I had dinner last night with a good friend whose daughter is on the cusp of teenagerdom. We were talking about the pitfalls of communicating with kids this age – especially girls – and I told her about one idea I had with Eve when she was 12 that shifted things for us significantly. I swear I wrote about it once before, but I can’t find the post anywhere, so please indulge me if you’ve read it here previously.

When Eve was in 6th grade, we lived about 45 minutes from her school. This gave us ample time to both prepare for and debrief from her days in the classroom and I really appreciated hearing from her for the most part. We had several other girls in our carpool for at least part of the drive and listening to them talk about assignments and teachers and social dynamics of middle school was a real education for me. From time to time, when the other girls would peel off at the end of the day, Eve would sigh and get ready to talk about something that was bothering her.  In the beginning, my instinct was to fix things. I assumed that she was telling me because she wanted my insight and I often interrupted her to tell some story of a similar situation I had endured when I was her age. (Seriously, I’m cringing just writing that – what the hell was I thinking?) Not surprisingly, she often got frustrated with me – both for the interruption and for turning the attention to myself. After a few outbursts over a few weeks, I realized that if I continued to react to her in this way, I was going to shut her down and she wouldn’t likely tell me anything about her rough days anymore. So I created a shorthand.

As soon as she would start to talk about an unpleasant experience, I would ask, “What do you need from me right now? Is this venting, do you want my opinion, or are you asking my advice?”

More often than not, she was simply venting and when she replied in that way, it gave me permission to relax and simply listen. I didn’t have to get caught up in the emotion of it and rush to find solutions because her definition of venting was simply to release the negative feelings and move on. I was performing a valuable function by being there and receiving the frustration, often only nodding my head or murmuring a supportive sound.

From time to time, as she wound down, she would change her mind and ask for my (short) opinion, and occasionally she wanted to know what I thought she ought to do. More than anything, this shorthand gave her the control she wanted and let me know what my role was. My overriding instinct to be the mom and fix things led me to rush in and annoy her, and by asking her what I could do that felt the most supportive, I was sending her the message that I believe in her ability to take care of things herself, or that not everything needs to be taken care of. Sometimes what we really need is to just let go of the day and move on.

Now that Lola is older and struggling with many of the same things, I have begun using this strategy with her as well. Advice, opinion or venting? And, true to her nature, she has kicked it up a notch. The other night, she was helping me prepare dinner, she began venting about something that happened at school. I stood next to her quietly listening and taking it all in with the occasional nod of my head to make sure she knew I was paying attention, but when I didn’t say anything for a while, she raised her voice a bit,

“Mom! You need to be on my side! You can’t just listen when I vent, you have to say that you’re on my side and you see what I mean. Even if you can see the other person’s side of things, when I’m upset and venting, I need you to be fully on my side, okay?”

I had to laugh. I told her that I am ALWAYS on her side and she nodded. “I know that. But you need to say it when I’m venting. Something like, ‘you’re right – I’d be upset too.’ ”

Duly noted.

Bubba and I are raising two very strong girls. We can’t take all of the credit, to be certain. There is some part of each of them that is just that way – they were born strong and stubborn, I’m sure. But we have done our level best to offer them opportunities to share their ideas and express themselves, to find their voices and the places where they will be heard.

It is a pretty awesome thing to behold most of the time.

We encourage them to think about the things we take for granted, challenge the status quo.
We have told them that their opinions deserve to be heard as much as anyone else’s (so long as they aren’t nasty or hateful or shaming).
We have listened to their point of view and had some very spirited discussions and, a time or two, we have capitulated to them – realizing that they had a valid point.

This weekend, as I listened to the two of them have argument after argument over the most mundane of subjects (what the actual lyrics to that song are, whether a particular shade of nail polish is ugly or not, where the best tacos in town are), it occured to me that they are both really good at speaking up and making their point. I was annoyed but not alarmed at the constant bickering, because I was fascinated by their individual tactics and pleased that it never descended into physical violence.


