APRIL 24, 2023

Meet the Host: How parenting made me the therapist I am.

This get-to-know-us episode is different from what will be the typical format. Get to know host Leslie Cohen-Rubury as a parent through a conversation with her adult daughter, Dale.

Hear her journey of parenting Dale, who had intense emotions and challenging behaviors from an early age. In their conversation, Dale shares her experiences, including the epiphany she had when she realized how her mom’s parenting approach was helping her many years later. Up next, the first full episode of Is My Child a Monster? will be released May 1st, featuring a therapy session with parents dealing with their 10-year-old daughter’s anxiety. 


About the host: Leslie Cohen-Rubury is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with a Masters in Social Work as well as a Masters in Special Education. She has 37 years’ experience working with families and children in school and community settings. She is trained in evidence-based therapies including Dialectic Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, DBT-PE and CPT Trauma Treatments. Leslie has been married for 42 years and has 3 adult children and two grandchildren. Leslie is passionately committed to helping people develop a new perspective and new skills to enhance their emotional well-being.

About the guest: Dale Rubury is Leslie’s daughter, a producer of this podcast, and today’s guest. After graduating from college with a degree in Zoology, Dale moved to warmer climates to pursue a career with animals. She worked at the largest primate sanctuary in North America for 7 years before moving on to a different career path. For the past few years she has been in the world of construction where she is currently building yurts and working for Habitat for Humanity. Dale is proud to say that she has a healthy relationship with her anxiety. 

Credits: Is My Child a Monster is produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Theme music is by L-Ray Music. Public relations is handled by Tink Media. Transcriptions by Eric Rubury. A special thanks to everyone who contributes their wisdom and support to make this possible. 


[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

Leslie Cohen-Rubury: This is a special introductory episode of Is My Child A Monster?, a brand new parenting therapy podcast. I’m your host, Leslie Cohen-Rubury. And I’m a parent and a therapist with 37 years of experience. Our first full episode comes out next week, on May 1st. I’m going to work with parents and caregivers who share their stories in therapy sessions recorded live. Today’s a little different. Instead of meeting with parents, I’d like to introduce you to my daughter, Dale. And I would like you to get to know me as a parent. I know what it feels like to be worried about your child. I have three children. I was really excited to be a parent. I had a lot of confidence as a parent, and then came along Dale, who was so challenging, it was difficult. She was having tantrums. She was saying no, I could see the struggles. And I was also sort of pulling out my hair because I didn’t know what to do. I sat on my kitchen floor asking myself, “Is my child a monster?” I mean, I really worried myself about whether or not I could help Dale or was it over my head. And I am lucky enough to have Dale here with me today to tell you what her experience was, what it was like together, as we figured out this parenting journey.

Dale Rubury: I put you to the test.

Leslie: You did.[laughter]

Dale: You’re welcome. And like we always joke, I made you the therapist you are today. So you’re welcome.

Leslie: Can I start by asking you: when you grew up, did you feel like you were bad?

Dale: I think in some sense, yeah. There was a feeling of being the bad child. I mean, in comparison to my brother and my twin sister, they were never getting in trouble the way I was. They didn’t throw tantrums the way I did. They just didn’t seem to struggle the way I did. And internally, I even sometimes scared myself. I felt like the monster to myself, because I would often feel that I didn’t know how to control my emotions or really understand them at all. When did you start noticing that I was a really sensitive kid?

Leslie: I did notice that at three years old, when I started asking you to do things or you were able to answer the question, “yes or no?” a lot came out as “No.” You were saying, “No.” And all of a sudden having these emotional tantrums, where putting on your shoes was painful, getting dressed moving as quickly as your brother and sister. And at first it was very confusing. I just saw the tantrums–that’s all I saw. Dad didn’t know what to do. And he looked to me and said, “Well, what are we supposed to do?” And I just realized you were dealing with such big emotions. So I knew I needed to help you understand that you just had really big emotions. But I was in unknown territory. It was confusing. And I started out parenting, thinking I knew what I was doing. I was a very confident parent.

Dale:  What did you do when I was in full tantrum mode — just screaming, throwing? What did you do?

Leslie: I knew there was a difference between helping you solve the problem and helping you calm down. So in the beginning, if I didn’t lose my own mind, then I wasn’t screaming at you. Because to be very honest, having three kids, working, everything going on, I lost it as well. But if I was in my wise mind, I would help you calm down. And I would ask you, “Dale, do you need space? Or would you like X marks the spot?” And X marks the spot — I don’t know if you remember — was a little tactile poem that I would do on your back. And you would lay across my lap and at three years old, you knew whether you needed space or whether you wanted X marks the spot. And it was amazing. And so I could respect you to know what you needed. And that would calm you down. I would just either leave you alone, or I’d help you out.

Dale: I think a lot of people’s approach is to try to fix the problem that the child is having in the moment. Like, I do remember struggling with my shoes, my right shoe had to be perfectly tighter than my left shoe. No wrinkles in the sock. It was just sensory mayhem for me. You weren’t gonna fix my sensory input to my central nervous system. But the most effective thing you were able to do was validate that I was struggling and then do something that felt less like a solution, like asking me if I needed the space, or what have you. And those proved to be the most helpful things I remember you doing. And the times that you did lose it — which is understandable, I feel like, for any parent — that’s what I think made me feel the worst or like I was the bad child.

