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Steph needs to stop telling her kids how to be her kids

for Brooklyn Paper
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I am 46 years old with two kids, and yet I am still that girl sitting in a tree at recess, reading.

I am still that girl whose feelings got hurt playing dodgeball or hanging from the rings, who retreated into the trees with a book where the narrator, at least, unlike everyone else on the playground, seemed to understand me. Sure, I’ve learned a few things over the years, but mainly I’m the same, sensitive kid.

Knowing how I was and still am, I shouldn’t be such a colossal buttinsky with my kids. I should be supportive and understanding. I shouldn’t say a word.

But it’s so hard!

I want to help them avoid making the mistakes I made, to navigate social pitfalls with great deft.I want them to feel awesome all the time, and know how cool and funny and smart they are!

And yet, at the very same time that I am thinking, “You are so cool, so funny, so smart!” I am saying these stupid things to them about how they need to be different than they are.

My husband calls it the “double bind.” It is a theory he read about once where parents say, “You never hug me…” and yet, when the child goes to hug them, they are wooden and uncomfortable. The child can’t win for trying.

I feel like I do that sometimes, mostly because I’m confused. I haven’t sat down to really think about what I think, and then I say the dumbest things, that seem to absolutely counter my own intention.

Why can’t I just say what I think? Could it be that I don’t really know?

Kids will really put you to the test. They’ll make you have to stop, and think about what you think cause they’ll call you out on it, how you’re full of malarkey.

Yes. My boys call me out on my BS all the time. Damn teenagers. Not that I’m silly enough to think they totally tell me what they think, but sometimes they do, and I don’t always come out smelling like a rose.

Let’s see.

1. I don’t follow through with a lot of the things I say I want to do. (Right, like stop eating chocolate and ice cream, and lose those damn 10 pounds.)

2. I get in their business, where, really, it’s not mine to know. (Buttinsky, see.)

3. I repeat myself when I’m pissed. “I heard you, mom, the first three times…”

4. I really need to shut up and listen sometimes.

I could go on with the list of the ways in which I am imperfect, but I’ll stop. The point is, sad as it sounds, it isn’t like I always know what I’m doing, which is why I have to learn to listen more, to hear and understand the wisdom of my children about their own feelings, about their own reactions.

If I’m still that girl in the tree in my own mind, a bit wiser and a lot more grey and wrinkled, I need to remember what that feels like, not to know what the future holds, not to know what you’re gonna be in the world. And I need to be a bit more understanding of their need to make decisions themselves, and trust them, of their need not to be harassed and cajoled by someone who doesn’t exactly know everything.

Sometimes, of course, I’m gonna make a suggestion or two. But, Jesus, God help me … I have to remember to let them be, to sit in a tree alone if they need to, or in front of a screen, to think their own thoughts and learn to be … themselves.

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Nathalie from Williamsburg says:
If you stopped telling them, you'd have no job. Don't you roll in the bucks by writting this column? Or do you just live off your husband?
April 6, 2017, 10:24 am
Linds Powers says:
You got burned smart mom!
April 8, 2017, 10:11 pm
Oscar from Brooklyn says:
Wow yall are mean like just chill for one second
April 6, 5:03 pm

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