Everyone is full of advice. I am, we all are. At college we were discussing protocols for working in our tutor group and the question was asked: are you really listening or are you just waiting for your turn to speak? I thought about this; I fear I am a culprit. I am listening, for sure, but I hear myself interrupting people to speak. I wonder if this is a housewife thing? The dog doesn’t talk so I am in silence a fair amount of the time. I want to say something.
Isn’t that what blogging is about? Having something to say?
I formulate a whole raft of theories about raising teenagers. Now that I have one I secretly consider myself expert. I narrowed it down. My most pertinent piece of advice is this: eat dinners with them. That’s it. I would say that has been the single most crucial thing I have done as a parent since I have had a teen in the house.
I used to cook two meals; one for them and one for us later on. I then gradually realised that this sort of segregated eating pattern was odd – not to mention the tedium of cooking two meals, two times loading the dishwasher etc. I read that in a survey of happy and successful women the common denominator they reported was having experienced home-cooked family meals each night when growing up. At the time I read that I was working and had been known to give my kids porridge for dinner with chunks of apple as sprinkles. I thought to myself, it’s time to do better. I have written about this before but honestly I, like many others, didn’t really know how to cook. I could make a meal, sure, but I was not a culinary expert. Having children made me into one. Now people ask for my recipes. Now I hear my daughter’s friends referring to meals I have made. Now I cook for dinner parties like a real grown up. This makes me smile. Look how far I have come.
I cook meals for everyone every night. We have all sorts and sometimes it’s a really eclectic mix of ingredients – a staple in our house is [add name of any vegetable] topped with finely chopped red onions and drizzled with sea salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze. Can I just say balsamic vinegar glaze has rocked my world?
At these nightly meals we talk – and if conversation is not forthcoming then I ask what was the best thing in their day. They know we sit for at least half an hour and talk, food is served on the table, they help themselves and there are always two or three choices of side dishes. I don’t plate it up for them. This means they linger and we talk and in that time span we get family time. I also get a captive audience in which to talk about the hard stuff. The things that I think are important. Increasingly I come to the conclusion that raising healthy kids (and by this I don’t mean vegetable consumption I mean what’s in their heads) is all about giving them a secure base on which to make decisions. This secure base can only come from reiteration and having boundaries and on making sure that they know they have room to breath but also that the buck stops somewhere. It’s in these daily instalments that I can drip-feed all of the wisdom and sense that we might have accrued and they can make their own (better) choices from it. So there is it. Cook and eat and talk.
Spookily on my other wisdom about raising teens, I received an email from a very nice woman I met on corporate trip I attended with my husband. Turned out she had stumbled across an article I had written for Selfish Mother and contacted me to say: ‘Is that you?’ I said ‘Yes! Oh and I’m writing a book if you like what I write!’ All very cool.
Meanwhile, at the hairdresser today I was advised to go more blonde.
And at yoga I was advised that I was using my extremities to do too much of the work in my postures and I must use my core.
I’m sure that if my dog could speak he would advise me that rolling in fox shit is indeed a good idea and that is why he so regularly does it.
By the way, there is actually some great advice here from my friend Amanda on blogging and business.
And more than anything I advise myself to stop looking at clothes on line and to do something more useful like finish my college work. So that’s what I should do…