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The Power of Pressing Pause

by Nicole Arnold October 30, 2015



I faced a crossroads today with my teenage daughter.

I brought my laptop with me downtown so I could get some work done in between appointments. While I was out, my daughter phoned me. She had panic in her voice.

Since she “lost” her laptop charger a week ago, she has been storing her homework on my laptop. Today, she desperately needed a folder that was on my computer. As she freaked out over not having her homework, I pressed pause.

In that pause, I quickly contemplated reminding her that this was my laptop, after all. I contemplated telling her that she hardly spent any time looking for her charger. I contemplated reminding her that storing things on my computer could lead to these problems.

But in that pause, I also realized that telling her these things wouldn’t be helpful – definitely not in that stressful moment, but also not at any moment. I pledged to email her the folder as soon as I could.

At my earliest opportunity, I sat down to send her the folder. When I entered her login information into my laptop, I saw that she had filled it with folders for school.

My initial reaction was, “this is my computer! How could she treat it like it’s hers?” Then I pressed pause. In that pause, I remembered that she always makes sure to only use my laptop when I don’t need it. Once my territoriality was reduced, I was able to think of a different way to react to my daughter.

I could have said, “instead of investing so much time and energy in setting up your folders on my computer, why don’t you focus on putting your work in a virtual space that you can access from anywhere? Or find your laptop charger!” Instead, I sent her the folder and praised her for her file organization.

I will tell her if her work on my computer interferes with my own. Right now it does not. Perhaps in the meantime, she’ll figure out a solution on her own. Especially since her thoughts are free from my criticism and from defending her behaviour in response to it.

Pressing pause gives me space to think about the mother I want to be instead of thinking about what I want my daughter to do or not do. I want to be generous. I want to be compassionate. I want to be helpful. I don’t want to be aggravated and frustrated. I can choose to be what I want to be when I press pause. And so can you.


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