It is far beyond time that I started teaching them about choosing their battles. Being good at convincing others can be a good thing, and winning arguments can be as well. But I realized that they may not understand how fast people who aren’t their family will run if every interaction is a contest of wills. Bosses and romantic partners probably won’t appreciate how good Eve and Lola are at using their voices if they are used with equal fervor when it comes to what’s for dinner and whom to vote for.

They are well-versed in standing up for what they think.
Now it’s time to learn WHEN to do it.

Wish me luck.

It has been a busy time. Bubba was in Australia on business for a week (yeah, I know) and I’m getting  the word out about The SELF Project and attending high school musical productions and basketball games and feeding kids and doing my best to make my way through the state health exchange and all its software glitches that leave them asking me to verify my 12-year old’s monthly income (seriously) or telling me that Bubba’s social security number has fouled things up and it might be a few days before they can fix it….

In the last week I also made the final edits in the chapter I wrote for a new book called “Mothers and Food” for Demeter Press and prepared for a town-hall style meeting with the Surgeon General here in Seattle that took place on Tuesday. I spent yesterday writing a lengthy description of the meeting after it went oh-so-disappointingly (politics ruled the day, to put it mildly). My girls are in the rut they get into every so often that pits them against each other in all ways big and small and leaves the grit of discontent fouling every surface in the house, and this lack of Winter we had here in the Pacific Northwest has sent my seasonal allergies into a tailspin three months early.

So all of that could have made me a little on edge. Perhaps. Maybe just a little bit overwhelmed and irritable. And I’m definitely mindful of that, noticing the extra bit of tension I hold in my chest and stomach and jaw and trying to be curious instead of reactive. Measuring my responses the best I can.

If you read my last post, you know that Lola, my youngest and generally affectionate and engaged child, has recently discovered the joy of hanging out in her room alone, either texting her friends or playing guitar or watching goofy YouTube videos. When Bubba was gone last week and Eve was constantly either in rehearsal or performing in the musical, I felt her absence keenly. And while I got a lot of writing done and read two books, I was sad that she doesn’t seem to want to hang out or go for walks with me anymore right now.  I remember this stage with Eve and I know that it isn’t about me. I also know it won’t last forever, but it still sucks.

Last night we were all four in the house at the same time for the first time in over a week and I enticed the girls down to watch Modern Family. Eve took the recliner and Lola sat in the kitchen having a snack while Bubba and I sat together on the couch. Pretty soon, I realized that we were the only two laughing at the show and I looked over to see Eve texting someone and caught Lola doing the same thing from the table behind us. I may have forgotten to be mindful of my feelings at that point. I may have succumbed to the sadness and frustration and made some sarcastic comment about how nice it was to have us all do something together.  It may have gone over like a turd on a dinner plate. Yup.

This morning as I drove Lola to school, I did it again. “Hey, you did a nice job straightening up your bedroom last night, dude…….” I paused a beat, “Even if you were totally ignoring us afterwards while we were trying to have some family time.”

“Geez, Mom. I get it. You said it four times last night and it pissed us off then. Did you think saying it again this morning was going to be any better?” (This was all said in a very calm, very kind tone of voice, lest you think Lola is the most insolent, rude child on the planet. You should also know that on more than one occasion, I have praised this child for calling me on my BS – if I try to shame them or guilt them into something, if I tell them about the dangers of using superlatives and then turn right around and use one myself, etc. So I have only myself to blame if she continues to point out my inconsistencies.)

I took a deep breath. Or four. I thought about what it was like to be a teenage girl and how my bedroom and my friends seemed like the only safe haven. I thought about how much I hate it when people are passive-aggressive with me instead of just saying how they feel.  And then I spoke, “You’re right. I’m sorry. I will try to do better. That was a pretty back-handed way to give you a compliment. You did do a nice job on your room and I appreciate it. And I miss hanging out with you even if I know it’s perfectly normal for you to be doing what you’re doing and it will pass.”

She looked at me, nodded her head, smiled, and flipped on the radio.

“Thanks, Mom.”

