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Kelly Corrigan’s “Tell Me More” and lessons you will read about life, parenting

After Kelly Corrigan’s dear friend Liz died, and then her father, she was “urgently wanting to deserve my life and the people in it,” she told me in a phone interview, shortly after her book “Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say,” was released in January. She wondered what Liz would think “if she could see me storming around my life the way I am, so inside-out about this trivial nonsense.”

That led Corrigan to think a lot about what truly matters in life, love and parenting. “What do you have to be able to say if you want to be in a long relationship with another person? What are the limiting factors?” And, a real reminder for parents who may feel like they have to give the impression they know everything: “If you can’t say ‘I don’t know,’ then that’s just going to block you from a whole set of interactions and connection points.”

She noticed that when one of her daughters is struggling with a tough issue, Corrigan just wants to fix it, or to simply tell her she’s doing great. But that isn’t going to help. In fact, it will likely make things worse. “If I say to my girlfriend ‘Parenting is so much more confounding than I anticipated!’ She could say ‘Really?’ Or she could say ‘Oh you’re doing a great job.’ Or she could say ‘I know,'” Corrigan said. “For my money, I would like her to say ‘I know’ each time. That does way more than a pat reassurance that I’m cleaning up as a mom. That’s never comforting to me. I need you to say I know, I know, I know.” And she has realized that is what her daughters need, too, when they are struggling or frustrated.

Here, we share an excerpt from the book that reads like one giant “I know, I see you, I hear you.” In this case, it’s a humorous, “Yes, I know. Parenting is confounding.”

Unlike my mother, sometimes I am seized by an overpow­ering (and pathetic) need to make my children like me. This feeling is quite a surprise to me. I thought I had more personal conviction than to chase approval ratings, and from such fickle customers. But it keeps happening.

One rainy weekend a few years back, I was trying to jack up my popularity when I found myself in one of those mall islands — you know, the shops without walls that float in the current of foot traffic and before you know it, you’re in it?

My daughters had slowed to a stop, mesmerized by a dozen hairstyling instruments positioned in a row of stainless-steel holsters. I looked my typical terrible — mascara from the night before bending my eyelashes in weird ways, a shirt most people would press. A wave of self-consciousness splashed up against me as the goddess who governed the island rotated on her spikes and shone her glorious countenance upon us. She was definitely one of those women who showered every day.

No need to be ashamed, Old Lady, her gaze seemed to say. It’s not you I’m after. Her Persian Princess eyes landed on Georgia, whose hair was thrown up into a spiky bun. Come . . . try . . . she beckoned, waving my daughter toward a throne of white pleather.

Here was the getaway moment. This is when the shrewd consumer drops her gaze and scurries her charges along. But as my chance to step away from the light passed, I said a series of things that were not no, things like “Yeah, we have a minute” and “Sure, I guess she can sit” and “You know, we did buy a cheap drugstore flatiron and we were disappointed.”

With each stroke of the miraculous wand, my daugh­ter’s mound of hair became the stunning locks of shampoo commercials — good shampoo like Pantene Smooth and Sleek.

The goddess had more questions.

“Doesn’t this look easy?” Yes.

“Can you see how the ceramic protects the ends?” Amazing.

In minutes, Claire was in the seat and another transfor­mation had begun.

“Look.” She wrapped Claire’s fingers around the wand. “Even Little Sister can do it.” Well, I’ll be damned.

While the girls marveled at their makeovers, a call was made to a man in faraway ManagerLand to ask for a very special price for two young women to have this product, and the critical argan oil that came with it for a small additional fee. During their hushed conversation, the girls glanced at me anxiously like finalists in a beauty pageant awaiting word from the judges. I was already in. It’s fun to say yes. Everyone loves you when you say yes. Was there a price too high to make my children like me, embrace me, smile all afternoon and for the rest of their lives? Four minutes later, we rode down the escalator, the girls giddy and victorious while I followed behind, $200 lighter. A classic chump.

#nevernotonce did my mother indulge me in the name of a hug. She didn’t even like hugs. Mary Corrigan knew a cheap yes was a cigarette buzz, passing in minutes, leav­ing you sour-stomached and polluted, somewhere you don’t want to be, doing something you don’t want to do, with no one but y-o-u to blame.

Excerpted from Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan. Copyright © 2018 by Kelly Corrigan. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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