Learning what your kids teach you.
Although I don't recommend that anyone, anywhere, spend seven hours straight in a car with four children, our journey home from a big family reunion this week was pretty instructive for me.
There comes a point in your tiredness and fatigue when you just say pretty much what's on your mind. The self-censoring, editing-for-niceness part of your brain decides to go have a little rest because it's been on overdrive for about five hours and you're just left with what you really think.
And apparently, one of my children who shall remain nameless, thinks that I talk 'like an old lady'.
"You do, mum. I ask you a question, you answer it, and then five seconds later you add all this extra stuff that's not needed. Every time."
Just to be clear, although this could have sounded cheeky and rude, it wasn't. It was said with honesty and without malice and in an atmosphere of general goodwill. And I don't have a problem with that. I'd rather teach my children that it's okay to have an opinion and express it politely where it's appropriate than deny them the opportunity to learn assertiveness and communication.
For about a second and a half I did think to myself, "I could be offended by this." But then I realised that actually it's true.
Although 'like an old lady' isn't an accurate (or kind) way to characterise the way I talk, I do overtalk when the kids ask me questions. I add extra information that goes beyond their level of interest. And much of the time I do it in a ponderous and unnecessarily authoritative tone.
Sometimes I criticise other people for over-talking. I have a particular theory about older men who are in power or who've had power. For years no-one is really able to tell them to stop talking or show that they've had enough, so they keep on doing it, never realising that they needed to say only half of what's come out of their mouths.
Turns out I'm the same. I'm the adult in power and no-one tells me to zip it. So I don't. And I end up exasperating the kids.
It's been a big challenge for me to talk less this week, to take the know-it-all tone out of my voice and to pull back from adding all those extra little 'essential' pieces of information I think the kids should or could learn. I think it's worth it though, if I end up being more aware of my words.
As an added bonus, I might just end up having better relationships with my children.
I like hearing what my children have to teach me. Of course, they don't always get it right, but then, neither do I.