A wise mentor once (well, okay, MANY TIMES!) reminded me, ever so gently but assertively, to look closely and carefully inside to that which I don’t like about MYSELF when I find myself annoyed with a character trait in someone else, particularly when it seems out of proportion to the circumstances at hand.
I’ve been doing some looking and wondering these last few days.
I like kids. I teach Sunday School even. Heck, I’m in charge of the small Sunday School operation at our small church. Kids seem to like me. My Sunday School teaching experience and my parenting learnings have mutually informed each other, and I keep learning things in both arenas that assist me in the other arena. One of these things I learned as a teacher first, because I began teaching when my first child was a pre-verbal infant. And that was to do one thing above any others: respect the child as the person that he/she is, not the one you think/wish/hope he will become. There is unspeakable value right here and now. That’s the tension a teacher walks, is helping the student to discover for himself, not spoonfeeding it to him, and not taking either credit or responsibility for the learning or lack of learning. Boundaries, it might be called. I’m so pleased to have had that lesson in advance of needing it with my son and daughter. I’m not perfect of course, but I think I do okay.
I like kids. I respect kids. And I typically engage kids, and do not a half-bad job of it.
So, Wednesday I’m at this 5th grade classroom event. The children were seated at round tables, and those children whose parents could attend sat with their children. The task as given by the teachers was to have each child read his story. My table had two girls with no parents attending, my son with mom (me) and dad, and another boy with mom and dad. The mood seemed (to me) light, and casual, with plenty of available time. All tables would be doing this at once, and there was popcorn and apple cider being served. Clearly (to me) not a tightly monitored, structure-oriented event.
And it was noisy. And, let’s face it, most 5th graders have not learned excellent public speaking skills. Sure, they vary from child to child, but a typical 5th grader is endearingly, age-appropriately got his somewhat mumbling little mouth buried behind his paper. Challenging to hear, at best. So I was engaging my own son, certainly intending to include, and encourage the other children at the table in good time, when all of a sudden IT COMES…
“SHHHH!!!!!!” Mommy #2 hisses. (okay, I exaggerate…remember the point of this exercise is not to be a detached reporter yet, but to examine my feelings and then detach and wonder about them. We’ll get there! <smile>) “Sweetheart son” is reading.
So, Karla suppresses a strong urge to roll her eyes and pastes on her happy face, trying her damndest to hear said child.
I remember thinking to myself, you know, I’m really not an insensitve boob here? Kids dig me, thank you very much, and there are other ways to engage children and make them feel valued – one such way, incidentally, would be to make your own child feel special and acknowledged on their school turf. We had just arrived for crying out loud. Where exactly do you get off “scolding” me? <grr!> All the other tables are chit-chatting. Why did I get stuck at control freak’s table?!?
Then Mommy#2 moves on to parentvisitor-less girl #1 and says, “Let’s hear your story next.” Girl#1 is still putting finishing touches on her story, and seems unconcerned by the lack of center of attention status, and tells Mommy#2 so. So Mommy #2 bids my son to please read next. (oh THANK YOU gracious Mommy#2; active eyerolling suppression continues!) He does. I’m sitting next to my dear child, and even I can’t hear him worth a hoot. No matter. On to Girl#2. Meanwhile, girl #1’s mom has joined our table and dad is walking by, and <gasp!> has the audacity to issue forth a friendly, boisterous greeting to his daughter and our table at large, following the social norms set by every other [freedom-appreciating] table of children and parents in this room. (exaggeration disclaimer noted here.) Hissy-mom#2 goes into “SHHHHH!” mode once more. The urge to roll eyes becomes stronger, and I pull together all my resources for happy face maintenance, and patience to get through each child’s story so I can actually have a conversation with my son at school.
Micro-managed turn-taking time (a la kindergarteners instead of 5th graders) and inaudible story-sharing ends. Mommy#2 gets up to return to work.
May I confess here that I’m rejoicing to see the control freak leave? May I confess here that I nearly slipped and made catty remarks before my husband and I were alone together, while Mommy#2’s husband and son were still at table? I caught myself, but man it was close, so delighted was I to have leave of her aura.
Returning to my mentor’s advice…I wondered, what DOES that say about me? (sigh of resignation. convicted again.)
Clearly, she just wanted to have each child loved, heard, and respected. She just went about doing that in a much more programmed fashion than I would have approached it from. She had no ill intent or motivations toward me, I’m sure. Why did I get so reactive with her? Am I a control freak in my own way? Hmm. Others remark to us, spontaneously and unsolicited, that my husband and I seem quite laid back in our parenting style, and even that they envy that live and let live attitude.
I do, however, know myself to be a perfectionist…maybe seeing that perfectionism trait in how to manage the morning set me off in a way completely unrelated to my own dealings with children or parenting? Maybe it is just a general trait of unhealthy perfectionism and micro-managing *different areas* in my life that [also!] don’t merit such control-freakishness that God chose this moment for a learning experience, nudging me to get all hyper-reflective and pondering over it? Hmm. Or maybe it was a power thing? The “who put you in charge?” layer of annoyance I’d experienced?
When have you found yourself hyper annoyed with someone else? Have you tried using it as a learning experience for what it might be telling you about yourself? What is God trying to tell you through the experience?
Peace all! – Karla