Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jerky Knees and the Power of Wrong

The other night I had one of those seemingly innocuous but quickly escalating epic battles with my husband over our son. The details of it actually aren’t really that important: he said he saw something in him that I did not. I told him he was a lunatic and a bad parent. I felt pretty heated and smug about the whole thing really. I mean, who was he to imply that he knew more about our son than me? The same “me” who fed that kid three meals a day and checked every mole, hair, tooth and hangnail on his body every hour of every day for pretty much the past four years. My husband rolled over and went to sleep, bloodied from our battle while I stormed around the house still seething. I should have been smug. He’d relented, given up his point. Why wasn’t I satisfied?

The next day, my sister called to invite me and the kids to the park. Which would have been nice had I not laced into her with a sharp recounting of the previous night’s fight and what my husband had the gall to do: make a recommendation for our son based on his observations as a parent. I mean, seriously. To her credit, she listened and with as gentle a posture as she could without further setting me off, suggested that perhaps there was something to what he was saying that was touching a nerve with me. Maybe I was seeing the same things with our son and that’s why I was reacting so strongly. Or not. But just maybe. Because of the maybe – the possibility of it all – she encouraged me to be open to his words. Not act on them, but be open to them.
Later that night I got to thinking about my conversation with her and the power of being open. Being open not only to what your partner is saying, but to the possibility that you might actually be wrong. Given the odds, at some point in some time, it’s going to happen. I also started thinking about Glennon Melton of Momastery.com. I’m a big fan of the way Glennon writes her blog, her homage to life’s most “brutiful” truths. Her most recent post was on knee jerk reactions. She wrote: “Go ahead and have a jerk reaction, but not out loud. Or maybe have it with your best friend, but don’t spew it on the person who confronted you. Don’t fight. Take a mini-flight. But while you flight, think. Stay with it. Stay open. Look inward instead of outward. WHY is this upsetting me so? What can I learn from this? What is this person, this confrontation, this discomfort trying to teach me? No dismissal. No counter-attack. Slip on the shoes of the offended. Walk around in them for a while. Then sit down and take a good look at yourself from her couch.”
And so I did. I sat with it a bit. I walked around. I’d knee jerked all over Phil and flopped my jerky knees all over my sister the next day. But now came the tough part. Why was I so upset? Was there some truth to what he suggested he was seeing? And was I bothered by the idea that he saw it first rather than me, the parent that is home with our kids so much and who should spot this stuff first. Or had I seen it and just not had the balls to say it to myself or to him. Was that what was bothering me? Actually, it didn’t really matter. All that really mattered was what I did next.

And what I did next was go up to my husband and apologize for not being more open to what he was saying. Regardless of whether I thought what he saying was true or not, he’s a parent too and he had a right to discuss something he felt was going on with one of our kids. And then I said I was wrong and he was right. And the world didn’t end when I said those words. It was actually pretty freaking powerful.
So from now on I’m going to own my knee jerky reactions. I’m still going to have them and give myself the space to do so. But I’m working more on figuring out why and being open to the possibility and power of wrong. But don’t you dare tell my husband I wrote this: we can’t have this whole thing go to his head.
Like I said – I’m working on it.

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