June 12, 2015
As a millennial parent, one of my most powerful tools has been empathy. I still remember (quite vividly in fact) what it was like to be a kid.
I remember those awkward moments of wanting to talk to my mom about something important, possibly even controversial, and being so overcome with nervousness that I could feel the anxiety wash over my body.
I remember being baffled by adults telling me to “grow up” in one breath, and “stay in a child’s place” in the next.
My goal as a parent over the last 10 years has been to empathize with my daughters’ childhood experience — the now — and guide them to their desired future. It’s empathy that helps me to keep a fine balance on the parent-friend spectrum (I know, there are some of you who don’t even believe kids and parents should have a friendship, but I’m not one of them.)
When I had the opportunity to write for PhillyVoice about motherhood, I wanted to use it as a way to not just share my voice as a parent, but to also share the voice of my eldest daughter, Arionna. After all, she is the one who made me a mother.
There’s no real way to prepare you for my 10-year-old daughter, Arionna. She is a very wise and intuitive little girl. I’m a mother who doesn’t do much sugarcoating with my babies; they’re highly intelligent and I address them as such.
So here’s our first installment of 'conversations with a kid.' I hope you are empowered, enlightened and entertained by it just as much as the two of us were. Think about it, share it and then hold your own conversations with the children in your life.
Syreeta: What are five things kids don’t want their parents to know?
Arionna: No. 1 would be — you don’t want them to know you broke something. Like, say you broke some glass or a toy, you don’t want them knowing that you broke something they paid for. But then again, it’s your toy… but they spent money on it, so it’s kind of not fair.
Syreeta: I can see your point there. No. 2?
Arionna: Things that happen at school. If you get an F or if you got a demerit or something and you didn’t tell your parents, you could get in a lot of trouble for that because either way, they’re going to figure it out! That happened to me. So yeah …
Syreeta: Yes it did, and yes we do!
Arionna: The third thing, now … I know some kids do this — not saying I do — but … if you cuss. I know somebody who cusses and I asked if their parents knew and they said they didn’t and they weren’t even allowed to [cuss]. You definitely don’t want your parents to know you cuss.
Syreeta: But what do you think about that though — the fact that some parents curse in front of their children but then tell their children that they can’t do it?
Arionna: Well I don’t really think that’s fair, but the parent is a grown adult and has the right to do what they want. But then again, how are you going to cuss around your kids whenever you want and then expect your kids not to cuss?
What if it’s times when your kid really wants to cuss, and they remember you do it? So what they see you do is basically what they’ll probably end up doing. “Well you do it, why can’t I?”
Syreeta: You have a very valid point there! What’s another one?
Arionna: The fourth one is having a boyfriend or girlfriend when you’re not allowed to. There was this boy who liked me. He bought me teddy bears, and a phone …
Syreeta: Ugh, I remember that!
Arionna: And you took the stuff! I was like 'DANG!' I just liked him because of the stuff I got, and he treated me right.
Syreeta: I think you just admitted that you had a so-called boyfriend. Chances are, if a kid goes against their parent once, they’ll do it again. Right?
Arionna: Well I’m older so now I know you can’t just go around using boys. I used to just think it was all about the face and cuteness, but now I know you just can’t do all that. Because what I’ve learned from you so far is that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
You can’t judge a boy by what he looks like; you have to flip through his pages — see how he acts and what he’s going through and get to know him [and vice versa]. And then when y’all get done with the entire book, y’all have gone through a relationship, then y’all can get married … and the book is like 500 pages long, so you aren’t getting married no time soon anyways.
Syreeta: Okay and the last thing (laughing)?
Arionna: Well for the older kids, like teens, when they decide to have a boyfriend or girlfriend and then decide to run off and make them their … umm … lover — we’ll say that. I’ve seen it on the news and stuff. Because then they get pregnant and be like, “mom I just put on a few pounds, it’s nothing to worry about” and the next thing you know, you’re in a hospital having a baby! Like, your bladder isn’t even that big so don’t try to lie! Just calm down. Slow down girl. But yeah…that’s probably something teens don’t want their parents knowing.
Syreeta: Ain’t that the truth. So what kind of advice would you give parents to help make it easier for them and their kids to better communicate?
Arionna: Maybe just ask your kid [what’s going on], or see if they’re ready to talk about it, or just waiting. And the other thing is, try your hardest not to cuss around your kids because when they’re at school you don’t know what happens unless you’re told. So your kids could be cussing at school and not get caught — I’ve seen that.
Syreeta Martin is the founder and CEO of Sincerely Syreeta, a start-up consulting firm that specializes in social media, branding and strategic planning.