.
Break down your walls, put down your armor, get down on the floor, even if it's uncomfortable at first. Listen and I mean really listen to your kids, their fears and hopes and don’t feel the need to respond unless it's in a positive way, you don't need to correct a hope or try to fix a fear, just listen through it and offer another point of view that they can grasp, again, they're kids and one of my greatest mistakes was treating my kid like an adult all the time instead of paying attention to the small stuff which was actually pretty big stuff for him.
I have found it more gentle and easier to infiltrate the child world by sitting and listening and not trying to participate like we are going to be best friends and that they will love all the advice I can hand them and all the worldly ways I can teach them. Instead, I found it easier to realize that they don’t necessarily want you to teach them all the time while giving “lectures”. I have found that I connect more and it's less stressful for me to simply listen the their stories, watch their interactions, and be there, present while they explain the wonders of the world.
“How was your day”? Answer, “Good”. “What did you learn today in school”?
“Stuff, or I don’t know”. I used to hate this wondering why I didn’t get a more thoughtful answer. Then I think back to when I was a child and how much I listened to my parents and how much I loved to hang out with them. HAHA. RIGHT? Why did I think that I could be the cool dad all of the sudden and that they would want to hang around me all the time?
When I finally just decided to be present and stop trying to teach all the life lessons I had learned and just be, it started to get better and the children started to talk more and participate more in our conversations. I finally found out, rather figured out, through years of trial and error, that just like me as a child, these children just want to have fun and feel a part of something like we all do. They will remember how we make them feel much more than what we try to tell them.
So I took a step back and watched, waited and let it happen instead of banging my head and arguing with my spouse about every thought and idea I have on how to properly raise the children. The instructor and leader in me doesn't always need to come into play with the kids, sometimes I can just be a kid with them, and we both relax and have fun.
Children are resilient and much smarter than we give them credit for. They see, hear, and mimic what we do, way more than we even realize at times. We didn’t graduate from the “last hard class” and have to impart all of our wisdom in a day.
Let them fail at home in a safe location, learn, and improve before they get out into the real world but for the love of God, have some fun with them before it's too late and you are nothing more than two adults decades apart with nothing in common. You can't get back the time with them when they're kids, and believe me, I wish I could go back and undo some of the things I did and also just get down on the floor and play more.
During these tough times where we are all at home, take some time to connect, enjoy, slow down, stop worrying, and get to know your children again. It’s not a curse to be stuck together, it’s a blessing.