Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tough Egg to Crack

"Speaking words of wisdom, let it be." -The Beatles

Peanut is indeed her father's daughter. Sometimes, like in the case of her cartoonishly large feet, it's to her detriment. Often times, however, it is to mine. Ya see, you can't hide a personality flaw in a pair of snazzy shoes. One of the biggest challenges I have faced and continue to face as a parent is raising a child who is just like me in so many ways. For even I have no idea why I do some most of the things I do. How am I expected to know how to react when my daughter does the same thing?

While Peanut has inherited many of my positive attributes: humor, intelligence, good looks (ok her mom has a lot to do with those), she's unfortunately also picked up my most negative one. No, not narcissism. But thanks for your concern. Peanut and I both have the ability to affect the mood of a room - of a house - all by ourselves. If one of us is in a bad mood, everyone knows and feels it. The worst part: there is no getting us out of it and very little if anything we can do about it. How charming.

Ouch.
Her most recent mood swing took place when we were dying Easter eggs at my mom's house on Saturday night. Peanut was having a great time with her cousins and her Mema, creating works of art on this rare medium. My nephew was playing some festive music. Syracuse had just clinched a spot in the Final Four. All was right with the world. Then the mood dramatically came crashing down with one act of clumsiness. Peanut was meticulously placing stickers on a purple-speckled egg she had patiently waited to dry after coloring. Instead of completing this oblong and delicious masterpiece, she dropped it. The sounds of holiday merriment were unceremoniously interrupted by the crackling thud of hard-boiled shell on ceramic tile.
It was dented but not destroyed. Still, a devastating blow for a six year-old who takes great pride in her work and often holds herself to unrealistic standards of excellence. You could see Peanut's face immediately transform, like the shell of her fallen egg, from joy to pain. My Director and I tried to laugh it off and help her move on, but to no avail. She was done, physically and emotionally. She slumped back in her chair, and proceeded to wear a frown that would have given Grumpy Cat a run for his fifteen minutes of fame.

This one is my all-time favorite.
There is no explanation for this lovely trait that runs deep through my family's bloodlines, from Peanut to me to my dad and beyond. Except to say that something grabs hold and doesn't let go. There is no getting over it until you are over it. My dad's bad moods were, putting it mildly, intense. Mine are less frequent, less intense, but just as effective and all-consuming. I sit in silence and attack with words. Often passive aggressively. My Director tries one of three tactics: making fun of it, ignoring it, or attacking back. They may all work to varying degrees of success, or backfire, depending on the mood. Knowing this, that's how we approach Peanut. We acknowledge the dropping of the egg, with initial empathy. We shrug it off in hopes that she would too. We laugh about it if we think that would help. But once she enters Moodville, population one, we can do nothing but reassure her that it's ok. When she persists, even presenting my mom with her patented chicken-wing technique of fighting off affection, we ignore it until she gets herself out of it. Mood time can last minutes, or as long as an hour. Mine can take all morning, or all afternoon, depending on when it strikes. (I sound really charming, don't I? Back off, ladies. I'm taken.)

Sometimes I need a run. Sometimes I need a nap.  What I realize now is that the only person or thing capable of getting me out of my mood is me. Same with Peanut. What she does have working for her is progress. Humans adapt and evolve and our family is no different. My dad eventually became very adept at let it be. I am working it. My moods are a lot less severe than my dad's, and Peanut's are a lot tamer than mine. We now joke about how irrational my dad was at times. In turn, we joke about some of my more infamous moments, like when I threw a fit at a family brunch because the place didn't serve iced coffee. I sat there pouting for the entire meal. That was just two short years ago. (To my defense, who doesn't serve iced coffee? I mean, really. It's ice and coffee. Put it on the menu.)

Our people are mellowing. We're taking those broken eggs and making a little egg salad. When we spot a potential mood change, we immediately label the person "Grumplestiltskin." That helps us slowly learn to let it be.

My moodiness is my biggest obstacle to being the dad and person I want to be. I recently had an epiphany about how to be a better person, which I wrote about HERE.

3 comments:

  1. I find your courage and frankness so refreshing, always. One of my twins is so like me that a sometimes want to weep because I know what he is up against as he gets older. I wish I could shield him from all the battles to come; sex and romance, hopes and dreams, string-trimmers and scissors, all will vex him his whole life. I can see it coming but I can't protect him.
    Thanks for this, I am a moody guy, too, and I find knowing it at least helps.

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  2. Thanks for your honesty.....as I read this, I see myself and my oldest daughter....since she is adopted, I know that it is a learned skill/behavior on her part which just makes me feel worse....

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  3. My oldest daughter is very much like me. Ironically, it is the traits that are most like me that drive me the most insane! :-)

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