According to some, I “rescued” my 14-year old today and I shouldn’t have.  Ironically, one of the first things I saw on my Facebook feed this morning was an essay in Brain, Child that spoke to this exact issue and would probably have placed me squarely in the camp of “helicopter parent.”

I beg to differ.

As a child, I was fully indoctrinated into the world of toughlove. The world of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “learn to succeed on your own.” And, largely, I benefited from those lessons – the teachers who let me puzzle through challenging lessons without giving me answers, my dad refusing to bail me out when I got myself into debt because I didn’t think ahead, other adults in my life who showed me they believed in my abilities by not stepping in to forewarn me of some misstep I was about to take.  But there were times when I would have done much better knowing that I had support, times when I believed that independence was tantamount to connection and that being able to take care of myself was more important than asking for help. It would have served me very well to know how to even gauge my own thresholds, to know how to assess when I was out of my depth and needed a lifeline. Instead, the message I internalized was that I needed to be fully self-sufficient.

One morning a few months ago, I stepped in to the quiet halls of the school my daughters attend.  The students were all in classrooms, the sunlight streaming through the windows and bouncing off the shiny locker doors. The receptionist sat at his computer typing away with the dean of staff hovering behind his shoulder. They both looked up in surprise as I tugged on the front door, needing to be buzzed in.

“Lola left this on the printer this morning,” I waved a sheet of paper in the air in explanation. The dean rolled her eyes and shook her head at me.  She would have preferred that I let Lola twist in the wind, that she learn a difficult lesson about remembering her own homework.  I felt a wave of shame and defensiveness begin to rise up in my belly but I blocked the words before they sputtered out of my mouth. I turned to the receptionist, kindly asked him to hand the paper to Lola at the next break between classes, thanked them both, and left.

Since that day, I have shown up at the school maybe once or twice to drop off basketball shoes or a hastily-prepared lunch for one of my girls. I will defend those decisions unequivocally and here is why.

As an adult, I cannot claim that I never forget anything at home that I ought to have had with me, despite the toughlove lessons I received as a child.  As an adult, I have the ability to return home in my car to get the things I forgot or use my debit card to purchase my lunch on the fly.  My children do not have that option available to them.  On more than one occasion, Bubba has called me from a business trip to plead that I stop by the dry cleaners to pick up his suit because he totally forgot to do it before he left and he will need it as soon as he returns home. Should I refuse him this kindness in an effort to “teach him a lesson?” I think not. And I won’t do that to my children, either.  I refuse to let Lola go hungry at lunch in order to impart some false sense of wisdom.  Instead, I will offer them the same courtesy I hope my loved ones would extend to me in my time of need.

There are obvious exceptions, and if there is a pattern of behavior that I think needs to be dealt with, I will of course address that in a different way, but it makes me crazy to envision a world in which my daughters are taught that they are the only ones responsible for every detail of their lives.  If that were true, we would all live in a house where we only did our own dishes and nobody else’s and we wouldn’t be able to count on each other to remind us of important events when our brains (and calendars) are overloaded.

Some of the examples of enabling the author called out in her essay felt to me as though they were oversimplified in the making of her point.  There is a difference between ‘rescuing’ our children and teaching them life lessons that will serve them well one day.  I long ago stopped doing all of my girls’ laundry for them, but if Eve has hours of homework to do and her basketball uniform needs a 12-hour turnaround, I’ll offer to help out if I have time. I don’t pay the girls’ library fines if their books are overdue, but when I realized that it was getting to be a problem, I offered to help them brainstorm ways to make it easier to find and return books they had checked out.  Instead of letting them believe that there are only two solutions (Mom does it or I do it), I hope I can teach them that we are all in this together and that makes it a better world for everyone.  Yes, they are ultimately responsible for their own stuff and their choices and behaviors, but there are times where you just mess up and other times when you can’t solve the problem all alone.  I know that the only thing stopping Eve from zipping home to get her own running shoes and socks today at lunchtime was the fact that she isn’t old enough to drive. Given that we live five minutes from school, I have absolutely no problem heading down there to drop them off because I think the lesson here is that I’m willing to help her out when I can. I would rather raise my kids to be compassionate team-players than super-responsible, hyper-independent individuals who refuse to help someone find their misplaced keys because “it isn’t my problem.” I would rather raise them to know that it’s okay to be human and ask other people for help occasionally, that getting assistance doesn’t lead to dependence and lethargy and laziness.  Most of my early adult life was spent pushing people away, feigning that I was capable of handling anything that presented itself. While I felt a great deal of pride in my accomplishments, I was also scared of the next thing that might come along that I might NOT be able to deal with and I was pretty damn lonely.  It feels a lot better to know that someone has my back and if my kids learn that I’m there for them when they can’t do for themselves, I will be able to sleep soundly at night, whether or not you label me a “helicopter mom.”

