I hollered at my elder daughter this morning, barely a day after she got back from a week-long teen camp in the Himalayas. (When the kids aren’t here, I miss them like mad. When they are back, I am irritable about the slightest things, sigh.)
I had issues about various things, and it all just came out in one tirade as I drove her to a friend’s house. “What did I just say? What did you hear? Tell me?” I ordered her to repeat my three major grouches.
“I hear you… you are bitching about me,” she said, bitterly.
I was stunned into a momentary silence. “I wasn’t bitching about you. I have three issues with you,” I clarified, instantly mollified. And I rattled them off point by point, in a calmer voice devoid of anger or bite. This time she repeated it after me, assuring me she wouldn’t ever do those things again.
The conversation shook me up a little. I often holler at the kids when they don’t behave the way I expect or prefer. There’s the crazy assumption that the louder I shout, the better they’ll get my message. But my elder one is a child who has ‘felt’ and intuited her way through life; who reads emotions not words; who hears your tone of voice and not what you say. How could I forget that it’s not what I’m saying, it’s how I’m saying it that matters to her?
There are only a handful of situations that can provoke me to losing my temper, and so far, my firstborn has figured at least a couple of times on the list. But today has been a little wake-up call. If she continues with behaviours that bother me, perhaps it’s not her, it’s me. It’s a shortcoming in my own communication with her. I haven’t expressed myself in a way that she has understood.
Before I can teach her a thing or two about life, I need to let her teach me some lessons first.