Taking Perspective

Riley’s bus was late bringing her home yesterday. It’s actually a van. For some reason two vans had to be combined together. Kids that don’t usually ride together had to, and it was crowded. There was a little girl on the van. A little girl very much like Riley was as a little girl. She couldn’t deal with the change. She wanted to sit by someone particular and it didn’t work out the way she wanted it to. She was no doubt tired from a long day at school.

She melted.

For thirty solid minutes she screamed as if someone were killing her. Any attempts the other kids made to talk her through made it worse.

Riley got off the van and came into the house saying, “Mom. Dad. I think I know what you were going through when I was little.”

She told us the whole story.

“I felt sorry for her but I really just wanted her to shut up. I was getting a headache.”

We talked about how it must have felt for the little girl to have everything be different, and to be tired and confused. To feel crowded and upset. To have people keep trying to talk to her when she just needed space.

“I’m so sorry I put you through that,” she said.

We told her she had nothing to apologize about. She was little and she didn’t feel good. And yes, sometimes it was maddening, but we understood, and we knew she was doing her best. We knew what a good kid she was, how sweet she was, how hard she always tries. And yes, on rare occasion because we ourselves have been limited, or tired, or confused and overwhelmed, we might not have handled it as well as we could have, but we have loved her every second of her life even if we weren’t dealing well with her at the time.

It was interesting to see her apply such perspective. It made me feel good. Not for her to feel guilty, but for her to acknowledge how the screaming child affected her nervous system, and to then place herself in our shoes.

I have carried so much guilt over times when I have not handled Riley’s meltdowns well. Most of the time I have and do handle things well, but sometimes I have not. And I fear those are going to be the things she will remember. Interestingly HT carries no such guilt. Just last week I pulled into the driveway and heard him screaming at her (another homework battle)all the way from outside in the driveway. He was over it in an hour. He’d let it go.

Later I asked him, not accusingly but just curiously…how that works.

“You’re okay with the fact that you were screaming at her?”

He shrugged, “I don’t like that I screamed at her, but she was exasperating.”

End of story.

That’s the kind of thing I will kick myself over for months or even years. I don’t get it. Is it a difference between men and women? Is it just me and my crazy desire to do everything, including motherhood perfectly? Or is he a rat bastard? Or does he merely have a healthier acceptance of his being human and all?

Anyway…back to Riley. This ability to step into our shoes, even for thirty minutes, makes me hopeful. It makes me feel like she will look back at her childhood and understand her parents in all their imperfection.

And love us anyway.

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12 Responses to Taking Perspective

  1. That last homework park and The Husband? I could have written it. What the hell is it with men? Dads? I have the same questions, the same guilts, the same –probably — samsara.

  2. Freudian slip: “homework PARK?” I should have typed “homework part,” but now I’m wondering if therein lay the answer?

  3. kario says:

    Well, I am loathe to generalize about men v. women, but Bubba is the same way. He can totally lose his shit and then later accept his own humanity and move on. It was a struggle to teach him how to apologize, at least, but he does it now, and I still envy his ease of letting it all go.

    I hope Riley knows how special and wonderful it is that she realized how her actions impacted you and that she knows how far she has come. What a terrific example of her maturity and growth.

  4. Kim says:

    Wow! I am so impressed with her ability to process that van ride the way she did and THEN to talk with you about herself as a child. So much awesomeness in that exchange.

    I react as you do when I lose it, I feel so very guilty. Husband reacts the same as yours. He’s done with it after he has calmed down. I find it maddening. But I don’t know which I find maddening, the way I beat myself up, or the fact that he doesn’t.

  5. Carrie Link says:

    Interestingly, I am reading this just now. I think HT has it figured out. Be human. Embrace your humanity. Do your best. Let the rest roll off. And never, ever forget, YAMH.

  6. amber says:

    Wow, that is really interesting. And wonderful. She’s really growing up!

    I know why you can’t and he can. If you want to know, I’ll tell you on our own. 😉
    (you know I know. I know things.)

    oxox 🙂

  7. Meg says:

    Amazing insight from Ms. Riley. I am impressed with her empathy for you. I also agonize over bad mommy moments from years ago – sure they will turn up in some therapists office at some point in the future and will be the cause of yet more trauma down the line. I think it’s something mothers do. We agonize. I think men are better at compartmentalizing, so maybe they can close the door on it and start fresh more easily.

  8. melly says:

    Wow, Riley is really growing up. *happy sigh* What a girl. What a wonderful girl.

    The part about HT: That’s the way it is at my house, except, I’m the one who can let it go and my husband carries it around for a long time. I can forgive myself for messing up because I know that I am really really really trying. And, most days, I’m a rockstar parent. My kids are both growing, happy, learning, turning into awesome young men. You are the same way. You are a wonderful mom! Look at how far she’s come! Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Riley obviously has.

  9. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Michelle, thank you for sharing this posting about Riley and her growing awareness of herself and others. To be able to put herself in your shoes is a feat that I so admire. You have been such good parents. And you continue to be. It’s so healthy for us to accept that we are simply being human with all our faults and foibles and sorrows when we become impatient and yell. Most women so strive for perfection–I have most of my life. But when we can let go of the longing to be perfect so that we will be unconditionally loved, then we can be gracious to ourselves and find the deep goodness that resides ever and always in us. Let us encourage one another on this journey to being wholly human. Peace.

  10. Leah says:

    Really sweet post, Michelle. It’s neat to see her growing up and you must make you so proud as a parent. Way to go!

  11. Tanya Savko says:

    I love this post. I love that Riley made the connection that she had been like that in her younger years AND put herself in your shoes. And I completely identify with the fear that our kids will remember the yelling and other stuff we guilt ourselves over. I’m constantly apologizing for that, and forgiving my own parents in the hopes that my kids will do the same for me.

  12. Juhi says:

    How could she not love you guys? You are amazing and are of course rearing two amazing kids. I love coming to your blog. It always uplifts. 🙂

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