Thursday, March 12, 2015

No Room For Mean

"I said, 'Mom apparently has no humor.'" Bridget answered my question, arms crossed, eyes looking up at me from a mildly scowling face.

Color me surprised! Me? No humor? Hey, my name's Mom, and I live to make you laugh. Have we not met before?

Okay, so I'm not having the best evening. It might be allergies, or I might be coming down with a cold. But either way, I'm not feeling quite myself. So, I was listening to my book while folding laundry. A great example of mommy-multitasking. And I hadn't heard what they were saying, and then, even when they repeated it for me, I didn't get their joke.

See, my daughters are 12 and 11, and their jokes are often based on inside jokes and information that they share with each other. Sometimes, outside of their sisterly dyad, they don't make a lot of sense. Of course, they think they're a laugh riot.

So, clearly this sarcastic and sassy mom just has no sense of humor.

I know it's not true. But it still stung. It was clearly meant as an insult. It said, "The problem, Mom, is not that our joke blows, but that there's something wrong with you."

Thanks, kid.

One of my kids likes to deflect real feelings. Usually this is done through humor. But when things get hard, it can fall to meanness instead.

Not the kind of mean that I am as their mom. You know, the kind of mean that is any parent who insists on consequences for actions. Seriously, if your kids never ever think you're mean, you might be doing it wrong.

The kind of mean that this particular child is indulging in is the kind that hurts feelings, and isn't funny for anyone. I happen to be a parent who places a premium on funny, and has no patience for mean. So, this isn't working for me.

There are some great ideas for explaining to kids the damage that words can do. Like, you can have them hammer nails into an orange, and then pull them out. You can take the nails out, but the damage is still done. It's a great visual.

But I've found that the most important thing is a no-tolerance policy. Feelings are okay. I won't ever tell anyone how to feel. But you have to communicate what you're actually feeling, and ask for what you actually want and/or need.

There's no room for mean.

It's not a lesson that's taught in one session, or one day. It's a lesson taught over and over again, not only when I stop said child and explain it, giving other tools and words that express their feelings better. It's also a lesson that's taught when I do the same. When I don't go to the first thing I want to say, that might be biting or sarcastic. And sarcasm is my second language.

I actually think the best way I can teach this, is through example. I must continue to do my best to never say things to my children that are intentionally hurtful or insulting. The easy thing to lash out with, is almost never the right thing to say.

I've learned to take a time out if I need it. Tonight I might even have some wine. But I will not insult or demean my children.

I will, however have a talk about how Mom has feelings too, and how I'm sorry if not getting the joke was hurtful. But it's not okay to talk to me that way. I'm a person, and I deserve to be treated with respect. The way I treat them.

In our house, there's always room for humor. But there's just no room for mean.

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