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“Huh.” It’s a Complete Sentence and Will Revolutionize Your Relationship With Your Teen. (I Swear.)

For me, having my children become teenagers was like having a cherished family pet die. I had been so accustomed to the presence of sweet, happy go-lucky kids that the intrusion of unexpected and prolonged silence was unexpected. No more jumping up to see me when I came home from work. No more following me around the house. Granted, there was less whining, but a lot less sprinting for joy at the site of my mediocre cooking.

With teenagers came aloofness and quiet.

The change felt jarring.

And sad.

And for this mama who – despite trying really hard not to be a helicopter mama – still swelled with joy at every little milestone, it felt terribly lonely.

All the prep in the world couldn’t have prepared me for my 13-year-old / size 13 shoe wearing boy turning me down for In and Out Burger this summer. “Sorry, Mom. I’ve got a Minecraft hangout scheduled with the guys.”

All the chats with moms of girls older than mine didn’t ease the blow when my curvy hipped 13-year-old this year started declining watching Mama movies with me. (Apparently Youtube is more exciting than classics like The Breakfast Club or kitshy Brady Bunch re-runs. Who knew?)

While I figured I would make it through the moody “Leave me alone” stage, I wasn’t expecting the “everything you say sucks, Mom” stage. Sure, I’ve read in all those fancy journals about how kids practice on Mom to learn to set boundaries elsewhere, but it still hurt.

And, despite my best efforts to let it roll off my back, I sometimes hurt them right back. Door slam for door slam, verbal insult for verbal insult, the three of us had some pretty exciting car rides. The most fulfilling were always on the way to church. On route to being holy, we held each other hostage within locked doors, each one-upping the other’s statements in a vicious attempt to win an argument over who made who late.

If I had to put it simply, all that “relationship over being right” theory sounded good until they developed body hair. And then it all went to crap, along with my hopes of ever being close to them again.

Until last month, when my daughter locked herself in the bathroom on Halloween, and my world forever changed. While I hadn’t tried to cajole her out the door to trick or treat with her brother and bestie, I did attempt to insert my opinion when the whole ordeal was over.

“What’s your part?” I asked her, after listening to every painstaking detail about why things just didn’t “go her way” and how “unfair it was.”

I didn’t see a thing wrong with my words. After all, I didn’t interrupt her once. I was a good listener. Now was her time to listen so she wouldn’t lose out on future opportunities to have fun. Right?

Wrong.

Pip: “Mom, to be honest, I just wanted you to listen and not say anything.”

For whatever reason, instead of defending my statements (which, come on, were totally amazing points and great advice… saving her thousands of dollars in future therapy) I asked her the simple question, “You mean, not say anything? At all?”

Pip: “Yeah. Nothing.”

Me: “Huh.”

People, did you know “Huh” is a complete sentence? With that very caveman response, I unintentionally broke through the teenage time space contingency and found an oasis of understanding, hearing and safety. Unexpectedly, I heard something that could have blown me over with a feather:

Pip: “Yeah. I would have been open maybe tomorrow, but today I just wanted to be heard.”

And with that last statement, as if by some magical alien implanting a chip, everything flashed before my eyes, including a resolution:

  1. If I just stay silent, she’ll tell me more.
  2. If I ask if I can give an opinion first, she’ll feel more respected
  3. If I don’t ask and just give the opinion, she might not be listening anyway
  4. Unless what she is saying to me is directly affecting me, my schedule or my life in a negative way, there’s no need to say anything at all.

NOTE: Pay most attention to #4 – it helps in the heat of battle to know when to lobby a missle or flee.

As if to hit the nail on the head even more, my son asked his sister the very next day, “Hey, Pip, do you mind telling me what happened? Only if you want to?”

She did. In the same painstaking, blow by blow, OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP detail.

His response, “Ahhh. That must have been hard.”

Her response: “Yeah.”

His followup: “Want to play Minecraft?”

Her response: “Let’s do it.”

Done.

The End.

The real takeaway: Saying less really does mean more in the life of a teen. 

