Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the Eating of Crow

Yesterday afternoon, I learned through first-hand experience that even family scientists with Ph.D.s can goof up and make a mess of things. Let me explain.

I was standing in our driveway, when our teenaged son opened the back door. He kept the door open for what I perceived to be an unreasonably long period of time. The thrifty (my wife would probably use the words "tightwad" or "cheapskate") side of me immediately started thinking about the air conditioner being on, the cold air escaping, and the electricity bill, so I asked him to close the door. He delayed complying with my request and started saying something, but I tuned out what he was trying to tell me as my mind screamed, "Defiance! Rebellion! Disobedience!" And then I did it. I shouted as loudly as I could, "CLOSE THE DOOR!"

Our son slammed the backdoor and retreated into his bedroom (slamming that door also) where he could be heard fussing, fuming, and banging his head on the wall out of anger and hurt. It wasn't long before my wife came outside and asked, "What was that all about?" And then I did it again. I yelled at my wife, basically accusing her of coming to our son's rescue when he was clearly (in my mind) in the wrong. As you might imagine, without going into details, my wife didn't respond favorably.

Anyway, there you have it. I had acted like an idiot, flown off the handle, and upset my wife and son. The learned scholar and purported expert on all things relationship and family had made a mess of things. For 15-20 minutes, I stewed in my own anger, ticked off at what I perceived as my son's defiance and my wife's taking his side against me. Gradually, as things cooled down, I learned that our son was holding the door open so that our dog could come outside with us. That's what he was trying to say before I began my episode of idiocy. I also learned that my wife was not attacking me or taking our son's side against me. She was just trying to figure out what had upset him. Guess who felt like a fool?

In the end, I had to acknowledge that I was in the wrong and apologized profusely to both my wife and son.

If there's any good to be taken from what transpired yesterday, it's that I was reminded of lots of simple little lessons in a short amount of time. For instance, I learned the importance of: (1) listening and letting people finish what they're saying before responding, (2)not making assumptions about people's intentions, (3) thinking before speaking, (4) taking time-outs when stressed or upset, or at the very least, biting your tongue and keeping your mouth shut when angry, (5)admitting when you're wrong and asking for forgiveness, (6) recognizing that having a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies does not render one immune to making mistakes with regard to one's relationships and family.

(And just so you know, I talked with my wife about writing this piece, and she was okay with it.)