Back when I was a kid, my mother didn’t treat me—conversationally—like a kid.
From the time I was, oh, 8 or 9, she would confide in me. It ran a wide range, from work problems to wardrobe choices. Mom talked to me about drugs and alcohol, about Judaism, about people she liked and disliked. She would fill me in on the weirdness of other adults; stuff most children almost certainly didn’t hear from their mothers.
I don’t think Mom gave this much thought. It was just something she and I had—an open dialogue that, as I got older, allowed me to confide in her without feeling guilty. The first time I tried smoking, I told Mom. The first time I drank, I told Mom. Hell, the first time I had sex, I told Mom (and Dad). Maybe that sounds weird, but it wasn’t. My mom understood me better than anyone else; she also was willing to allow me to make mistakes without killing me for them. Bad grades weren’t embraced, but they were (as long as they were relatively rare) tolerated sans lecture. Cursing wasn’t encouraged, but a “shit” or “fuck” wouldn’t result in a bar of soap in the mouth.
Perhaps this seems like no big deal, but here’s the beauty: I’m now a father of two, and I’m the exact same way with my kids. We talk about everything—jerky adults, bad songs, drugs, booze, curses. I preface often by saying, “This probably isn’t something your friends’ parents talk about with their kids, but …”—and Casey and Emmett immediately perk up, because they figure it’ll be interesting. And it is. Adult conversation, kid involvement. It’s the greatest relationship adhesive I’ve ever seen.
And it comes from my mother.