The everlasting parental conundrum.
When they were little, it was easy. Less guiding and shutting up, more directing needed from me. As Thing One in particular gets older, that balance is changing and both of us are feeling our way through it, may the universe help us stay sane while we do so.
He's 12 now and in seventh grade. His second year of middle school. Hard as it is to fathom, he has fewer than six more years with us and then he'll be gone. Sometime between now and then, he's going to have to learn to navigate the world on his own. A pretty tall order for somebody who doesn't even like staying home by himself at this stage of the game, I might add.
Ever mindful of the need for him to eventually become independent, I'm trying to back off. I suck mightily at this, by the way, but I'm trying nevertheless.
A couple of days ago, he came home upset about a social situation he's dealing with at school...it was pretty much the first thing out of his mouth when he walked in the door. First and foremost, I'm grateful that he's still voluntarily talking to me, and I hope that continues. I'm sure as hell not taking it for granted. The details aren't important, and the situation is decidedly mundane in the grand scheme of things, but it does represent the first time he and his group of buddies have run into this particular scenario, so none of them have a clue how to handle it. While I understand Thing One's initial reaction entirely, it came from a place of thinking more about his own feelings than those of others, which isn't really the pattern you want to reinforce as a parent, so I wasn't quite sure what to do. I ended up having a quiet chat with him after he was done venting steam and calmer--just pointed out an alternative view of the situation and the likely feelings of the other kids involved and left it at that. My attempt at the Guide approach. Didn't want to tell him what I would do, just figured I'd see how he would handle things on his own given that little extra bit of non-accusatory input.
First thing he did was talk things over with his best friend. I gather that the two of them together then went to the rest of their posse with their conclusions, after which the group dynamic changed and the situation resolved itself. The eventual actions were more or less what I would have suggested had I been in Direct mode, so it was gratifying to see the boys get to pretty much the same place on their own.
I mentioned all of this to Himself after the fact, and he wondered aloud (not in a mean way at all, I hasten to add) if I should have just kept my mouth shut and left Thing One to his own devices entirely as a social learning experience. There's something to be said for that, sure. There will probably come a time when he won't want to listen to anything I say anyway, and if so, that will become the approach by default. In the meantime, though, I'm going to aim for guiding as opposed to directing and listening more than either one (the whole two ears, one mouth thing)...please wish me luck with this because I'm going to need it!!