My children are now 9 and 13. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about when to be a hands-on, pro-active parent and when to hang back and let the kids sort through their lives without my overt input. With my 9-year-old-son in particular, I’ve gone from being a regular homework supervisor to rarely checking or pestering him about it. He’s lucky, I’m lucky—we can afford a tutor who meets with him once a week, and that seems to be enough to motivate him and steer him in the right direction.
At the same time, lately, following a report that Adam wasn’t being a kindly friend, I have been taking a more hands-on approach to issues of personal behavior—having regular chats with him about character, responsibility, empathy, and the like. The best way to do this, I find, is to be brief and selective, raising the topic at moments when he and I are enjoying each other’s company. I never really know what sinks in or what he really makes of my chatter, but I will say this: Just the other night, Adam came to me with a proposal to help a friend that was, I thought, very generous and self-sacrificing. I didn’t explore motivation, I just told him how proud I was—and that resonated. Twice that night, he asked me if I was proud of him, as if he wanted to make sure he heard it right. Maybe I don’t tell him that enough? Or maybe it has more currency when I only tell him when I really mean it?
As we enter December, this will have to serve as my contribution to literature of parenting and the holiday spirit. The rest of the issue does a really good job of covering the holidays in many other ways—from all the fun things to do around the city to toy guides and gift guides, from a touching story about how a toy cow saved Christmas to this month’s cover mom, Betsy Brandt, whose enthusiasm and wonderment for a city that’s new to her and her family seems just right for this time of year.
Have A Happy December,