Grow up, or don’t show up.

There are people in my life who exhibit unbelievably childish behaviour. One of those people is my two year old son. The other ones, are unfortunately significantly older. Here’s a list of what I feel is just unacceptable behaviour after the age of 6. All of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this very week.

Hanging up the phone mid sentence.

Oh, I’m sorry. Do you not like what I’m saying? Have I upset you in some way? You have two options. One of them is to tell me what’s on your mind and let us have a conversation about it. The other is to say “To be honest I don’t think this is going anywhere constructive, can we pick this up again later?” On no planet is it normal to just hang up with no warning, especially when you preface it with “You’re being ridiculous.” The dial tone begs to differ on who the ridiculous one is.

Giving the silent treatment. 

We all need space from time to time, especially after a difference of opinion or an argument. You can even be forgiven for screening calls when you just aren’t ready to talk to someone yet. But please don’t show up at my house if you’re not going to answer a direct question. Similarly, the Muttering Treatment may be even ruder. Especially when I say “Sorry, what was that?” and you revert back to silence. Either the argument is over, (in which case, get over it) or it isn’t (in which case-let’s talk about it).

Walking away mid sentence. 

I’m well versed in this one, as my toddler loves doing it. I’m trying to explain something, or ask him a question and suddenly, “Hey, where’d you go?” It can be quite endearing in a 2 year old. But I would imagine your concentration levels are greater than 4 seconds, so please give me the respect of letting me finish a sentence.

Overreactions, or tantrums in response to absolutely nothing.

We’ve all been there with our kids. a 45 minute screaming fit over the sausages touching the peas on the plate. Or a variety of toys thrown at our heads because they wanted their socks put on before trousers today. Really R? If this is how upset you get now, what will your response be when I’m forbidding you a party on a school night, or making you get a job to help afford a car? Anyway, again-understandable (but no less frustrating)  in a two year old or even a teenager, but please grow out of it by middle age. Thanks.

Calling names

The old adage ‘sticks and stones,’ has never rung particularly true to me. And most adults will agree that while cuts and bruises heal, there is really no way to take back abusive and angry words. Whatever you think of someone, especially if they are family, you might want to refrain from labelling them too harshly (to their face anyway-we all need to vent from time to time). You cant honestly believe you’re going to be angry forever, and however much I may laugh and smile with you when it’s all over, and even though forgive and forget has to be the name of the game in any even semi-functioning family, I can’t un-hear you calling me a selfish spoilt cow.

Genuinely, I’m not sure what to suggest in response to the treatment I’ve had this week. Immature behaviour deserves the same response I would give a child. I can’t exactly put you in the naughty corner for a time-out, and anyway I don’t have the rest of my life free to wait for you to say sorry. I could take access to your favourite things away, and not let you see us, in the same way I might take away R’s Winnie The Pooh at bedtime if he didn’t touch supper, but I’m really not interested in stooping to your own childish level of playing games. I’ve pretty much been trying positive reinforcement ever since our relationship started, and short of actually making you a star chart, I’m not sure I could make you feel a more wanted part of our life than we already do.

So grow up. Because you’re in a privileged position that one of us has decided to be an adult for the time being. But there’s nothing like immaturity to make everyone around you regress themselves. And if I decide to start walking away as well, you might not find it so easy to get me to come back.

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War, apparently.

Can anyone think of something more passive-aggressive than a parent secretly hiding  ice cream in her child’s freezer, and then not mentioning it, when they are both on a full on diet?

While I’m aware that this is more amusing than pure evil, suggestions for an appropriate retaliation would still be great.

Four’s a Crowd

Me and my mother don’t really argue any more. We have ‘near-fights’ instead. They are similar to how women generally argue, ie: it doesn’t seem like we’re fighting, but we are. Women can be smiling, laughing, talking in an un-serious tone, and yet be having a huge fight at the same time. It’s all about the subtext. So it is with the two of us. We’ve got really quite good at not ignoring each other, or storming off in a huff, or shouting in public any more. But we still say mean things, or start a controversial topic knowing it wont end well, or say things in a sing-song happy voice which we know will grate on the other’s nerves. All part of the process, we’ll get there eventually.

