Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.
~ Garrison Keillor
Listen to the desires of your children.
~ Denis Waitley
When Michael was about three years old, a colleague from Santa Fe came to Minneapolis for a few days. We went to dinner together. Given his depth of experience, he was a great coach and mentor on many subjects, from running a business to spiritual teachings. Our conversation shifted from work and saving the world to parenting. His kids were grown, so he had lots of wisdom in that arena as well.
“Right now the most overwhelming part is that just about the time I figure out how to relate to Michael in a new stage, he changes.”
Bob paused, smiled, and replied, “Imagine what it’s like for him.”
Not too long after that I chanced upon the tradition of putting stories into a bowl.
I bought a very small clay bowl and sat it on the table where we ate our meals. Each evening at dinner we would put our stories into the bowl, always using the same questions to get us started: “What was your high?” and “What was your low?”
It became a common, everyday habit – like brushing our teeth. And, simultaneously, it became extraordinary in what we shared. It was a highlight of our day.
As Michael grew older, I heard so much about the challenges of parent-child relationships during adolescence. So I had a chat with one of my ‘mommy mentors’ who had two boys a few years older than Michael. As I observed them, they were very clearly becoming generous, creative, and independent. They did not seem to be going through the feared and dreaded phase of alienation to get there. I asked her what her secret was. She said, “Just stay close. Keep listening. Keep the communication open. Value his view on things. Appreciate his experiences. Honor his reality. And let him know who you are, what matters to you.”
We used the story bowl all through Michael’s school years.
When he went to Japan the summer after his junior year, I made him a journal. It was his story bowl for the summer. Among other things, each page had a place where he could fill in his responses to “What was your high?” and “What was your low?”
Please know that we also had our battles, struggles, challenges, apologies, requests for forgiveness and ‘do overs’ on both sides all along the way.
And then, we also had this way to ease back in to listening to each other. It is a ritual that has served us well.
Photo by Barbara