Have you ever read something that was just what you needed to read?
I finished reading Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck. There is an essay/chapter within it titled “Parenting in Three Stages.”
“Adolescence comes as a gigantic shock to the modern parent, in large part because it seems so much like the adolescence you yourself went through. Your adolescent is sullen. Your adolescent is angry. Your adolescent is mean. In fact, your adolescent is mean to you.”
Back when they looked like this,
I could ask them to make their beds and they’d respond with sweet laughter (even if they didn’t make their beds).
But now, they look more like this:
and if I ask them to do the smallest thing, fire comes out of their ears. They whine. They sigh heavily. They’re angry.
Thank you, Nora, for letting me know their behavior is normal. I can laugh it off now. Kinda.
I was shopping in a clothing store yesterday. I overheard one lady tell another, “Tag these before you put those away.” She said it in a very bossy and unkind way.
The other lady responded in a cheery tone, “Sounds good! I will definitely do that.”
Another command in a cold tone followed: “When you’re done with those, these need to be put away.”
“Got it! I will do it right away. No problem!”
For a second, I wondered if they were joking around. But there was no joviality or levity with the first lady. She was dead serious. The commands continued with the same enthusiastic, positive voice responding. They didn’t share a laugh. It was a genuine conversation with the junior retailer maintaining a positive demeanor.
The cheery saleslady demonstrated true persistence and integrity. Most people react to negativity with more negativity. In remaining unchanged, the lively retailer took responsibility for her own actions and her own feelings. She was unshakably positive. This is what is meant by “non-reaction” (Tolle). This is one of the keys to inner peace.
“Just because I am homeless doesn’t mean I haven’t got a heart, or I’m not human still.”
Stephen Jones, Homeless man who helped victims of the Manchester Arena bombing (Ariana Grande’s concert).
Stephen Jones could have run for safety. Instead, he stayed put amid the chaos of the bombing and pulled nails out of the faces of and arms of children.
Choosing humanity over barbarism isn’t always so dramatic. We can make this choice each day. We can give 100% focus to the person in front of us. We can speak with kindness and patience. We can take care of ourselves (diet, sleep, exercise) so that we are able to give more to our families. We can choose to do better when we know better.
Our family (my husband, two teenager daughters and I) had fallen into a habit of eating dinner together and then retreating to our rooms to do homework, watch TV and write. We were together many hours a week, but we weren’t interfacing much. I longed for that connection, but evening walks fell by the wayside and watching movies together (which we all enjoy!) was not exactly interactive.
Our girls have adopted snarky, rebellious attitudes. It’s normal, but I felt like it could alienate us as parents if we didn’t talk more. The girls once mentioned a fun card game. I logged onto Amazon.com.
20 minutes in and we’re laughing and discussing our answers. Yes, it isn’t exactly “politically correct.” But it’s funny and the girls find it very compelling. The game is hilarious and we all enjoy it. It’s not for everyone – just “horrible people”.
I’ve discussed my trials and tribulations parenting teenagers here and here and…everywhere.
I had a breakthrough today. If you’re reading this and you’re a perfect parent, well, you won’t be impressed in the least. Maybe I’m a slow learner. But this is a true story.
I was walking today and listening Eckhart Tolle. I know some of you think it’s all self-help crap and I’m a lost soul…but I have become a better person for it. Anyway, in this particular recording, Tolled talked about the importance of of “space” and “non-reaction.”
The goal, he says, is to feel at peace. At all times.
Just then, my daughter texted me. “—— can drive me to you.”
“Great,” I respond.
“I need to go home and change and do my makeup and then I need to be back at school by 6:15,” she texts.
“Can —– drive you home?” My boss had a retirement party this afternoon. It’d be quite challenging to drive back and forth.
Tolle continues to talk about the importance of space and non-reaction. If you can, create space between yourself and the angry person.
She calls me. I answer. Good, texting is dumb, anyway.
She talks to me in an angry voice. I can hear a bunch of teenagers trying to talk to her. She gets angry at me because I can’t understand her – she’s talking to me, she’s talking to them…I’m confused.
I ask her (again) if —- can drive her home.
She responds with sarcasm and anger. She sighs heavily, as if it’s so hard to have me as a mom. She talks to me as if I’m stupid. Her words become staccato with anger. I. told. you.
I hang up.
She texts me with more anger. Her answers include expletives. How dare I hang up on her!
I text back with: “If you think you’re going to talk to me that way, you’re out of luck.”
I’m proud of my lack of emotion. I feel the anger, but I refuse to react. Eckhart has my back.
Tolle continues, “Someone may even yell at you and you want to yell back, but don’t.” It’s as if he’s walking with me!
So I don’t. I don’t react. I want to, believe me. I want to remind her whose the mom…but I’ve been down that road before and it never works.
It never pays to engage with her rage.
Long story short, she tried to involve me in an argument. She wanted to place blame. She wanted to excuse her horrible behavior and blame me. I stop her. I re-direct her to make a plan. We make the plan. We execute.
Later, she apologizes. She has not apologized in a very long time…months, even.
I see many painful moments in her future. She will have to learn the hard way, she always has. But that’s OK. I’ll be here.