So it's the next day and we're having lunch. Church is over and we're unwinding around the table together. This seems like a good time to try my new approach. I will tell my kids up front that they can start to expect a few changes. This is counterintuitive, of course, since the "parent" in me is compelled to maintain the impression that I know what I'm doing at all times. Furthermore, any change in the usual course of action will only weaken their confidence in me and then they'll start to question my authority — or so the parent voice is telling me. But the truth is that I'm tired of this voice. What's more is that I don't really think they identify much with it anyway. In fact, I think it's been quite alienating in the past. I don't know what I'm doing most of the time and I'm starting to believe that it doesn't much matter if they know anyway (in case it hasn't occurred to them already). Maybe if they feel my love they'll let the rest slide because they know I'm trying my best. It worked for our contractor, why not for me?
"Hey, guys, I've been thinking about you lately and realize that you're getting old enough to be making your own decisions on a lot of things. When you were little I used to worry about you a lot because it was so easy for you to get hurt. I didn't want bad things to happen to you so I tried my best to protect you."
When we talk to Bram and Oliver on the level, their ears perk up and immediately they are interested. That's how they are now. They have forgotten their food for a minute and they are staring at me intently, trying to grasp exactly what it is I'm trying to say.
"Now that you are older Dad and I are going to start to let you make choices based on what we've taught you so far. When you make the choices, we'll want to talk with you afterward to find out what you liked about the choice and the consequence, and maybe what you didn't like so much."
Well, forget it. I don't think they heard the last part of what I said. They've already jumped out of their chairs and are dancing around the room tossing out ideas of what kinds of activities they are they are now free to engage in.
After the dust settles I manage to get in one more word edgewise. "The thing that's important is that you are able to make you own decisions when you turn eighteen and graduate from our house. That way you can create a really great life for yourself with what you've learned here."
At this point the conversation takes an unexpected turn. A silence falls over the room and Oliver looks at me, suddenly serious.
"Will I not live here anymore when I'm eighteen?" he asks.
This surprises me since we've covered this ground before — trust me.
"Nope, you won't, Oliver. And believe me, you won't want to. You'll be ready to start out on your own life. You won't want to hang around here anymore."
He considered this carefully and when he speaks, I hear a faint quiver in his voice. "Will you always live here, Mom?"
If nothing else, I try and be truthful with my kids and the truth is that life is uncertain. The sarcastic part of me says, "I didn't just sink a half-billion dollars into this house just to pick up and leave anytime before I die." But the honest part says, "I don't know, O-man." I swallow to conceal the quiver in mine.
I see that my answer doesn't sit well because he turns away from me in a huff. Getting angry is his way of protecting his heart from feeling sad.
"Well you said we can make our own decisions now and I choose to stay here for as long as I want!"
Sigh. I think this is what we call "backfiring".
A million reasons why he won't want to (not to mention the reason I won't want him to) flash through my head and I start to speak. Instead, I surprise myself by putting my arms out and gathering him into me. What is even more surprising is that he lets me.