Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pack Your Bags! We're Going on a Guilt Trip!

We went on an unexpected guilt trip the other day!
When I picked the kiddo up from school, it wasn't raining, but I had my umbrella anyway, just in case. Well, wouldn't you know it, as we headed home, it started to rain, starting off as a sprinkle but quickly changing into a steady downpour. 

If you have ever shared an umbrella with a short person, you know that the taller of the two needs to be the one holding the umbrella. Otherwise, it just doesn't work, because the taller of the two inevitably gets whacked with the umbrella, and still ends up wet.

For some reason, the harder the rain became, the slower the kiddo seemed to walk. Surely I was imagining it, because, really, who wants to be caught in a cold rain? We were halfway home (which we can normally cover in just a few minutes) when the kiddo started complaining that she was getting wet and trying to grab the umbrella. I reminded her that I wasn't exactly staying dry, either, but if we hurried up, we could make it home without getting too soggy. 

At this point, only my boots, the cuffs of my pants, and my right sleeve were wet--salvageable with a hair dryer, right? However, the kiddo viewed walking in the rain as the end of the world. We were in the home stretch, so I handed the kiddo the umbrella and told her I would run the rest of the way. Now, I wasn't abandoning her--we were cutting through the neighbors' yard, like we always do. She knows them, and has no problem cavorting on their property any other day. Plus, we were right next to our own house. 

That was when the real water works began. The kiddo stopped, crying, and called for me to come back. I ducked under a (way too scraggly tree) and told her to cut through the yard. She wanted me to wait. I told her to come to the tree and we would run the rest of the way together. No dice. The tree wasn't offering me much protection, and now I was drenched. I gave up, and stood there, in the rain, as hot tears of frustration threatened to mix with the rain pelting my face. I had to teach a class in a few hours, and my nice outfit was ruined, and my hair was soaking wet. We trudged home together, the kiddo still fairly dry under the umbrella.

The kiddo and I usually unpack her book bag and lunch box together as she tells me about her day. This time, though, she had to do it alone as I cleaned myself up. This was not to her liking, and she let me know it. I stopped her complaining by standing in front of her and asking her one pivotal question: "Which one of us is soaking wet and miserable?" She hung her head and unpacked. 

She felt guilty, all right! She needed to learn that she she can't expect people (even me!) to accommodate her at their own expense. I let the kiddo know that I was disappointed with her decision, because it looked like she didn't care that I was wet and miserable. She made it up to me by cooperating with me the rest of the day, so yes, I think she realizes that her actions affect others. (And that even mom gets wet when standing still in the rain.)

According John M. Grohol, Psy.D., "guilt is trying to get our attention so that we can learn something from the experience. If we learn from our behavior, we’ll be less likely to do it again in the future". The kiddo has a strong reaction to guilt: she sulks and won't look at me. So while I am less than impressed with the kiddo's less-than-stellar spelling test, I choose to use guilt only when the kiddo's actions affect someone else. 

1 comment:

  1. Love the simple "Which one of us is soaking wet and miserable?"