Have you ever thought about what it must be like to be a kid experiencing the world for the first time? If you’ve ever been in a foreign country you remember the feeling of looking out the window and there are signs with symbols you’ve never seen and letters that seem to be pushed together to form some word that has meaning to everyone else but you. Then you see that everyone seems to be behaving in similar ways but you can’t seem to fall in line. Maybe you don’t want to fall in line. Maybe you want to rebel! Or you wish they drove on the right side of the rode and followed the appropriate amount of personal space, and didn’t talk so loudly or so quietly. You wish they were like the people in your own country.
I’ve been thinking about how a kid might encounter our world and its unspoken rules at each developmental stage with newfound awareness/confusion. We assume they will fall in line with our mini-culture in our family. We try to speed through the “learning” then “modeling” process that is our job as parents. When they learn to talk we are surprised, sometimes irritated when they speak too loudly. They scream their new words happily in the car, but then they do it in the middle of church. We forget they don’t know the difference between the car and a nice restaurant.
When they begin to have an opinion, they get to have choices. They choose their shirt for the day, they choose what drink to order. But then they think they can choose to paint on the wall too! Right? We forget they don’t know there’s a difference between those choices.
Oh lordy, what about puberty? When they begin to open their eyes to romantic relationships. This has to be like visiting the Italian Riviera for the first time, having never stepped foot out of the monotonous suburbs! They see everything in brilliant emotional color. We forget they’ve never experienced this kind of admiration, love, infatuation- even if it’s just with their own reflection! The newness of all the hormonal firsts is all consuming.
We forget that at the beginning of each of those developmental stages they get saturated by the newness. They don’t know the rules and boundaries. It’s our job to show them without judgement. Give grace. And Model! Maybe we can relive some of those moments with them. The firsts. The firsts that cause all the conflict in a family and cause us to set new limits as parents. But the firsts are where they stretch their legs and grow into the humans we hope they will be. And isn’t it exciting!?