Real life Choose Your Own Adventure
15 year old Kiki was obviously crying when I picked her up from school. Her eyes and nose were red in a way that can only be achieved through extended sadness. I knew that she had stayed up late the night before to finish off three homework assignments, which was simultaneously responsible (yay she got her homework done) and frustrating (she spent the entire afternoon playing a video game.) I was not thrilled to see her crying. I was really tired of emotional drama. Kiki climbed in the car and handed me a sheet with her term grades, all Bs and Cs with one No Credit.
I could have:
A. Responded immediately and negatively to the grades which did not represent her highest capability, thus goading her in the guilt and inspiring her to do better.
B. Looked at the grades, acknowledged they are not what we had hoped, and asked her if anything else is wrong, thus catering to her obviously fragile emotional state.
C. Vented a frustrated rant about exactly how she earned each of these grades through various forms of procrastination and irresponsibility, while hoping that she’ll get mad enough to prove me wrong.
Just like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books, even the “obviously right” choices could lead to dead ends, and each of the choices had the potential to backfire depending upon Kiki’s response. Unlike the books, I did not have the luxury of carefully pondering or peeking ahead in the pages. I had seconds to pick a response. I chose B.
Kiki then told me that two of the three assignments that she had stressed over the night before had been the wrong assignments. Despite staying up until 1 am to finish, she only got half credit because she’d done the wrong list of math problems. The English assignment she still had to do over the weekend. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. This conversation featured a return of the familiar “School is too hard, I want it all to go away” refrain. I’d hoped that the new year had gotten us out of that useless emotional eddy. I asked a chain of questions to make sure I had the facts straight. Getting all the facts required me to turn the car around and go back to the school so that we could find out why Kiki was listed with No Credit in PE. I certainly did not want to repeat any part of what we have been through this year. A conversation with the attendance office solved that problem and we got back in the car to go home. Kiki said “I’m Sorry.” in a very small voice.
I could have:
A. Delivered a lecture on the importance of keeping track of her assignments and when they are due, which emphasized that this is her job.
B. Praised her for the fact that she did buckle down the night before and get her work done, even if it happened to be the wrong work.
C. Ranted about how tired I am of helping with emotional crises over things which never need be crises in the first place.
D. Aired my worries about the fact that she seems to respond to pressure by crumpling. This has not always been the case, she is amazingly strong at times, but not about school work this year.
The car ride was just long enough for me to get through choice B and then choice A. We arrived at home, and I realized that somewhere in my words and Kiki’s responses my primary emotion had shifted from frustration to sympathy. After that there was hugging and we sat together on the couch to really focus on the grade sheet. We were able to identify exactly where each grade had come from, which assignments had been the ones to lower the grade. We could see that she got exactly the grades she earned.
I hugged her close and told her “I’m sorry this year has been so hard.” And at that moment I felt the truth of my statement. This year really has been hard for Kiki. It does not matter whether I think it should have been hard, or what little things she has done to make things harder for herself. It has been hard on her and therefore hard on me. But, and this is important, that does not mean it has been a bad year. At the beginning of the school year, when we shuffled her schedule around, this set of classes felt like the right choice for her. I reminded her of that and she nodded. Then she told me how one of her friends sat with her and talked through her sadness. He listened to her and opened up about some things in his life as well. They had a really good conversation and Kiki shared it with me. When the tears were dried up and the snuggles were over, Kiki said to me “This has been a really hard day, but I think it was a good one.”
From the moment Kiki climbed in the car, our afternoon was surrounded by a cloud of possibilities. I made choice after choice, like the branching decision trees in those books. This time we found our way to a happy result. That is not always the case between Kiki and I. Many discussions have ended with anger and slamming doors. I don’t think this was the only possible happy result, but I’ll keep it.
Mirrored from onecobble.com.