There, I said it. It occurred to me yesterday that this is what that feeling is, but it took a while to say it. I tried to couch it in different terms like “intimidated” or “nervous,” but it turns out I’m afraid of her.

She isn’t violent or mean, physically abusive or bullying in any way. And even if she were, she’s petite, so I could totally take her.
She is … well, certain.
Fiercely independent.
This child taught herself to walk. Bit by bit, methodically and with a decided refusal of assistance from any other human being, she pulled herself to standing, shimmied along the couch on her own, practiced standing in the middle of the room to catch her balance. For days she seemed on the verge of walking, but made certain she could do it without incident by standing and clapping one day, standing and waving her arms another. It is the same when I’m in a yoga class working on eagle pose, starting with the arms and then lifting one leg to wrap around the other. Once I’ve got that steady, I center myself and lift my gaze molecule by molecule to ensure I won’t fall. Eve did that with walking. Two weeks after she had begun standing and perfecting her balance, she took a few steps. She practiced sitting down slowly so she wouldn’t topple over. She never fell. She was not one of those toddlers you see with bruises on her face and arms because she was overconfident. She didn’t have that drunken gait most eighteen-month-olds do. She took it slowly, step by step on her own and worked it out.
She also potty-trained herself and refused all offers of help. When she was learning to read, she was adamant about not letting me look at the book with her. We had to sit cross-legged on the floor, facing each other so that I could only see the cover of the book and she read out loud to me if I was lucky.
The day she noticed that the neighbor kids all rode their bikes without training wheels, she banished me to the house after asking me to remove hers. She put her helmet on, pushed her bike out to the cul-de-sac, and fought that thing for 30 minutes. I know because I was hiding under the living room window stealing glances every once in a while. She fell, got up and tried again. I knew enough to not go outside and offer assistance. Even then I was afraid. Not that she would get hurt, but that she would be angry with me. From the day she was born, Eve has known somewhere deep in her soul that asking for help means she can’t do something herself. That she isn’t capable. God I hope I didn’t somehow instill that in to her DNA. That’s what I was taught by my parents. Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
She did it. And the entire neighborhood heard about it when she began whooping with joy as she rode that tiny bicycle back and forth like it was Seabiscuit in the Kentucky Derby. The smile on her face was absolutely the best thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Pure pride. Joy of accomplishment. Triumph.
And so we come to middle school. Where she struggles to convince Bubba and me that she is an adult. She can handle it. She understands more sophisticated inside jokes now and reads more adult books and is certain she knows how to deal with anything that comes her way. But she isn’t. She’s twelve. And offering to help her with anything is throwing down the gauntlet. It infuriates her despite the fact that I spend hours crafting my speeches to her in order to not make her feel ‘stupid’ or ‘juvenile.’ Trying to tell her that I am here to support her in any way she deems fit, not show her how superior my intellect or experience is. It doesn’t matter. She’s not buying it.
I have set up a cozy place in the kitchen for her to do homework while I cook dinner. Bought scented candles to light while she does it. Offered to put on any music she likes and ban Lola and her boundless energy from the room so we can have a peaceful place to work together. None of it works. She prefers to head straight up to her room and blast Taylor Swift and reappear fifteen minutes later to announce, “I’m done. Can I play on the computer now?” Occasionally, she will admit she is struggling with a particular assignment and, in the same breath, say that she’ll save it and ask the teacher the following day at lunch. Rather than have me sit with her for five minutes to figure it out.
And therein lies the rub. I want her to feel successful. I want her to know that there are many people in her life that she can reach out to. But I want one of them to be me. And it isn’t. And that hurts. And I wish I could say that this is a tween-girl phase, but it isn’t. Eve has always been fiercely independent and stubbornly refused my assistance. I have been rebuffed so many times I am afraid to offer, but I know that this isn’t about me and my feelings. There are times when I am the only person available to her and she is only twelve. We have to find a way to work together without anger or resentment, but I’ll be darned if I know how to do that.
I suppose if I’m being ‘enlightened’ about all of this, the first step is admitting that I’m afraid of her. Okay, did that. Now what?

