Monday, March 09, 2009

Complicated Creatures

Last week, Banana mère called to talk about Banana. She's been more complicated than usual lately, and it had finally risen to the point we both needed to talk about it. Basically, she's turned whiny and occasionally defiant. She complains and debates. She tells me that I'm being mean. When she's tired and being told to do something she doesn't want to do, she says she'd rather be with her mother. It's a difficult, sometimes-unpleasant situation, one that often requires me to take a deep breath and let the comment slip off my back.

Even though it hurts, I have to let it go. Such comments and behavior are certainly worth monitoring, but it's often clear when and why the anger comes out. In the past, I engaged her when she said such things, and then I realized that her comments were just a device, a method to get her way as well as poorly-expressed feelings.

One thing I've learned about my girl is that she has a hard time critically verbalizing her thoughts and ideas. She's a brilliant artist and an amazing consumer of information, but given the need to express her feelings or thoughts in more than just the briefest of terms she tends to shut down. Her teacher even expressed concern about this in our recent parent-teacher conference. As verbal as I tend to be, learning how to navigate this personality trait has been difficult for me. The learning process has required me to find other ways to understand what is going on and how to tackle it. For example, when it comes to adding explanations to schoolwork, I try to find questions that will lead her to say more in her answers, and when it comes to complicated issues at home, I find a way to lead her to opening up her answers.

That said, we went through a similar cycle last spring when Banana mère was considering some life changes — new job ideas, new living situation. In this case, we are facing similar issues, and I understand now that Banana is a savvy little girl who may have picked up on such potential changes without being told directly. Her reactions to me and to her mother perhaps reflect inner fears about the future and her only way of "controlling" the situation.

It's one more adventure in patience and understanding.