There are some skills that my kids don’t seem to have managed to imbue into me. The chief of all lacking skills is my inability to read their mind.
It would be incredibly helpful for me to understand both the root cause of their feelings and more importantly WHAT they are actually feeling.
A case in point.
Your tween wanders down the stairs and presents themselves to you whilst you’re busy making breakfast. I use the term ‘making’ in a falsely grand way. If you can describe plopping bread in a toaster & sorting out cereal as creating breakfast, then I was certainly rocking it.
A schoolboy error- which I haven’t quite eradicated, is the not paying attention at always the most inconveninent of times to you. These very times are in fact often the one and only time that your kids want to unburden themselves and woe betide if you get that one wrong.
You’ve missed the moment.
You may not get to hear it.
This day, I’d got past the first test, I’d turned and was listening.
A killer question came.
The Mount Vesuvius of tricky conundrums was pouring forth from their lips.
‘Do I look silly in this’.
Now it is not quite akin to us women asking our other halves whether our ‘derrieres’ look big in this! If they think that’s a toughie- let them try & free themselves from a question so fraught of difficulty that even the fantastic Mr Goodwin would have trouble.
There are several responses. Responses that had I even a NVQ level 1 in mind reading, I’d probably ace. Sadly I can’t even muster Year 2 SAT passes in that one.
The first reponse is to look lovingly (or slightly incredulously) at them and say ‘of course you don’t honey, you look great’.
There is a major flaw to this strategy. Firstly- if they do happen to look a little odd, you lose all integrity by commenting otherwise. For those that this isn’t an issue to, there is a slightly more pressing issue.
If said child actually thinks they look a little unusual & you tell them that they look fine, a strange and unmarvellous thing happens. They lose immediate faith in your opinion & what’s worse their little brain click, click, clicks back over the past few months and does an elemenetary maths equation.
‘ok, if mum has just said I look fine, & I patently do not, that means that I went out to Bodrin’s party looking a sight & I can’t imagine how bad I looked last Saturday.’
All previous encouragements are tarnished, all prior conversations count for little. They can’t see that you’re trying to be kind on this occasion, you’ve just been flaky for longer than they care to remember.
So, onto plan B. You can try and diplomatically tell the truth.
Oh, I’ve tried.
I’ve racked my brains to creatively and gently suggest a way of telling them that their dress sense is unique.
Sometimes I’ve done ok. Other times I have bombed.
The problem is that if they think that they look fabulous & you tell them otherwise, you’re guaranteeed flouncing, upset or major waterworks.
You may actually hit it spot on- they were asking for your genuine opnion & you gave them the correct answer & they relievedly run upstairs and change.
Except, you’re playing Russian Roulette. How do you know when they need brutal honesty wrapped up in sugar coated words or whether this is the occasion that less words are more, & gentle encouragement of their creativity in dressing is what is needed.
Well today- I scored an unknowing blinder. I asked a question.
I’m learning that asking questions after being asked a question has saved my bacon on many an occasion.
So, I enquired ‘do you like it?’
‘Ermm, no not really. What do you think?’
Aha, it’s the ‘pleasetellmehonestlybutgently’ situation.
‘Well, it’s quite different’, I replied.
Off she trotted. Happy that I gave her the confidence to go and change. And this is from the girl who likes to look different and slightly kooky.
What questions do you get asked that stump you or floor you?
Well, need to go & find some suitable shoes to wear. Maybe I should ask the kids!! x