When what we talk about has nothing to do with what we care about
My friend Wanda and I were in a deep conversation recently about self awareness and we stumbled into an uncomfortable realization (such discomfort, I suspect, is what keeps people from a regular, honest inventory of their behavior).
Before I confess, let me lay the groundwork.
When it comes to parenting our teenagers, Wanda and I both value kindness over achievement. We stay up to speed on the latest thinking and research on people-growing. We dip ourselves in the waters of wisdom from the long-gone like Aristotle and Jung to today’s parenting experts like Lisa Damour and Esther Wojcicki. Wanda and I are certain that our positions are clear: find purpose, contribute and develop meaningful connection to others.
The problem, we are told by our children in multiple ways, is this: if you heard what we talk about or ask about, you’d think we were Tiger Moms hot on the trail to the Ivy Leagues.
How was the test? Got a lot of homework? How did your paper turn out? These are among the questions we ask most frequently, like a nervous tic or a looping gif. In other words, if you measure our interests strictly by conversational minutes, we are almost exclusively interested in achievement.
I never ask about my real values — curiosity, kindness, team spirit. I don’t even know what those question would sound like. Were you decent to your classmates in zoom today? Did you learn any new acts of generosity this week?
So, the takeaway: if you are lucky enough to live with a teenager who will talk to you, and you can find a quiet moment to have an earnest heart to heart, ask them what they think you care about the most and adjust accordingly.
My other takeaways:
When taking feedback, look past idiosyncratic bitching to patterns and themes.
Track your moods. When you’re up, know why. When you’re down, know why.
Being married is like living in front of a full length mirror. The reflection is always coming back at you.
Remember what Carl Jung said: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Read fiction. Novels will help you see new parts of yourself with compassion.
If you kinda think the only way to be happy is the way you are happy, well, maybe take a beat and reconsider.
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