The most amazing thing happened today.
Well, it started yesterday, when I got upset.
That wasn’t amazing. That hurt. I had asked my kids to pitch in on getting the house ready for the exterminators to rid us of termites. They never came out and said, “No.” They just didn’t do it.
Come to think of it, their excuses as to why they were not helping were somewhat amazing.
I mean, I can see the humor in it NOW. I was told,
“I thought it was Wednesday,”
“I’m feeling anxious for some reason,” and
“I need to stay in my room with the dog to make sure he doesn’t pee on my stuff.”
I’m pretty sure those are the worst excuses I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard some terrible ones over the years.
By the end of the day I was furious, feeling like my kids just didn’t care, even though they rallied at the last minute and helped with some of the prep work. But I was also aware that this was something I had done to myself. I had to admit that I had done the bulk of that work in complete martyrdom, refusing to speak up and let them know how upset I was. Refusing to advocate for myself.
While I was doing it, I was arguing with myself, asking why I wouldn’t just go grab that dog and stow it in the bathroom for half an hour and insist that that child pitch in. I couldn’t answer that question. I didn’t know. I just knew that it made more sense to me to shut down emotionally and take the hit and be hurt than it did to speak up and insist that they help me.
Which is probably how I managed to set it up over the years that when Mom asks them to do something, it’s optional.
So as much as I wanted to blame everything on them and storm out of the house and never look back, I had to be honest and see my part in it.
By this morning I realized that I also needed to do something about it. It may be too late at this point to completely retrain them, but I did at least need to let them know they hurt me with their disregard for my request that they pitch in.
I didn’t want to have this conversation, mind you. Everything within me didn’t want to. I don’t want to be the bummer parent. I want to be the fun parent.
Yeah, I know — no, that’s not working out very well for me.
So I knew I had to take care of this. I knew I had to do the thing I didn’t want because otherwise I would just be repeating the mistake.
It took a while today before I could get all three of them in the same room, what with the exterminators working around the house, so in the meantime I walked around with dread of this horrible thing I was going to have to do, texting friends and asking them to pray for me because I was just not good at this sort of thing.
And here’s part of the amazing thing, although there’s more after that:
When the time finally came to have the talk, it wasn’t horrible. It was actually kind of nice. It was an honest talk with my kids about how they had hurt my feelings. I told them I felt like they were taking me for granted. I acknowledged their reasons for not helping and the work they eventually did, but told them that even if they had a really good reason, the dismissal of my instructions without even an apology was hurtful.
They surprised me then by telling me that I had every right to be hurt and that they really had let me down. One said it was a matter of respect and that they should be keeping that in mind in the future. Another one said that we are all very individualistic in our family and that we need to think more about working as a team, especially in situations like this.
So it wasn’t horrible at all. It morphed into a discussion of how we are going to handle Christmas this year and where we might go on vacation in the future. As a team. As a family.
It was pretty awesome. Nobody got upset and nobody yelled and nothing hurtful was said – we just all told the truth and walked away feeling better about it.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that the truth had set me free. This is where the truly amazing part comes in.
Because later in the day, I dropped my son at a friend’s volleyball game, and he got the pickup time mixed up, so I ended up sitting in the car with rapidly defrosting groceries for 45 minutes. At the end of that time, just as he was about to come out, he was invited out to a local burger joint and he texted to say, “Sorry, I’m going out for burgers – you can go home.”
So this was a very teenage boy thing to do, and we will have a serious talk about him being more respectful of his driver when he needs a ride somewhere. Or he may just need to walk home a few times to really let it sink in. At any rate, it was irritating.
And here’s the amazing thing: It was ONLY irritating. I wasn’t angry.
As I drove home, I realized that if I had not taken care of yesterday’s angst this morning by having that talk with the kids, I would have piled today’s irritation on top of yesterday’s and would have been absolutely shattered by the way my kids were treating me. I might have said and done things I would later regret. I certainly would have felt just AWFUL.
You know that feeling – that pit of the stomach, angry, hurt, end-of-the-world, nobody-loves-me feeling. I would have been experiencing THAT rather than simple exasperation.
If nothing else will convince me to start speaking up for myself, that will. Because I HATE that feeling. I have felt that feeling for far too long, on and off over the years. So to think that I could avoid all that simply by SPEAKING THE TRUTH?
Well now, that’s a game-changer.
I told my friend this and she said, “Why did everyone who was responsible for our upbringing and nurturing seem to think it was better that we didn’t speak up, ever?”
I told her I thought it was because it was easier for them that way. So here we are, both well past our coming of age and entry into adulthood, finally learning that it’s okay to say, “I don’t like this – will you please change it?”
Honestly, in the hours that have passed since I realized that speaking up for myself is a superpower rather than a difficult task, my whole life has started to realign a little.
All that angst over the hurtful things my husband has said and done over the years — that could have been avoided. Those deep wounds might have healed up right away if I had simply spoken up and said, “No, this is not right.”
Granted, I did try, come to think of it. My efforts were usually met with a giant wave of tide-turning blame-shifting, so it was much easier to just take the hit and die a little more inside.
But there were many small things that I let go. Maybe if I had addressed them, calmly and truthfully, they wouldn’t have built up into giant eruptions of Everything That Has Been Wrong For The Last Three Months when I couldn’t ignore the latent emotions any more.
(In case anyone is wondering, this is not an effective means of marital communication.)
And maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to explain exactly what went wrong when someone asks.
Because there’s no point in getting hurt over someone’s behavior if you don’t tell them it’s hurting you.
This is probably not groundbreaking news to some of my readers. You’re probably scratching your head and going, “Yeah, duh…. you didn’t know this?”
No. No I did not. I was far too well-trained by a mother who couldn’t deal with anyone else’s opinions or emotions, so I simply stopped having them.
So this, my friends, is a giant news-flash in the world of Muffy The Drama Slayer.
This changes everything.