We about to have some real talk, friends.
You guys know that, every once in a while, I get a little ramped up and swing on through like a truth wrecking ball. Most of the time, I can keep it even-keel, and I serve up the realness for you eloquently.
If you just adjusted your sitting position and said, “Oh, shit!” you are correct.
This morning, my youngest child decided she was going to tip her kitchen chair back while she ate cereal. Maddie, quit. You’re gonna fall or spill cereal all over yourself and the floor. About the time I finished putting the last sandwich in the last lunch box, I hear a shriek and a clattering, as she had lost balance in the chair and tipped her bowl, covering her lap in cold milk.
Why did you do that? I just told you what would happen, and you did it anyway!
“I don’t know.”
If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t do it. And if you KNOW why you’re doing it, and it’s not in line with the freakin’ love of Jesus, you probably shouldn’t do it. PAY. ATTENTION.
Yesterday, I watched my son play a short-sided scrimmage at soccer practice. He’s still pretty young, and club soccer is formal enough, so I try not to interject too much (“try” being the operative word).
Over the last few weeks before matches and tournaments start, we’ve talked about the importance of knowing where all the players are on the field. When your team is on the defensive, you need to find your dude. Don’t chase the play, son, but watch, try to see it develop, and find the player in your zone who’s likely to receive the ball. Find your dude.
A few minutes in, and Lucas was doing what most little boys do- chasing the ball and the play across the field, collapsing the structure. It’s been pretty adorable up to this point, but he’s a smart player who really only does this when he’s just goofing around. Where’s your dude, Luc? I called, just to re-focus him a little bit. He looked at me and nodded…before completely disregarding what I just said. What happens? He gets badly burned on an easy pass and becomes frustrated.
After every practice, I spend a few minutes just messing around, playing keep-away with him and a few other boys or just generally making light-hearted tackles to help him shake off intensive drills. I burned him again, then stopped. Bro. You gotta quit chasing the ball and find your dude. You keep getting burned, and then you have so much field to make up, even on the angle. Why’d you tune me out?
“I don’t know.”
If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t do it. Or if you’re CHOOSING not to consider why you’re doing what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t do it. PAY. ATTENTION.
Apparently, there’s some Mine Craft knock-off that elementary school kids like to play, and it has a chat feature. Now, I lock my house down, because I will not be inviting drama or cyber bullying into my home at the stupidly young age parents are giving their kids access to this junk now. We have one television. One computer (which is mine). One gaming system (which is a Wii). That’s it. TV time is heavily regulated; use of my computer is strictly for educational purposes; and every game we have for the Wii requires the same amount of exercise that they get riding their bike outside with the other neighborhood children (which they’d much rather do).
Every, single time one of my kids mentions other children having a phone and texting, I say the same thing: You should never be anywhere I don’t know about without an adult, by whom you can contact me. You see your friends all day at school and outside after homework, so when you’re actually in the house, it’s wind-down, family time. You are still learning how to make strong social decisions, and when things don’t go well, I need to be able to walk you through it. This is why you will not have a phone until high school, and EVEN THEN that phone will come to me no later than 9:30pm every night to be given back after you’ve had breakfast in the morning. This is the expectation.
You can imagine my irritation when my oldest child got busted at her father’s house for using the chat feature on that ridiculous game via her Kindle to communicate with a particularly questionable school friend.
Why did you do that? You know what the rules are. The expectations are the same- nothing is new here.
“I don’t know.”
IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHY YOU’RE DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING, YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN’T DO IT. AND IF YOU KNOW THAT WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS IN DIRECT CONTRADICTION TO EXPECTATIONS YOU ESPOUSE, YOU DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT DO IT. PAY. ATTENTION.
Now, you may be asking yourselves why I’m relating all of these parenthood annoyances to you. A) You already freaking know that I mom so hard, I’m regularly on that next-level mom shit. Pretty much everything I think is going to be as a result of mom-life- which chose me, by the way. But, also, B) to point out the rampant abandonment of intentionality, because it’s not just my kids. It’s their peers. It’s their society.
