Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sibling Bonding in Altered States

One day -- and it felt that sudden -- our children, who we raised so deliberately and conscientiously, grew up. When they were very young, their friends were the children of my friends and their play dates were happy by-products of my own social "play dates." As they got older, my involvement with their play dates (called "hanging out" at that point, of course) consisted of dropping off and picking up -- sometimes a block or two away from the actual event so as to alleviate any embarrassment caused said parental unit.

Then they got their drivers' licenses and off they went.

In the past few years we've done a lot of finger crossing and gut-trusting as we've watched our kids' budding independence flourish. During that time we've come to realize how absolutely critical all those little lessons were way back when they were three and eight and eleven. Because NOW, when we sit at home and wonder if our kids are safe and using good judgement, we have no choice but to have complete faith that those little lessons about trust and truth-telling and responsibility from so many years ago -- the ones that might have been accompanied by eye-rolling and shoulder shrugging (which were, back then, reprimanded for lack of respect) actually took, and that they did actually listen.

Parents of young children, take note: what you're doing now IS important. Telling them that you trust them with the little things when they're six plays a role in telling them that you trust them with the big things when they're 16. Keeping lines of communication open about what makes a true friend when they're seven plays an important role in keeping lines of communication open about what makes a true boyfriend or girlfriend at 17. Allowing them a sip of wine at the dinner table at eight, and talking openly about drugs and alcohol then, hopefully (hopefully) keeps them talking to you about those issues when they're much more personal and much more pressing, at 18 (or 15... or -- shudder -- 13).

Last night Elisabeth and her housemates had a cocktail party. She called one sibling's cell phone after another, inviting all of them to come join her party. She told her siblings that this would be a classy party, as "cocktail parties" should be, and that they should dress up. She told us that yes, there would be drinking, but that she'd keep an eye on her siblings and that they should, of course, spend the night. For the next hour our house was a'buzz with party preparation: ironing button-down shirts, trying on this dress and that dress, curling hair, applying make-up... and yes, talking about "Jagermeister" and shots -- which gave Tom and I the opportunity to offer them some experience-based wisdom... as well as a few hard-and-fast rules:"Park the car and don't touch it again till morning." "Be prepared to clean the house tomorrow as you promised; a hang-over is no excuse." "If you're scheduled to work at 10:30 (as Aleks was), keep that in mind at midnight."

Aleks called us at midnight, actually, professing his love for us (which he generally only does when he's drunk!) and assuring us that he was "safe and responsible" (in his sarcastic "yes-mommy" voice). And this morning, he arrived home at 9:30, tired but not hung-over, took a shower and headed to work. Elisabeth and Kat arrived home an hour later and the three of us went to see our weekly chick-flick which was Music and Lyrics. (A wonderfully delightful movie with an incredibly good script and marvelous acting. Drew Barrymore and Hugh grant have fabulous chemistry... which of course made me very jealous, as I will always have a huge crush on Hugh Grant. I absolutely adore his self-depreciating, flawed, bumbling, yet adorably sexy and charming manor! SWOOOOOOON!)

And now, as I write this, Kat is cleaning the house top to bottom (yes, I pay her... I figure it's her or a cleaning service, and I'd rather she get the money!). I have a feeling she'll take a nap when she's done -- like Elisabeth is now. (I wanted Elisabeth to send me photos from last night so I could post them here, but I woke her up when I called, so I posted one above of the four kids in a festive mood at Peter's graduation two years ago... and this one of Kat and Elisabeth, taken last night.)

It's a bit odd parenting almost-adult (and adult) kids. Knowing that we can really no longer "raise" them, we've settled into simply enjoying who they've become. I think this is one of the most enjoyable stages of parenthood, and well worth waiting for!

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Dixie said...

You seem to have done a great job with your kids. You should be very proud!

Carol said...

Yeah, well we still get some snootiness. Example: Aleks reads the last paragraph of that entry and makes some comment about us not "raising" him anymore, so why do we still have rules n' stuff. My reply fell along the lines of him having "automobile rights" BECAUSE we're still raising them in many ways.. all out of the goodness of our hearts.

Silence (and, I'm sure, an eye-roll)!!


Carol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blackcrag said...

You still have rules for him now so he will recognize the need (and employ)self-discipline later. Even at the ripe old age of 17.

I am an adult 'kid' (in my parents' eyes at least), and hope they feel about me the way yoy feel about yours. But Mum wasn't happyabout my latest move.

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