Friday, 5 January 2007

Converse conversation

I have spent a bit of time with my youngest daughter (13) in the last few weeks. There is a great charge for parents in seeing your children grow and become independent. It is not the physical independence that matters so much at the early teen stage, but the ability to think independently. This is different from the ability to act impulsively.

Anyone can do that! It is not too hard to see a course of action and then hurtle towards it. It would be easy to mistake this for ‘independence’. Indeed we even validate it with sayings like “They’ve got to learn from their mistakes.”

I never tire of saying that that is not entirely true. We don’t –necessarily- learn from our mistakes. We learn from reflecting on them, and then repeating the action in a modified way as a result of our reflection. We don’t always get this.

So it was good to have a bit of reflection with S.

“Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?” was the topic of our conversation.

She told me that she had not made any as such, and then went on to tell me that she had been thinking about some goals. These included things like acting more independently, being more organized, more exercise….and so on. Indeed she had been thinking about quite a lot.

I have a couple of reflections myself on this conversation. One, of which I am well aware, is that it was good to have a conversation that didn’t particularly have any greater purpose than just having a chat. I wasn’t trying to make a point, as I so often do when I am talking to my children (to little or no avail…so why bother). It was good to let her speak discursively and decide how much to say and when she had said enough etc….

There should be more of it.

Then she asked me if I had made any resolutions. She wrested control of the conversation from her controlling father, not malevolently but on a mutual and firm basis…so indeed wrested is the wrong word….there should be more of it.

I am conscious that in a couple of weeks we will all (five of us) be on holiday together and it takes a while to get to this mutually accepting conversation. But it is a powerfully transforming dynamic when each day you can sit down with your family and just have an engaging conversation, in which you seek to be present with each other and not controlling (very hard in this family…maybe in all families, but really worth it)

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