…how good I am at talking to other kids. Why can’t my work-self come home with me?
When adults come in for their first psycho-therapy appointment with me, they are usually able to succinctly identify the issues that they want to address in treatment. (Or, more accurately, the issues that their wife wants them to address.) Kids, however, typically don’t think that there is anything “wrong” that needs to be addressed, making them extremely resistant to the process. Further complicating matters, some kids weren’t even notified that they were going to a counseling appointment until their mini-van pulls into the parking lot. (“Mom, this isn’t the zoo!!!”)
As a result, I need to work my ass off to build rapport with kids so that they can become remotely comfortable with the process and trust me enough so that their issues can eventually get addressed. It’s not dissimilar to what a dentist encounters. Unlike the dentist, I unfortunately do not have nitrous oxide at my disposal.
There’s a host of ways that I go about building this relationship. I will be especially witty: “So, you’re five years old. How long have you been married?” I will play endless games of Uno and Jenga and Othello. (This last one is my personal favorite, and not just because most of these kids are not savvy enough to prevent me from scoring those all-important corners.)
Sometimes, I will have kids play for me the latest song they downloaded to their iPod, which is inevitably four versions newer than mine. (When I show them my iPod in a self-deprecating gesture, they react as though I am whipping out my yellow Sony Sports Cassette Walkman that I got as a birthday present in the eleventh grade.)
For someone who is filled with as much insecurity and self-doubt as I am, it is rather peculiar that I am able to make the following statement so confidently: I am awesome at my job. I am strategically fun and engaging and dynamic. And every now and then, I get what is quite possibly the best compliment I could ever expect to get from a defiant teenager: “Coming here didn’t completely suck.”
At the end of every work day I go home and hope that who I am at work will carry over to who I am at home. But that doesn’t happen. Ever.
At home, I can’t focus on just one thing or one person at a time. I have four kids, two pets, one wife, countless home projects that need to be tended to, and no money to do them. As a result, I am in constant triage-mode.
It bothers me tremendously that my work-self does not show up at home. It would be nice to be viewed as fun and engaging and dynamic by my own kids. However, it’s hard to be seen this way when I am explaining to them that they have to do their homework and eat their vegetables and not play violent video games.
This version of me that they see every day is who they know me to be. I’m Dad. And they have no reason to believe that I could ever be any different than this. They don’t know that between home and work I transform so dramatically that it rivals that of Kevin Spacey’s character in “The Usual Suspects” as he morphs from his Verbal role into that of Keyser Soze.
I would like to think that I could change. I would love to have my work persona match up more closely with my home persona. But who am I kidding? If that hasn’t occurred yet, it probably isn’t going to happen any time soon.
That leaves me with only one option of how to remedy this situation: my kids should start to see me for weekly appointments at work. Granted, it would be a massive violation of my professional code of ethics. But the kids would finally have the chance to see just how awesome I can be. And it would provide me with the opportunity to ask of them the classic therapy question: “Tell me about your mother.”
Photo by fwooper/Flickr.