I have found one of the most challenging things about being a parent is when a child starts forming their own opinions outside of your own.
Free of your dogma, your point of view, your very strong position.
At least that is something I have encountered since my own child has hit his teen years.
It was so easy when he was younger.
His questions revolved around gentler topics, such as which Charlie Brown holiday special was the best or if cereal truly constituted a suitable dinner.
My answers were the Great Pumpkin and yes, absolutely.
When I stated my opinion on something, it was regarded with earnest respect and as gospel.
There was no hesitation, no question.
Just a cherubic little face, smiling up in adoration and agreement.
But suddenly, that changed.
His overnight deepening voice also brought a contrast that surprised me.
Out of the blue, he disagreed with me.
I was shocked.
Not because I want my child to just parrot what he’s heard me say over the years.
I knew people who did that; who merely regurgitated facts and beliefs they had heard their parents say over the year, void of any real meaning.
I didn’t want that for Cole.
Or did I?
“How can you think something like that?” I asked one day.
“It’s not a thought, it’s a fact,” he argued. “I have researched it, Mama. Have you?”
I stopped in my tracks.
No, I had not researched it. I was going strictly by my gut reaction. Or was it my heart?
“You are responding emotionally to this and if you would take five minutes and do some educated research, you may see a different side of things. Don’t just believe what supports your opinion.”
What the what – who was this person? Was this really my child?
I did not like this turn of events.
Did I raise him to be a critical thinker? Yes, I had.
Did that mean I only wanted him to be a critical thinker if it aligned with what I thought?
I was starting to wonder.
I didn’t like this shift, and I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about some of his differing opinions.
The things he wanted to discuss and talk about were so different than what he had been interested in before and so vastly different that areas I felt comfortable talking about.
I expressed my concern to Mama one day, telling her how unsettled these changes, this growing up thing, had made me.
She listened quietly, letting me whine, vent, and question everything I had maybe done wrong.
“Sometimes I feel like I don’t know this child,” I finished.
“He’s fine,” she said gently. “You’re fine. He is growing up, Kitten.”
“But he is coming up with stuff that I don’t like!”
Mama laughed softly. “Oh, really?”
How could she find this amusing?
“Is any of it morally wrong or is it just not your opinion?” she asked.
My child is pretty moral; he has always had a good sense of right and wrong and been quick to point it out to anyone who was violating it.
“Let me tell you something,” she began. “Cole is his own person. He is going to have his own thoughts, ideas, likes and dislikes, and perspectives about things. Those may at times be totally different than yours. And that is okay.
Right now, he is forming his own point of view. You can guide him and re-direct him if he gets way off base, but you need to realize some of those may not be the same as yours. Let him find his way.”
I didn’t like this and said so.
“You really have no say in it,” she said. “I didn’t with you; Granny didn’t with me.”
“So, we raise children to grow up and be argumentative and contradictory?” I exclaimed.
“No. We raise them to think for themselves. And to stand up for what they believe in. Let that baby talk to you about everything he wants to. Don’t quiet him or silence him. It’s better for him to talk through these things with you than someone else who may really give him some bad information.”
“But some of the things he is saying –”
“Hush, Kitten,” she said. “It’s not about you. It’s about your child. He’s forming his view of the world and how you guide him and provide the grace for him to do so what will stay with him for the rest of his life.”
I sighed, a heart-weary sigh.
In Mama’s gentle way, she had done just that as I was growing up, listening to me talk about the craziest of things, enduring my wild ideas, and my whimsical nonsense. And, especially tolerating my different opinions, my perspectives, the times I rebelled against any of her compassionate teachings. Those moments I wanted to be mean-spirited, hurtful, and as Granny decreed, “evil.” Mama listened and held the space for me to learn my own boundaries without swooping in to make me change.
She let me find my own way – and grow up in the process.
Sharing what I had been so graciously given was the least I could do.