The Tough Lessons Of Parenting

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - November 07, 2007
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Shrew. Ill-tempered. Mean. I felt like all of those things and more. I had harangued my son in a public place about something he did that alarmed, frustrated and embarrassed me. I went on and on, getting more excited with each passing second. My son, eyes downcast, murmured something I could-n’t hear, mainly because I was so busy lecturing in a loud tone of voice. Then he said it again.

“Dad told me to do it.”


But even though I suddenly felt very, very small, I was too worked up to stop. I found myself saying, “Well, I’ll talk to your dad about that!”

I kept on going because, well, I felt the need to scold. People unlucky enough to be in the same room were conspicuously avoiding looking at us. I knew what they were thinking, which made me madder still. “That’s Jade Moon,” I imagined them whispering to each other, “she’s so mean!”

I felt my inner wicked witch rise up and throttle the little fairy telling me to calm down. Any minute now I would sprout a hooked nose and a pointy hat.

As we drove home I could still feel that bubble of anger churning away inside, but now something else was mixed in with it - remorse, regret and embarrassment at my own lack of control. Feeling guilty now, I kept going on and on about how it wasn’t his fault, but here’s why he shouldn’t do it again. Finally, he said in a sad and tortured voice, “OK! Do you have to keep talking about it?” He was right. He’d gotten it in the first five minutes. Time to let it go.

My son is a good boy. What he did wasn’t malicious or mean-spirited. My irritation was sparked by a misunderstanding and exacerbated by the differences in our styles and personalities. I’m impatient, he’s laid back. When I get mad I vent. When he gets mad, he doesn’t.

We spent the afternoon at the movies - something silly and entertaining about a football player who discovers he has a daughter. As clichd as it was, there was something about the story of a man who goes from selfish playboy to selfless parent that struck me (in my guilt-ridden state) as universal and true. Only for me, the lesson wasn’t about the unconditional love a parent has for a child. That’s a given -temper snit-fits notwithstanding.

Nope, for me the lesson was all about the learning curve. It takes a lot of real effort to be a good parent. Just when we think we’re getting pretty darn good at it, something happens that shakes our smug assumptions and makes us take another look at ourselves. For me, parenthood has been one long and difficult lesson in patience and understanding. No wonder the wisest people are the oldest. It takes a lifetime of learning - and making mistakes - to truly be wise.

After the movie I apologized to my son for losing my temper. He said, “thanks!” in a cheerful voice and then dropped it.

So I learned another lesson. He’d gotten over it hours ago, while I had been brooding all day. Better for both of us - child and parent - to acknowledge our mistakes and move on.

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