Christ, it’s our society!
What is your mother f’ing intent?
What. is. it.
Case in point, after a few months of good interaction, D and I were having some hard discussions of whether or not we were going to be a thing. I was definitely wary, given that I was recently divorced, young, and working my ass off to create an independent existence for my children and me. D was even more wary, given that he was also recently out of a bad relationship, older, and working his ass off…doing every-the-damn-thing. Neither of us were all that interested in getting saddled with more heartbreak, and neither of us were prepared to interrupt our domestic spheres for anything less than a sure thing. Aggravated with feeling like I had to legitimize my claims of being a decent human being, I said to him, Go conduct your own research. Ask anyone you know that knows me for a report. See what they say. Because nothing I tell you is going to sound like anything other than a lie or a ploy to defensive ears.
After a few days, I noticed a substantial backing-off, which was weird. Short of speaking with the father of my children or his people, I couldn’t think of anyone who would have anything to say about me that was ugly. I mean, shit, I was a stay-at-home mom for six years. All I did was reproduce and earn an honorary degree in domestic engineering, since it took some mathematical fetes and cosmic physics to keep my household afloat. I worked out. Did some endurance events. Baked cookies. What in the name of Holy God in Heaven could anyone possibly have to say- honestly- that would have caused him to create space? It made no sense.
I went through all my social media to see if there was something that could have been misinterpreted. Read through every interaction I publicly had. Read through all our conversations to objectively analyze everything I said for anything that looked scary. I became even more frustrated when I realized I know my own heart, and upon considering my intentions, knew there was nothing sinister to find anywhere because there was nothing sinister in my intent. Either he would come to see this, or he wouldn’t. And if he didn’t, that was his loss.
Because I’m cool as hell.
D, being as smart as he is, did come to see that I was what I said I was. There were certainly months of beating my head against the wall while I waited, and there were even more months of face-palming while I realized how I was misinterpreting him, in fact. However, over all, because neither of us had questionable intent, we made solid progress and built strong foundations, which have since proven to be unshakable as we have tackled many a difficult time together. A year or so in, I finally asked what had happened to cause that little false-start early on.
Evidently, someone in whom I had previously had implicit trust related that I was simply looking for stability. Just looking for a replacement father-figure for my children. That I was young and pretty and physically strong, but also needed financial support. “Good luck with that,” this human said to D, after properly terrifying him.
Now, nevermind the obvious fact that, yes, I did have to evaluate any new partner’s fatherhood experience, because I have three young children. Nevermind that any potential mate would be in the household with me and my children, serving as a father figure because they only see their actual father 33% of the time. Nevermind that after a divorce, the whole world of traditional, societal expectations for home life and family ties is completely destroyed for children of the lost marriage, which creates instability until something similar is established later under a better model or time allows for natural adjustment and broader thinking on blended family structures. And nevermind the fact that, outside of my family, no one– not even D until this year– knew that the court case with the father of my children and the lack of assistance for single mothers left me cutting finances so close that I missed meals to properly feed my children, because I have always been the first to put myself last for my children (else I would not have stayed in a bad marriage for years longer than I should have or have poured so much effort into a stressful job to get a raise just in time to keep my household ship from sinking).
Never-f’ing-mind that yes, D did need luck, because I am a once-in-a-lifetime, on-a-mission, stronger-than-brass-balls woman who shoots straighter than a room full of professional marksmen with less tact than a fifth-grade persuasive essay, and that would be a damn shame to lose.
I would be a damn shame to lose.
Legitimately, nevermind those things, because all they provide is a scale of ludicrous which doesn’t actually matter. Why? Because that person knew better than what they decided to say. That person knew what D has come to know, what anyone who is in my life long enough to have a good conversation with me comes to know- I am compulsively sincere in a world that preys on vulnerability and unapologetically clear with my emotions in a world that enjoys the smoke-and-mirror, detachment game. My entire being literally rejects and gives away any ill-intent or manipulation I could even attempt to employ.
You’re talking about someone who had a bad habit of fainting as a kid when thinly-veiled lies came to light. Seriously. I can’t deal.