On the way to school yesterday, Lola started complaining about her loose molar. She has one left to lose (yes, she is only nine, but both of my children were precocious about getting and losing teeth) and it is at that hanging-by-a-thread point that is making her nuts.

Eve used to love having wiggly teeth. She would push them back and forth, back and forth with her tongue and her finger, working it and working it to see just how precariously she could get it to cling before it fell out. She delighted in disgusting friends and family by pushing the tooth until it was perpendicular to the others in her mouth.
Lola was terrified of losing teeth. And I didn’t help. Her first tooth began coming loose when she was five and in Kindergarten. Every day she would complain that it bugged her to eat with it like that and at bedtime she would cry in fear that it would come free in her sleep and she would swallow it or choke on it. Day by day it got more and more loose but she was afraid to touch it or let anyone else touch it for fear that it would rip violently from her mouth and she would bleed to death. Despite Eve’s repeated efforts to calm her by telling her it didn’t hurt to lose a tooth and my lectures about it being totally normal, Lola became increasingly hysterical as the days wore on.
One afternoon as I passed by the playground where Lola was having recess with her class (I worked in the office at the Montessori school), Lola ran to the chain-link fence and called to me. When I walked over to her, she burst in to tears and told me she was so worried about losing this tooth. I was frustrated and, frankly, done hearing about this damn tooth, so I asked her to open up and show me. As soon as she opened her mouth to its widest point I reached my thumb and index finger through the fence and into her mouth, grabbed the tooth and pulled it out. [It was only holding on by a thread, trust me, it didn’t even bleed.] She jerked away from the fence, her eyes wide in horror and I presented the tooth to her.
“Here you go. Now you don’t have to worry about it anymore, honey.”
I know it was mean. But, honestly, after all of the drama we’d had for over a week about this damn thing, I was ready to show her that it wasn’t such a big deal after all.
She never let me see a wiggly tooth again unless we were separated by a wide table or an entire room. I can’t say that I blame her.
So fast forward four years and I’m terribly relieved she only has one more to lose. I asked her if she still feels as frightened now when she loses a tooth as she did back then.
“Not really, but you have to admit, Mom, the way you talk about it is pretty scary.”
Huh? Turns out she’s right. To a kid, “losing” something is always bad. Losing your favorite toy. Losing your mittens at school. Losing your TV privileges. And so when we say to a kid that they are going to lose a tooth, it doesn’t sound natural. It sounds scary.
“You’re right, Lola! I never thought about that. How else could we say it?”
“I don’t know, Mom. Telling a kid their tooth is going to fall out isn’t much better. Nobody wants to have some part of their body ‘fall out.'”
She’s right. And, ironically enough, by the time you are able to truly understand that losing a tooth is an exception to the rule that losing things is bad, losing a tooth actually would be a bad thing.
So here’s to Lola’s last baby tooth “leaving the nest.”

We have rules when it comes to technology. Unfortunately, sometimes just knowing that leads to a bit of complacency on our part (the parents, I mean). And other times, even those limits aren’t enough to spare us some lessons.

