A: kinda blown away
A: by that lunch today
L: it was eye opening
L: i wish i’d heard that story sooner
A: same same
L: i could’ve used it last week
L: and yesterday
L: and probably today
L: now we just have to try to remember and actually do what the girls told us
A: hardest part
A: since we pretty much can’t remember anything
A: or see anything
A: or hear anything
What the girls told us.
Lunch last month. Local sushi restaurant. Ordering frenzy ensues. While polishing off the edamame, our friends began to amuse us with tales from their recent Backroads (biking and hiking) trip to Switzerland. We’ll call them Melissa and Sara. Melissa and Sara are colorful story tellers, so the stories run the gamut from how much cheese they ate to who sang the best show tunes while hiking in the Alps to how they bonded unexpectedly with their guide. We’ll call him Tom. Tom, apparently, was the guide of one’s dreams. He had a dynamic personality, he joined them for dinners and shared fun stories and even gave some life lessons. At dinner one night Tom told them about his daughter. He called it the break-up story.
Cliff-notes version of the break-up story: Tom’s high school daughter had a long-time boyfriend, the relationship had its ups and downs, the relationship had its final down, they broke up, she was devastated.
Tom’s reaction to the break-up story: He did his best to pause before reacting. He thought about what to say. He thought about what not to say. He tried to formulate a supportive yet not irritating, thoughtful yet not annoying, sensitive yet not infuriating response.
And finally, this is where he landed.
He asked her a question.
Do you want me to help or listen? (spoiler alert: she didn’t want him to help)
Hmmm, help or listen.
Loose re-enactment of conversation post too many spicy tuna rolls.
Melissa: all I could think about when Tom was telling his story is that I probably give too much advice
M: and I’m pretty sure there’s no way I would have been able to think about my reaction before reacting
M: I’d just curse the girl who broke my son’s heart
M: and maybe revert to my 13-year old self and give her dirty looks if I saw her
Sara: I was thinking about how I’d probably ask my kid if he did something to cause the break up
S: and pretty sure I’d regret asking that
S: then I’d be stuck thinking about how my mom did that to me when I was a kid, always taking the neutral position
S: and then I’d be worried that I was turning into my mother
Laura’s just listening. Well, kinda listening. Ok, ok, she’s trying to listen. But truth is, she’s itching to jump in with advice. She likes to fix things.
Angie’s also just listening. Well, kinda listening. Ok, ok, she’s trying to listen. But truth is, she’s thinking about how genius Tom’s strategy is and how she can’t wait to use it with her own kids.
Help or listen.
Seems easy enough.
But it’s pretty much the opposite of easy enough.
When you don’t have advice to give, it’s easy to listen.
But when you have a strong opinion on how to guide your child, it’s not so easy.
Especially when you’re exploding inside because you want to give your I-know-because-I’ve-been-there pearls of wisdom.
How can you possibly hold your pearls inside?
Later that night.
A: help or listen
L: it seems so simple
L: and obvious
L: and smart
A: and i may have just gone upstairs
A: to practice
L: how’d that go?
A: i went into one of my kids rooms
A: since he seems to have a lot on his mind
A: and asked him if he needed me to help or listen
A: and guess what?
A: there’s a third option
A: it’s a grunt
L: like an exasperated sigh?
A: like that
A: and the grunt-sigh apparently means they don’t want you to help or listen
A: it means get the duck out of my room
A: and don’t come back
A: did u know that?
L: i wonder if tom knows about that option