On yelling, authenticity, aspiration and the usefulness of judgemental relatives-and-strangers

Jane: Cinder! I mean Flora! Ender! Gah—child-I’m-mad-at, come here!

Flora: Which one? We were all being kind of buttsacks.

Jane: Wah! All of you! Just come here, line up, and I’m going to yell at each of you in turn. Or maybe all together…

Cinder: I did not do anything! Not really!

Jane: But I guarantee you will do something yell-worthy soon. Get over here. Now here’s what we’re going to do. I am going to deliver an all purpose yelling-lecture session now. Then, whenever you’re buttsacks the rest of the day, I can just go, “Waah! Remember what I said this morning?” And we can move on without more lecturing-yelling.

Flora: I don’t think that’s going to work.

Cinder: You’re really weird.

Ender: Maybe I’ll be really good the rest of the day.

Flora: Probably not.

Cinder: Definitely not.

Ender: You! Suck!

Cinder: You’re! A! Buttsack!

Flora: I think this is why Mom wanted to yell at us. Ok, we’re ready, Mom. Go.

So here’s the thing, friends. I don’t really yell at the kids that much. More than I’d like to… less than Aunt Augusta—you know Aunt Augusta, you’ve got one too*—thinks I ought to. But sometimes, I yell.

Sometimes, they really need to be yelled at, and I really need to yell.

Sometimes, “You! Are! Driving! Me! Insane!” is better—more real—more authentic—less damaging—than taking a deep breath, gritting my teeth, and muttering, “Never mind.”

Actually—gritting my teeth and muttering “Never mind”—when, in truth, I really, really, REALLY DO MIND—is never the better thing to do, the healthy thing to do.

Do this. Think of something that makes you extremely angry. Whatever it is. Clubbing baby seals or keying cars or taking the chicken carcass out of the garbage and trying to flush it down the toilet…** Now, sigh, shrug, and say, “Never mind.” You liar. Of course you mind. Feel yourself tightening up and going mad as a result? Acknowledge that you mind. And then move on.

Cinder: Mom? Mom! You did that spacing out thing again! We’re waiting for the yelling!

Jane: Oh. Right. The moment’s kind of passed. I’m no longer in a yelling mood. Just try not to be buttsacks*** to each other.

Cinder: You know that’s probably not going to happen.

Jane: I know. Try. Most of life is aspirational.

And as Flora explains to her brothers what aspirational means, I decide that today may be an ice-cream discipline kind of day. And also, a good day to NOT clean the kitchen and NOT do laundry and NOT try to squeeze in a couple of hours of research on that project—the deadline’s too far away to be urgent, kitchens just get dirty again, and everyone still has socks. Instead, it’s a good day to text a friend or two and take our collective brood to roam some urban park or other. Climb a hill. Break some ice floes. Get soaking wet and dirty in melting puddles. And then do THAT laundry. Or not.

Most of life is aspirational.

xoxo

“Jane”

LanternsPin

* You don’t know Aunt Augusta? Are you sure? She’s my all-purpose metaphor for every relative-aquaintance-friend-of-the-family-well-meaning-stranger-at-the-bus-stop-nosy-neighbour who has an opinion about how I live my life/raise my children and misses no opportunity to tell me I’m doing it wrong. Ah, Aunt Augusta. The pain and angst you caused me when I was a brand-new, vulnerable mother… The amusement and opportunity for passive-aggressive and just-out-right-aggressive barbs you give me now… I won’t say I love you, darling, because you’re bitchy, abrasive, judgemental, intolerant, invasive and well, kinda nasty. But I’m glad you exist, because you’ve become this amazing barometer for me. If I ever do anything of which you wholeheartedly approved—man, I’ll have fucked up but majorly. So please, darling. Criticize away. I’m too permissive, messy, insufficiently-hovering-spoiling-my-children-too-much? Awesome. Thank you. I was worried I was too-cranky-angry-controlling-snappy these days, but clearly, I’m still doing ok.

**I caught up with him before Part II was fully in effect.

***It’s also a metaphor. Cinder’s creation. I’ve stopped fighting it and now fully embrace its use as a term of… endearment. That’s what it is. Endearment.

##

23 thoughts on “On yelling, authenticity, aspiration and the usefulness of judgemental relatives-and-strangers

  1. I love your concept of Aunt Augusta. Did you name her after the character from The Importance of Being Earnest? I’m pretty psyched if you did, because that’s my favorite play EVER. Also, I can’t believe the chicken carcass thing! Gross!!

    • Ha, no. But, upon reflection, rather fitting. I vaguely recall her original name was Aunt Josephine… but over time, she became Augusta. And now, whenever I think of her, I will secretly call her Wilde Thing…

  2. I completely agree. Children do need to see our real (in my case, occasionally rather moody) selves. It teaches them that it’s ok to be themselves too.
    Sometimes being authentic goes a little far and I get shouty. But, then I can apologise and that’s a good example too!
    I could be perfect, of course, but that wouldn’t be anywhere near as educational for the kids ;-)

  3. “Endearment” you keep on telling yourself that and one day it might just stick ;). Kids are our lightning sticks. They know which buttons to push just by sniffing the air surrounding mum. AH Dear Aunt Augusta. As a brand new teenaged mum trying to do her level best with what she had I had a fretful and angry small red face alternating screaming and crying as I perambulated (in a sort of manic zigzag “GET ME OUT OF HERE” way on a shopping trip last century) around what was rapidly becoming a maze of shopping. I had a cup of now lukewarm “hot” chips (you Northerners call them fries, but mine were chunky and as far away from fries as you can get) and I offered one to my teething angst ridden toddler. Up out of nowhere popped Aunt Augusta! I am SURE it was your very self-same aunt but this one had brought safari suited uncle Clem with her to tut in unison…”Excuse me…(delivered with a perfect element of dripping icy cold tonality…) are you REALLY feeding that poor child hot chips?!!!” “um…yes?” she didn’t say anything else…she just shook her head at me as if I was a parasitic creature feeding from the soon to be heart disease ridden corpse of my own first born son-and-heir and gripped the arm of tutting uncle Clem and stiffly marched off, obviously to catch the next flight back to wherever it is that you live. Aunt Augusta gives us power. She gives us our “FUCK YOU!” back when we think we might just have lost it along with our dignity and our fashion sense and sometimes we need an Aunt Augusta just to realign ourselves with the fates and to realise that we are coping admirably in the face of incredible odds. Take those chillin’s to the park. Let them frolic in the mud and bollocks to the washing. It aint going anywhere soon! :)

  4. Just a quick note…to all of those unaware of Aunt Augustas, they ALWAYS wear bright red Avon lipstick so that they can purse their lips and deliver a perfect ass-kiss of a “TUT” when it is likely to inject the most venom.

      • Yes but that stick tends to be barbed and full of bitter cold sarcasm or like the elderly “fit AS” lady who patrols our neighbourhood early in the morning with a very short, sharp stick for assaulting poor hapless dogs who come out to greet her with wagging tails and drooly tongues – assault weapons! We call her “The Stick Witch” she looks angry ALL of the time. Some people really don’t know what life is for do they? ;)

  5. Having a rough day over here and lots of yelling. Thanks for making not feel so guilty about it! And I think we’ll catch a movie in a real theatre this afternoon instead of doing anything else, that’s almost like ice cream isn’t it?

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