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  • Eydie Balsam

Tip # 4 Don't talk to your teen on an empty stomach

My mother was right about a lot of things (I am not saying that when I was a teenager I always listened to her, but as an adult, I wish I had). Once, she told me not to go to the grocery store hungry. And she was right.


I don't know about you, but I find that if I go to the store hungry, I wind up buying a lot of crap I will never eat - either impulse junk, or sometimes a whole host of ingredients for some new (very involved, detailed) recipe I want to try, but know it probably won't happen - well at least tonight.


Well, I am here to tell you that you can use this same philosophy in other parts of your life. Especially when you are talking with your teens, especially when you are talking to your teens about tough, stressful, uncomfortable topics - like COLLEGE!!


The other day I got home from my office; who am I kidding? I am mostly working from home, so I walked from my office (the sunroom) to my kitchen (about 10 feet) to find my daughter hunched over her SAT book (with her phone next to her - beeping every 10 seconds and the tv on in the background, not to mention her crap spilled out all over the kitchen island - where my dinner prep needed to happen.)


It had been a long day for both of us; she was up at 6 for swim practice, then a three-hour zoom plus a two-hour on-campus orientation for school, a rush to finish her summer reading - and now she was prepping for her SAT tutor - which by the way was scheduled for an hour later. I had just wrapped up 7 hours of zoom calls with some seniors who realized that their application deadlines are looming.


It suffices to say that neither of us had eaten very much - my menu that day consisted of my daily cup (ok you got me, cups of coffee) bowl of berries (of course with whipped cream) - and plans of stopping to make my self something other than a bowl of popcorn and a diet coke for lunch - yeah well that didn't happen. But I digress.


I am not sure what my daughter ate, but there was some concoction of bowls and pots in the sink - (clearly she was too busy to do her dishes - DON'T GET ME STARTED ON THAT ONE!)


Anyhow, I made the mistake of talking to her about the upcoming test - to which I got - "I am going to fail, and I am never going to get into college" speech. A sane, unhungry Eydie would have said something like, " I am sorry you feel that way. Is there anything I can do to help? Or I am sorry you feel that way perhaps you and your tutor can discuss this when you meet with her (in an hour!)? or There are lots of times I feel like I am going to fail too - and you know what helps me? Chocolate (you got me again, I would have said wine - but people - she is 17!)


But no, hungry, Eydie did not respond with empathy or compassion. Hungry Eydie responded, (can you guess) - yup! With the "I can't deal with your ridiculousness now" tone and attitude. I was hungry, tired, and still needed to get dinner made before heading back to read the other essays I promised to read before the end of the night (which I will tell you - for me is not the same as the end of the night for my students!)


I looked at her, the phone, the mess on the island and said something snarky - I can't remember the exact words, but it probably went something like "Well, you aren't going to get the answers to the SAT from Snap Chat, or perhaps if you didn't leave your work to the last minute, or even a nice suggestion like - why don't you bring your stuff upstairs where it is quieter." You can imagine how that went. Well, let's just say dinner was delayed - and there were a few tears - from both of us.


If I had taken my mother's advice and applied it here, the outcome may have been very different. When I walked into the kitchen that night, I was reacting impulsively the same way I do when I walk down the grocery store aisles on an empty stomach - reacting without fully processing the situation.


My daughter needed time to vent, space to feel, and compassion from me - what she got was my impulse to show her there is a better way to attack her work. What she got was my stomach talking, not my heart.


If I had eaten a better lunch, or even simply said, "Yikes, that is tough, I am happy to listen, but let me just eat this piece of cheese (ok you got me again, a block of cheese) perhaps I would not have reacted so hangrily.


Now, I keep small bags of trail mix or crackers in my office (and sunroom), and before I shut down and head home, I grab a snack. I will probably still walk into the kitchen to my daughter's unwashed dishes (we are working on that), and her work spread across the kitchen counter, but when my stomach is full, so is my heart.


I quickly realize that in 2 short years, I will be walking into an empty kitchen - so I take a deep breath, and say, "Hi lovey, it looks like you are hard at work. Can I get you a snack while I make dinner?" (but not before I pour myself a glass of wine!

Eydie Balsam

Email: ebalsam@gbcaas.com

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