I recently finished a week of directing our church’s Vacation Bible School. Last year was the first time I actually took a few minutes to listen to the parents as they dropped off and picked up their kids and some of the conversations I overheard prompted me to start blogging last Summer. Now that I have met more Attachment Parenting families and unschoolers who respect their children, the conversations I overhear as I sit amongst the mainstream families are even more striking.
The way many parents talk about their children makes me sad. I was talking with one mom about our idea to change things up a bit next year and do a night time VBS. This idea is very appealing to my family because my husband would be able to attend and we could share in the fun together. There are other reasons our church is considering this, but the parent I was talking to was not happy. She looked at me, as if I had 12 heads, and said –“most parents just bring their children to Vacation Bible School to get a break from them. You won’t get a good turnout.” I was stunned. Removing myself momentarily from the “crazy AP mama” that I am who genuinely enjoys time spent with my kids, shouldn’t the reason people go to Vacation BIBLE school be to learn about the BIBLE? Or to have fun? Learn songs? Make crafts? It shouldn’t be to get your kids out of your way.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand needing a break. Date night and girls’ night out are nights I love and thoroughly enjoy. But those fun and enjoyable nights are times I connect with my husband, spend alone time with my husband or have some fun with my girlfriends. It is not a time to “get away” from my kids. Those may seem the same to some people, but not to the children they are “getting away from”.
The power of words is something I wonder if some parents really think about. The way I hear people talk about and complain about their children boggles my mind. It is not a wonder kids tune out most adults. I would tune people out too if most of what I heard about me was negative.
As I sat with my family anxiously awaiting the 4th of July fireworks this negativity towards children could be observed all around me. We spread our blankets out and began to chat with the people next to us about the huge thunder boomers that looked like they were going to interfere with the fireworks display. Within a few minutes the kids had fled my blanket to go and play on Daddy’s iphone while waiting. The woman next to me got all excited for me. “Now you can enjoy the fireworks” she said. “The kids are gone, YEA!!”. I looked at her as if she had 12 heads, seeing that look often directed at me I know what it looks like. I told her I missed them. I didn’t actually miss them, they were 2 feet away from me but what I wanted to say was not so concise, or so polite. Shortly after that the fireworks began the 5 of us cuddled up to enjoy the display together. But I thought of her kids, sitting there at her feet, did they hear her words? To them, did it mean that their own mother was not enjoying the display because they were with her?
Lucky for me, I was distracted quickly by the exchange in front of me. There was a mother who was being fondled by her very drunk boyfriend (a man who put new shingles on my roof once, also drunk, and tiled my dining room under the influence of the tequila he found in my liquor cabinet, but that is another story). Apparently her son thought they were just friends. She proceeded to ask him repeatedly, getting angrier each time, what business of his was it whether it was her friend or her boyfriend. I was confused. How could she be asking her SON whether or not it was his business if a particular person was her boyfriend? Won’t her boyfriend share in family events, times together, outings? Doesn’t she want to foster a relationship between the people she cares about?
If people are going to wonder why their children grow distant, maybe they should look at whether they are actually pushing them away? If they don’t like how they are being talked to by their children, maybe they should listen to how they are talking to them. Or try echoing the words they are using to talk about their children back at themselves and see how powerful words can be.