My big guys are rather reserved in nature (they come by it honestly, from their Daddy), especially in big groups, and often around each other. They are brothers, you know, with a healthy amount of sibling rivalry between them. But when you get them one-on-one, especially in a moving vehicle? Chatterbox city! And the topic isn’t always sports (don’t mistake me, that often comes up, but they also know they’ll get more out of a sports talk with their Dad than with me).
My Bear (10 years old) will sing to the radio with me, tell me all about the way cool stuff they did in science that day, ask about something he learned in social studies (sometimes it’s a real question, sometimes he’s quizzing me, to see how much more he knows than his good ol’ stepmom – and he often knows more than me!) or, admittedly my favorite – talk art with me. He’ll tell me about the latest cool art project in school or tell me about his latest drawings. I know I’m biased, but Bear’s clearly a budding genius cartoonist and/or illustrator.
With Bubba (13 years old), the talk lately is about band. He doesn’t use the words “favorite class” about any subject in school (that wouldn’t be cool, after all, even if only the stepmom hears it), but the way he talks about band, I can tell it’s one of his favorites. We talk about the pieces they’re playing in band, what he’s working on in his private lesson, and how much he enjoys being the first chair trombone (well, okay, that’s MY translation of the way he talks about band, he doesn’t quite brag on himself that way). Again, I know I’m biased, but Bubba’s clearly a talented musician, and if it ever becomes his passion, I have no doubt that he’ll be unstoppable.
I love these conversations with the boys. I try to just open my ears and listen, to really hear the things they’re telling me with such enthusiasm that I’m often glad they can’t see me grinning ear-to-ear in the driver’s seat. I feel I’m getting a true glimpse into the individuals they’re becoming. I can learn more in a short drive home from dinner at the local burger joint than I might get in a week of shoulder shrugs or “nuthin’ special” when I ask how their day was or what they learned in school. I can heap on the genuine praise they need and deserve without fear of embarrassing them in front of their friends or brothers. It’s in these talks that I feel a deeper connection is made; when we remember that we really do understand each other, and that maybe I’m not always the mean, warty stepmom. (Okay, that last one is a joke, mostly.)
Where do you find you have your best, most natural conversations with your kids? Is it different when you get one-on-one time with them?
Julie Daneman is wife to Bryan, Stepmom to Jacob and Caleb, and Mommy to Sam. They are a boisterous, loving, happy interfaith family.