Lean In or Let Go

Over the recent holidays, we were watching Mathilda the Musical based on the Roald Dahl book. The character of Ms. Trunchbull, the former Olympic hammer thrower and mean headmistress played by Emma Thompson, was totally getting to Miss O. They show Ms. Trunchbull grabbing a little girl by her braids and twirling her around and around and then throwing her 50 yards or so as if she was an Olympic hammer. And she stretches a little boys ears until they are the size of dinner plates. Mr. D was fascinated but Miss O was horrified.

So we talked about how Roald Dahl was using hyperbole, blowing things out of proportion to make a point and maybe to represent a kid’s point of view. I asked if she ever had a teacher she didn’t like and found scary. Incredibly in her seven years, she hasn’t had a teacher like that but she got the point. Once she understood hyperbole, she then really got into the movie and songs.

So a couple of weeks later, Mr. D hit his sister when she tried to take something from them. And I started in on a parental lecture with, “It’s okay to be angry but it’s not okay to hit. Do I ever hit you guys?”

And to my horror, Miss O answered, “Yes, you do.” Trying to tamp down my indignation, I asked her for examples.

With a little prompting she produced the time I scratched Mr. D with a jagged fingernail when I was helping him getting his shirt on. And the time I slipped my arm through my coat sleeve only to bop Miss O on the ear as she walked by. And the most dramatic, the time I was rolling the big yard waste bin to the curb and just as I asked my friend, “Where’s Miss O?” bowled her over with the bin as she was shakily practicing her new bike riding skill on the sidewalk.

Was this hyperbole? A willful misunderstanding? An honest take from a child’s point of view who feels they are being unfairly held to a different standard?

I don’t know – perhaps a bit of all three. But I’ve found conversations like this one I had with my children to be revealing of the sludge that builds up in relationships. Whether it’s a misunderstanding or difference of opinion, sometimes these little opportunities can be a gift to dredge the canal that exists between us. To each state how we see something, reframe the past, and soothe the irritations that can become bigger wounds.

To be fair, I’m pretty new at actually leaning in to these conversations now that I see them. Growing up in a conflict averse family taught me the habit of glossing over these opportunities if I managed to notice them at all. But somewhere in the post-divorce, meditation, self-awareness of the last ten years, I’ve gotten better at either leaning in or letting go. I don’t always discern which one I should do right away, but I try land on one or the other sooner rather than later.

In this case, I was lucky enough that Miss O ended the list with the time I knocked her over with the yard waste bin. As we laughed together again about that fiasco (she fortunately was not hurt), it moved me out of indignation and closer to listening. I apologized again and noted that when we are so close, it’s impossible not to scratch one another from time to time. But best to aim for not doing it out of anger or on purpose.

It felt like a little sludge was dredged from between us with that one and maybe I even got a point across. I’m hoping that’s not hyperbole.

Please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com And if you want to follow me, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

(featured photo is mine)

31 thoughts on “Lean In or Let Go

  1. You sound like a wonderful mom, Wynne.

    Dredging the canal? Sometimes memory gets buried in the sludge. When two adults have a different idea about “what happened,” I sometimes think some of the sludge must be left behind. Memory is a tricky thing, but you and Miss O seem beautifully attuned.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s a very kind comment, Dr. Stein. I agree that memories often differ – but when I’ve had the conversations to understand how they differ, it usually helps me to keep the channel open even when we agree to disagree.

      As to Miss O, she is a very verbal kid which helps me to get how she sees things. It’s amazing how much chances we get to fall in and out of sync and so I appreciate when they arise. Thanks for your insightful and generous comment!


    2. I agree: you ARE a wonderful mom, Wynne.

      I love the way you drew the analogy of how some of us adults get “stuck” in an earlier developmental stage; the reason peekaboo works so well with infants is because when they don’t see you, they perceive you as “gone” and they’re delighted to see you back. Similarly, it seems like some of us adults sometimes misconstrue an accidental injury with an intentional one. Maybe that’s why it’s so important to apologize when the injury occurs?

