the other day was like any other day. rife with struggle, joy, and boredom. you know. life. we made it through another day unscathed, the three of us, and greg was home. we could all (me) finally relax a little for a couple hours before bed. just another day to check off of our constant bulldozing forward existence.
or so i thought. until i overheard a conversation between ruth and greg on the front porch. i only caught a snippet, but it went something like, “…and then mom got mad and started yelling, “don’t put your clothes on! you don’t need your clothes! don’t put your clothes on right now!” “is that right?” asked greg in his usual “all-powerful-and-smoothing-over-dad-voice”. i was a bit shocked. first of all, to hear myself impersonated so unflatteringly. second, that the encounter she was describing to greg was on her mind at all, when i hadn’t given a second thought to it.
against all odds, it had turned out to be a nice day and we had spent some time in the yard in the pool and the sandbox, but joel, being only one, only lasted so long out there after waking up from his nap before he was a little tired and hungry, not to mention coated in wet sand and in desperate need of a bath and new clothes. ruth had been, in typical ruth fashion, wading in the pool in her undees, having stripped off her pants, sweater, and shirt after realizing the temperature was practically tropical. i picked joel up as he began to fuss and announced it was “time to go in”. not uncharacteristically, but, in my opinion, needlessly, ruth began to protest. “let’s go,” i said, but she was getting rather riled up, talking frantically about how she needed to get dressed again first. “just bring your clothes, ruth. you can change into them once we’re inside,” i said as i walked away, barely paying attention to her as joel was on high fuss alert and my main priority was to get him inside STAT so he would stop yelling in my face.
well, ruth, again, being ruth, a.k.a being a perfectionist who feels compelled to have things a certain way, simply could not come in until she was re-dressed. she made a big show of taking her clothes off the line, trying to get them on, not being able to get them on because her body was wet and sticky, and kind of freaking out the whole time. meanwhile, i was saying, in what i considered a rather calm but annoyed voice, that she could just get dressed inside, that i needed to get joel inside, to come inside now, yadda, yadda, yadda.
as i said, i thought very little of the whole thing. that is, until i heard it retold from her perspective to greg later on. hours later and it was still bothering her…i could tell by the way she told greg i was “screaming at her”. was i really screaming? i don’t remember screaming…but ruth does. and there you have it.
in daily life, it’s easy to forget that our little people are people. that they have valid opinions and feelings about everything just the same way anyone else does. sometimes, it takes overhearing a conversation about yourself to see yourself in the light that your child sees you in. and it can be jarring. and unflattering. and sort of a reality check.
ruth needed her clothes on…because she’s ruth. and for whatever reason, she needed her clothes on. and i didn’t accept that. i was disrespectful. dismissive. and even…condescending. and, in ruth’s memory, i yelled. not a good way to treat another person…of any age. and especially not my child, because, as i’m realizing, i’m making more of an impact most times than i realize. and she (and joel) depends on me. so much. unfairly, and overwhelmingly. but, what can i do? that’s parenthood. that’s the bread and butter of it all.