I feel like building Chairman Mom has been one of several things I do everyday that is buying me soul credits. Kinda like “carbon credits,” these soul credits are rebuilding the chunks of my soul that bias, infighting, Trump’s America, and a decade on social media have slowly eroded.
As an organization—and as an individual—I’ve tried to step back and examine when I find myself wanting to fight with someone online, what is triggering it? More to the point: How am I getting played by either a troll, a bot, or a social media giant who gets paid the more we fight?
One of the things I’ve learned is to stop, breathe, and peel back the layers of reaction to see what trauma the other person is likely acting out of. This is my standard answer when women ask me about “Queen Bee’ing” in the workplace and women being the problem as much as men: Try to see what their own trauma is. Studies have shown that most “queen bee’ing” is the result of a toxic, zero-sum industry or company that makes women feel like they’ve gotta engage in a version of the Hunger Games to get ahead.
Recently I was reminded of the importance of applying this kind of thinking to my kids as well.
Eli has been in a phase where he can’t accept any compliments and keeps negging himself about things he knows he’s great at. He also is getting easily frustrated when he doesn’t do things perfectly the first time.
Our recent foray skiing was the perfect example: Evie would fall and jump up and smile and give me a thumbs up. After all, she’d been on her feet most of the glide! She was doing it! Eli had so much natural balance and athleticism on skis he hardly fell. When he did once, he lost it and threw his poles and said he was never going to ski again. (He stuck with it, and got past it, but it was a parenting challenge…)
Like so many things, I see gender overtones here. Evie is already used to having to have more stamina and work harder than a guy to get the same results. You should see her when they do the “Dolores Park Challenge.”
Never heard of it? That’s because they made it up. This will mean little to you if you’ve never gone to Dolores Park, but there’s a gigantic hill in the middle of the playground. (Horrific for sight lines, btw. Single parents did not design this playground…) On different slopes of the hill there are stairs, spiderman climby web, and a large slide.
The challenge is thus: One kid rides around the mountain on the scooter and the other has to run/spidey up the hill as fast as they can, fly down the stairs on the other side before the scooter gets there, tag and then run back up the stairs, slide down the slide and race to tie with the scooter before it reaches mom.
I couldn’t do this. And I work out a lot. It’s nothing short of amazing watching Evie—who is 18 months younger than Eli—take it on. It’s like American Ninja Warrior, Dolores Park Edition. She is so intense, never gives up, pivots past (or yes, sometimes shoves) large kids in her way. And runs over beaming when she ties the scooter. Evie is not a natural athlete. But she has more grit than the entire Dolores Park sandbox.
Simply put: Other than making friends and doing hilarious voices, nothing comes as easy to Evie as it does to Eli. But she works harder. Eli meantime is already coasting along on the patriarchy scooter of being a tall, good looking, athletic white dude. Yes, he faces some “other-ness,” because he’s gender fluid. But he’s learned that he can “pass” at school and be part of the safe protected class. (I don’t love this. Others with more experience in this kind of thing have suggested he’s learning to cope in unsafe environments, and it’s actually pretty impressive for a seven-year-old.)
So, yeah, I was judging Eli harshly for the entitlement that comes with being a boy who so much comes so easily to, while his sister was working so much harder to keep up and frequently excel past him…despite being 18-months younger. Oh this has NOTHING TO DO WITH MY OWN BAGGAGE DOES IT????
His therapist had some amazing perspective. Not that Eli is an entitled little quitter…but that Eli—a Virgo who so badly wants the world to be beautiful and nice and perfect like the dwarf house after Snow White and the animals lovingly clean it—feels a large personal responsibility to make the world perfect at all times. Not an entitlement, but a responsibility.
Once he said it, I could see it. This is a kid who closed Apple and me out of the house when he was decorating the Christmas tree only allowing Evie to come in and hand him ornaments while he was on the ladder. He discarded the ones he didn’t like in a tub, never to be spoken of again. This is a kid who makes up a morning of bad behavior to me by creating a table scape that I’m “not gonna believe” for dinner. This is a kid who does at least four wardrobe changes a day. This is a kid whose biggest frustration with a dance performance is that the other kids aren’t as perfectly on the beat as he is. (That and mom gets “too excited.” I am only allowed to tell him once that he was awesome…)
When all those moms like us tell you that our kids make us better people? This is the kinda sh*t we’re talking about.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- We are going to London this summer… how do you help 6/7 year olds adjust to jet lag?
- How do you prioritize your ToDo lists?