Yesterday I agreed to drive The Princess to school to allow her some extra time to get ready. A crisis over jeans and two changes of shoes later, we got into the car.
"What time is it?" (Her tone was snippy.)
I reported the time to the sound of a huge, aggravated sigh. She wants to be early, but a delay in the shower rotation put her behind in her preparations.
By the time we arrived at school, which is roughly 7/8’s of a mile from home, I felt the steam coming out of my ears. The sighing and eye-rolling, the latter of which I at least could not see directly, since she sat in the back seat, drive me crazy! The absolute certainty that I will be wrong about everything–ditto!
I exclaimed, "Princess!"
"Mom," she said, "don’t get upset. I’ll see you this afternoon." She slammed the door and flounced away, as if I were the emotional basket case.
And suddenly I related to a famous parent who has been in the news this past week. While I don’t condone his choice of words, I certainly relate to the explosive feelings he voiced in leaving that terrible message for his daughter.
I’m reminded that my mother once gave me what she thought of as "progressive" parenting advice: "Never spank in anger."
When else would you want to? Anger grips, frustration erupts, we feel powerless to resist them, and sometimes, for a moment, we are. What is the difference between those who act in the moment and those who do not? Self-discipline? Divine intervention? Triumph of a sense of humor?
I think the answer is waking up, becoming alert to who we are, to what presses our buttons; the answer is reducing the time between the reactive flash and the awareness of what is really happening. Although a sense of humor about our own weaknesses couldn’t hurt.
If I am frustrated by, impatient with, enraged about my daughter’s all-consuming interest in her wardrobe, could it be that I am seeing something in her that I grapple with in myself? She seeks to define herself with an outfit. I want to look professional; I want to look feminine; I want to look, well, Songbird-ish! But at the same time I don’t want to be judged by my "cover," nor do I want to do the same to others. I ponder the balancing point between authentic self-expression and spending time on what really matters. I like to think I’m doing this at a more conscious level than a sixth-grader, but that’s not always true. I think about my hair: "Can I really go through with letting the gray come in? Does it make me look older? Will it look silly while it’s growing out? How short can I cut it to speed the process of getting all the way there without making it look ugly?" I hate to admit how much this topic occupies my thinking at certain times, day and night.
That famous parent called his child a "rude, thoughtless little pig."
I wonder if he doesn’t feel that way about himself, too? (Perhaps minus the "little.")