Let me just say that we have two daughters, ages 9 and 12. We have one computer that lives in the kitchen where I spend most of my time, at least when the girls are home. There are parental controls on the computer, but they honestly aren’t clever enough to let the girls use certain sites that are perfectly safe, so from time to time I let them use my logon so they can get around the really dorky restrictions. But only when I’m in the kitchen.

Both girls have their own iTouch devices with a free texting app. Lola, my 9 year old, doesn’t have any other friends who have the ability to text, so she’s pretty much out of luck but it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’d rather play iPhyzzle or Angry Birds, anyway. Eve, the 12 year old, texts her friends all the time and knows that either Bubba or I will perform surprise spot-checks to read text messages on a whim. Neither of the girls is allowed to have their iTouch upstairs without express permission since we have wi-fi at home and these devices can let them surf the ‘net. At night, the iTouches live in the “technology box” on the kitchen counter.

So, yeah, I feel fairly secure.
Until now.

Yesterday I had to run downtown to get the dog from the groomer. Both girls had just arrived home from school and Lola was changing for basketball practice. I decided to leave the girls at home to have a snack while I went out to get the dog – I would be gone for 20 minutes, maximum. The rules were this: no screen time (TV, computer, iTouch), no sweets. I was fairly certain that if either of those rules was violated, one of the girls would rat the other one out. As I was opening the garage door, Eve called out, “Mom, can I just check my email really quick? D was supposed to email me about the assignment we’re working on.”

I gave her permission to check her email. But only that. Again, Lola would take immense pleasure in throwing Eve under the bus if she strayed.

So imagine my surprise when, two hours later, Bubba calls and tells me that Eve has joined some social networking site. HUH? When? How?

It turns out that, while checking her email, Eve discovered a message from one of her school friends inviting her to join this group where they can all socialize. Seeing the email addresses of several other classmates, Eve clicks on the link to this site. She swears she didn’t go so far as to sign up, but somehow as soon as she enters the site, her entire email contact list is snagged by this site and emails go out to everyone she knows, telling them she has just joined this site ( and would they like to, too?

Bubba and I have some questions about whether or not Eve signed up for the site, but that’s not the point. The point for us is that Eve didn’t really understand the implications of what she was doing. Bubba sat with her and showed her around the site, pointing out the advertisements for “Find Hot Local Singles” and “Work from Home” scams. He explained that there are many of these kinds of sites around who use you for your email contact list and are not safe places for kids to build profiles.

Ultimately I am grateful that this happened, if only so that we could refine our guidelines for the girls.
First of all, if you go to a site that asks for your entire birthdate, month/day/year, that’s a red flag.
If, upon determining that you are a minor, it doesn’t tell you to get parental permission, that’s a red flag. (The Terms of Service for this particular site says in teeny tiny letters that you have to be 16 to sign up, but even after Eve’s birth year was entered, it didn’t flag this or disable her account – hmmmm.)
If part of the registration process asks you what your sexual orientation is, that’s a red flag.
If the site offers, as part of its main objectives, matches or dates or connections with people you don’t already know, that’s a red flag.
Before you join any site for any reason, check with Mom and Dad.

Thank goodness this site actually did SPAM all of Eve’s contacts, or Bubba and I might not have discovered what was going on. It’s questionable whether Eve would have actually had the opportunity to use this site anyway, given that the computer is in the kitchen, but I wonder how many of Eve’s classmates have successfully created profiles on this site and opened themselves up to predators of all kinds.

As I sit here writing this, I have a splitting headache that has so far not responded to twice the recommended dose of Advil and I am sporting a grin a mile wide. Yes, you read that right.

