CONNECTING WHEN YOU HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON
Posted by Sherry Surratt
I can still picture my daughter Brittainy as a bright, talented sixth grader. She could figure out technology with lightening speed, dribble a ball like it was attached to her hand with a string, and never so much as flinch when a soccer ball came straight at her head. With her dark hair, she took after her dad. They spent hours watching the Women’s USA Soccer team and figuring out a way to build a guitar pedal instead of handing over hard-earned cash for it. I would try to chime in, but their conversation sometimes left me in the dark. Staying up with the newest point guard for the Houston Rockets just wasn’t in my wheelhouse.
I would listen to my daughter with amazement. She was so smart, so talented, so beautiful. I couldn’t have been more proud, but I also felt pangs of frustration. It was hard to find things for her and I to do together that we both enjoyed. I could barely dribble a basketball without hurting myself and my 75-year-old grandmother could outrun me on the soccer field. I once almost singed my hair just standing beside her as she soldered wires together for a guitar pedal board. I liked shopping for shoes. She didn’t. I loved looking in junk jewelry stores. This bored Brittainy to tears.
But I was determined. I devised grand plans of hanging out twice a month, just she and I, mom and daughter nights that would give us time to connect and talk. They weren’t easy to schedule. Between soccer practice, church and school stuff, we had to get creative, but we finally landed on some dates. I planned our first night, a trip to the mall. We could walk around, eat some junk food, and hopefully talk about her friends and school.
I’m not sure where I got my expectations (probably a Hallmark commercial), but compared to the picture I had in my head, the night was a disaster. She didn’t want ice cream. She didn’t want to go into Claire’s and look at purses. I saw a glimmer in her eye when we looked at soccer shoes, but I didn’t know how to talk about the different brands. The night ended in an argument when she asked, “Can we just go home?”
What in the world? She was my only daughter for goodness sake. I couldn’t possibly love her more. So why were our times together so hard? Luckily, I had a mom friend who had walked this same road before me. As she talked, she shared some wisdom I’ve never forgotten.
This one should have been obvious to me but it wasn’t. I was trying to think of things we could do together, but sometimes the first move is just to ask. When I did, Brittainy said she’d like to shoot baskets in the driveway. Deep breath. I stink at anything with a ball, but the barely used sneakers went on anyway. And shoot we did. She sank almost every one of hers. Most times I didn’t even hit the backboard. We laughed (mostly at my horrible aim). She gave me pointers and showed extraordinary patience. Here’s what I learned about my daughter. She didn’t expect me to be good. She just wanted me to be in the circle of what she cared about.
SHOO AWAY THE EXPECTATIONS.
I’m a goal driven person, but I’ve learned that with my kids I can’t force the relationship with expectations that aren’t helpful. Planning fancy family nights or events with my kids where there’s a specific expected outcome is a recipe for disappointment. I’ve learned to let it be what it is. Sometimes we talked about deep things, other times I endured one-word answers and an I’m-so-over-you attitude. Geoff and I still remind each other that it’s about showing up and letting our kids know we love them the best we know how.
NEVER GIVE UP.
I think this is the biggie. Being available and willing to do whatever with my kids, in their time and on their terms, sends a powerful message: I’m not going away. Even when you grunt at me and roll your eyes. I still love you.
There will be moments when you are tempted to do nothing because it feels like there is nothing to do. Keep going. Keep showing up. Keep being there in the moments when they think they don’t want you there.
Today, Brittainy is a beautiful young woman who recently tackled taking a moped apart, cleaning the carburetor all by herself. I wouldn’t know a carburetor if it walked up and introduced itself to me. Brittainy and I may not have a lot of hobbies in common, but we both know this: A great mom and daughter relationship is worth fighting for.
What’s your favorite way to hang out with your kids? How can you do more of it this week?
About the Author:
Sherry Surratt is the Executive Director of Parent Strategy for Orange. She is the author of several books including Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears, and Just Lead! A No Whining, No Nonsense Practical Guide for Women Leaders in the Church. A shoe freak and coffee lover, Sherry resides in Denver, Co with her husband Geoff who is Pastor of Church Planting at Southeast Christian. She has two grown children and two incredibly gorgeous granddaughters.
Posted by Sarah Anderson
Three years ago, when I found out I was pregnant with my second boy, I was relieved. I already had one, so the immediate thought in my mind was, “I got this. I know boys. This will be my oldest son—version 2.0.” But literally, from the moment I was able to feel my second little guy move, I knew he was, in no uncertain terms, nothing like his brother.
Every moment since has confirmed what I suspected then. I may have two boys, but they are their own deal. I have one more sensitive, compassionate, and intuitive. He is a thinker, a learner, a great question asker and a budding evangelist. I have another one whose love language is teasing, whose first word was “go”, who runs and skips more than he walks, who laughs when he falls down and sees rules as more like an opportunity to make a joke than to actually obey.
They are an absolute blast on their own. Together…they are more like oil and water. We get glimpses of harmony, shared giggles, and (melt my heart) handholding. But more often I witness the playing out of a “fun fact” I recently learned of: Brothers under the age of seven fight every seventeen minutes. And it is my personal opinion that when they have been apart for most of the day, they feel the need to make up for lost time when reunited.
It’s exhausting—for me, the adult/peacemaker/referee. But I know it’s exhausting for them too. One wonders why the other won’t just lighten up. The other wonders why it is so funny to disrupt his very involved story telling. I imagine consciously or not, they see each other as so alien and feel to some degree, a sense of frustration. Family is complicated enough—but add in our glaring disparities and the fact that we are surrounded by each other all. the. time—and, the whole concept of family can start to feel like a cruel joke.
But several months ago I read a quote from Jeffrey Kluger that shifted my opinion on siblings from exasperating to endearing. He writes, “Siblings are the only relatives, and perhaps the only people you’ll ever know, who are with you through the entire arc of your life. Your parents leave you too soon and your kids and spouse come along late, but your siblings know you when you are in your most [undeveloped] form.”
He’s on to something. There is something powerful that comes from the sibling relationship. Something that can’t be replicated. The tricky thing is, though it has dizzying possibility, it isn’t a promise. It’s a gamble—it’s a relationship that has to be fought for both now and later—when the kids who share baths, bedrooms, and germs have outgrown the homes they come from and start to create their own.
It would be easier most days for me to let each of my boys do their own thing. To separate out their lives to a level of ease, convenience and quiet that sounds really appealing. Why break up the fight over that toy, when I could just buy a replica so they both have one? Why not hang with one and my husband with the other so both get individualized attention without threat, disruption or annoyance from the other?
That way would be easier.
But I know the quiet I am anxious for comes at the expense of something special, profound and slick—something that could slip away so effortlessly I wouldn’t even realize it until my boys were long grown and gone. The potential for something great. The hope for something lasting. A relationship with each other, in spite of each other, where they may actually manage to like each other.
We can’t force our kids to be best friends. But we can create homes and opportunities for them to learn to appreciate the things that make them maddeningly different and inspiringly unique. We can celebrate differences and facilitate dissimilarities. And we can let them know, always, that as different as they maybe, they are a gift. To us. And to each other.
Now hold on. My seventeen minutes is up and someone is crying.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries.