Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Five Minute Chat....

Every night at bedtime, my ten year old girl asks me the same question. "Mum, can we have a five minute chat?".

This is her way of telling me she needs me to herself for a period of time, without the distraction of homework, electronic devices, chores and most importantly without her doting five year old sister skipping around us like a chihuahua on Red Bull. Truth be told, sometimes it's also a great way for her to delay the orders for sleep but I figure I owe her a little one-on-one given that most of her spare time usually belongs to her sister. And what better way to learn about what is actually taking place inside her world than to spend time talking and listening to her without distraction? It's amazing how much insight I'm able to gain when she's in the mood for conversation. This is where the usual ritual on the drive home from school where I say "What did you do at school today?" and she replies, "Nothing much" is finally abandoned and the real details come spilling out.

The five minute chat originated about a year ago when Miss O was entering a new phase of her life where friendships suddenly became complicated.
Somewhere around the age of nine or ten, girls seem to leap from being little Miss's who play chasey or swing on the monkey bars to being pre-teens who suddenly discover the power of words and how effective they can be in helping to form alliances and the dreaded hierarchy. While I always made carefree assumptions about where Miss O would fit in with her peers and how straightforward her friendships would be, during the early days of the five minute chats it became evident that my assumptions were completely misguided and my assistance was needed to rebuild her confidence given she was sitting solo outside the circle of friendship. This is where you suddenly have to engage your careful and loving counselling skills - yet again, another parental duty that resembles flying that B-52 bomber without the luxury of an instruction manual. The words of comfort and advice spill out and only later are you able to assess whether or not you've caused more harm than good. I guess we'll know soon enough. 

And so, with the inception of the five minute chat (which is really inaccurately named from a time point of view) thus began our journey of discussion about being true to yourself and not trying to be someone you're not in order to fit in. I realised quickly that of course all of her wonderful personality traits that we celebrate at home don't necessarily translate to being universally accepted and embraced at school. But these traits in her are priceless and uniquely hers so quite a lot of discussion has been around being genuine and focusing less on what people think of her and more about nurturing friendships with those who share and celebrate their own uniqueness too. Thankfully there are lots of friends to plug into but I learnt through our chats that one needs to be armed with the tools to engage such friendships at this age and it doesn't always come naturally.

I suspect and hope in the years to come, the five minute chat will remain. While I know the teen years are going to stretch me beyond my already questionable (!) mothering capabilities, I figure an open line of communication will go a long way in ensuring I know what she's feeling and what she's going through at any given time - even if it's me who ends up asking her for the five minute chat. For her to know I'm interested and willing to spend time discussing whatever is on her mind without fear of judgement is what defines the five minute chat and always will.


  1. Oh how I love this post Soph! And don't ever question your mothering skills - please! You are obviously such a loving and engaged mother doing such a great job.

    I too love my little chats with my kids, which unfortunately for me occur on the cusp of sleep, rather than before. But, hey, I'm learning I can't be in control of everything (say what now?) and have to embrace these moments when they come.

    Thanks for yet another beautiful post. x

  2. I remember what I went through at the pre-teen age, girls could be really horrible at that age and I figured that out the hard way. At that age when all of these things start to happen, having a 5 minute chat with your Mum is the absolute best. My son is still only little but I look forward to these little chats too.

  3. I'm dreading when my daughter has her heart broken by friends, every night I ask her if she has anything to tell me, is she worried about anything and then I try and fix it. Love this notion x