I snapped at Hope this morning and immediately regretted it.
We were talking about hair care and whether she was doing her part to care for her hair with her nightly routine. My inquiry was met with, “Well, it needs to be washed anyway.”
It was an easy jump for me to reply, “That wasn’t my question. It’s also not a good excuse for skipping the routine.”
She replied sharply, “I didn’t say it was.”
“But that was implied.”
“But I didn’t actually say that.”
We glared at each other because the tones of our voices had changed. This was no longer a simple inquiry, it was on the brink of a fight.
And then I remembered.
I remembered that this isn’t just a cut and dry surly teen giving me a roundabout excuse. I remembered that Hope doesn’t pick up on conversational nuance very easily. I remembered that sometimes context is lost on her. I remembered that sometimes Hope’s responses are like bringing hedge clippers to a manicure when a nail file will do.
I might read her response as a PR pivot—answering the question that she wishes I’d asked, but that really isn’t what she was saying. She prefers a world with clearly defined edges of black and white. Unfortunately for Hope the world is mostly gray.
I recently found an online support group for parents of kids with ADHD/ODD/ADD. A few days in the “room” and I told a friend, wow, these are my people. These posts resonate with me. It was like when I finally joined some child trauma rooms; there are a lot of similarities between these two groups by the way.
I was also talking to some colleagues recently about diagnoses for autism now being on a spectrum and the high rates of comorbidity for conditions that we use to think were just free-standing conditions. The truth is a lot of stuff, brain and hormonal stuff, cluster in packs, making treating and/or learning to work with the pack of conditions and not against it, really, really hard.
I remembered all of this as we sat there glaring at each other this morning. It made me think of several things.
- One, this is not how I want our day to start.
- Two, the hair thing was not that important in the scheme of things.
- Three, conversational nuance is often lost on Hope.
- Four, she genuinely thought she was providing a reasonable answer to my question.
- Five, she has no idea what she did or said that triggered me to accuse her of giving me an excuse.
- Finally Six, my deeper reading of the exchange has pushed her away which both is not good for us and doesn’t result in the behavior I was originally seeking to promote.
And all of this went down before 8am. Joy! #notreally
It’s hard to remember these things in the moment. It’s hard to remember it’s only been three years and that with all of the progress, there is still so much healing necessary. It’s just hard to remember everything all the time.
I course corrected our conversation. I tried to explain how I came to my conclusion, but that now I understood what she meant. I asked her yes or no questions and explained that it wasn’t to ‘catch her in something’ but rather because I realized that they were easier for her to answer. She eyed me warily, but she answered my questions and we made a plan for dealing with her hair this evening.
I’d like to think before becoming a parent I was a good person. I was smart, capable, worldly, even. I grasped deep, complex concepts and was able to offer solutions to many difficult and intricate problems. And then Hope came along, and every complex thing I’d bumped up against in my lifetime seemed like I had really just solved the great dilemma of getting off the couch to get an ice pop from the freezer. I was in the land of real complex isht now. Sometimes I feel utterly stupid trying to figure out why we hit a wall. I felt stupid this morning because I know better; or at least I thought I did.
Tomorrow, I will try again. I will likely have another revelation about how to relate something I read somewhere to a situation we are experiencing in the moment. I’ll hopefully have another chance to not just know better but to do better. Hopefully, Hope will be patient with me as I am expected to be patient with her. Kids expect us to know stuff, and parenting her has revealed that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought. #bigreveal