Leslie: So that gets me thinking, there was a situation that happened when you were seven years old, where I did lose it one time, not my proudest moment, because I got really angry, and I hit my hand on the counter, but the faucet broke instead of just hitting my hand. And you went off to get your piggy bank and say, “Mom, you know, I’ll fix the problem.” And I said to you, “Dale, that’s my anger, not yours.” Did it help you? And do you remember, I took responsibility for my emotions growing up so that you could learn to deal with your own?

Dale: Yeah, and I think those were the skills, seeing them modeled, were sometimes the most effective way to learn. I mean, not only did that give me an understanding of, “Okay, whose emotions am I responsible for?” But it also allowed me to learn how to take responsibility for my own emotions as a kid, even though I was bad at it back then. But as an adult…

Leslie: What did you used to tell me when you were little?

Dale: I’d say, “That’s stupid. That’s not going to work.” Every single time.

Leslie: Do you remember that phone call from Thailand? You were working over in Thailand at 22 years old…

Dale: I do. Yeah. It was this epiphany, I feel like I had that I just had to share with you even from all the way over there. It was basically just that all the skills that you kept repeating to a child who just kept saying, “That’s stupid, that’s not going to fix anything,” ended up landing. And I remember thinking like, “Wow, this, this actually does work.” Here I am finally feeling the effects of it. And knowing that those little seeds you planted all those years ago, actually took root, and strong root, and and they’re helping me as as an adult. And so yeah, I remember wanting you to tell your your clients: make sure they know this, make sure that they know that it’s not going to be immediate gratification in the moment, their child is not going to start using those skills after a week or even after a year. But just knowing that it actually does makes a difference.

Leslie: I will never forget that moment when you called because it brought me relief and a sense of validation for all the hard work; because it’s really hard work parenting and when you’re parenting a sensitive child, you just don’t know what you’re doing is helping or not. So it was a special moment for, I think, for both of us.

[Music: Quiet Summer Evening by Roma Record 1973]

Leslie: Dale, did you know that I was the kid in my family that you were in your family?

Dale: I don’t think so. Because you don’t appear that way. Now, it’s the same way that people know me now. And they can’t imagine the Tasmanian devil of a child that I was back then. So it’s hard for me to picture you like that.

Leslie: Oh, I know. My mother didn’t know what to do with me, as I ran around the living room chasing my sisters. I was so different from my two sisters. I was the temper tantrum one. What I just thought was, “There’s something wrong with me.” And so getting into this line of work might have been from my own feeling like I was the monster, but now helping other children and then having the opportunity to support you and help you become your best version of yourself — I’m just so glad it works. And I really want to help other parents. 

So Dale, when we butted heads — and there were times that it was not easy — I would also get these Mother’s Day notes that were incredibly touching. Do you remember those opposite feelings? How did you deal with our relationship?

Dale: Looking back on it, I realized that a lot of what I presented to you in day-to-day life, you got what my anxiety looked like. You took the brunt of all of those emotions, intense emotions, that I didn’t understand. But that wasn’t who I felt like inside. And it was easier when I was young to just express the anxiety or that’s the stuff that felt just bottled up, like it was bursting to come out. But deep down and take away kind of that layer, it was really just someone who is really grateful to — I’m getting emotional [tearing up] — to have someone who would — who would be there for it and not leave, not give up. And not hate me for it, I already hated myself a little bit for it. So you didn’t pile on to that. And you just kept trying to help me no matter what I threw at you. And even from a young age, I recognized that, and I was grateful for it. So I think, I think in those moments where you write the Mother’s Day card, or whatever, it was just that, that overwhelming feeling of just being really, really thankful.

Leslie: It is so sweet to hear you say that and not easy because it’s real. It’s so real to be struggling with that. And Dale, I so appreciate that you can hold both, that you can see me both as the person with big emotions as well, and the person who could understand you. I mean, this podcast that I’m putting out in the world is for that very, very reason. I so want parents to help their children. My job is to help you understand who you are. And it was my goal to let you know that you are not a monster, you are not a bad person at all, and that you didn’t understand what was going on. And it was my job to help you understand that that’s anxiety, that when you’re yelling at me, “No, I’m not going to do that.” You’re really trying to say, “Mom, I’m scared. I don’t think I’m capable of doing that.” And so helping parents understand their child brings that connection that you and I have, that we know — at 33 and 63 — that we, the two of us, are extremely close. Because we know that we understand each other. The goal is to feel connected and understood. 

Dale, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. And I always feel like it’s a privilege to hear you talk and share. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Dale: Yeah, thank you for having me on. And I’m excited that you’re putting this knowledge and skills out to a larger audience to help all the other sensitive kids like me.

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

Leslie: Thank you so much for joining us today for this special Meet The Host episode of Is My Child A Monster?, a new parenting therapy podcast. We officially launch next week on May 1st. In our first full episode, you will meet Michelle and Emiliano, who are struggling with their child’s school anxiety, panic attacks, and difficulty going to sleep. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts. This episode was produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and me. Our theme music is by L-Ray Music. I’m your host, Leslie Cohen-Rubury. And remember, your child is not a monster, but a person who deserves to be understood.

Transcription by Eric Rubury

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