My in-laws have a hilarious set of British travel books they inherited from their parents. They contain everything the gentlemen traveler needs to know when dealing with the harsh terrain and unruly natives of the world’s wilder places. Like Eastern Europe. They provide dialogue in a multitude of languages for every eventuality, or potential escalation. These dialogues tend to start with something like, “Waiter, this soup is cold,” and end with “I DEMAND TO SPEAK WITH THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR!”
I was thinking about these books today, while thinking about my own overreactions. On a whole, I think I’m fairly level-headed. I may want to lose my shiz on a regular basis, but I rarely follow through. I do, like many women, tend to take things way too personally, but I don’t generally fly off the handle when offended. Except when it comes to my children. If I feel my children are being slighted in any way, even the smallest way, I demand an audience with the British Ambassador. So to speak. From zero to 1,000 in one 3 seconds flat.
I’ve recently changed my opinion of a woman I know. Basically, because of one encounter, one comment, one perceived slight, I thought this woman was satan. For 2 years. The slight happened at the worst of times. We had just arrived home from the NICU. We were exhausted. I was up all night breast-feeding, my husband was up all night laying flooring (the girls arriving 7wks early killed the whole having the house we just bought ready by the time the girls came home thing). The girls were healthy, but so very tiny, only 3 and 4lbs, and needed constant, constant care. I honestly don’t think we slept for more than 2 hrs until they reached the age of 1. I don’t want to complain, because we’ve all been there, and I know that in spite of my extremely dramatic birth story, or rather, because of it, we were very, very lucky. But we were tired.
A neighbor came to the house and asked to see the babies; she had brought a friend with her. The friend had a lot to say. Despite not having any children herself, she was not shy about criticizing how I was holding my own baby, and made that judgemental clucking sound (you know the one) at me for having a c-section–one which I’m sure saved my daughters lives– rather than pushing them out. Those comments stung (like cold, smelly Eastern European soup to the face) but they were directed at me, my own perceived failings rather than my children, so I let them go. Then came the doozy. She looked my baby girls over, started going on about the risks of prematurity (LIKE I DON’T KNOW) then said, “Well, I wouldn’t despair yet, they may still turn out normal.”
I wanted to beat the living shiz out of her. She was basically calling my infant daughters freaks. I saw red. I said we had to go, and stormed back to the house, and raged about her, and that comment, all night long. It’s a good thing I didn’t have a blog then, because I would have ripped her a new one every day for a week. At least. I would have had her exiled from this island (if I could have), I would have bribed the British Ambassador to kidnap her and leave her in some awful desert somewhere.
And now I think–believe it or not– she’s not that bad. I’ve seen her at a few functions in the last year, and she’s been very nice and complementary to my girls. Over time, my opinion of her has vastly improved. We will never be bosom buddies, mind, but I now think she’s okay. I see the incident a bit differently now. I think she’d probably never before seen preemies that size, and it freaked her out, and she blurted out an ignorant comment without thinking. Very rude, but not unforgivable. And had I not been carrying the baggage of enormous guilt over my daughters premature birth (show me a Mom of preemies who doesn’t), had I not been extremely hormonal and exhausted, maybe I would have realized this sooner.
I’m hoping, in future, it will take me less than 2 years to gain perspective on comments made about my children, but just in case, I’m keeping the British Ambassador on speed dial.
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