jeudi, juillet 28, 2011

The Bait

"I write a lot about myself, and topics that interest me -- but rarely do I go into details about challenging times with my kids. I'm getting into a more sensitive area this time, because I hope that what I'm learning (trying to, anyways) may be helpful to someone else. Also, I have the vague hope that perhaps someday my daughter and I will actually laugh. Even if, right now, that seems about as reasonable as getting published in the Economist. Yeah, I aim high.

She climbs out of the car, spitting fire like the monster from the latest Harry Potter movie. Thank God, Route 401 wasn't backed up too badly this morning, or I might have gone out of my mind.

Her last words, before she leaves for her job as a counselor, are something like: "I know I'm not the daughter you wanted...but you aren't the mother I wanted, either!"

For the past 20 minutes, I have clung grimly to the steering wheel, absolutely determined not to respond in kind. It's been pretty much non-stop -- why can't she live with her father, she and I fight all the time, he knows how to negotiate...

I've heard pretty much the whole thing before. And up until this past week, I could recite to you my whole speech -- the threats, the tears, the occasional tantrum.

We had a script. And, like old Broadway actors in a melodrama, we would stick pretty closely to those lines. Fie on Hamlet's "each man in his time plays many parts" -- just let us do the assigned ones!

But (cue "adult in the room") I'm trying to do something a little differently. It's not because I'm just that intelligent. It's because it's been pointed out to me that reacting (which my kids call "overreacting", WHY is that?) doesn't work. Consequences, structure, predictability -- they do work. Mutual respect - that's not a bad thing to work on, either.

This is called behavioral therapy. I've seen the stats. I know that it has been proven to work. While I'm irked that so far I'm the only convert in the family thus far, I know that it's the best way to get some distance on the guilt I tend to wear as a mantle -- and yes, the disappointment.

If you are in a situation where someone else is baiting you (the workplace, at home, a friend) you might consider, just consider, not taking the bait. Do not try to respond in kind (just meaner), or feel laden with guilt. If you have responsibility, own it, try to do your part -- and then let the other person deal with his or her feelings without using you as a butt for their arrows.

They can only do that if you let them.

Don't give them the power.

That's what I'm learning -- it isn't easy. But, right now, it's the best hope I've got of changing the dynamic between us.

Good luck to all of you engaged in similar work. If you need a virtual hand, I'm here.

2 commentaires:

BigLittleWolf a dit…

I'm there... it's a different tune, same dilemma. Love your analogy to Broadway veterans running through the same script.

And yes, when we manage to bite our tongues and not react - with teenagers anyway - it seems to work a little better.

But God knows, as a single/solo parent, it wears on you. And wears on you. And wears on you...

Gail a dit…

Thanks for sharing this, Elizabeth. Changing familiar patterns is hard, but I applaud your desire to work on it. Further than many people get in their lifetimes.

It smarts a little bit to read as I was not your model daughter in these sames years. I didn't really get a good chance to redeem it before my mother died, but you can be sure I have a whole different perspective on her, and life, today.

Not telling you anything you don't already know.

Be brave!