Double Jeopardy Applies Even When You’re 7
Me: Remember, you can say anything to your doctor. You won’t get in trouble. This is like a free pass for saying stuff.
Riley: Stupid stupid stupid. Can I put up my middle finger? Like Beyonce?
Me: Um, no. Not like that. I mean, you can say whatever but I meant that she’s going to ask you questions and I want you to be honest. And whatever you tell her, I won’t like make a big deal out of or whatever.
Riley: Okay but you said I could say whatever I want. So. STUPID. STUPID. STUPID.
Me: Fine. But will you answer her questions?
Doctor comes in…
Doctor: Hi Riley! You’ve grown up so much! How’s your summer?
Doctor: Are you going to camp?
Doctor: What do you do there?
Riley: I don’t know.
Off to a great start! But the pediatrician was ready. She reworded her question to add today. And Riley answered. And cooperated for the whole visit. She didn’t tell her anything that would change the world and overall, it was a pretty boring visit. But that’s fine with me.
Sometimes this kid tells me all the things. Especially when she’s watching a YouTube kids video about Barbie making cupcakes and I’m trying to make dinner. She’s always all in for that.
And sometimes? It’s all I don’t know. And yes, no, no, no. Even when the question wasn’t some kind of multiple choice. A long time ago, we started sharing one happy thing, one sad thing at dinner. It has helped. A lot. But at 7? She doesn’t want to talk over dinner. She wants to tell us stuff or ask to play Barbie UNO while we eat (the answer is always yes), or getting real serious about (phonetic) Bananagrams. Dinner isn’t the time for big deep vulnerable conversations. We do still share a Happy/Sad Thing, but these days I try to move around when I ask for it. Sometimes in the morning. Sometimes when I’m tucking her in. Sometimes on the train ride to camp. Sometimes when we’re hanging on the couch together or biking or walking somewhere. By moving it around, I seem to hear the most about how the boys were being too rough or one of the girls felt left out and how she swam so hard and was frustrated that they didn’t have enough free time.
But in this house, there’s still one rule about talking: Double Jeopardy. You saw that movie? Okay it was a little different than what applies to a first grader, but around here, you can never ever get in trouble at home for anything you got in trouble for at school. It’s our favorite. Because of our rule, she tells me when she’s corrected for talking too much. She tells me when the kids got in trouble on the bus for not listening and lost swimming time. She tells me that she wasn’t listening either, but then started listening after the warning so she didn’t lose swimming.
By knowing she won’t get in trouble with me, it shows her that I trust the other people taking care of her. I trust her other parent, her camp counselors, her teachers. And yes, I do occasionally check in with them about some of the things she tells me (hello camp counselors playing Pokemon Go on a field trip), but she isn’t in trouble for any of it. She learns that making mistakes is part of building your story and I’m teaching her to tell it. She learns that getting in trouble doesn’t affect how you are loved and cared for. She knows that kids are learning, and adults are too. We’re all figuring it out as we go and it’s way better when we keep talking. Even when it’s hard and annoying and omg stop asking me questions.
I thought this would all get harder as she grows up, but so far, we’ve worked hard on building a foundation of communication that has actually made it easier. For now, it’s about who wasn’t listening, but eventually it will be about who was swearing, and then who was drinking or talking about hurting themselves or someone else. We can’t do that without this. We can’t be ready for the big kid hard stuff if we don’t start early with the little kid hard stuff. And oh boy is it sometimes hard. Age 7 is no joke. But we’re here for it always. For the happy things and the sad things. For the everything in between. For mixing it up and listening and laughing and doing the work of growing together. I’m all in for that. Always.
This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org. I am working with them as a #TalkEarly blogger this year to help them “Empower parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.” Let’s all do that. Because that totally rules.