13 and 1 Reasons Why
Now sometimes these dinners could be horrible in my house, as in many others, where conversation could be at the whim of my father's mood. I saw a few homes where it was silent. I saw a few where everyone talked over everyone else and the mood was energetic. I sat with my mom and dad and had some of the most interesting discussions on everything from geography to art to science. My dad was an autodidact who either knew something about most things or loved to help me find out about it. Our dinners were never silent. I do not know if these were the "conversations" they talk about but I do believe there is something to sharing a meal, with family, kids, friends that is bonding. It is why I have never insisted on my kids eating things they do not like and have made many a two different meal dinners. I want it to be our time and laughter not about a fight on the merits of eating asparagus.
Yet one meal a day is really not enough even if it is a good start. I want to be part of my kids lives in a way that they know they can come to me with anything, and while I may not have a positive reaction I will have a fair one and help them. I do this through texts, notes, calls and letting them talk. I mean they talk a lot and sometimes the subject is one that makes me want to sort of run, I do not want to hear how to beat level x in any video game, I don't book I listen and try and ask questions that keep them talking. It is the connection and frankly we expect kids to listen and absorb what we think is important shouldn't we model this by doing it for what they think is important to them ?
The other thing that seems to work for me with a 10 and an almost 13 year old boys is finding time to watch tv shows with them. Yes I said TV shows, yes screen time. The way it works is that we find something we all like, or one child and I like. Each has shows we all 3 watch and each has shows that they watch only with me. The balance of mothering 2 children is done with military precision - the perception of not getting same amount of anything from water in a glass to time with mom is monitored better than any drone by my two. They do not begrudge the other's time they expect the equivalent.
So with my 2 we watch "Stranger Things" - I say it often but whoever started streaming services is a hero of mine. I like it because it is well written and the kid actors are amazing, the storyline is spooky without being too crazed for me and I admit I like the whole time frame it is set in. It has taken me back to my own teenage years lived in the early 80s, Le Sports Sac anyone?? It gets them talking about school, being a kid and of course the fascination of asking me "did you do that?" for some scenes. No I did not have the adventure of finding an "upside down" world but I would have loved it.
With my 2 I also watch "Death in Paradise" which is a strange show for kids their age to like - but it is a murder mystery Brit show that takes place on a gorgeous island and I think they like the detective solving skills of the main character who is just slightly goofy yet brilliant. It transports us to a warm place and has us debating who done it.
My younger son and I tend to gravitate toward shows that are British detective shows - no clue why but they tend to be our genre of choice.
My older son and I watch "13 Reasons Why" together. We decided to do this because it seemed really relevant to his almost teen self. If you do not know what this is, the show is about a girl who commits suicide after a series of bullying incidents and bad choices with social media on the part of her peers that spiral out of control. This has been a difficult watch because it happens, it happens more than we might think and it has increasingly dire consequences. It has led to discussions with my son about his responsibility as a male to not demean girls. It has led to disagreements on the main character's reaction to certain situations, he "oh it wasn't that bad this time and she gets so crazy" me "because it is constant and to her it was another big deal in a series of them". It for sure has led us to discuss what he would do in certain situations.
The two of them also tend to like watch "Scorpion" with me - nothing like geeks who are sort of cool saving the world.
To me time with kids is fleeting and while at times it seems overwhelming and that they take up every moment of your time, the reality is that it goes as fast as the cliche states. They watched little kids shows with me and asked those great questions about why, though for a while I thought the word "why" was my nemesis and non-stop, things were a color or a shape. They watch different shows now and still ask why but the questions are harder sometimes to answer. We do as a family still practice my father's curiosity seeking "look it up" with so much more information and easier to find via Google.
I find the time we spend is not only about the shows but about the time they have to feel that we can talk about things that are on their mind, they still like a good snuggle and I alternate between laughing with them to a slightly wistful smile tied to my knowledge that they are getting taller, older and most of all heading toward the point where I will not be their first choice for snuggles and tv shows.