The Chauffeur

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I finished my last client at 2:50 and raced over to the high school to grab Kid #1 to get him to a doctor’s appointment, only to return him to the house and grab Kid #3 and get her to Hebrew School by 4:30 wherein I got the call from Kid #2 that he was done with track practice and could I get him.  That completed by 5:30, I was back in the car (did I ever get out of the car?) to pick up Kid #3 from Hebrew School.  And, that is just one afternoon.

We all do it; schlepp in the car, plan carpools, sit in traffic and then reverse the whole process.  When I was a newbie social worker working for Prince William County Department of Social Services most of my work was done in the car.  I would drive to a foster home and pick up a foster child to take them to an appointment or to visit their birth parents.   Back at the office we talked about “car therapy”.  We referred to it as being one of the most ideal venues for therapy because we had a captive audience.  The child/teen would be in the seat next to us, there was rarely any  music because the county cars were so ancient, and we would be facing the road.  What better way to pick at a teen’s deepest thoughts and feelings while riding side by side and avoiding eye contact?

I have not driven a client in about two decades, but that doesn’t stop me from attempts at exploring a teen’s inner-world  in a moving vehicle.  There is the weekly soccer practice driving that usually involves 1-4 fifteen year old boys;  I don’t get any deep thoughts on these rides, but always great laughs and the privilege of listening to my son’s favorite Spanish radio station.  Some of the more meaningful trips are when I am one-on-one with one of my kids.  Last week my daughter and I drove six hours to Cleveland to visit friends.  We had a great time; we chatted, sang to the radio and listened to almost an entire audio book.  It was really nice to be able to discuss the book as we listened and talk about what we thought would happen next.

I have a policy that if I am driving one of my kids somewhere that they do not listen to their ear buds.  I figure that since they have my time as the driver that I should be entitled to some level of conversation on the ride.  If we are going on a long family trip, the rule is vetoed on behalf of peace, tranquility and my need to listen to my favorite artists that do not include loud rapping men singing profanities.

I encourage all of you chauffeurs out there to put on your listening hat during these weekly daily jaunts around town.  I don’t doubt that the teen or pre-teen sitting beside you might just have a some interest in what you did during the day or on your thoughts about  the latest neighborhood gossip? Maybe not, but certainly providing that window for sharing will benefit both you and your passenger.

Do let me know how your car-talk time is going.

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Bellies and their remarkable transformations

This post is dedicated to my gynecologist, Dr. Anne Dobrzynski, who is gentle and kind and always makes me laugh while examining, as  Amy Farrah Fowler calls it, the netheryaya.

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I am sitting in the waiting room of my gynecologist (tmi? who of you hasn’t sat in that waiting room?).  Driving in to the big parking lot that I thankfully hadn’t entered since my last appointment a year ago, I recalled the years when I was coming here once a month then once a week.  I spent more time at this office during my child bearing years than I did in my own dining room.

As I entered the way too full that is going to keep me here for way too long waiting room I realized that I am the only one in here past the childbearing years (much to my daughter’s dismay when she regularly asks for a baby sister).  There are about seven women in the room, two with toddlers and one with a 4 week old  precious little boy. Two women are doing the three hour glucose test, remember that nasty stuff,  killing the morning on their  iPads that have replaced the outdated People magazine that I read back in the day. Each time the door opens I am hoping that the nurse will finally call me in for  the joy of the stirrups, but instead another huge belly comes out attached to a tired and expectant mom.

The chatter in the room is about sleeping, or not sleeping, the size of babies and how cute baby ‘gas’ is.  I had to open my mouth (shocked?) and share that my oldest is getting ready to go to college, and it was just 5 minutes ago that I was sitting here making a birth plan (which included LOTS of drugs).

One couple is sitting here, so cute, the only  man in the room.  Young love, coming to support his newly pregnant wife – yes, that was us.  Do I dare share what is to come? And,  I don’t mean the sleepless nights and boxes and boxes of diapers. We all know that, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” drummed it into our heads on EVERY.SINGLE.PAGE. I’m thinking more about sharing about when the  nanny quits (or doesn’t show up), or when Teacher Work Days fall on MY work days.  What about every single band concert, or broken braces bracket or argument about taking a shower?  Nah, I won’t share.  I had a neighbor whose kids were a few years older than mine that used to say “you’ll see”.   Yes, I did see, but I saw through my own eyes on my own time.

But, I might want to share about the first tooth lost, or the adorable jazz  recital costume, the fantastic soccer tournament or the thrill of the college acceptance letter.  Nah, I’ll let the new moms have that joy on their own as well.

The roller coaster ride of parenting.The highs and the lows, the ups and the downs; truly a mind game, and I wouldn’t trade it.

As part of my clinical practice, one of the parts that I really enjoy is  working with parents.  I often see them when they are at their wit’s end: their son is skipping school and using drugs, a daughter is depressed, suicidal and won’t leave the house, or the newly turned teenager is defiant and refusing to do anything asked of him or her.  My role is two-fold; one of education and support.  I support the exhausted and frightened, yet well-meaning  parent.  I ask them for their input reminding them that they know their child better than anyone else (something they have forgotten while enduring the feelings of  Failure at Parenting 101). I try to normalize the situation explaining that so much of what they are witnessing is common, yet painful, teenage behavior.

The education piece is to re-teach these parents, who may have lost their authority in the tumult,  that they are, in fact, the parents. They are in charge and they have authority and the final say.  The over hormoned, self-involved teenager often misses that  memo, preferring to operate instead via whatever is entering his mind via the all-too-important ear buds. Parents need to enforce firm limits and stick to rules and consequences.  This can all be done with love, and support, but it needs to be done to make it effective.

I will spare the pregnant mommies that last bit.  How could they possibly imagine that their little bundles of joy will transform into big, smelly, obnoxious, yet hysterical, smart and loving teenagers?  I certainly never knew!