"Look, Dear," I managed.
I felt myself reacting and instantly regretting saying that. It sounded so patronising. Linda was a clever girl, but only 13 years old. What does she know about life? Not a lot really. She doesn't know what I know. I really regretted saying what I did.
"What's going on at school?"
I'd asked this question several times before over recent weeks in many different ways.
"Mum," Linda challenged, "what I do at school is for me to know and you to find out if you feel so strongly about it. I am sure the teachers will tell you everything you want to know."
Linda had me there and I am sure she knew it, throwing down the gauntlet like that, though I doubt she would describe it that way. Children know what they are doing, all right. Linda knew I wouldn't go sneaking about asking her teachers what I felt I needed to know.
"Linda, you're not being fair."
I'd followed up with this and felt even more ridiculous. What was I doing? Getting myself into deeper water very quickly. It felt more like quicksand as I began to struggle. I was losing control of the situation very fast. What was I talking about saying that she wasn't being fair? She was probably right in the way she saw things, but then I go and talk about fairness. Stupid! It also seems a rather typical attitude from me as well.
I recalled the concept of Transactional Analysis. Adult to Child. This was what I was doing and it wasn't going to work. Adult to Adult. That's the mode I needed to use. At least I could make the effort to be fair.
"Linda," I started and in a steady voice I hoped. I followed this with a short pause for effect as the silence might sound good and it would give me a brief moment to think. My head was racing like a duck's feet under water and I hoped I was displaying the calm on the surface that I didn't feel.
"You're right. I shouldn't doubt you as I know you are a sensible girl."
I wouldn't use a 'but' here as I could wreck my attempt at being a good parent. Another pause instead.
"Try to look at it from my point of view," I continued. "I know you can if you want to. I care about you and I only want to make sure you are happy. I want to be happy too. I don't want to ask your teachers and that's why I am asking you."
I wouldn't try that old chestnut about me being older and knowing more either. It may be true, yet it always sounded wrong. I never mean for it to come out the way it always does. That would be doomed to failure.
"OK, Mum. That seems fair. That's all I wanted really. I sometimes feel as though I am being stamped on. Like I'm a bug or something. It's horrible."
Linda was mellowing and I felt more comfortable already. This approach seemed to be working. I should work on this Transactional Analysis approach. I felt that from the way this had gone from what could have been a confrontation to something more constructive was helping us both a great deal.
I was left wondering who was teaching whom, but only I realised that.
© Louis Brothnias (2005), Rev 2 (2007)