Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16: The Hearth, Family, Misplaced Anger

At last dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up.  The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire.  Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass.  Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

Yes, the Cratchit family is the closest you come to the Brady Bunch in A Christmas Carol.  Granted, Tiny Tim is severely ill.  Granted, Bob barely makes enough money to feed and clothe his wife and children.  Granted, their possessions are meager, as demonstrated by the family display of glass.  And granted, poverty is a constant presence in the Cratchit scenes.  But, as Dickens points out a few paragraphs later, the Cratchits are "happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time..."

I just got off the phone with my eleven-year-old daughter.  I call her every morning before she heads out to catch her school bus.  I just want to hear her voice, wish her a good day, tell her I love her.  In the last couple of weeks, I have been getting boat-loads of drama when I call.  She can't find a pair of pants.  She can't find the ring her friend gave her.  She can't find her homework.  This morning, she was crying on the phone because "I tried and tried and tried, like for five minutes, to get my hair in a ponytail for school, and there's still a strand of hair hanging down in the back, and now I have to go to school with a strand hanging down in the back, and you're not saying anything, and I'm talking to an empty phone, and my hair is never going to get perfect."

Obviously, when I'm greeted like this, I'm kind of speechless.  If I were at home, I could fix her hair.  If I were there, I could help her navigate this crisis.  However, I can't be there.  I have to work, and I have to listen to my daughter have a meltdown over a strand of errant hair.  My wife is at home, but, because of her medications, she has very little energy in the mornings.  Yet, I still find myself getting angry with my wife.  I want to tell her to get off the couch and comfort our daughter, help her out.

My anger is misplaced.  I'm angry about the fact that I can't help my daughter in the morning.  I'm angry at having to work twelve-hour days to pay the bills.  I'm angry because I feel like I'm missing so much of my children's childhoods.  And I'm angry for having to listen to my daughter have a breakdown over a piece of hair. 

My wife has a much different parenting style than I have.  She's much more relaxed, a type-B parent.  Things don't have to be perfect for her.  I'm a type-A parent.  I want lunches made and clothes laid out the night before.  I want my daughter to get all A's in school.  And I want her hair to look beautiful and perfect.  Every day.

This parenting approach, however, simply leads to frustration and anger, as evidenced by this morning.   Bob Cratchit is not a type-A parent.  He knows his life isn't perfect, his children aren't perfect.  He knows his house is too small for his family.  He knows the Christmas goose isn't big enough to feed his entire brood.  Yet, he's happy.  Satisfied.  Content with his life.  He's simply grateful that all his children are alive and together around his hearth.  I need to take some parenting lessons from Bob.

And Saint Marty needs to give his wife a lesson in how to create a decent ponytail.
Me......................................My Wife

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