To Have An Opinion Worth Having

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To have an opinion worth having.

I’ve been thinking about this phrase for a couple days now. My man-child is starting high school coursework in a couple days. He’s four years away from “legal independence.” But, he’s already on the road to becoming a man.

  • He’s taller than me.
  • He’s growing a mustache.
  • His voice is deepening.
  • He’s mentally entering a different realm – that limbo between childhood and adulthood.

And as his mama, I want him to listen to me. (And do what I say, by golly.)

But, I know from having four younger siblings that not every young adult is going to hang on my every word. He’s gonna want to go his own way. He’s gonna make his own mistakes. He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do.

However, as my authority over his choices diminishes, hopefully my influence will increase. Hopefully, he’ll want to know what his dad and I think. Hopefully, we’ll have opinions worth having.

That’s a hard row to hoe. But, I think in many ways, that’s one of the ultimate goals of parenting: to become confidant and counsel to our children as they age. I look to my mom in that way.

We’re to love, nurture, and teach our children. Ultimately  we want them to be healthy, happy human beings who can take care of themselves and care for those around them.

Relationships trump all.

We also want to foster relationships that are mutually enjoyable. That our son would come to us with his challenges and triumphs when he’s 18, 28, or 48 — now, that is an awe-inspiring thought. And so I want to have an opinion worth having.

I’m not talking about being one who “says whatever my kids want to hear.” That’s not it. There are appropriate times to deny our kids things that are not the best for them. Reasonable minds will disagree in a nice way.

I want to be that reasonable mind in loving relationship with my kids. They won’t always be children. And I look forward to sharing a lifetime of stories and experiences with them, not just 18 years.

As I reflected on things that my mom modeled to me and what I’ve observed in my relationship with my son thus far, I came up with several things for me to keep in my brain as I enter this new and uncharted territory of mothering young adults.

I have to remind myself to:

1. Be quick to listen.

As my friend Cathy told me, “Your kids are going to need you more, not less, as they enter the teenage years.” She told me that a little over a year ago, and I’m already seeing the wisdom of having a listening ear and being available to the child who wants to chat. I can’t predict when that will be, so I need to be on my toes.

2. Be slow to speak.

I have always been a blabber mouth, offering unsolicited advice hither and yon. So, this is a lesson for me regardless of who I’m talking to. But, particularly with my kids, I know that talking over them or at them does not encourage meaningful conversation.

3. Consider his perspective.

Even though I’m 39, I still feel 23 in some ways. Despite all my teasing, I don’t really feel old. And it helps me as a mom to have a youthful attitude, to remember what it felt like to be 14, and to be willing to see things from my son’s point of view. Letting him know that I see and understand has been really helpful in our communication. May this continue!

4. Explain my position as I would to another adult.

From the other side, I’m finding that when I treat him as an adult and explain my point of view as I would to anyone else, he makes an effort to understand. We may not be “peers,” but someday we will be. I don’t want to treat him as a child when he is a young man, and so I want to be in the practice of seeing him as a future man.

5. Respect differences of opinion.

Admittedly, this is an area where we both need to grow. We’re both firstborns and we both think we’re right — all the time. And he sometimes makes allusions to that fact — that I’m never wrong. Apparently, we can both grow in humility.

6. Maintain a team spirit.

One day way too soon, my kids will leave the nest and be off on their own. But, I want them to know that I’ve got their back. Even if we disagree or don’t see eye to eye, I want be steadfast for them. And I think that building that team spirit and sense of camaraderie starts now, reminding them I’m on their side, even when I tell them something they definitely don’t want to hear.

7. Accept mistakes and forgive.

I will do this very imperfectly. And so will my kids. I want them to be quick to forgive me my failings — and I want to be that for them. We will sin against one another. We will probably say things we don’t mean. I hope we will also accept our mistakes and forgive one another.

May each of us moms have an opinion worth having.

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  1. Made me cry, my oldest just left home 3 weeks ago, TIME FLIES and your wisdom is sooo true. He is making good decisions and a great kid (even without me looking over his shoulder), it is such a blessing, I am sooo thankful!

  2. I have a 15 year old son and I definitely need to remember to be slow to speak! I always want to say what I think when I really need to listen to everything he has to say first because he might have already worked everything out on his own.

  3. Great thoughts!! It’s so true. Keep the lines of communication open. Not only that, but when they ask you questions that are embarrassing, appalling even, you can’t react, you just have to quietly gather yourself together and press on with the answer, as awkward as it may be.
    Liz is right in that you need to get them alone. My daughter and I did a California trip last spring to look at colleges for 3 days. My husband and son just took their 3rd annual In-n-Out trip. (we live 6.5 hours away from the nearest one). Plus we do coffee and ice cream dates.
    Yes they have opinions and yes you can disagree. I have 2 teenagers and I am loving life right now.

  4. Ah – teenagers. My oldest is 20 and my youngest is 14 so I’ve been through it and I’m going through it now. My son (the 20 yo) was actually quite easy to raise and rarely gave us any trouble but I think all kids go through a phase where you really don’t know what your talking about but they still need to hear your opinions.

    I thought your list was great, a lot of good ideas to navigate these uncharted waters. For me the treating like an adult has been key, as he’s recently experienced very adult situations he’s been willing to talk to me and get my perspective of the situation.

    For those struggling with communication during these awkward years I would suggest getting your kid by themselves and their hands occupied. The best heart to hearts have been when it’s just the two of us and they have something to occupy their hands. I’ve found cooking and cleaning to be the best time for them to open up as well as long car rides. Just make sure that you aren’t distracted and are giving them quality time, they’ll appreciate it and open up.

    Good luck with this stage in your life, enjoy it. You are getting to watch the start of the realization of all the hopes and dreams you had for them when they were babies. If nothing else, ‘this to shall pass’ 🙂

  5. Thanks for the reminders. I am in the same season as you. My oldest is 13; she is becoming more independent and responsible. I try to match her level but at times, I still she her as my baby.
    In the top picture, I love how the expression on your face and of the littlest are identical!

  6. Well, reading this wonderful post has really hit home with me. My son is 21. He has just moved(this week) ten hours away from home. He is an adult with his own opinions. It is very difficult for me to keep my opinions to myself. Everything you have listed from #1 to #7 is the truth. I am here to guide him in a different way now. He still needs me, but he needs his independence too. I am a work in progress. Letting go is so hard, but so necessary. It has hit me this week that I never considered how my parents felt when I left home. 😉 I will pray for you. Please pray for me. Have a Blessed Day.

  7. Thanks so much for these thoughts. My kids are now just 4 and (almost) 2, but this advice is so helpful to consider even now; as the past 4 yrs have passed at warp speed, we will have teenagers in our home before we know it. Last night I listened to the SimpleMom podcast, and I very much enjoyed and appreciated your discussion of the difference between “authority” and “influence.” My husband and I CONSTANTLY consult both sets of parents on a variety of topics and very much value their opinions. I pray that we have similar relationships with our future teenage and adult children. Great thoughts for a rookie mom to consider!

  8. Amen to your post! I heartily agree with every word. I have absolutely loved having a teenager in the house, but it was amazing to me how much he changed at age 13. It was like a switch in his brain. I can’t micro-manage him the way I did when he was young and I insult him when I remind him of the obvious. It’s hard to stop being motherly, but I love this new relationship we have. It’s also a bonus that he can reach and lift things for me. He is very respectful and attentive to real life advice for his future. I hope my husband and I will always have an opinion he deems worth listening to.