And so the question is no longer about the validity of the claims that person made, but is about the reasons why that person would make those claims to begin with. What was their intent? I could speculate beyond the apparent, or I could directly confront this person. I could also get easily wound up about with whom else they may have shared that opinion and who might agree with it (I’m fairly young, but I’m not stupid- weak minds do enjoy the idea that a young, single mother would latch on to an older man as a way out of her difficult situation because it’s compelling fodder for a novella). But ultimately, the decision to say those things or believe those things says more about the speaker/recipient than it does about the subject. To employ intangible conjectures as truth and facilitate speculation as fact is a choice to wound.
So the outrage is never the “what,” but the “why?”
Why did Maddie decide to ignore my directions and risk injury or a wardrobe malfunction?
Why did Lucas disregard good instruction and continue with an action that is not productive, or choose to act impulsively instead of thoughtfully?
Why did Charlie abuse her extra tech privileges at her father’s and risk the loss of them?
Why did this old friend seek to wound my already-wounded heart, to deter potential happiness after I had suffered so much unhappiness?
The pain is always in the “why,” isn’t it? We can forgive just about any action, but what is so damn hard to get past is the intent behind it. More often than not, when I ask my kids why they did what they did, the only answers they can give (aside from “I don’t know”) are, “Because I just wanted to/ Because I couldn’t help it/ Because I didn’t know what would happen.” While I can buy a piece of that, knowing that part of raising children is teaching them impulse control, actions and consequences, and long-term relational thinking, imagine hearing that from a peer as an adult- especially in the event that the other adult has wounded you.
Why did you do this thing to me? Why did you allow this to occur?
I don’t know.
Because I wanted to at the time.
Because I couldn’t help it.
Well, I didn’t know that would happen.
Could you accept that? Is that more palatable than a lie?
Or, worse, could you see yourself saying such things when you wound someone else?
Spilling milk on school clothes is a small thing. An inconvenience. Lucas is seven and learning, and re-establishing boundaries with Charlie so that they are ingrained later isn’t the absolute worst. But it’s the principle that matters. Common sense informs us all that little things become big things, actions become habits become lifestyles. So if we start entertaining periods of abdication where consequence and the ownership of intent are concerned, I think it’s reasonable to infer that we run the risk of perpetuating the gateway illness to the great pandemic of our time- the loss of integrity.
For the love, guys, treat each other the same way you believe you should be treated- and better. As a modern day example- that picture/comment you just posted to social media or sent directly to a “friend” of the opposite sex that you know was a little suggestive. Imagine how their spouse/significant other feels. Imagine how your spouse/significant other feels. Now put yourself on the receiving end (i.e. your significant other was interacting with the opposite sex in the same way you just did), and consider what ramifications you think you could justify. If it was a friend of yours, and they told you their significant other was behaving this way, what would you tell them? What was your intent when you did that? What is the honest-to-God, standing-on-Judgment-Day, reason behind what you just did, and would you allow for someone to give that as a response if it had been done to you?
Also, be the person you want people to think you are based on the highlight reel you give them, or be more honest about who you actually are. There are new psychological syndromes founded entirely on the modern brain’s response to social comparisons. Did you know that? Isn’t that wild and sad and awful? As a different example, the image we put effort into cultivating for others. Would someone feel betrayed, confused, or disoriented to find out how much of that isn’t accurate? Put yourself on the receiving end and consider the shock, anger, or embarrassment you might feel if you had interacted with someone underneath false pretenses, and had been sincere. What is your intent for this construct, and why do you think you need it? If it’s not accurate, why do you feel the need to be deceitful, and could you accept that as a reason to be deceived?
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
USE YOUR FREAKIN’ BRAINS.
While you are not responsible for the intent of others, you are responsible for your intent. You are required to know what your intentions are, because you are the only one to blame for the fall out of ill-intent. And barring legitimate mental defect, you do know, deep down, underneath any and all screens/fabrications/self talk/”explanations” (read: excuses), what those intentions are and whether they are good or otherwise.
The thing to do is to start asking yourself about them.