Yesterday was a warmer than usual day. Like mid-40’s warm. Certainly not hot. Absolutely not spring-like. But the sun was shining and if we closed our eyes, we could imagine shorts, short sleeves and flip-flops somewhere in the not so distant future. I made the mistake of saying out loud to Hannah as we left the house, “Wow, what a beautiful day! It’s so warm!” A mistake, because with that, she turned to me and said, “I’m SOO HOT mommy! I need to go take off my socks and sweater. I’m wearing way too many “clotheses!”.
I tried backpedalling. “No Hannah, it’s not THAT warm. It’s just warmer than usual for winter. It’s just a pretty, sunny day. But we still need to wear Winter clothes. Look, there’s still SNOW on the ground!”
“NO! I’m HOT and I’m going to start SWEATING soon!” she protested as her feet started stomping on the cement and the smoke started puffing from her ears. “I won’t step in the snow. And plus, the snow would feel good on my hot feet!”
Instead of continuing with the normal debate, I decided to try a new tactic. Guilt.
“Fine Hannah. Do what you want. If you want to risk getting sick after having JUST gotten over pneumonia, go right ahead. Fine with me.”
I crossed my fingers that it would work and she’d come to her senses. I turned back toward the car and I could see her reflection in the car window. Standing perfectly still. Mouth hanging slightly open either from sheer surprise or because she was ready with her next rebuttal, which was no longer necessary. And then she smiled and yelled, “YIPPEE!!! No sweater!” And she jumped into her car seat and took off her jacket and sweater and dramatically fanned her face for effect. “So Much Better Mommy! Thank you!”
Hannah – 1. Mommy – 0.
And this scenario has made me wonder a little about guilt. I’m someone who feels guilty A Lot. I so often feel bad about something I’ve done, something I’ve said or haven’t said. I go out of my way to do what I think someone else wants me to do so that I don’t feel guilty later. When I go out during the day on the weekends, be it to the gym, to the grocery store, to the gas station, I always rush home. Because I feel bad. Bad that I’ve left Tim with the kids. Bad that I’m out and he’s not. When Tim and I are out at night and my parents or inlaws are babysitting, I feel the need to rush home because I don’t want them driving home too late. I’m very sensitive to people’s body language and verbal subtleties and although I may be misreading these cues, I often end up feeling guilty about something.
I could blame other people for making me feel guilty. My parents tell me the day after they babysit how tired they are. (I’m sorry I kept you out so late). They tell me Hannah was up at 5 in the morning when they stay overnight with her. (I’m sorry she’s a bad sleeper). Tim comments that I “must have had a nice afternoon” after I get back from the gym and grocery store. (I’m sorry I was out as long as I was). My mother in law tells me how much she misses my kids. (I’m sorry I haven’t invited you over in a while). But are these innocent, honest comments that people make intended to make me feel guilty? Everyone was just telling me how they feel. No crime in that right? Or am I someone who is just prone to feeling guilty? I think the latter.
I despise feeling guilty. I despise it because if I do nothing about it, the feeling just aches inside me and if I DO something about it, the guilt turns into resentment. I feel better that I’ve made someone else happy but annoyed that I’ve been convinced to do something I don’t want to do. And I’m not sure which feels worse.
And even though I tested out the guilt tactic on Hannah yesterday to see if I could make her feel bad not wearing a sweater in the chilly weather, I’d really like to bring up my kids to not carry a whole lot of guilt on their shoulders (seems like Hannah is off to a good start judging from yesterday!). I need to not make them feel bad about the choices they make. And that’s really hard to do, when I disagree. But maybe there’s a difference between guilt and disappointment. Maybe as a mom, it’s ok for my kids to see disappointment in my face after they do something I don’t approve of. Maybe guilt is more passive aggressive. I want my kids to do things because they know they’re the right things to do. Not because they think they will make someone else happy by doing them.
I also think trying to guilt my 5 year old daughter into wearing a sweater was a bad mommying tactic. Ahem.
And I need to buy into this philosophy as well. I need to come home from the gym quickly because I miss the kids or because I want more family time. Not because I THINK Tim wants me home to help with the kids or because I THINK he can’t handle the tantrums that may be ensuing at home. I need to visit my brother because I miss him and my nieces, not because I FEEL judged by him for not visiting more often.
Guilt. It’s a topic that comes up often with Tim and I. Tim thinks I do A LOT because I feel guilty. My response is usually, “If I know it’s going to make someone happy, it makes me feel good to do it”. And he comes back with, “you should do it because YOU want to. Not because someone else wants you to.” It’s something we probably just need to agree to disagree on. It all goes back to being a people pleaser and a conflict avoider. But, I’m realizing, I need to put me first sometimes too. Feeling less resentful, would be a good thing.
So watch out! I’m following Hannah’s lead and just might take MY socks off tomorrow… snow (and my mom’s voice judging voice in my head) be damned.
So, what do you think? Who is responsible for guilt? The giver or the receiver?