A simple opinion knocked me for six this weekend when, after a busy day, my fifteen year old son informed me that I do not manage my time well; and his Dad promptly agreed with him. I am still trying to gather the scattered thoughts that this has generated. They are churning around inside me, refusing to be tied down in any meaningful way.
I tried to talk it through with them at the time. I remained calm and rational, but the result was not positive. My husband gleefully warned his son that women are bundles of hormones to be treated with caution. This made me want to lash out at him, an act that would only have served to reinforce his point.
I wonder if this is how toddlers feel when they throw a tantrum. The small world that they inhabit does something that they feel is grossly unfair and they do not know how to deal with it. They scream and kick and cry because they know of no other way to handle what is going on inside their heads.
It can be hard to find the words to adequately convey the multitude of emotions that conspire to overwhelm when a flippant or critical remark hits a nerve. I do not fully understand why I was so hurt by what was said. I have been judged by my son’s standards and found wanting before, yet been able to shake it off. Timing is crucial.
I found it hard when my children started judging me. For so many years they looked up to me for love and guidance, believing the answers that I gave to the many questions that they asked. As they grew older they came to realise that there are people in the world who do not hold the same point of view, that their parents may not always be right. As they learned to think for themselves, to question what they had been told, they started to pass judgement.
Teenagers can come across as abrupt, appearing to believe that the opinions they have formed are always correct, and those who disagree are wrong. Some adults of my acquaintance have never grown out of this stage, but most gain life experience and recognise that few issues are black and whit; they understand the varying shades of grey. This is a lesson that I try to pass on to my children, that they need to listen and try to empathise even if they do not agree.
Perhaps I have expected too much empathy. What is important to me, how I choose to spend my time, appears incomprehensible to my son; and also, it would now seem, to my husband.
I felt angry that I was not being granted the autonomy to decide for myself how I would spend each day. Of course, there are tasks that I must complete; as housewife and mother I have certain responsibilities. Beyond this though I had assumed that I was free to choose for myself.
Perhaps the real hurt came because what I had been doing revolved around my writing. I had believed that they realised how important this activity has become for me, and accepted that it is a time consuming process. They do not need to share my passion for it to be valid.
I spent much of Sunday off line, working hard in the garden in an attempt to drive the demons out of my head through sheer exhaustion. It did not succeed, although at least I now have a tidier garden.
As time passes the issue fades into the background, superceded by other, more pertinent matters. What is left is my disappointment that I do not have the support that I had taken for granted. This hurts, that in their eyes my personal enjoyment and satisfaction are not justification enough.
A part of me wants to ignore what they think but I cannot deny that their perception of me matters. It is hard to be considered foolish by those we love.
I suspect that they would prefer me to spend less time writing and more time doing the things that they see as worthwhile. Changing my behaviour to please others in this way goes against so much of what I encourage my children to do, to be themselves.
I have a busy week ahead so time management will matter. Do I compromise, capitulate; or do I ignore their views? I wish to live peacefully with them, but also with myself.