Today we had a ‘near-fight’ about something which I think people will have  opinions over. So I’m going to throw it into the public domain and see what I get back, even though I know some people may disagree with me.

While out and about running errands together, I mentioned what we’d done at the weekend. By we, I mean myself, my husband and our 1yo. We went fruit picking. I didn’t say anything else. My entire sentence was “We went fruit picking at the weekend.” I’m not sure what I expected as a response, maybe “That’s fun-where did you go?” or “How nice, what did you pick?” or “Did R enjoy it, was he old enough?” etc. Basically I was just starting a conversation, and sharing-as I’ve heard people do with their parents once they’ve left home and lost the teenage secretiveness. Maybe I wanted to tell her how we went home afterwards and made strawberry ice cream together, or how the blender woke up R in a frantic state and it took an hour to get him settled again.

I didn’t get to say any of the above however, because the response I got was so negative. “Oh…. I would have loved to go fruit picking.” 

What can I say to that? Should I have said I’m sorry? Should I have said “next time we’ll invite you along then”? Should I have ignored the comment entirely and just carried on with the ice cream part?

Obviously I did nothing like the above, I got irritated and asked why she would answer like that, (putting her on the frightened defensive) and told her how the 3 of us rarely get a chance to go out as a family together (making her feel excluded of course) and that it’s not like every time we go out the house I think how lovely it would be if my mother joined us (making her feel like I dislike her company) and gave her a list of answers she should have said instead (making her feel condescended to). Her response was “you have so many lovely outings, and I have nothing.”

I did all the wrong things, and by the time we parted company, things were stilted and awkward, and ‘near-fight-like’ and no progress had been made. But I don’t think I’m wrong for the underlying point. Surely it’s fine for C and I to take our son out for family day-trips or outings just the 3 of us, without worrying about her not being there? It’s not our responsibility to invite her along every time we’re doing something she might also enjoy.

It’s not that we don’t ever want our parents with us. We spend lots of time together, and I told her that it would be lovely if she thought of something fun to do, and she phoned us up during the week asking if we wanted to do that on the next available day we all had. (she never would.) But nevertheless, if we make a plan, and carry it through, and have some much needed ‘the three of us’ time, I’m not going to feel like I have to keep it a secret because anyone else may feel left out. Especially when it is something that can so easily be replicated again anyway.

I know that at some point in our lives, our parents are meant to stop looking after us, and we start looking out for them instead. For some, it starts earlier than others, and certainly some of the older generation have more of a ‘life’ than others and so need it less. But I think we can only take responsibility for them so far, even if we do empathise with their loneliness. If a person chooses not to ask for what they want, or not to find the means and drive to do the activities they enjoy, it’s not up to their children to do it all for them. And it certainly doesn’t seem fair to make your kids feel bad for having that ‘get up and go’ which they themselves lack.

The Loss of Something that Never Existed

What is it about our parents that make us regress to the most childish versions of ourselves? I’ve said before, that the main difference between friendship and family is the wise old truth, you cant choose your family. Character traits and faults which we would never put up with in a friend are forced upon us in siblings and parents, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Or is there? My mother and I have been in counselling for almost a year now. Some days it feels like we’ve made giant leaps towards a better understanding of each other, some days I wonder why we didnt do this years ago, and some days I can tangibly feel a hugely bright future for us as mother and daughter.

Today is not one of those days.

As I sit here thinking the last hour over, how it went from friendly to angry in two minutes flat, how we both went from conversational to irrational, and how smiles switched to tears and anger and slammed doors, I wonder how we will ever make it work. That primal relationship that so many of my friends take for granted, that most of us form in the first five seconds in this world, just doesnt exist for me, and I feel bereft and alone.

