What I Do Better Now

Am I getting older? Wiser? More experienced? Well, yes to the first, certainly. And I’ve been working hard at making myself more the person I’d like to be in the past few years. It’s funny, but it started when I wrote this article (from Parenting) about my efforts not to be late all the time. I honestly didn’t like being late, but I wasn’t sure I could change. But writing about it made me take the effort seriously.

And I changed.

I still marvel at it. I honestly think that was the first time I ever set out in that way to do something differently myself and succeeded. I had always been late for everything. Always. I was “the person who was late for everything.” Late for school, late for rehearsals, late for meetings. Everything. That, of course, turned me into “the person who rushes all the time.” That sucked too, and once I had a few patience-sucking rugrats around, it all just became too much. I hated it. But it’s hard to change. Other people become invested in you as “the person who is late all the time” or whatever, too. They expect you to be late. They count on it. They prepare little speeches in their head to berate you with, and then we you are not late, they feel cheated. So they tease you with the words instead, and rub your achievement into your face and into the ground. This is one of the things that makes any kind of change hard.

But I did it. And I weathered all that teasing. And now, in many people’s minds, I don’t have to be that person any more. (Unfortunately in your parents’ minds, and possibly your spouses, you may well be stuck. I bet that makes weight loss hard.)

I am having a self-congratulatory moment, but not on that topic. I’m working to be more patient now, to have the kids do more of what I typically do for them, and to moderate my anger, or my faux-anger, for Rory especially. This afternoon featured a longish car ride (and we are very, very bad in the car), the return of the no-more-riding in other people’s cars rule (which is going to be very inconvenient next week, but so be it) and the loss of my patience. I told the kids to get their own stuff out of the car. Rory did, angrily, mutttering. And in doing so, she knocked my hat and all of Wyatt’s things out of the car and into the muddy slush all over the floor of the garage.

I was mildly angry. It wasn’t really a big deal. But the really annoying thing is that she just left them there, without saying anything. So I called her back, and “very angrily” pointed it out. She said sorry. I scolded. She said sorry. Then I called Wyatt out to pick up his stuff (which, after all, he left in the car) and came into the kitchen and…let it go. I told her what to do next time (apologize and pick the stuff up), helped everyone get a snack and just got on with it.

Why is this anything? Because I tend to hold onto even false anger. Especially if there’s no punishment, I want to rub people’s nose in their misdeeds, to really emphasize that I am angry that my favorite hat is now covered in muddy slush! even if I’m not. But I didn’t. Not only didn’t I, but I went out of my way to notice an effort by Rory to then do something to kind of make up for it (going back and hanging the stuff she’d dragged angrily into the house and left wadded up in her cubby). And an afternoon that could have been trashed was not.

But the real thing I think I do better now? Change. Yeah, I learned that I can be on time, and give up my anger (even the real stuff) and whatnot. But more importantly, I learned that even the things I’ve always done and the person I’ve always been (like the grumpy person in the morning, or the person who doesn’t do sports) can change. No matter how many people, including myself, expect me to remain the same.

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