Monday, February 1, 2016

Call a Spade a Spade

Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - Call a Spade a Spade
My 7-year-old came home from school last week excited to show me the finished product of a story she had been working on in class.  Her 3-part project included a timeline page, complete with 3 events plotted out to match her colorfully drawn pictures, a hand-written page on lined paper with a primary pencil, and the front cover, a mostly-white page highlighting her paragraph-long essay, thoughtfully typed out for her by her first-grade teacher:

The funniest thing that I saw was when my mom threw her crutches on purpose because she was mad.  First, my sister and I did not clean our room.  Then we walked away down the stairs.  Finally, she threw her crutches and yelled at us. 

After sharing the papers, she went on to say the teacher asked her if she thought she should write about something else in case her mom might be mad about the topic.  

“I told her my mom would be fine with it!” she confidently stated.

She’s right.  Not only am I not mad, I’m thrilled that this totally true story from two-surgeries-ago sticks in her mind as funny.  Having endured three separate knee surgeries and recovery periods in the last year and a half, alongside my wife’s year-long bout of depression, I’ve learned a few important facts:
  • I throw occasional fits that give toddlers a run for their money; that will probably never change
  • Asking for help is both extremely difficult and equally necessary
  • My kids and my wife are not breakable; they are resilient, compassionate and prone to just laughing in my face.
  • Life is unreliable, with the exception of it’s messiness.
  • Every negative creates a positive, if you let it
  • Acknowledging and greeting reality by name is necessary for growth and general well-being, no matter who you are
Am I proud of my crutch-throwing incident? No, I’d put its embarrassment level right on par with the Wendy’s debacle, where after a night out cocktailing, my wife and I decided to hit Wendy’s on foot at 2am for Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers that always seem to soak up the liquor.  Unhappy that the indoor restaurant was closed and only the drive-through was open till 3am, we called an Uber to pick us up at the entrance of restaurant, drive us through the drive-up window to get food, and drop us at our home 2 blocks away.  

My daughter and I sat at the kitchen table and laughed for what seemed like 15 minutes about those crutches flying through the air and the pictures she drew in description of the event.  We talked about my frustration and indignation at having to be limited in my movement, preventing me from quickly exiting the scene in order to put myself in a time-out, and we discussed the surprise, fear, and comic relief that my kids felt all at the same time.  My 1st-grader even re-enacted the scene for me so I could see the scene from her angle.  We laughed so hard we cried.

What can you do but laugh at yourself?  Losing my cool with the crutches coaxed me to acknowledge my vulnerability and highlighted it to my family members.  It forced my kids to learn perspective.  It, along with many other non-picture-perfect moments over the last few years, gave our family the platform on which to build an on-going conversation about confronting our fears and emotions, sharing our feelings, and developing the self-assurance to call a spade a spade.