Wearing multiple hats is the name of the game for this modern woman. Some are placed on my head gingerly with care and attention to detail, some are layered one on top of the other like a colorful but awkward craft project, and some are shoved down over my eyes and ears with the force of a sledgehammer. Regardless, I have cultivated a variety of cranial accoutrements that range from modest and mundane to outrageously dramatic. I guess the two hats I am picturing today are colorful and uneven and reminiscent of each other. One is Mom Hat – it is fabulously brazen and colorful, slightly slouchy, and stitched with a firm, sturdy thread that can stretch to an unbelievable degree without snapping. The other is still colorful, slightly more refined, with a level trim and cut-to-fit shape. I call it Introspective Hat. You know, sometimes I find a minute or two to give “life” some thought.
Picture this: Introspective Hat is underneath Mom Hat but still visible enough. So, here is this mish-mash of me having to reflect on myself whilst still donning Mom Hat. You might ask, “Why in the world would you try to be reflective while in full-on mom mode?” Good question. In the past it would have been ridiculous to wear both at once. But, then I had a teenager.
Let me suggest that my lovely hatboxes, all in place and carefully organized into categories like: Work, Romance, Driving-In-Rush-Hour, Domestic, Vacation, etc.-you get the idea-have been tossed about like an earthquake shook my beautifully designed walk-in closet of cultivated headdresses. I have found that a teenager makes me wear the most unusual combinations. Sure – there are plenty of mix-ups we can discuss later, but back to my original visual – Introspection Hat under Mom Hat.
I have found that my teenage daughter has me acting and thinking in ways that are different than how I used to act in Mom Hat. I was the director in Mom Hat – I ran the show. Questions about how baby should be and act in the world? Mama adorned in Mom Hat knows. Questions about what if and why? Mama knows. Questions of who is safe, what can I do? You got it. Mom Hat. Well, all I can say is thank goodness Mom Hat has that stretchy thread, because it’s being tested. The thing is, the questions were getting more complex, touching on nerves that I didn’t know were there or had buried long ago in my own adolescence. If I made it through my own teenage years, shouldn’t I be an expert?
Curious about why I might be triggered by my daughter’s inquiries, I turned to Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. (What can I say? I’m a psychologist.) That’s when some things fell into place. Why is it hard to parent a teenager with the same old hat (haha) methods? I partially figured it out (Introspective Hat). There is a question facing teenagers: Who can I be? Deep, right? That’s a hard one that only allows for some periphery Mom Hat guidance. But, it made me ask myself why that question resonated so much with me, my own uncertainties. What do you know – Erikson had an answer for that in the form of an existential question for my stage of life: Can I make my life count?
Not for nothing, but aren’t those questions amazingly similar? I mean, you can even put them together: Who can I be to make my life count? We are both struggling with big questions at our strikingly different stages of life. So, when my daughter voices her insecurities about what her place will be in the world, I feel those insecurities deep down in my introspective self. They chafe because they make me question me and if I count, if what I have done counts, if I am or still am figuring out if who I can be will count.
So, there you have it – 2 hats, one critical question. Who are we in the world and do we count? Mom Hat does not have the answer to that. But, Introspective Hat is willing to give it some thought.