Children never grow up in parent’s hearts. We still remember the last time we cradled them and always will. This is a handy excuse to still treat them as the helpless things they haven’t been for a long while.
I was having lunch with some friends the other day and Miss Dee joined us. We had some animated discussions in a range of subjects and every now and then Miss Dee participated. Afterwards my friend told me how beautiful Miss Dee had become both inside and out. “She is terribly smart,” she told me, “You should give her more room to talk.”
When they left I sat down and thought about my friend’s words. I know Miss Dee is intelligent and articulate. My husband and I are terribly proud of her. She has learned to debate and argue with sophistication, logic and passion and we often have discussions around many topics: anything ranging from politics, (she is fascinated by it) through to the environment, innovation and even financial topics. I am quite happy to have those debates and I treat her opinions seriously, even if occasionally I gently guide and point out different sides of the debate. So is it possible that I change the way I listen when there are adults around? And why would that be?
I talked to my husband about it and he agreed that I had not allowed her to express herself at the lunch, but the question remained why. Is it that I see her as separate from my friends and therefore the two do not mingle? Or is it that with other adults around, I still see her as a young child?
As she keeps reminding us, in three years’ time she will be old enough to vote. She doesn’t tell us to make us see her as an adult, but rather she is excited that in the next election her vote will count. She will have a hand in how our country is run (OK, so both Miss Dee and I know that’s an exaggeration, but nonetheless, is cause for celebration). Three years is not that long away, really (I am now at that age where things are happening faster and time is whittling away.)
It’s not like a tap will suddenly turn on then. Yes sure, she is still growing up emotionally and mentally and there is a reason why the young ones can’t vote until then. But really, how big a difference will the next three years make? Will her reasoning become perfect on her 18th birthday?
No, this is about me changing my perception and allows the idea that my little girl is quite the teenager now, soon to be a young woman. It’s not as if I can wait until she is a certain age to start changing the way I treat her (with or without others around).
The change is already happening, right in front of my eyes. If I don’t listen carefully, if I don’t look closely, I will miss it.
It’s a time for listening. It’s a time for understanding. And yes, it is still a time for gentle guidance.
I hope that I can continue to provide that guidance for a long time to come. Life will tell. It always does.
The first duty of love is to listen. Paul Tillich.