If there’s one thing that’s being made increasingly clear to me about mothering, it is that my frustrations are not unique to me. We’re not as alone as we think we are.
The other day I wrote a questionnaire for my kids, out of vexation with a few of our relational rough spots. I made it with my oldest in mind – he is turning twelve next week – but then the other children wanted in on things too. My kids have always loved filling out stuff like this; I guess because I do.
The bulk of it was written on a Likert scale: On a scale of one to five, how strongly do you agree with these statements?
As children grow, parents should allow them increasing choice, even when their decisions are not wise.
If parents ask unreasonable things of a child, obedience is not required.
All children should be treated equally.
One parent is often more sympathetic than another, and more likely to agree with you.
I added a few open-ended questions. If you could choose five words to describe the relationship you’d like to have with your parents during your teenage years, what would they be?
I wanted the document to become a launch point for discussion after they filled it out, and it sure enough was. Their answers were enlightening. (Okay, I also wanted to prove a few points to my oldest. I admit it.) We each saw briefly from the other’s perspective, and had fun doing it.
I made a simpler version for younger children, questions like
Daddy and Mommy usually agree.
Yes? No? Or sometimes?
I feel like my family listens to me.
I feel really stressed out when…
I don’t know, maybe it was silly. I don’t model my home on what my children think, I already told you that. But sometimes I want to invite them to say what they feel about “us” – who we are as a family, and what they wish could change. I really loved hearing what they thought, even though it stung in a few places.
I’m sharing the questionnaire forms here for you, in case you want to use them too. They were written quickly, and have a few problems which I am not in the mood to fix. For me, this was about reaching to learn and grow; if you think it’s a sign that my children are deeply heard and perfectly cared for – well, meet them. They will have a few things to say about that.
To all mothers in the trenches – Grab a coffee, give a hug, start that laundry. You’re not alone. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not either.