Candy Allan: When kids turn into people

One of the most fun experiences I’ve had so far as a parent has been watching my kids become people in their own right.

It begins when they’re very little. Slowly, between falling down while learning to walk and exploring underneath tables, they begin to display preferences. This child enjoys green beans while that one clamps shut unless it’s carrots on the spoon. One child bounces happily to a song while another prefers to sway to a different genre entirely.

As they get older and enter school they’re drawn to different activities or social levels — groups vs. one or two friends.

I’ve discovered as kids reach middle school age and teeter on the cusp of becoming teenagers, their opinions suddenly become much more pronounced. Sometimes, world views fluctuate wildly from one point to another as you watch your child try to assimilate the new information they’re discovering at every turn.

And the best part? They’re capable of debating points with you. There’s an awareness of the structure of an argument and you can see them arranging their plan in their head as they talk to you. Very carefully, they will list points A, B, and C with the ultimate goal of “helping” you arrive at Conclusion No. 1.

It’s so much fun to debate and suggest Conclusion No. 2 (or 3 or 4) is really where they were heading all along. Watching my child stop, regroup, consider the alternative I just suggested and reroute back to where he wants to go is fun.

It’s not often you get to watch new connections being made at this age. Not because kids don’t make connections, but in middle school, many of the connections are made away from you. As a parent, you are treated to triumphant revelations as they share their discoveries about human behavior.

I’ve been watching my kids’ reactions to political ads for several years now. In years past, I’d see my offspring favor this candidate or that one based on their ads alone. This year, with the presidential election having been going on for so long already but without any ads running in our area yet, I’ve watched as my children are beginning to listen to the candidates themselves.

“But mom, that doesn’t make any sense. How can they say they’ll do that? The president can’t make such-and-such happen all by himself.”

“I know that.”

“So why do they SAY these things?”

“Well, that’s why you have to think about things for yourself, so you can sort out who you’re going to vote for.”

“Geez.”

With that astute political commentary, focus shifts to something else. But I know the wheels are still turning because I’ll get a question out of the blue later. In the meantime, I just sit back and wait and watch for the next glimpse at the adults who someday will come to visit me.

Let’s be honest, I’ve been making up this parenting thing as I go along ever since my son was born. I know there’s more experienced parents out there and folks with different ideas. Respond to my column by emailing me at callan@pioneergroup.com, and you might see your thoughts in print in an upcoming issue of the Pioneer.

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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