Sometimes people assume that being a psychologist must make parenting so much easier. Let me assure you, it does not. In fact, I think it makes it harder. I tend to over-analyze and over-think most of the parenting decisions I make. I often worry: “Am I messing her up? Will she one day be on some other therapist’s couch complaining about her ‘mommy issues’?”  Sure, I can do good work with other people’s children, but it is very hard — impossible really — to be objective about your own child.  Sometimes, too, other professionals forget that I’m a parent first, a psychologist second. For example, when talking to Avery’s pediatrician about Avery’s picky eating, she said: “Of course I don’t have to tell you all this, Dr. Amy. You know what to do.”

No, I don’t; please treat me like any other clueless parent.

Being a psychologist is also a difficult job to explain to your child. I’m not a fireman or a teacher or even a medical doctor. When Avery would come to me with a bo-bo, she’d often say, “You can fix it, because you’re a doctor.” I have to tell her, no, I’m not that kind of doctor. I’m a “feelings doctor.” And she’d look at me like I’m pretty much useless.  Over time, though, she’s come to understand what I do. She tells her friends: “My mommy is a psychologist. She helps people with hurt feelings.” I think that’s the best job description ever.  

Every now and then I slip up and keep my psychologist hat on at home, and Avery is quick to call me on it. One day we were playing dolls, and she was talking about how her baby was grumpy. I said: “Well, maybe if your baby went to bed on time instead of wanting to watch one more episode of Doc McStuffins, she wouldn’t be so grumpy.” Avery looked at me and said: “Stop it, Mom. We’re not playing anything real.” So much for play therapy at home. One possible benefit, though, of having a psychologist for a mom is that there is almost never an unexpressed emotion in our house. A lot of people, children and adults, have great difficulty not only in coping with strong feelings, but even identifying what the feelings are. I’m proud that Avery is insightful about her own feelings, and she cares about the feelings of others. For example, I overhead her tell a friend: “I know you look happy on the outside, but I know you’re sad on the inside.” She has a large feelings vocabulary, and she’s able to link emotions to situations, behavior, and experiences. Not a bad skill to have.

Last weekend, Avery and I attended the CYT performance of “The Wizard of Oz,” and Avery was shy about taking her picture with the Lion. On the way out, she told me: “Mom, I get nervous around people I don’t know.  When I feel nervous, my throat feels dry, and I can’t talk.”  I told her: “I understand. When Mom gets nervous, I feel like I can’t breathe.” Avery looked at me unimpressed and said: “Humph. Well, mine is worse, because talking is more important than breathing.”  And for her, it probably is.


"OK, mom, tell me how you feel..."

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