It’s already July! We are knee deep into summer already! For my family, that means lots of trips to the neighborhood swimming pool to cool off.
And there’s this beautiful moment that happens exactly every 4 hours at our pool… when the lifeguards blow their whistles and shout out “ADULT SWIM!!!”
And all the kids collectively groan as they are forced out of the pool for a solid 30 minutes while only adults are allowed in the water.
And it’s funny they call it Adult Swim, because I’ve yet to see an adult actually “swimming” during Adult Swim.
I know I’m not one to swim during those 30 minutes. No way. I grab my koozie drink and meet my friends out in the middle of the pool for a nice long SOAK. We hog all the noodles and create elaborate floating recliners for ourselves and we RELISH in the 30 minutes of uninterrupted adult conversation.
It’s just beautiful what I have experienced with other parents during that sacred Adult Swim time, simply because there was time and space created for it. Awesome conversations happen.
Sometimes those conversations bring tears to our eyes as we discuss something really difficult our kids are going through. Sometimes those conversations foster great empathy for each other and the unavoidable pitfalls of parenting that we all experience. Sometimes those conversations just bring much needed levity to life by prompting hysterical laughter over summer survival tactics.
No matter what direction the conversation takes, it always goes where it needs to and our 30 minutes end up going by way too fast.
This is the heart behind our ministry to parents at Pulpit Rock. Sometimes we need to blow the whistle and make all of the kids get out of the pool so the adults can have some time and space to process, or learn from each other, or just laugh. This is the goal of every Adult Swim resource event we offer.
A few Sundays ago, just under 20 parents gathered for one of these events.
I brought in David Galvan from Life Network to speak on parenting and mental health. David is the Director for Life Network’s Education for a Lifetime program. This program promotes conversations around relationships and mental health, sexual activity and suicide prevention, and strives to remove stigma around these crucial topics that effect all of our teenagers. David goes into schools and churches all over our city modeling these conversations and advocating for open and honest discussion.
He started out his talk with us by handing plastic, 20 oz. bottles of soda to two different dads in the room as he nonchalantly asked each of them to “go ahead and start shaking that for me if you would.”
We were suddenly each aware of exactly how close to these two dads we were sitting. Everyone kept a close eye on those bottles as each dad proceeded to shake and swirl and roll their soda bottle around on the table as David talked.
David began by asking the group of parents, “When you are really stressed about something, what makes you feel better?”
Responses ranged from “I like space to think it through on my own” to “I need to talk it out with a friend who understands me” to “As long as no one tells me what I should do, anything else is helpful.”
The room was warming up as we engaged in these group responses. And we all agreed how good it feels to just be asked by someone else what is helpful to us during stress.
Attention turned back to the dads bouncing the now very bubbly soda bottles about and we all laughed and felt connected in a silly way. But the energy shifted immediately when David asked, “So how many of you have ever asked your kid that same question?”
The soda bottles got still.
He repeated, “Has anyone here ever asked their child what THEY find most helpful when they are really stressed about something?”
We all stayed pretty quiet and a heavy realization hit me square in the gut. WHY HAVEN’T I EVER ASKED MY OWN KIDS THIS QUESTION?!?! #massiveparentfail
As parents, we feel like we should already know all the answers. And we feel shameful if we don’t.
Asking our child what they need implies we don’t know what they need, and why would any parent ever start there?! We can’t let on that we might not know what we’re doing! Or so we think…
Sometimes that keeps us from really being present with our kids because we talk at them with all the answers we can muster up. I confess I do this a lot, even if my child has not asked me for answers. I just feel like giving answers is what I should be doing!
You know what kills a conversation before it can even get started? ANSWERS.
I can recall many things about being a child and being a teenager, but I can’t recall one time I thought to myself, “I just wish my parents had all of the answers I’m looking for!”
Nope. Not once. And I loved my parents! But that is not what I ever needed from them.
I don’t think any of us would say looking back that we needed our parents to interject all of their answers into our teenage-life’s problems. Because that’s not what kids need.
Kids need a RELATIONSHIP with their parent. They need someone who will come alongside them while THEY try to find the answers they need. They need presence.
Have you ever tried to be in relationship with someone who believes they always have the answers to everything? It’s very difficult. It’s definitely not enjoyable. Why do we think that approach will work well with our kids?
Parents, what if we stopped valuing having all the answers for our kids and we started valuing having all the conversations with our kids and worked on finding the answers together?
I think this is scary to us as parents. It’s vulnerable.
I’ll admit, I have NEVER asked one of my kids, “What is most helpful from me when you are really stressed out about something?”
What a genius and ridiculously easy question to pose. What insight I would gain from really listening to the answers they would give back to me. What a road map I would have ready for the next time they are spinning out about something and my first tendency is to tell them what to do.
We parents ended up spending an hour together during our “Adult Swim” with David that morning. It was incredibly resourceful and encouraging to have had that time to learn and discuss and get to know each other.
And while a handful of things really stuck with me from our time together, the most impactful thing shared had to do with those soda bottles…
About 20 minutes after David had asked those dads to begin shaking the bottles up, he took them back and put his hand on the cap like he was about to open it. We all ducked back waiting for the soda to go exploding everywhere.
But before David opened the first bottle, he asked this question – “What do you think is the best way to open this bottle that has been all shaken up and has lots of pressure inside it?”
We all agreed the best way to do this was slowly and just a little at a time.
And that worked! Just a slow little untwist here and there every few seconds and before we knew it the bottles were open with no spillage at all.
This is how our kids operate because this is how we all operate.
When stress and tension build up, we don’t really handle one big explosive release of all of that very well. Things get very messy when we release stress that way. But when we make time for purposeful, small releases of stress or pain with people we feel safe with, the pressure is manageable. We can even make it go away all together.
That morning we learned some really simple and tangible ways to prompt CONVERSATIONS with our kids around these tough topics so we can be that slow pressure release for them. Little conversations here and there, where we don’t shut them down with our answers but we prompt openness and honesty by letting our kids see those things in us.
We offer a book for parents in our bookstore on how to talk to your kids about sex. It’s called The Talks. And that is such a genius title and paradigm shift for parents – it’s not THE TALK.
It’s THE TALKS.
Lots of little talks, releasing the tension and building relationship a little at a time. This is sooooo much easier than putting all that weight and expectation on ONE talk.
We will continue to offer Adult Swim resource events for parents periodically on Sunday mornings during our worship service hours!
But I wanted to tease another way you will be able to access some of this great parent resource content that Life Network’s Education for a Lifetime program offers…
Near the end of this month, we will be releasing a whole new season of content on our Parent Hub channel on Pulpit Rock Mobile. These episodes will include guests David Galvan and Brittany Riffle, directors at Education for a Lifetime, and will be jam packed with tangible advice and encouragement for your parenting journey. Be sure to tune in later this month!
We can do this, parents! You are not alone.