I am sporting a grin a mile wide after a Sunday night marathon homework session with Eve. No, she didn’t save all of it for the last minute – just the most complex stuff. And normally, despite the fact that the subject was Science and that is generally my forte, I would have asked Bubba to step in for me, but he is out of town for the next few days, so I was it. Whether we liked it or not.
Eve and I have always had a bit of difficulty doing homework together. I generally chalk it up to the fact that we are two peas in a pod. Twins separated by three decades. Ex-act-ly a-like. Eve starts out with a chip on her shoulder if she is forced to ask me for help with anything. She is fiercely independent, a perfectionist, a control freak and stubborn. She quickly gets defensive and degenerates into high-pitched squeals of indignance if I don’t understand precisely what she needs from me on the first explanation. God forbid I ask to see the directions or her notes from class. Bubba? He can joke with her, sit for hours and puzzle over something, or just tell her to suck it up and dig in and she smiles sweetly and follows his lead. It used to drive me nuts. Until I remembered how I felt about my mother when I was Eve’s age. Until I read The Four Agreements and learned how to not take it personally.
So Eve and I, we are a bit gunshy about doing homework together. But tonight there was no choice. Bubba was away and this assignment is due tomorrow morning. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. But I swore not to let it show.
As Eve began explaining the assignment to me, my inner self let out a colossal groan. She was supposed to draw 3-dimensional schematics for an invention she would craft using pulleys, gears or levers.
Permit me to digress for a moment. There are a few things that I absolutely cannot do. Things I used to struggle with but eventually came to terms with the fact that I am incapable of doing. Things I have “traded” in my own mind for other things that I am oddly accomplished at. Fortunately, I have managed to structure my life in order that I don’t have to do any of these things. They are (in no particular order):
1. Tying a knot in a balloon. I don’t care what you say – you cannot teach me to do it. Been there, tried that, can’t do it. Won’t even try anymore. Not important.
2. Iron an oxford style shirt. You know, with the collar and buttons and plackets and all that. Again, no interest. Tried a million times.
3. Visualize things in three dimensions in my mind. Nope, can’t do it. Took Organic Chemistry in college and had to purchase a set of Tinker Toys in order to put the molecules together and draw them on paper. My brain simply will not wrap around imagining things in 3-D when they are described to me or rendered in 2-D on paper. I can’t manage it. At some point my brain simply shuts down during the process of trying.
And now here, I had to help Eve visualize her invention in 3-D and draw it to scale in each of its different perspectives so that her teacher could fully understand it and so that Eve can build it out of foam core according to those drawings.
I will confess that at one point I had to go get a toilet paper roll and some ribbon to use as props so I could “see” it.
I will also say that about 20 minutes in, Eve was flat on the floor in my closet sobbing and squealing like a pregnant potbellied pig, certain that we couldn’t do this.
Normally this is the point where I call Bubba in.
Instead, I dug deep, stayed calm and came at it from another angle.
Somehow, I managed to get her back on track and she responded.
Somehow, when we thought we were done and checked the assignment sheet only to discover that we needed two more drawings, of the individual components to scale, I was able to remind her of how far we had come and help her see that the finish line wasn’t that far off.
Somehow, I found myself having fun.
As I played cheerleader from across the kitchen where I was putting dinner together and reminding Lola to tuck her completed homework away in her backpack, I suddenly realized I was enjoying this. Far from feeling frantic and unmoored, I was the picture of calm, pureeing ingredients for soup in the food processor while reminding Eve of the scale and fixing her compass when the lead fell out. No yelling. No reprimands. No whining about “too much homework” or “this is too hard.” We were working it out. We had managed to get past the defensiveness and blaming, the intractable positions in our opposite corners, and get it done.
At one point it seemed that all was lost. There was one more component of the project that seemed insurmountable at dinnertime on a Sunday night. And then it happened. I thought outside the box. I lived up to the nickname some of my former co-workers gave me one day: “Queen of the Workaround.” Not cheating. Not even a shortcut. But a way to stick our tongues out at that brick wall, turn on our heels and walk right around the damn thing without even breaking a sweat.
As Eve finished packing her now completed homework away I told her how proud I was that she stuck it out and finished. She walked over to me, wrapped her arms around me and gave me the most genuine hug I’ve had from her since she was a toddler. Resting her head on my heart, she snuggled in tight and murmured, “I love you. Thank you, Mom.”
So, yeah. I’m grinning like a fool. Headache and all.