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Raising The Bar (Flashback 2015)


Every now and then, people ask me " Do your children complain that you are "therapizing" them?" I usually answer with a befuddled " Actually…. no" People have asked me enough times now that I am guessing that: 1) either they feel therapized by myself or 2) my children are actually missing out on some core benefits of having a therapist as a mother. I also wonder if I am suppose to be working some shift after hours I don't know about.What I do get are comments, probably akin to a complaint in the quality-control department.  They usually come in the form of a politely phrased, genuinely confused, unsolicited feedback from my son that goes something like -- " Mom, I am little confused because usually when I am scared about something, you are usually really comforting and today you weren't."  He does it in a classic Commando style that never fails to evoke pangs of guilt in me. This is usually the point at which I sigh, own and explain ( not defend ) why early in the morning, in the whirl of getting-out-of-the house activity, is not the best time to "talk about feelings."

But the more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to think that the absence of that complaint is actually a compliment. That therapy, or "therapizing behavior" isn't a complaint in this household. Instead, it is a given. They expect it. Like they expect potable water out of a tap or flu shots given in their sleep. Both of which they take for granted. In fact, they come home with potential client offerings . " You know Caitlin, in class, I think she needs therapy. She was acting up in class today."  "What's going on at home you think? " "Nothing really, her parents are so loving. She is in therapy herself, but she still can't get back into class sometimes. She has to sit outside." This is the run-of-the-mill, after school conversation they have. Words like " emotional intelligence" " attachment issues" " on the spectrum"  are used to describe teachers, tutors and classmates both tongue-in-cheek as well as a serious DSM 5 Diagnosis. I'll never forget the moment when my little girl watched the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Johnny Depp who plays Willy Wonka had a flashback about his father. The child mentioned casually while chowing down a Haagen Daaz ice-cream " Wow mom, he has PTSD, he needs EMDR"  What tickles me pink is that in this tiny microcosm of a world I call family unlike the rest of the world -- there is no stigma about therapy. Actually, when screening all the boys in her 7th grade class, my daughter perceives her classmates with a therapeutic background as an asset. " Oh Ben, his mom is a therapist? Huh! " you can see her little brain churning. " That explains everything…. "I remember a long ago, during the early years of my marriage, when I would call up my mother and vent about my husband and she would say" Does he hit you? Does he cheat? Does he gamble away the money? Then be grateful! " Even then in my twenties, long before I got into the field. I felt so outraged that the bar was so low in my mother's world and her mother's. " Mom!" I remember saying to her, biting down yelling, " My daughter one day, is not going the kiss the ground some guy walks on just because he doesn't hit her or cheat on her! " Such is so. Since then, twenty years of marriage has now told me my mother is not wrong, that those elements of fidelity, consideration and providence are rarer and rarer qualities these days. Five years of private practice has shown me that chances are, my children, however learned, will replicate the attachment dynamic my husband and I play out everyday. But still it warms my heart to realize that the bar has risen. At least in my house, there is no shame in therapy, no shame in having a mom as a therapist, that it might actually be an asset on your resume in the choice of a spouse. Written 2015. Natalie and Aidan are now 19 and 21. Natalie is studying to be a neuropsychologist and Aidan is applying for a grant for Asian and Ethnic studies. My practice is now 15 years old.

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