Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Life is rather complicated. You know, they don’t tell you that up front. They let you figure it out, which is fine, I suppose, but rather stressish on your vital bodily organs and stuff.

One minute, you’re driving along coming home from church; the next, a minor disagreement in the back seat devolves into a screaming, name-calling, pinching, slapping, brawl; and then further still, yours truly finally reaches the point where he decides that this particular brawl (even though it is similar in tone and content to the last 50-odd similar occurrences) is quite more than he can stand at the moment and proceeds to pitch his own little fit. A fit that few people could even begin to match for tone, volume, rancor, heat, vitriol, vituperation, &c. A good, old-fashioned, Pap-done-gone-off’n-his-rocker, hell-fire and brimstone, JDAM dropping, Sultana boiler explosion of a fit.

As it unfolded, I imagine I could have been used as the model for cartoonists who wished to know exactly how to draw those radiating anger waves, or what steam actually looks like coming out of a person’s ears.

Now, you all, having read my usual happy-go-lucky palaver herein, might find it difficult to believe I could let loose like that--usually, I am pretty even-tempered, at least on the outside, but sometimes I gets like Popeye--I’s had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more! I doubt it’s healthy, either physically or mentally, to let stuff build like that--but hey, that’s just me. I’d rather not have to pull rank on my kids, I’d rather their obedience come from trust--trust that I won’t tell them to do anything wrong or harmful. Reba and I are both strict on them, but we understand they are kids, and don’t try to control every single moment of their existence. At some point, though, they have to learn to get along with each other without having the Marines come in and maintain order. Maybe because of that they decide, ‘Aww, screw him, you know, he’s just all talk.’ So, they press on. “Stop it.” Press on. “STOP.” Press on. “STOP!” Then they step on the trip wire to the claymore and wonder why no one said stop.

Needless to say, after the blast subsided the ride home was much, MUCH quieter.

Finally home, and Oldest runs to her room and shuts herself in. ::sigh:: Here goes. Every six months or so, this happens.

I got the other kids to get their church clothes off and go do something, while Reba went in and started trying to decipher the indecipherable. I came in on the part where it comes out that I hate her, and never let her do what she wants, and pick on her, and don’t ever discipline the other kids, and how her life would have been so much better if I had never married Mom and I don’t ever let Mom do what she wants and no one cares what happens to her and it’s all my fault and her siblings hate her and it’s all their fault, too, and she hates her whole family and her school and her teachers and going to church and living in Alabama and me and she wished she lived in Wisconsin. (Wisconsin?!)

She has the certainty that all thirteen-year olds have. The idea that she might be wrong about anything is alien, and any suggestion otherwise is proof of nothing more than how misunderstood and hated she is. Not to say she isn’t justified in her feelings when she talks about how she gets treated at school--she does get picked on--but rather than develop any sort of coping skills to deal with the taunts and insults, she has come to the conclusion that her problems are all external. She can’t quite seem to grasp the idea that there are children who tease her for no other reason than to see her rant back at them. Rather than learning to not feed the trolls, she believes going elsewhere would put a stop to it. Or, better yet, if I were elsewhere. ‘Cause it IS all my fault, you know.

In the same way, she cannot quite seem to grasp that she herself is guilty of the same teasing and hatefulness that is directed at her--I reminded her of a girl who used to go to church with us whom she made a point of very blatantly shunning and being rude and hateful toward. “But you don’t understand, Dad--she was just SO WEIRD!” Yep, it’s all me. We came very close to being able to convince her that to treat someone else badly makes THEM feel the way she feels when SHE is treated badly. Empathy, however, is apparently one of those things that goes on holiday during adolescence.

On and on. An hour-and-a-half’s worth of conversation, including the part every teenager rolls his or her eyes at--the idea that your eternally bossy parents, as a matter of incontrovertible fact, love you, even though they're always telling you what to do. And love you despite how you act, or how you feel in the reciprocal. And love you even though they insist that you still have to go to school and church and live in the same house with your brother and sisters. And love you when they tell you to get your homework done, even if the teacher is an evil witch. And love you when they tell you that you have to quit thinking everyone’s out to be mean to you.

It’s a hard sell, I promise you that.

It troubles me to think that I might not live long enough to see it when the light to finally comes on in her head. It troubles me when I see the effect her actions have on her younger siblings. It troubles me that she has such hurt inside, and has such an unwillingness to believe in her family’s love for her, and our desire to help her. But you know what? Parenting is not for the weak-minded and timid, and that’s just the way life is. Some parents can’t do it, and run off to their own worlds and leave their kids to fend for themselves. But God has given me a job to do, and I figure he wouldn’t have give it, if he didn’t think I could do it.

Sure does make lots of gray hairs on me, though.

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