Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Letting the Unresolved

I've written before about struggling to be the grown-up in my relationship with my kids.  I fail at it a lot.  Often, I want to have a tantrum, or be defensive and mean, but I know those are not the behaviors I want to model for my kids, either.  Anger and sadness?  Appropriate.  Throwing the brownie pan across the room and cussing my brains out?  Not so appropriate.

One thing I struggle with in particular is the unresolved.  If something--particularly involving conflict--is left undone, I will stew and fret until I've worked myself into a frenzy, and will usually force some sort of premature action.  For example, at the end of the semester, a student challenged a grade I gave him.  He was supposed to be a graduating senior, but showed up for class only 50% of the time.  Furthermore, for the final project, which most of his classmates spent hours on, he stapled a piece of fabric to a folder and wrote some b.s. paragraph about how the threads of the fabric represented the many strands of meaning in a film.  Whatever.  I gave him a failing grade, and he didn't receive his diploma.  This is completely defensible, right?  But he was angry because I didn't explicitly state "If you only show up for half of your classes, you will not pass this class.  If you turn in a bullshit final project, you will not pass this class."  I'm so tempted to throw my hands up in the air and say "Kids today!"

Still, knowing he didn't have a leg to stand on, I felt the need to resolve this immediately.  He left the message right after graduation, and I could just picture his parents standing there, feet tapping and angry, wondering why their kid didn't have a diploma in his folder, and whether they'd have to shell out for summer school because he couldn't pass a film class.  And this made me all anxious and afraid, so I called him back immediately, and responded to five or six more angry messages from him before he finally mellowed out and that was the end of it. 

But why was this my emergency?  Why did I take that stress on myself, knowing it really had nothing to do with me?

I don't get to be so impulsive with my own kids.  For a number of reasons, we are not going to Idaho next week to see my folks.  I was dreading telling Addie this news, knowing she would be really disappointed (she loves playing "restaurant" with her Nana Debbie and has been talking about it.  A lot).  So I picked her up from school today, and had the urge to tell her immediately that we weren't going.

But that wouldn't have been cool, right?  It would have led to a meltdown at school, or in the car, and that's not a cool thing to do to a kid.  So I bit my tongue--even though I really craved the resolution, needed to have every last person informed and tucked away, off the to-do list--and waited until we got home to talk to her.  She was upset, but not too, and we were able to move on and have a nice evening.

It's funny when you grow up some, right along with your three-year-old.

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