I’ve recently noticed that my children blame me for many things; and that they do not aim the blame at their dad in the same way. Perhaps blame is not precisely the right word. Yes, there’s some of that, but it’s more that they direct their negative feedback toward me. I wish I could say that I also get all the positive feedback, but that doesn’t seem to be the corollary.
For example, yesterday evening I went to a yoga class. In order to get to there, I’d prepped supper and left everything ready to go–and I was sure it was a meal that would be enjoyed by all. Homemade mac and cheese baked in the oven! Glowing from yoga, calm of mind and body, I walked through the door and saw Albus, glowering at the emptied table (Kevin had already cleared and done the dishes). “How was supper?” I asked. “Bad,” said Albus. “You didn’t make enough.” “What?!” I looked at Kevin, who sighed and said, “Yes, you did. I cut him off after four huge helpings. I’m peeling him an orange now.”
Honestly, I had to laugh. I can make what I think will be The Perfect Dinner and still receive negative feedback–for something I didn’t even do.
At other times, I don’t feel like laughing. Sometimes I’ll admit to feeling deeply discouraged, even momentarily depressed. I remind myself: don’t take it personally! But it is hard to have one’s effort dismissed, even by a group of humans not known for their grace and manners.
However, lines must be drawn. We have a new mealtime rule: no one is allowed to say rude things about the food being set before them. Zero toleration for “disgusting!” or “yuck!” or “why do you always have to make the worst suppers that I hate!” You will try one of the options before you (and I always have options), or you will leave the table. This has been working like a charm.
I’ve noticed that my toleration for negative feedback–for keeping a sense of humour and not letting it get me down–is greatly enhanced when I am able to get out and exercise–when I can burn off some steam by myself, and clear my head. I remember that we all need outlets. Maybe for my kids, I look like the safest outlet around. Maybe I should take their negativity as a compliment. Well. Up to a point. There’s feeling secure enough to let it all hang out, and then there’s a sense of entitlement and a lack of responsibility.
ie. I’m sad/mad/tired/hungry/lonely/bored/forgot-to-study-for-my-test and it’s all your fault.
Somehow, I have to figure out how to remove “and it’s all your fault” from the equation, and from the conversation. Um, is that possible? (Do you still blame your mother for your problems?)