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.




* 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.