Two weeks ago on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I was minding my own business fiddling around in the kitchen cleaning up after lunch.
At one point, a friend of my daughter’s came barreling into the kitchen running full speed on her way up from our basement downstairs to Layla’s room upstairs.
For some reason when this little girl saw me standing in the kitchen, she stopped in her tracks, slid across the kitchen floor in her florescent socks and shouted, “Oh, you’re here!!!!!!!”
Not knowing what she meant by this comment, I simply asked. “What do you mean? Was I not supposed to be here?”
Her response was swift and cold, “Well, you’re never here. Every time I come over here on the weekends, you’re never here. You’re always gone.”
I paused and played back the several previous weekends and honestly couldn’t picture me being gone that much. No girls’ weekends, no out of town rendezvous, just normal boring and busy weekends, like most people I know.
Her commentary continued.
“I mean where do you go? Why are you not here when I come over?” I did my best to cobble together a hypothesis for this four-foot wonder in front of me. “I don’t know, to be honest. Shopping? The grocery store? Yoga. Nothing too exciting.”
“Oh,” she muttered, while staring at me through squinted eyes to communicate her skepticism of my response. And with that, she spun on her heels and took off toward my daughter’s room, but not before dealing her final words.
“Well, it’s nice to see you here. For once.”
What surprised me about this particular situation was not what she said to me, but how I reacted when she left the room.
I didn’t care.
I pondered what she said, chuckled about it, grabbed my car keys and walked out the door to go to grocery store.
As I drove to the grocery store, I marveled at how her comment about me always being gone had immediately bounced off me.
It didn’t stick. It didn’t hurt me. It didn’t frustrate me. It didn’t make me feel guilty or sad. It made me laugh.
And here’s why: Because I didn’t find her comment to be true.
I didn’t find it factual that I wasn’t at home on the weekends. Therefore, I forgot about what she said, and I moved on. I never told anyone about it. I didn’t feel like a victim, so there was no need to tell and retell the story over and over again to justify that I was right and she was wrong.
I literally didn’t care.
Here is what I have found to be true. When someone confronts you about something you don’t find to be true, you don’t care. You move on. However, when someone comes at you with something you do believe is true, you fight to the death to defend yourself.
Like I did last night with my daughter.
Layla was upset with me because I had to reschedule her dentist appointment for the second time because of a work commitment. Normally, kids would be thrilled about postponing a dreaded trip to the dentist. But, Layla has four cavities, and she’s desperate to get the torture over with.
And I was delaying the torture.
She was upset that I was putting my career before her cavities and she let me know it.
And I let her have it.
“This is not my fault. Let me give you a little perspective on this situation. First, there are two other adult members of this team, your father, and the nanny, who could take you to the dentist this week. However, neither one of them can…yet I’m the one who gets blamed. I would suggest that they deserve at least one of your stink eyes. Second, the dentist in question only works two days a week, so the window of opportunity that I have to work with is incredibly limited. He, too, I would argue is a candidate for your second stink eye. And finally, I have a job. I take on commitments and projects because I love what I do for a living and what I do for a living plays a role in helping you live the life that you live.”
Put that in your drill bit and smoke it.
It was not one of my better moments, I assure you.
So why did I have two violently different reactions to being confronted by two different little girls? It’s not because one was my daughter and one was her friend. It’s because I found one of the accusations to be false and the other to be true.
The truth hurts.
I was hurt by the truth, and I immediately shifted that hurt to my daughter to defend myself.
I didn’t protect the dentist appointment on my calendar, and now my daughter’s fear of getting her first cavity (or four) would be extended by two weeks. And instead of admitting that she was right and saying I’m sorry, I wrestled her to the ground with my three-pronged approach to prove that it wasn’t my fault.
An excellent jewel in my Mother of the Year crown.
The truth not only hurts, but it also makes you fight back. The truth makes you defend yourself in order to prove that you’re right even when you know that you’re wrong.
I have no idea what will happen, but the next time I find myself in fighting mode, I’m going to take a deep breath and contemplate whether the person challenging me is actually right.
If they’re right, I’m going to say it. I’m not going to fight it.
I once heard a story about a very successful creative director in the advertising industry (an industry notorious for confrontational conversations) who carried around a handwritten note in his pocket every day of his career.
The note said, “Maybe they’re right.”
I’m going to start trying that mantra on for size.
If I were a betting woman, I would say it’s going to result in more hugs, less tears, more maturity and less fighting.