Amma, do you think all life on earth has a purpose?’ I was in the middle of our end-of-day routine: yelling at the children, drill sergeant-style, to tidy up their toys or sleep on a mound of Lego, checking if all homework has been completed and putting in their folders whilst imploring them to brush their teeth before bed.
The question was posed quietly by my ten-year-old as he stared at a small Lego ‘laser blaster’ he’d recently made. It made me stop mid-tirade and look at him. Where the hell had that come from? I’m ashamed to admit it, but a part of my brain was thinking ‘Really? You didn’t want to talk when you came home from school and were having a snack, but now, when I am least prepared for it, you ask me this deep and meaningful question?’ Thankfully, the other half of my brain told the first half to shut up. It realised the importance of the moment.
‘I like to think so. Why do you ask?’ I responded.
‘I just wonder what the purpose of my life is. That’s all.’
Well, I certainly hadn’t expected this conversation at 9 pm on a school night. I’ll admit, I had nothing profound or deeply insightful to share with my child. Just that he had a lot of time to figure it out, and purposes change and even I hadn’t figured out what I was meant to do with my time on earth. I realised how woefully inadequate my fumbling response was at the time. But perhaps he didn’t want or need more than that. Fine, I’m just trying to make myself feel better.
I frequently complain to my children that they don’t tell me anything. Or they don’t tell me enough. That there’s not enough detail in their accounts of the day. Like many parents, I like to read listicles titled ‘Twenty innovative ways to get your children to talk about their day!’ And I’ve tried them. ‘He2019y! Tell me one crazy thing that happened in school today!’ and ‘Tell me something funny that happened during lunch!’ have almost always been met with looks that translate into ‘What are you smoking, woman?’ If my children knew what lighting up was that is. God, please don’t let my children know about recreational drugs yet.But sometimes they come and tell me things. Important things. At moments that seem right to them. At bedtime. While they’re on the pot. Even when they’re in the middle of a meltdown. Boy, that last category really lets out some humdingers. None of which I want to hear.
We can read all the articles we want to about our children and how to get them to open up, get them to read or get them to understand their feelings. But, sometimes the lines just don’t work. Sometimes we have to let them be and just be around on the side. We have to encourage them to talk by showing them that we can listen. Which is so hard. I’m always jumping in with suggestions and ideas and solutions that no one asked for.
I recently read somewhere that so much of parenting is waiting. Waiting in the physical sense, yes. But also, waiting for your kids to come to you.
The writer’s philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me