There are a lot of allusions to making a point stick. A parent (especially a step-parent) will attempt a lot of different tactics to make a specific bit of information hit home in such a way that it resonates with the listener and stays floating around in their mind long enough to become memory, or at least relevant to the conversation and retained for future consideration. I think this is the most challenging part of being a stepparent. Making the right part of the conversation stick at the right time.
When my daughter was younger I could see when her attention wandered and she stopped actively listening; there was something in her eyes that said, “You can make me stand here, but you can’t make me listen to you.”
Her eyes would dart around the room, desperate for anything other than my words to focus on. She would look off to the side and not make eye contact. Or worse, she would be actively creating a snide comeback in her head and nod at me like she heard every word. As parents we know when they’ve checked out. But what we don’t always catch is that while they may look like they’ve checked out, the recorders still running in the background and capturing bits of the conversation for playback later, sometimes months, or even years later.
When my stepdaughter was a teenager, I used to tell people that “she will be an incredible adult, but she’s a pretty crappy teenager.” Strong willed, intelligent, and emotional, with a moralistic sense of fairness; this child was doomed in a world where life isn’t always fair. It is especially unfair to kids whose parents aren’t financially secure, and lets face it thats most of America today.
I’ve recently discovered that with my recent marriage, I now have a book-matched set of adult daughters with the same set of characteristics, the same strengths and disadvantages, and similar personalities. In a previous life (if one believes such things) I could have been Oliver Twist; “this ones lovely! Please sir, can I have another?”
How I managed to have two step-daughters born a year apart, almost to the day? I have no idea, but I do.
Another recent discovery is that the similarities in these two young women doesn’t stop at the physical or the obvious. That’s not to say there aren’t distinct differences in the way they choose to live their lives, but in conversations the same dissonant theme recurs with both of them. It’s always “how do I chase my dreams and become successful when the worlds pitted against me?” and “I just want a job where I can make enough money to survive.”
I hope that the ten positive things I said will outweigh the two negative ones, and that the final words (the ones that stick) will be hopeful and not dreadful. Unfortunately I’m not always sure which of the words I’ve used stuck, or struck home with enough force to be remembered or pondered later. I also know that more often than not, regardless of what I try to tell them, they have to learn for themselves or hear the same words from six different sources before it’s trusted advice.
Are you still looking at the wall behind my head? Figuring out your next retort?
Are you wallowing in the negative? Or embracing your potential incredible selves?
So tell me. Did it stick?