It’s not about talking everything through and walking in each others shoes any longer. We’ve tried that, and even with a newly gained perspective into each others actions and thoughts, we still end up back here. And each time I’m more angry with myself for letting it happen, and I feel like more of a failure as a daughter. And yes, I feel like she is more of a failure as a mother also.

The saddest part of it all, is that I actually think that despite all the talking and attempts to move forward, we are less close than we were before we began. We spend less time together, ostensibly so that we fight less, and I certainly feel less of an attachment than I once did. And as hard as it is to admit to myself, I just don’t want to sort it all out anywhere near as much as I did this time last year.

Because if I am really honest with myself, and I go to that place inside us all that we tend to ignore more often than not, I dont think I believe that things will ever be normal or okay between the two of us. How tragic that ‘okay’ is my goal in the first place. But even that mediocre ambition feels so far from my reach, that I’m not sure why we bother putting ourselves through all this pain time and time again.

All I know is, that with such an incredible community of friends, and such a stable and happy home to live in, I still want someone to look after me and out for me the way I try to for my own son. And I’m starting to realise that however far we manage to stagger, beaten and bruised when we get there, I will never have that from this relationship. I have my own home, my own husband and my own child, about as grown up as it gets. But as the tears splash on my keyboard, I do wish my dad was still here to give me a hug.

I don’t want to feel better.

Pet peeve of the day. Consolation.

Maybe I’m being a bit ridiculous, but I genuinely dont want to be made to feel better. At least not the way you think.

There is a verse which says “Do not comfort your friend while his dead lie before him.” The point being, it doesnt help. No one wants to be made to feel better when an event or situation is still current or raw. A good friend will not actively try to comfort, but rather just listen and be sympathetic, which in my opinion makes a much more substantial difference to how you’re feeling.

One of the most grating sentences ever uttered is, “may that be the worst thing that ever happens to u!” This tends to be said when you’re particularly upset over an event which may not be in truth, earth shatteringly important. No one has died, no great financial loss has been incurred. But do you know what? I’m still upset.
What is basically belittling my sadness and telling me the equivalent of ‘worse things happen,’ is not only ridiculous (because yes, of course worse things happen than missing my bus / losing my oyster card / waiting half an hour for a tardy friend [can you tell I don’t drive?]) but frankly unhelpful. Did you think I was going to jump out of my misery, exclaiming “wow, I forgot about all those starving kids in Africa, I’ll cheer up now”?
Aside from the uselessness of that comment, it is also extremely condecsending. It suggests that nothing more important has ever happened in your life that could compete with your trauma of the day. Which is obviously not true. You dont need a degree in sociology to be aware that it’s the little things which throw us into a tailspin of moodiness, wheras real life crisis normally summons strength and composure we didnt know we possessed.

It seems to be obvious and so easy to me that when someone is upset, they genuinely just want to hear, “I’m so sorry, that must be so hard for you.” Whether a big life event or a trivial occurence, if someone is in a bad mood, that’s the way it is! Why should we have to be ‘talked out’ of it?

I’ve found that a lot more men are guilty of this than women. I think this theory heads back to caveman times. Men, as ‘Hunter-Gatherer-Provider’ types, have an inbuilt desire to ‘fix’ problems. Even when there is nothing to fix. Most of the time, when us poor ‘Frail Weak’ woman types have a problem, all we really want is a shoulder to cry on. Someone to tell us that we look pretty and offer to punch whoever/whatever was mean to us. (Calm down feminists, I’m hyperbolising, but you get my point.) When men cant fix, they get jittery at being asked to use their more emotional side to -Gasp- listen to us and be sympathetic.. so they tend to keep trying to fix, long after it’s clear they can’t unburn the lasagne for you, and you just need a good wail.

I’m sure I dont speak for all people-kind. I suppose there are folks out there who hate even the smallest amount of wallowing, and would prefer to be snapped out of their bad moods immediately upon occurence, and if a solution is out there, they want everyone in their lives on ‘fixing mode’ until it’s sorted.

I will have to apologize to you for my generalisation via this blog, as I wouldnt want to meet with that much good-naturedness face to face.