Red Light, Green Light

We have girls. I’ve mentioned this before. But it bears repeating whenever I think about parenting. We have two tween (or tween-adjacent in the case of number 71) girls.

There’s a lot of affect flying around this house.

Affect, meaning outward displays of emotion in therapist speak.

It’s hard for my husband because with the three of us in the house, our affects bouncing off each other and the walls all the time.

It’s hard to manage and I’ve started to realize that my anxiety doesn’t help. It makes it hard for me to have fun doing the things that they AND I like to do because now that I can’t control how they do them, I get worried about how they want to handle things.

For example, the Dancer likes Lululemon. Or at least all of her friends have Lulu shorts so she must have them too, because seventh grade. We went to the store to look at Lulu shorts so that she could get a first pair for her birthday. I love workout shorts and running apparel. This should be fun, right?

It kind of wasn’t.

She wanted the super short ones, I wanted her to get the classic model for her first pair. We both got frustrated with each other. Her affect all annoyance and rolling eyes, it feels like a solid shove for distance and space. Mine all tight-lipped and tense, anxious about why she won’t just listen, am I wrong about which shorts look good?

We got over it and compromised, so it worked out and she’s thrilled with the pair she ended up with (not classic, not super short). I’m happy that she’s happy. But it wasn’t as much FUN as I wanted it to be to buy them.

That said, they still sometimes switch off the tween and become the girls I remember from when they were small and so much easier to make happy. [note: the therapist in me wants to be clear that we don’t actually MAKE people feel any kind of way, we offer support and love and opportunity, but they actually choose how they react and interpret and feel. What I’m really remembering is that my kids didn’t interpret help when they were small as a sign that I think they’re not smart enough, not mature enough, not ready. They saw it just as what a mom does. That story is often obscured by a new one that says they know what they’re doing and any help is judgment about whether I think they know what they’re doing. Too often they read judgment in help. Sigh.]

But anyway, there are some moments when they’re desperate for my help and guidance still. When they turn huge, tear-damp, relieved eyes my way when I offer it. It’s just so hard to know when those moments will be that they accept help or guidance without reading judgment into it. It would be helpful if there was some sort of warning light installed. Red light: shame sensors up and receiving everything as me telling them they’re not good enough. Green light: please, please help me, I have no idea what I’m doing.

This is one of the reasons I love Disney World so much. When we go there the green light is on. Or, at least, the red light isn’t illuminated as much as it seems to be at home. They ask for help – I’m scared, will you sit with me, on Expedition Everest. They ask for guidance – What does octopus taste like, will I like it, at Tiffins. They express joy and preference without eye rolls. Disney is a source of bonding, where we can be as a family without having to be cool or grown or sophisticated.

Nobody is cool at Disney World.

Published by alexm1008

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in Houston, Texas. I specialize in helping clients develop skills and strategies to feel more in control of their emotions and behaviors. I am also a wife and mother of two who loves to run and travel (particularly to Disney World with my kids and without).

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