“As I roved out on Monday morning …”
Is maybe how I should start my blog every week.
It’s the way most of them spring into life: as a shoot of a thought on that early ramble with Bella and Lily that buds into a theme as I walk.
A loose association of ideas I will then nurture, nick and train to full bloom on my computer screen after the breakfast dishes are cleared away and the kids despatched to school.
And then I hit ‘publish’.
My mind is clearest on these early morning tours of duty, yesterday’s irks and bothers decompressed and contextualised as I fall in with the rhythm of these two creatures of the now.
Who greet every walk as a new beginning, or the continuation of a great adventure. The same well-trodden path is for them full of fresh tangents and old scents.
A bit like blogging.
Tidy terrier Bella is so light the tug on her leash is more of a twitch, but effervescent Lily fizzes along, left and right and centre, her taut leash tugging me along, erratically jerking me to sudden halts and standing starts as she explores a patch of grass with fervid intent, and just as suddenly abandons it to yank us back on track.
Normally, at some point the two will stop for leisurely poos beside the path.
Lily drops her haunches and arches her lower back and I love that sweetly gormless look that suggests vulnerability and trust as she gazes up at me while releasing a short trail of frog-green droppings.
She ends the performance with that cute little feet-wiping quick-step she does, and she’s off immediately, as I endeavour to collect her deposit while she strains and pulls.
This morning I was thinking of stuff I had been reading on dealing with what I considered the empathy deficit in young teenagers.
Unlike last night’s cantankerous fulminations, my thoughts were now ones of curiosity and rumination.
The previous evening I had typed “young teenagers” and “empathy” into the Google bar, resisting the urge to make that “lack of empathy”.
To their siblings and their parents anyway.
Soon I was reading stuff like, in psychologytoday.com: “Teenagers typically become self absorbed during their adolescent years, but it is not due to having no empathy — it is because they are going through a process of self discovery and what may seem like an unwillingness to engage may actually be a sign of having little to no confidence to engage on an emotional level”.
Okay, I get that, and I can stretch to seeing what Sam Ross, aka the Teenage Whisperer, is getting at when she writes: “Put simply, teens in general often do not reflect on how their actions affect them, let alone others. It’s not a thought process that comes particularly naturally.”
Hmmm, interesting …
She goes on: “Teens live very much in the moment, in the rush of their emotions, be it a buzz or a rage. They are so caught up with how they feel now that how others feel, then and later, does not often enter their heads”.
I really see this in action with my 15-year-old daughter, and less frequently, my 13-year-old son. How their prevailing emotion shapes their thoughts and attitude towards us, the parents.
When it’s a negative emotion, look out Mom and Dad!
I confess to not always dealing with the bellow and bluster of these tirade winds as well as I might.
Too often I have found myself, buttons pressed, responding in something of the same kind. Irked and blown off maturity and responding testily.
In other words, right inside that volatile emotion with them, not outside the tempest, as I should be, calmly guiding them back to calmer shores. Even if through gritted teeth.
And, lo and behold, I give them the perfect out clause that teenagers love, the ammunition to move away from them assuming any kind responsibility for their bad behaviour and provocation, to their focusing on my negative response.
And then the Whisperer said something that might as well have been a roar, because it stopped me in my self-justifying, blaming tracks:
“What I’m basically saying is that we need to ensure we are not operating with an empathy deficit when dealing with theirs”.
Jeepers, that’s me in the spotlight: going on about their lack of empathy, as I see it, and not seeing the log in my own eye.
So quick to take offence at their lack of empathy that my own can go missing.
So I found myself the other evening along with my wife, defusing a teenage tirade — not immediately, but eventually — by really listening and getting behind the bluster to see why one of our teenagers was upset, not caught up in the howl of the way they were expressing it.
For, as Sam Ross puts it:
“There is a whole myriad of reasons why teens find it hard to consider the needs of others in addition to their own. Understanding that it often does not come particularly easily helps us, as workers or parents, to be more patient and understanding in addressing this issue ….
“Tackling the issue from a place of understanding will help teens to engage with you on the issue and to bring about the necessary change”.
Something to reflect on of a morning walk with Bella and Lily, the bounding hounds of love and distraction.
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