I don't know what impressed me most. Maybe it was standing in the kitchen while our friends prepared a summer picnic with their 12 & 15 year old kids and the whole family started dancing when a when the ipod shuffled to a well-known song. They danced around each other singing out their favorite lines & giving each other "looks" like they had their own inside joke going on. Or maybe it was when we sat around the table under the trees in the back yard, and the 15-yr old son kept throwing mock punches back & forth with his dad. They joked and teased easily with each other, agreed and disagreed, told stories, shared their favorite music, chatted with us, and groaned together over their most recent trip to visit family out of state. Probably it was when the same 15yr old son leaned on his dad & gave him a great big hug when we were all standing around in the dining room saying our goodbyes. Maybe it had something to do with the way both parents still call their 12yr old daughter, "Princess," and are helping her pursue her interests in performing arts. It could have been the way we all trouped over to the local bike shop together and the people who run the place knew the whole family, and was willing to help out with whatever we all might need.
I don't know exactly what it was, but these people get the Parents of the Year award in my little world. Their kids know how to have a conversation & how to listen. They know how to joke with each other, but also how to look out for each other. They are brimming with humor, creativity, warmth, compassion, and loyalty. The two kids know how to think for themselves and also how to look to their parents for advice. I'm *sure* they're on their best behavior when we're there, but, clearly, the best behavior isn't forced. Their interactions flow naturally and spontaneously.
I admire them. I want what they have. So, I watch them carefully...the few times a year when we really see them. You have people in your life like that, right? People you love dearly, but you only see them once in a blue moon? I'm paying attention, though, soaking up every second, noticing all the little things.
And what have I learned? Really, only this: They seem to really *like* their kids. They don't just love them, they like them. They like to spend time with them. They engage them in conversation, treat them like real people, as, in fact, real functioning members of the family unit. And they've done this for as long as I can remember...for the last 11 years that I've known them. They've always been proud of their kids, they tease them, engage them in family decision-making, help them pursue their own creative ideas, take them along for important things, respect their individuality.
And, they have always used a LOT of humor. Humor is so useful in diffusing situations, in gaining cooperation, in reconnecting when there's been a breech in connection. I, personally, wish I was better with humor. I've always been so serious. It's hard for me to come up with something humorous, especially when things are difficult and painful. I wonder if one can develop humor? ;)
In any case, I'm trying to focus less on how to parent "right" and more on just knowing my kids and enjoying the things I like about them. I wonder how it would help all of us to just have a strong foundation in knowing that people like us? Less focus on behavior and more focus on just who we are as people, as humans, as family.