Hope doesn’t like confrontation. I’m guessing she comes by that quite honestly. Unfortunately, life has a lot of opportunities for confrontation.
I am pretty comfortable with confrontation, but during these three years, I’ve had to learn how to manage my ease with confrontation in order to meet Hope’s needs and to not scare her off from conversations that must be had.
I have greatly improved how I initiate these chats, how to tell when I need to abort the mission and navigate how to keep it going long enough to have something close to the desired impact. And what is the desired impact?
Well…who knows. It’s complicated, and to be honest, sometimes I get so flipping frustrated.
I often chat with Grammy to better understand how she parented me when I was Hope’s age. Oh, I know that it’s entirely different, but I just want a baseline—I’m also checking to see if I’m just crazy.
I also chat with Sister K, who has a son close in age to Hope. We often talk about how our children practice the “Blank Stare.”
The Blank Stare is apparently some sort of protective mechanism that teens use when parents are providing correctional confrontation. Kids actually seem to go mute and just stare blankly as you discuss the issue, ask questions and await responses.
My mom assures me that my sisters and I did not practice the Blank Stare; we immediately started talking, apologizing and doing/saying whatever was necessary to reduce anticipated consequences (my peeps were firm believers that a hard head makes for a sore bottom). But Hope and her modern-day colleagues seem to prefer to hold their tongues and just retreat into a Stare mode.
Hope does have a whole set of behaviors that surround the Blank Stare; it’s not the only thing in her unresponsive bag of tricks.
Initially, she’s defensive; Hope is likely to try to offer some rationale to explain her position; when that proves unsuccessful she descends into what I call Mime phase.
The Mime phase is when Hope’s voice volume lowers with each word until she’s just mouthing inaudible words. At first, I thought that she was trying to make me crazy by thinking my hearing was going out.
Nah, she seriously just turns the volume down on herself.
That’s when we hit the Blank Stare. It’s epic really, much respect. It’s as though Hope is encased in some imaginary, sound proof box that apparently requires no resistance. It’s almost as though she is focused on sending me soundwave messages to join her in the box. She’s nearly doll-like. I know she can hear me and see me, but there is zero response. She blinks, she *might* cock her head to the side, but really, she just stares, making direct eye contact.
As a resistance mechanism, it drives me batty. I have to fight back all the rage. I cannot stand the Blank Stare.
But it doesn’t stop there, from the Stare we fall into the Nod.
She pulled this avoidance technique during a meeting with her counselor, teachers, tutor and me last fall–a whole room of folks discussing her 504 and her school performance. I’m sure it was overwhelming, but OMG.
The Nod is Hope’s peak avoidance schtick; it’s all downhill from this point on. It was so impressive that the guidance counselor asked if she could be doing drugs. I was horrified, and apparently so was Hope since she snapped out after the inquiry.
The Nod is reserved for Hope’s most uncomfortable moments. I don’t see it too often anymore, thank goodness, but it’s there.
Sometimes, there’s so much drama with Hope.
I do find some comfort in knowing that some of this foolishness is completely normal. I am aware that some of it isn’t normal, and I just have to deal and wait her out. I really spend a lot of time breathing through my own emotional responses and thinking about ways that I can offer confrontation, correction, and consequences in ways that don’t make Hope feel bad about herself and in ways that avoid this continuum of, ahem, artistic avoidant responses.
I’m hoping for a day when more engaging interactions tip the scales, but from the looks of the Blank Stare and the Nods lately, it’s going to be a while.