Posts Tagged 'stepdaughter'

are you not listening?

We’ve had some teenage drama going on in the house with my 15 year old stepdaughter. As a “bonus” mom (my early spin on my role in the hopes of avoiding the whole stepmonster thing) I may have the slight advantage of being the tiniest bit objective. It’s just a little, but in this case a little goes a long way.

In preparation for some of the difficult conversations that have come up, Bubby and I have practiced what he might say. Which has included a whole lot of not saying anything. Understandably, this is hard for him.

It reminds me how important and rare good listening skills are. Creating the space for feelings to be there, not trying to fix, belittle, or bring the focus back to us.

If you haven’t read How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk, it’s a must. It’s not just about talking to kids, but extra bonus if you have them.

If, like Bubby, you don’t have time to read a book, try the following during your next conversation:

1.  Do not respond. I mean, you can nod and make sounds that indicate that you’re paying attention, but don’t offer your opinion, your remedy, your side, your perspective. Get comfortable with silence.

Here’s what happens when I do this with my bonus daughter (BD) — she starts talking again, and then keeps talking, and tells me more than she planned on. I think she also feels less judged and more accepted.

2. Notice what you’re feeling in your body. Do your palms sweat? Is there a knot in your stomach? Do you feel scared, insecure, angry?

Any response we have comes through the lens of our own experience. When I listen to my BD talk about her challenges with her dad, the girls at school or drama with boys, my response is at least in some way colored by my own experiences with my parents, my high school days, my friends and heart breaks.

Once I remember that and feel the reaction in my body, I can offer a more appropriate comment when necessary. But it’s rarely necessary.

Imagine yourself with big, soft ears. Catch all of the dreams and fears and truths of the person sharing and hold them there — perhaps vulnerable or incomplete, perhaps joyful and trembling.

photo credit

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Put it in a box

Wow. What a weekend.

Friday fight with husband. (Ouch)

Saturday I-clean-best-when-I’m-mad-fest. (Yay)

Sparkle fairy non-staff meeting at 4. Went so great. Record attendance, folks engaged and excited. (Yay)

On to finale of Vision Mapping party with Madeleine and Tami. Awesome and revealing. Exposed a few layers under the surface of comfort level and deepened already wonderful relationships. (Yay)

Sunday hangover from staying up past 10 pm. (Ouch) Taught class and felt connected and present. (Yay)

Picked up by husband (still in fight mode- Ouch) to then pick up stepdaughter from sleep over. Huge drama ensued because stepdaughter had snuck out of  house at 1 am and rode about 3 miles on bicycle with a friend to a mystery destination.  All the things that “could have” happened. (Ouch)

Sunday birthday celebration plans for stepdaughter canceled due to you could have been killed drama. (Ouch)

Afternoon book club meeting. Amazing, oddly emotional, and deeply connecting. (Yay)

Evening phone call with my dad. Hadn’t talked to him in over a month. The conversation rubbed a lot of old wounds. Didn’t say what I really wanted to which was, I miss you. I want to know that I’m important to you. (Oouuuuuch)

***

I was journaling this morning and thought of the story of the farmer who has a very even attitude about all of the things that happen in life:

there was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years.

one day, his horse ran away.  upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

“such bad luck”, they said sympathetically.

“maybe” the farmer replied.

the next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two wild horses.

“such good luck”, the neighbors exclaimed.

“maybe” replied the farmer.

the following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg.

again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“such bad luck” they said.

“maybe” answered the farmer.

the day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight a war.  seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by.

“such good luck!” cried the neighbors.

“maybe” said the farmer.

In my rush to categorize ouches and yays, I miss the lessons of, or even the simple experience of those situations. There’s something satisfying about putting a feeling or situation in a box of “good” or “bad.” We feel like we know it, understand it (and hence, control it). But that is an illusion.

So now I sit with a kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions about the weekend. I can hear myself in class: Make room for whatever is arising. Not pushing away or holding onto. Without labeling as good or bad.

Time for a little of my own advice.


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