Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Great Idea: Successful Communication Without Talking or Listening

I think I’ve found a new way to communicate with my children. No more long lectures about right and wrong. No more mom-o-logues about expectations and rules. The eye rolling will stop, the facts will get communicated, and what’s more, it will all be in writing. Those offspring of mine won’t have the chance to say, “I didn’t hear you,” or “I forgot.” I’m jumping on the “25 Things” bandwagon (a little late), and taking my family with me.

I’m a card-carrying Facebook addict; that social networking site that lets you rekindle all those dysfunctional relationships from high school. Not too long ago, the “25 Things You May Not Know About Me,” phenomenon swept through Facebook like a lighted gasoline trail. Everyone, including The Wall Street Journal , The Boston Globe, and the New York Times, has written and blogged about it. There are lovers and haters of this “25 Things” list. People who didn’t want to be burdened by personal information they would rather not know. People who loved reading about little nuances of friends and family. I happen to be a lover, enjoying the random personal tidbits thrown my way. That, and I’m a writer. Typing up a list of things about myself is right up my alley.

It occurred to me the other day, that creating lists would be a perfect way to start communicating with my children. Sure, they may only be nine, seven, and two, but I don’t think the list idea would be lost on them. I could impart all my motherly wisdom in chunks small enough to remember. My training in education comes in handy at this point, as I know full well that 25 things to remember is just not age appropriate. This, and my children have the attention span of a sand gnat, so I figure I’ll start a little more slowly, say with 15 things. My long lectures will be replaced by 15 bullet points highlighting only the most important facts at the time; “15 Things You Must Do Before You Can Play,” or in the future, “15 Reasons Not To Smoke or Do Drugs.” Bound neatly in a three-ring folder, labeled with applicable topics, it would serve as our family’s standard operating procedure manual.

The first list I’d like to share with my children is “15 Things It Would Be Helpful To Know About Me For Both Our Sakes.” I’d really rather not wait until my children are adults for them to come to grips with all my peccadilloes, or acknowledge that I am a person outside my mom jeans. It’s a blow when children come to the age of understanding that their parents are pretty screwed up all in all, and contrary to what I have told my son since he was born, we do not “know everything.” I think it would make the child rearing years go much more smoothly for my children to understand that I have some personality issues that helped form how I raised them, and not uncover those secrets in my diary while going through the attic junk after my funeral.

I compiled a list of the 15 things it would be most helpful to know about my personality. I figure if they read this, maybe my children can brainstorm some coping strategies on how to survive me, and be a support to one another as they get older. If nothing else, perhaps it will alleviate the number of counseling sessions in their future. Here’s my list:

15 Things It Would Be Helpful To Know About Me For Both Our Sakes

  • My deep seated germ-a-phobic nature goes back to my childhood. I cannot explain it, but when you touch the escalator handrail, public trashcans, anything in the bathroom, anything in public, anything at all, I have a visceral reaction that defies logic. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.
  • Life for everyone would be so much easier if you listened to me the first time.
  • I am controlling. The sooner you learn and accept this, the easier it will be for you to blow me off when I am freaking out over how the dishwasher is loaded.
  • I’m not the mom I always thought I’d be. I now know that ‘perfection’ is not a gene I was born with. You don’t have it either.
  • I’m not a morning person. There is no single worse way to start your day than by whining at me. You don’t want to get up? Neither did I.
  • When I say “in a minute” or “just a second,” it will never be a minute or a second. Never.
  • Even though you may think I hate you (if not now, then you’ll think this in a few years) I love you so much that I’d give up my life if it would guarantee your health and safety for the rest of your lives.
  • All of you children were surprises. The best presents I have ever gotten in my life. God knew that it was probably the only way you were going to get here, given my need to plan for perfect timing.
  • It is much easier to do things my way. If we do them your way, it will take a lot longer, there will usually be a lot of crying, and eventually we’ll end up doing it my way. See #3.
  • God gave me a very sparse dose of the Patience Virtue. It is sometimes so difficult to see, you might not think it’s in my being at all- but rest assured, the reason I only freak out at 85% of the things you do is because of what little patience I do have.
  • When we stay at a hotel and I make you wear socks in the shower and while walking on the carpet, I’m not afraid you’ll get your germs on the floor, it’s the other way around. You do not want to know what people do in hotel rooms.
  • I want you to grow up to be self-sufficient, capable adults. That’s why I’m teaching you how to clean the bathroom, start the laundry, and do household chores. It is not because I’m lazy, like you think.
  • I pray for you every night and bless you before I go to bed. Then I pray for myself all day long.
  • I love you each so much and am so worried for your safety that I often get up at night to double-check the doors and windows.
  • There is often no real reason for many of my arbitrary rules, but creating them is one of the very few perks of this parenthood job and I’m going to use it to my full advantage. When you are parents, you can make up your own fun rules to torture your children.

So there it is. The list that will start our family S.O.P When my kids start to argue with me, I will simply point to the three-ring binder on their desk. Refer them to the lists in black and white. Reference page numbers and line items. Communicating with my children will be so much more effective when I take the talking and listening out of it.