“You can stop talking, Mommy,” he said as he tucked his tongue back into his mouth and began to play with the car lights above the dashboard. It was drizzling and we were waiting for his bus to pre-k. As we both looked into the rear view mirror to compare how flexible our tongues were, I asked him to look closely to see his tiny taste buds. His chin jutted forward to get a closer look. By the time I mentioned that our tongues have different taste centers, he’d had enough of my lesson.
I love when my kids are smarter than I am. Not necessarily about the tongue or why the sky is blue, but about when Mommy is trying too hard or when what they need is something other than what I am offering. I am grateful for the reminder to back off—to let them be just where they are, whether I like the feedback or not.
A parent of one of my clients said of helping her daughter with her college essays, “I can’t talk to her, she doesn’t want to hear it from me.” I related immediately. In fact, just this morning when I suggested to my 2nd grader that she wear the cozy grey shirt with pink flowers that still had the tag on it, she replied, “I hate this shirt, I hate all my clothes, these pants are too hard to button, why is everything I want to wear always in the laundry?!” Assessing that either she woke up on the wrong side of the bed or as Eloise, I decided that arguing with her about the merits of wearing the clothes we choose ourselves—purchased on her first official shopping spree with Mommy— would not have been of any benefit to her, or to me. Instead, I took a deep breath and quietly helped her out of the hateful clothes into something of her choosing. We made it to the breakfast table where she emerged as my offspring unscathed.
Many teens are similarly triggered by their parents’ mere presence. We are often hard pressed to understand why we are such convenient vessels for their projections, but that is how it has been for time immemorial. The college essay is ripe for such tumult. Feeling pressured to write unique essays in 500 words or less can make some students downright cranky. This can leave parents exposed to an emotional battering for even the most heartfelt of inquiries into their child’s writing process. If this has happened to you, it’s a good time to ask yourself if you are the best person for the job.
I enjoy helping students (who are not my children) complete their essays; it also gives me pleasure to guard their parents against a backlash from their children and instead have them be the champions. The ones that knew when it was time to stop talking and find another way to help their child receive their wisdom and their love. When it’s time for my kids to go to college, I hope I know when to mum’s the word and find alternative ways to help them when they can’t hear it from me. I guess only time will tell.
College essay coaching available through January 15th! For information on private sessions, email feedback, small groups and workshops visit www.naomivladeck.com.