by Pari

You’d think I’d have learned by now.
You’d think it’d be second nature.
Pause. Wait. Think!

That’d be the wise thing to do. But it’s difficult to be wise when you’re the parent of teenagers.

Before I continue, a few disclaimers:
my kids are
interesting and,
generally, really fun and enjoyable to be around.
So it’s easy to fall into traps I should know to avoid.

Today it was the seemingly innocuous request to edit an essay. Because I respect the process — and my children’s intellects — I approached it with the same diligence and attention to detail that I would for any other writer I also respect. When my teen came into the office to hear my comments, I began to critique the way I’ve learned from years of experience.

“You’re a wonderful writer. You’re working with major concepts and go into them in excellent –“
“Don’t give me all of that stuff.  Just tell me what you found,” said my teen.
“This is what I found. And I’d like to give you an overview of –“
“That’s not what I asked for. Just tell me what’s wrong.” Blue-green eyes tearing up now.
“Okay. Well . . . there’s this problem with tenses. You shift between present and past in sentences and it doesn’t always make –“
“I do that on purpose. ” A foot stomping the wooden floor for emphasis.
“Okay, well, it doesn’t always work. It confuses the reader and –“
I know what I mean. My teacher knows what I mean.”
By now, I had started to feel like an idiot. A well-meaning idiot suffering an external perception of malice. “But . . . but the reader –“
“It’s my paper. Don’t tell me how to write it!”

And we were off . . . hurt feelings all around. Anger. Misunderstanding. All this right before I had to take the kids back to their father for the week. My child stormed out of the office, a tsunami of unhappiness crashing through the door. I, being the mature woman we all know, slammed that door and locked it. Truth was, I felt incredibly offended that I’d been asked to help, spent time taking the task seriously, and got shut down so quickly. Wah!

There are so many of these instances in life, the traps that are achingly apparent but which we ignore. Why? I don’t know if it’s because we get lulled into the assumption that this time it might be different or if we simply forget all the times when it wasn’t.

Two questions today:
1. What traps do you fall into with distressing frequency?
2. What traps do you recognize now and manage to avoid?

9 thoughts on “Traps

  1. Jake Nantz

    You would think after 10 years of teaching multiple preps at the same time, I would remember to space out my major assignments for each separate prep (or class type). Nope. Here I am again, having to balance grading my Seniors' research papers against my Creative Writing kids' Setting-based stories, because I had them all due at the same time.

    Every. Damn. Year.


  2. David Corbett


    There is a special place in heaven for you. That's the good news. Bad news: There are no doors to slam in heaven.

  3. Pari Noskin

    Jake, I'm amused. That's a rotten trap and it's even worse because you *know* you could avoid it with planning.
    Ah, well. Good luck!

    Thank you. I do have to admit that I enjoyed slamming that door.

    Have you ever read "Don Juan in Hell?" by George Bernard Shaw? His basic premise is that Hell is a lot more interesting than Heaven. If what I've seen and heard from those who are certain they're going to heaven . . . well, I'm inclined to agree with GBS (and there may be doors there!).

  4. Susan Shea

    Pari, I winced with remembered pain at your post, which will appear funny to you when it's further away in time. If it's any comfort, I knew faculty at the college level who got the same push back when meeting with 19-year olds whose quivering lips and folded arms signaled their own inability to hear any criticism of their fledgling efforts. By that time, the inability to communicate clearly should become a major issue. But then, there's always Twitter as your main communication medium and how much trouble can you get in, linguistically with 140 characters?

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