Sunday, September 13, 2015

What They Don't Say

"Slowly, like you would with a sleeping baby, Nell-mom pulls her hand away and sighs. And everything that just happened—the hug, joke, laughing—seem to disappear in that sigh.” --The Beat on Ruby’sStreet

One of the saddest scenes I had to write in The Beat on Ruby’s Street involved Ruby and her father when she found out her parents were separating. But one of the hardest scenes I had to write was about Ruby and her mom Nell in the taxi as they left the children’s home.

During the cab ride, Ruby realizes her mom is on the verge of tears, remembering her own childhood. At that point, something in Ruby closes up and withdraws from her mother—and never opens again until (possibly) the end of the book. I wrote the scene remembering my own instinctive withdrawals growing up, because the last thing I ever wanted to be was “like” my mom.

The hardest thing about writing the scene was seeing how close Ruby and her mom were starting to be, until Nell started asking too many questions and Ruby shut her down. I’ve seen this same scenario played out with countless friends and strangers and of course in my own life too—never finding a way around it. 

"Experts" always say this is part and parcel of adolescence, but that doesn’t make going through it any easier for parents or their kids. The thing I started to look for, as parent (& writer) was what we don’t say to each other; and why and how that works.

I say that having made the mistake of jumping in with advice disguised as “thoughts” almost every day with my son, and watching his nonresponse to it. I say it because somehow or other, hope springs eternal that he’ll decide whatever I’m saying is wise and follow my lead.

I see you laughing now. (Laughing too).

I also know if I can manage to be quiet long enough, chances are much better that he’ll talk to me, at least at some point, about what’s on his mind and how he wants to solve it. Or can’t solve it. And whether or not I agree with him, it’s the only real way to find out what he’s thinking.

And... probably... he’s not going to come up with I think might be a great solution. But if it’s his solution, I need to try to listen to it before sharing my opinion. Because after a point, all we can do is share and maybe inform, right? 

This doesn’t mean you don’t have rules and boundaries about what you need or expect from your tween or teen. But knowing they don’t want to be like you (for the moment) isn’t enough. I guess what I’m thinking is, you have to let them try and show you who they want to be, to get to who you both really are.

Yes? No? Maybe? What do you think?

And if you’ve read any books like these, I'd love to hear your thoughts on them:

Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World: Rosalind Wiseman