Monday, February 20, 2012

#!?&*%! Moments

After two happy memory posts I figured it was best to show another side of my parenting experiences.  Trust me, it's not all  Hallmark moments.  In fact, just last night I had the "opportunity" to be tested and managed to both fail and pass.

We had spent the night at a Mardi Gras fundraiser at a friend's church.  (The main thing to remember about this story is the last word in the previous sentence.)  My friend offered to send us home with some of the leftover jambalaya AND gumbo and I jumped at the chance.  My hands were full with other items plus the car keys and so I of course enlisted the help of my children (cue ominous music).

My youngest (13 yr old) is a fabulous, multi-talented,  playful guy.  One of his many talents is juggling (cue shower scene music from "Psycho").  Knowing my son well, I prefaced my request for help with, "Just hold it for me. No juggling."  Some of you may think that statement would be unusual or unnecessary.  I can only say that there was a time (about 13 years ago), when I also would have thought it unnecessary.  In fact, I said it twice because after the initial statement, I saw my son flip the leftover container over his neck. 

As the words of the second plea were crossing my lips, I saw it.  First, a missed catch, then a wobble into the other hand, a frantic third attempt and then finally free fall to the floor.  Shrimp jambalaya splayed on the indoor-outdoor carpeting of the church foyer.  I looked up at my son and said in an angry but not screaming voice, "Get out. Go outside.  I can't be with you right now."

I knelt down and scooped up the rice from the very forgiving carpeting, threw the mess in the garbage, gathered our lighter load, and headed to the car.  Once there, I took a deep breath and asked my son in a very calm voice, "Do you know what upset me just now?"  Surprisingly, he did.  "You're upset because I ignored you."

"That's exactly right.  When you ignore me like that it feels like a big f. you."  Now, even though I only used the initial "F", it still felt wrong.  It wasn't a proud moment for me.  Being honest with my feelings with my kids is important but being honest in the heat of the moment is rarely insightful.  On the good side, I didn't belabor the incident with him or try to shame him at length for being such a twerp.  I also didn't let out my full frustration in public where he might have been embarrassed in front of his friends.  On the not so good side, I counted to 2 or 3 before talking to him instead of the full "recommended" 10 and my phrasing showed why it's good not to rush these conversations.  I passed and I failed.  I could have done worse and I could have done a whole lot better.  Like most days.


  1. Eltee -
    Love it!!! Love it so much, I used it as a warm-up example for a conflict resolution course that I am currently teaching. Class is for human services students at a community college. In this course, we cover first how to manage conflicts in our personal lives safely, productively, etc. You gave a brilliant example of so many of the concepts that I am trying to make real for my class. My students (many parents of teens themselves) sighed deeply as I read. They related and liked what you demonstrated.

    Thanks much using your words so well :)
    Eliza (aka Betsey)

  2. I actually think that your son probably heard you more by using the F. you phrase. I have only heard my mom swear once in my life. My stepfather had just been stung by a bee and had an allergic reaction. She said 'shXX'. At that moment she seemed more human to me than at any other time before. I admire her ability to control her emotions but it also frustrated me sometimes.