2 more things

  1. Since Halloween, I’ve used the word “Huh” more times than I can count. And it’s been more peaceful in this house than it’s been in a year.
  2. My son will be 15 next month. He’s 6’3, wears a size 14 shoe, and eats more than large farm animal. (Oh, he hasn’t eaten animals in a year, either. In addition to being psychologically more in tune than me, he’s also a vegetarian.)

Ask me how little Stink is now bigger than my fridge? You’ll only get one response so I don’t cry.

“Huh.”

 

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My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB.

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That Time I Got Fired from the PTA…

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Okay, I wasn’t really fired a few months back. I was just told, by text, that perhaps I might be a better fit in a big picture role. “One that doesn’t require you losing important files and actually being able to make planning meetings with the rest of the moms who, well, actually not only remember to post things before they are due but don’t take home 3-ring binders full of volunteer sign-ups and only return it when reminded about it two weeks later.”

In truth, the person who texted me did not say that last part. She was more than gracious. Her words, in essence, said, “I’m thinking we should find a better role for your talents before your challenges become a problem.”

My ego: “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Who needs you!”

The reality… the really hard, “Crap I hate to admit it” truth: “Thank you. You saved me… and everyone else… a ton of headache long term.” She even sent me a Brene Brown book with a very sweet note attached. It was touching and only reinforced more that sometimes pride must be put down. Friends don’t let friends make butts of themselves. As J.K. Rowling says in the first Harry Potter, ““It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” – Albus Dumbledore.

Magical vs. Miraculous Thinking

Similar to a lot of things in life, I like the idea of stuff a lot more than I like the reality of it. Ex – Magical Thinking: My after-work life is going to include hob-nobbing with  vegan moms in pencil skirts wearing amazing yoga pants and washing down GMO free delights with organic wheat grass smoothies!

Ex: Miraculous Thinking: AKA Reality: My after-work life will include powering through post-school meetings (if I even show up at all… my kid is in eighth grade… we’re both over it) to show up early for 12-step meetings where I can huddle over really bad dark coffee with other moms like me, laughing about our fantasy thinking (the more screwed up the better!) and feeling like I’ve arrived – finally – at the right watering hole.

Lest it comes off like I’m some nut job who can’t get my act together, let me be the first to say that it’s far that. Instead, I’m finally starting to see who I am: I’m not better than anyone else or worse than anyone else. I’m right in the middle where the grace lives. Where I can wade and sometimes splash in the beautiful, messy and ridiculous waves of, “Well, that was a disaster but at least I tried!” It’s so much better than sitting on the shore watching everyone else surf (or drown.) And If I’m lucky, I might even score a free beach ball.

God is great – because He lets you practice your thinking over and over… and (in my case) over again!

Today, as I drove home from downtown Los Angeles, I had an opportunity to choose magical vs. miraculous thinking. Once again, a job I thought I had in the bag – one that would be really good for my family – didn’t work out. I was offered the opportunity to do something else – one that would require I go back to school at night.

At first I was honored and my brain started to spin with the oh-so-familiar, “What if this is the life-line I need? What if this is God telling me to put down the writing for a bit and go for the safe route? I could decorate my classroom like the Magic School Bus? I could learn how to play the guitar and buy cute shoes with school books on them. And I could face my fear of angry parents during I.E.P. meetings!”

But, to quote one of my favorite lines from Moonstruck, “Playing it safe is one of the worst things a girl like you can do.”

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What if my whole life I haven’t actually been hitting road blocks from trying? What if it’s been from trying too hard to play it safe? What if, like so many dreamers out there, God might just have me exactly where I am? Finishing up that book proposal… working on that movie idea next… coming back to this blog… going to my 12-step groups… going to church… and remembering that who I am, exactly at this moment, is exactly where I’m meant to be?

And with the right Good Will find, a 1960’s pencil skirt might be in my future yet.

What’s up with you all!?

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(Brene Brown talks a lot about having the courage to fail. Quote idea from one of her Ted Talks.)

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB.

book front and back