‘Go Ahead, I’m Listening’ And Other Lies I Tell My Teenager
Well, I can never go back to that Starbucks. After the barista twice asked me if I had an “outie,” I abandoned all civility and snapped,”What is wrong with you? Why would you ask me that?” And he, wounded, replied,” I just thought we had the same car.” And gestured to the “Audi” key in my hand.
With this came the crushing realization that I don’t listen. My barista was equally culpable; every week I give him my name and every week he writes “Jazz” on my cup. I am inappropriately buoyed by the fact that he sees me as someone interesting enough to have the name “Jazz.” But when we recover from our awkward encounter, I order and I listen to myself. Sure enough, I pronounce my name like I am recovering from a stroke. This propels me to question my ability to listen, to myself and others, in my life outside this Starbucks.
My newly-minted teen is wont to say I don’t listen to her. Oh, but I do. I am just so often afraid of what I hear, because it means my adoring little sidekick is growing up and away from me. Straight into the arms of Dylan O’Brien. Or maybe Drake. And I want to roundly reject this. It’s hard enough to let her go. But how do we listen when we don’t want to hear echoes of our own unhappiness at this age?
Suddenly, her thoughts no longer perfectly align with my own. The horror. Why, oh why, did I encourage her to question authority? Not mine. I meant: start a second grade petition to take stuffies out to recess. I am mourning the loss of her babyhood, hoping to stuff a kid with bigger boobs than me back into a Baby Bjorn. Instead of paying attention to the young woman she is becoming, I am unfairly stifling her by instructing her to remain the guileless, sweet girl she was when she was 7. I have to stop trying to quiet the emotional crashing around that is necessary to her development as a person-who-is-not me. I am not doing this gracefully.
Methinks I doth project too much. There may be a connection between her growing up and my hypersensitivity to what I hear. Suddenly, her innocence, and my ability to protect her, is threatened and everything I hear becomes obscene. When puberty struck in sixth grade, I irrationally shrieked at the pediatrician with the slight lisp, “next time you ask my eleven year old about school, you may want to tag the word “grade” onto your inquiry so it doesn’t sound EXACTLY like you just asked her, “so what do you think about SEXth so far?”
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