This is going to be an awkward post. I’m going to call myself out on something that’s been really bothering me. I figure that maybe if I shame myself on the internet, it’ll jump-start some action. That has been known to work.
I don’t like my tone when I talk to my parents sometimes. I think I need to stop using it. But it keeps happening.
I remember even as a kid, being over a friend’s house and getting annoyed because she was being rude to her parents. It’s one thing to have a private argument or disagreement, it’s another thing entirely to snap at a family member repeatedly in public.
“Mom!” my friend would snap. “Go away! We’re busy! God! Obviously.”
And it wasn’t just her. I had so many friends who would adopt a bratty, whiny, frustrated tone with their parents. With their siblings, too, but mostly with their parents. In college, hanging out at a friend’s house, she was still using that tone. She was squabbling endlessly with her mom, who seemed innocuous and friendly to me. Her mom would leave the room, hands up, backing out like she was trying to placate someone with a gun. No sudden movements. Maintain respectful eye contact (“I hear you, honey. I’m listening to your words!”)but adopt a subservient posture.
“She just doesn’t get it,” my friend told me, explaining as she flung open the refrigerator. “This goes way back.”
What? You being mean to her?
I nodded, confused.
As a kid, I was really close with my parents. I still am. I wrote these obnoxious entries in my journal about how much I loved them. When I was reading old journals aloud to Bear a few weeks back, at my parents’ house, he was like, “Are you even being serious right now? What thirteen-year-old kid writes this kind of stuff about their mom?”
He was talking about yet another declaration of my undying admiration of her strong-mindedness and awesome talents.
By the time I was fifteen or so, the tone of my entries about my parents started to shift. Suddenly, they were pissing me off all the time. I am PISSED OFF. Who the HELL DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?!! Bastards. I asked for ONE THING. I don’t understand why me going on the road trip with Jenna would be a problem. She is a safe driver and it’s ONLY to New Mexico. That’s not even California. That’s not even across the whole country. I mean COME ON, PEOPLE. She knows this amazing guy there who builds shelters out of abandoned cars (he has an amazing story. He used to be a rock star I think. He is her aunt’s friend’s friend, from when her aunt’s friend joined that cult, which actually was fine) and if we stay for the whole summer we could have our own shelter and also probably go on a spirit quest in the desert by ourselves. Jenna says my spirit animal is the ocelot. I definitely agree. Fuckin’ Mom and Dad.
I ranted in my journal in part because if I used that tone in real life with my parents, they would not listen to it for more than a few seconds before they got angry.
“WHAT did you just say to me?”
“I said you’re not being a good parent! I should be able to go on a road trip!”
“You’re not going on a road trip for the summer with some strange man I’ve never met before. There’s no question. You can figure out something else to do with your time. I’m not going to discuss this with you again.”
Yup. The end.
Unlike my friends’ mothers, who backed away slowly, my mom leapt forward. She wasn’t afraid to call me out in front of my friends if it seemed necessary. And my dad was even worse.
Honestly, I’m thankful for that now. Mostly. Yes. I think I am.
But a weird thing happened when I eventually grew up and moved away and had my own life. I could use that bratty, snappy tone, and my parents wouldn’t call me on it. I mean, I never said anything terrible. I never called them to say, “You suck!! You’re the reason I have so many problems!” or anything. I don’t think those things. I think my parents are great.
But, strangely, I found myself whining a little more over time. When I was home for a weekend, I would get moody and withdrawn. I would complain about something stupid. My parents’ home became my space to have a tiny meltdown. I would find myself finding ways to avoid unloading the dishwasher. Even though I unload my own dishwasher all the friggin’ time. I never wanted to help in the kitchen. Even though I cook most days. I was reverting to being a kid. A sullen, frustrated teenager, to be precise. The teenager I actually didn’t get a chance to be very often when I was a teenager. The teenager I try very hard not to become in my everyday adult life.
But let’s not get into the psychoanalysis. The point is, I became sort of bratty with my parents as an adult.
And going on this family vacation that we just returned from brought it all out in the most unflattering ways.
my parents on vacation:
I could hear myself whining, and it felt like I was listening to someone else. Someone with less manners than I imagine I have. Someone who clearly has not developed the ability to prioritize correctly. Someone who needs to take a chill pill, like, yesterday.
“MO-om!” I yelped, in the car with her and my brother’s girlfriend. “What are you DOING?! That’s the WRONG way. God. Can’t you see that sign right there?!”
“Oh, you’re right, honey,” said my mom complacently, not wanting to start a fight with another grown woman, I assume.
I huffed briefly.
My brother’s girlfriend sat there silently, probably attempting to make herself as small as possible.
I tried to pull myself together. “The beach was so pretty today!”
“I loved it,” said my mom. “We should go back and watch the sunset.”
“I think that’s pushing it,” came my bratty voice. “The drive is pretty long, don’t you think? Especially since you keep getting lost. Don’t you think we’re all tired? We can’t do everything every day, you know.”
What the hell was wrong with me?! I felt like I was floating above the wreck inside the car. I was embarrassed. I wondered what my brother’s girlfriend was thinking. She probably was thinking something along the lines of, “What a friggin’ douchenozzle! Her mom is being totally normal, and she’s just bratting it up all over the place. Hell, I have a better relationship with MY parents, and they’re not even NICE. What a loser. How is her brother so much better than her? Also, what is with her hair? Is that, like, some kind of statement she’s trying to make or something? SO MANY ISSUES.”
Kidding. I’m almost positive her parents are really nice.
Anyway, I couldn’t seem to stop.
But I need to stop. Because I don’t want to be a brat. I don’t want to use that tone with my parents. I don’t know why it’s happening, but I know it makes me sound like the worst kind of child. And I don’t want to be a child anymore. I want to be a thoughtful, considerate, confident, poised woman who always has good posture.
Or at least just someone who talks in a nice, normal voice to her parents. Who she loves a lot. That would be a start.
* * *
Do you ever find yourself reverting to a child-like state with your parents? If you are still a kid, how do you talk to your parents? If you ever got liked this, noticed it, and fixed it, TELL ME HOW! Maybe just being aware of it is a start? Let’s hope so…
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in one of those little cardigan sweater things from the Gap. I never know the names for different types of clothing.
A short hair reader pic! This is becoming a bit of a theme. This is Jennifer. She says I inspired her to cut her hair and dye it. Short hair revolution! I think she looks beautiful and her husband is super cute (although I can’t take any credit for his hair).