You're a Natural!

I recently took the girls for their annual checkups-- the usual peering in ears, screaming at shots, gnawing on stethescopes. Plus the usual-for-maybe-just-my-kids stuff: hiding from the doctor under the exam table, being dragged out by the hind leg, barricading the exam room door with a step ladder, jarring the biohazard waste bin open --bam!~bam!-- with that appealing little foot pedal, befriending an autistic teenager in the lobby and rolling a rubber ball back and forth across the waiting room with him, chatting up an aging swami, petitioning the nurse for repeated trips to the Treasure Box, and then sending up a crescendoing keen of impatience and aggravation.

The visit was entering its second hour, the girls and I were all shot up and bandaged and heading exit-wards, the receptionist was re-swiping my card, the teenage buddy was pointing out the varieties of tropical fish in the fish tank, the baby was pulling my shirt off of my shoulders and yowling, and RJ was crawling under my legs like a tunnel in her new princess rings, chasing her new rubber ball.

At this moment, the doctor comes out again and says, "wow, you women are just amazing. You all handle this chaos so gracefully! I just couldn't do it!"  And he ducks back into his office. Before, say, a potted plant flew at his head.

And it's less than friendly of me to say anything besides, "thank you!" so that's what I said. He was extending a compliment, which is a nice gesture, and he's a wonderful doctor. But I felt slightly-- but persistently-- irritated. And I have been puzzling over why his comment has been buzzing around my head, getting up my nose, ever since.

A brief timewarp: I was 13 years old, and possessed the usual suite of teenage charm: rude, demanding, sarcastic, mean... One day I was watching my parents converse politely and it struck me: they are making the choice to behave nicely. It's not any more natural for them than it is for me! Adults behave like adults because they are choosing their words, editing their impulses. There are things that they are not expressing! And those things? Should not be expressed! It was a life-changing realization. Not that I put it in practice right away, but still. I knew that I COULD.

That is how I feel about parenting. Granted, I have some biological equipment that allows me to gestate, birth, and feed my babies. And possibly some hardwired gender-based bonuses with peripheral vision, attention to detail and interpersonal intelligence-- stuff that would have given me a real advantage picking berries and fending off the saber-toothed tigers when Thuggy was off on the mastadon hunt. But modern-day mastadon-free parenting?  Shopping cart or waiting room parenting?

It's a choice. You can choose your attitude, you can choose to edit your bad impulses and cultivate your good ones. You can decide to be a good parent or a crummy one. And the more you practice, the more you learn, the better you will get.

Saying that someone or some type of person is a "natural" diminishes their choices and work, but it also makes room for laziness in folks who, like that doctor, feel like they haven't got the instinct-- the gift. Oh well, I'm not a female, so I can retreat to my haven and let the womenfolk deal with the children. Oh well, I'm not a musician, so I'm not going to practice. I'm not smart, I won't read; I'm not friendly, I won't make small talk. All of us can make choices to do difficult things. You can sculpt your own strengths.


  1. Very true! You are completely correct. And, we even have a choice after we are in a bad rut/habit of doing something.

  2. I think this applies

  3. Hi Becca,
    I have only met you once (insert stalker music here) but thanks to FB and now your link to your blog, I feel like I know you. I love the way you write. I was going to slip out with out saying anything like any good stalker would do, but this post really hit me. I will go as far as to say that I needed this right now. Thanks.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Fresh Grief: How to Help When People are Grieving

Malihini 101

The First Year of Suicide Grief: Some Advice for Pain