WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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Suggestions, Hats, and Dental Floss

A friend told me about a school conference she had to discuss concerns about her child.  At the end of the meeting, a staff member recommended my friend avoid being her child’s therapist, and instead just be “a mom.”  My friend asked me what I thought about that suggestion and all its implications.  In the most nonjudgmental, let’s-continue-the-conversation way I could muster, I told her it’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.

As moms, we are librarians, political advisors, cheerleaders, short order cooks, personal stylists, philosophers, doctors (nurses occasionally), teachers, dental hygienists, financial advisors, laundry personnel, entertainment directors, spiritual counselors, and amateur Uber drivers – why the devil wouldn’t we be therapists, too?  I’m not even sure what a “just mom” does. 

Maybe the well-meaning staff member was giving my friend permission to simply love and support versus analyze and evaluate her child.  Of course, love and support sometimes require discerning a person’s strengths and challenges, so a little analysis can come in handy.

Or maybe the suggestion was a gentle nudge away from what might have looked like micromanagement.  Most of us parents need those nudges on occasion.  Our kids oftentimes figure out far more than we credit them, so I’ll give her that one. 

But the suggestion we can be one-trick ponies in this complicated world seems silly.  Our jobs, friends, families, and communities need more than that and, on most days, I think we do, too.  I certainly don’t want to be pigeonholed into a set of expectations regarding how or who I should be.  And I’m not much interested in people who want me in such a defined role.  So, if my friend or that school staff person or any of the rest of us choose to interact in the world with all our skills and resources at the ready, I’m okay with that. 

In fact, I’m better than okay with that.  I’m cheering for us multi-hatters.  I’ve got bandages for when we stumble and stain remover for the consequent grass stains.  I have a list of books we might find interesting and a list of party ideas we can implement at any time.  You bring the dental floss.

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Whitney Cain