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A Positive Change Between Generations

Photo by: iStock

The scenes from my childhood include dads sitting in a room in lazy boy chairs, with a newspaper in hand while watching the tv, and moms worked in the kitchen preparing dinner. In the 70’s and 80’s, I didn’t have personal relationships with adults. Back then, adults and children lived in two different realms. There was a perpetual solid boundary line which conveyed the message of separation. Parents remained behind the barriers of their own kid-free areas, while the kids were expected to occupy themselves away from them.

I have no memory of spending time with any of my friend’s parents, and I’m certain none of them had befriended mine. The only conversations I remember having with adults, usually began with, “Can I please… Mrs. Johnson,” and ended with a “Thank you for… Mrs. Johnson.” The interactions were short, awkward, intimidating and formal. I don’t recall ever having a full heart-to-heart conversation with an adult about personal thoughts or feelings. There seemed to be no interest or engagement on either side- that was simply the norm.

Perhaps I was raised in what some people deem ‘old-school conservative’ parenting, where there were no blurry lines of casual talks or group gatherings. And thank goodness growing up is so very different today.

As I get older and parent my own kids, I have become increasingly aware of the significance of those times. I’ve been reminded of this detached upbringing as I naturally continue to change the scenery with quite the opposite. I simply can’t have children around me without wanting to know them, interact with them, play with them, and engage with them in a variety of ways. Maybe it is my line of work, as a therapist, a teacher, or youth leader… but I would guess it isn’t just my profession. I see it everywhere now. In many homes.

These connections have changed the parenting landscape for the better.

Adults connect with kids all the time as families and friends come together for events and parties and activities. There is no concrete line marking the two territories. It’s a rather blurry, chaotic, beautiful mess. Play dates are integrated, as kids often feel completely comfortable hanging with the adults and vice versa. I see adults forming trusted relationships with other kids; I too have been able to open my home and my heart to kids who have crossed my path.

As kids get older, they may want their own time away from the adults. But the invitation seems to always be assumed. And the adults could stand to have some of their own time without kids too. It happens. But I still have older teens and twenty-somethings reaching out to connect with me for guidance, help or simply time together. It’s rather lovely.

Each year, I discover that I have purposefully broken that barrier and created an open door for many kids to step through to my side. I want my children, and their friends, to feel welcome to engage with me. I pray it continues.

Cultivating this integration is critical for our children, for so many reasons.

The adults from my youth had no impact on me. I was never offered the opportunity to discover life lessons they could have taught me. My friends and I were on our own, and we could have used a fun and friendly adult to step in and guide us through those years. We had to answer our own questions about life and all the gory details. I wonder how differently it would have been if we had opened those borders?

As I listen to the personal stories of many kids and young adults in my life, I want to invite them into interactions that could help guide them toward creating their own path. Perhaps my history and my perspective can teach them a thing or two.

Surely, there are appropriate boundaries that must be considered in these adult-child relationships, and I have witnessed the pendulum swing a bit too far. There should be clear authority outlined within the engagement. The roles between adult and child are solidified in respect, but shouldn’t be bound in complete segregation. If we are careful to discern what we share, the adult-child communication can be quite beneficial for us all.

I have found great personal joy as well in allowing this boundary to break. Dance parties, talking about boyfriends/girlfriends, sorting through peer conflicts, navigating around hard choices and playing games with genuine laughter and excitement are the great opportunities our parents missed out on.

I’m sure they had their fun with their adult friends, and sometimes, that cocktail party without the kids under foot sounds heavenly.

But I’ll take the messy madness of it all any day.

Do you invite children into your world?

Chris Carter is a SAHM of two pretty amazing kids. She has been writing at TheMomCafe.com for five years, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration and faith. She is also a regular contributor for Huffington Post. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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