Perfectly Imperfect

It was a rough morning. :(

My daughter opted to complete one last item of homework this morning before school, as opposed to doing it all last night.  Her homework assignment was to read a book and write a summary.  Summaries have been an area of struggle for her.  I told her that I liked her summary.  I then inquired about whether her teacher sought shorter sentences (I recalled this discussion within recent weeks).  She said yes.  So I asked her how she felt if I gave her some feedback.  She said, "Yes, but I already know what you're going to say."  (She had no idea what I was going to say!). I was irritated at that statement, but I let it slide.

I asked her to tell me what she felt were the important parts of the book.  I wanted to get a handle on where the struggle was, specifically, or whether she was just half-assing the assignment.  She answered the questions, but her frustration was growing with each answer.  She eventually put her head on the table and whined, "I guess I didn't do a good job."

(To be clear, I hate whining. It drives me crazy.  To boot, we've been down this road too many times to count.  We've discussed the value of mistakes.  We've discussed the fact that no one is perfect.  We've discussed that she's in a perpetual state of learning for life, or at least as long as she's in school.  We've discussed that her teachers expect parental involvement to facilitate learning.  Having the same conversation over and over is exhausting.)

At that point, I went through the roof.  I was as frustrated as I've ever been.  I was frustrated at her for whining.  I was frustrated at myself for not doing a better job of getting her to stop the boo-hoo act every time she's given constructive criticism.  Trying to instill a growth mindset in a child is a serious challenge.  Either that, or it takes an awfully long time to implement.  Oh, wait.  There's another option...I could have spectacularly failed at it.

To make a terribly long story short, I yelled at my daughter this morning because I didn't feel like she was listening to me.  She did not hear me out, yet I do it for her ALL THE TIME.  That, coupled with topic exhaustion simply flipped me out.  I felt disrespected.

The consciousness significance of this story is that I was not present at all when my frustrations or buttons were pushed.  I started yelling because I snapped.  I became conscious about one minute or so into my diatribe, at which point I stopped yelling, but remained firm with my language.  I was still pretty pissed off, and I also knew I had her attention.  At that point, I was more aware of my thoughts and controlled my response better.  More importantly, I became empathic, which allowed me to connect with my daughter.  It also lowered my anger levels.

In the middle of our discussion, she actually verbally told me the summary that she should have written.  (Our discussion worked!  I figured out part of her struggle and we talked through it!)  She asked if she could do the homework over.  That was even more than what I was hoping for when all this began.  Her choosing to re-do the summary was up to her.  I told her both were great, but that the shorter one was likely more along the lines of what I believed to be expected.  She turned in both summaries.

Consciousness is a practice.  I'm making mistakes that I'd rather not make.  But as I tell my daughter, there is value in each and every mistake.  My daughter and I are the same: we're perfectly imperfect.  So while I would prefer not to yell at my daughter, my mistake was not necessarily yelling.  My mistake was not being conscious from the start.

Be open to what comes.

Saturday Summary