      That’s such a terrific analogy, and I’m glad you exposed it for the rest of us!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love this comment, EW! Yes, we misconstrue the accidental injury with an intentional one. And then we get stuck. I agree – better to apologize early and often. And if it’s still confused later on, do it again! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this….”when we are so close, it’s impossible not to scratch one another from time to time. But best to aim for not doing it out of anger or on purpose.” Beautifully put, Wynne. And I love how you addressed Ms. Trunchbull/Emma Thompson’s character in Mathilda. Hyperbole, over the top. So good. It reminded me that Lisa and I watched Mathilda over the holidays and she’s easily overwhelmed by portrayals of violence, even in comedies. I was so pleased that she shared with me…so self-aware that I nearly cried…”It’s okay, Vicki, they’re just making her look extra mean to make sure we know it’s not real.” Oh, Lisa. I love her so much. She was worried about me!
    And one more thing — watch the yard waste bin – LOL! Too funny! 😉😊😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, another great Lisa line. Yes, extra mean to make sure we know it’s not real! And how sweet that she was worried about you. I bet Lisa and Miss O would have a great time watching movies together!!

      Yes, the yard waste bin. It’s so big! Fortunately we are still laughing about that one!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, I loved this post, Wynne. I was alternately laughing and nodding in agreement. Knocking Miss O over with the garbage bin and accidentally chucking her on the ear was entirely relatable. Especially as I’m both clumsy and usually in a hurry. And I positively loved this part right here: “when we are so close, it’s impossible not to scratch one another from time to time.” Isn’t that the truth? Not out of anger or on purpose, of course, as you said, but… it’s bound to happen. But having those conversations to clean out the sludge makes the situation laughable. Just a lovely post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yep, I also grew up in “a conflict averse family” and was taught to never go too deep into a conversation. It takes some self-awareness to realize that and overcome it. I wonder if it is a Presbyterian thing, after all we were/are called the “Frozen Chosen.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well that is an *interesting* label, and one I hadn’t ever heard before. I tend to think that there are a large number of people of every faith or no faith at all that were also taught to stay clear of deep conversations for varied reasons. We just don’t know how to handle real issues, and also fear what the dive into deep stuff may set in motion.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. The Frozen Chosen – I’ve never heard that one. But wow, you’ve made me laugh think about that interesting nickname. Whether it’s a Presbyterian thing, or a “polite” thing, I think a lot of us grew up thinking it was better not talking about things. And that’s fine if we can truly “let things go” although I have my limits to being able to do that when I don’t yet understand. Thanks for adding your perspective to the conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can just imagine the horror you must have felt when Miss O suggested that you had hit her before, even knowing that it was hyperbole or a misunderstanding. I was brought up Catholic in a similarly “a conflict averse family,” so I understand the challenge of digging into some of those more challenging or touchy topics. I’m so glad you were all able to laugh about the waste bin fiasco… too funny!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Erin. Interesting that you had the conflict averse family too. It takes a lot of unlearning to change that pattern (speaking for myself of course) but I think it’s worth doing. Oh, and yes, the yard bin fiasco still makes us chuckle – and I look both ways before I drive one and I think Miss O is much more aware of them when riding on the sidewalk! Happy Monday!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t heard the word hyperbole since high school. I appreciate that you defined it for us! Also that your kiddos understand that sometimes things can appear bigger or more dramatic than they really are. It’s too easy to forget that everyone brings their own perspective to a situation. Minor and inconsequential to me is worthy of a total meltdown to someone else and we have to validate their reactions as real, even if we might wonder how they came to that conclusion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, yes, yes – it’s so easy to forget that everyone brings their own perspective. And also to forget how big and certain grown-ups can feel to children – even the loving and helpful ones! Thanks for adding your perspective to this thread!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s very interesting and amusing how perception makes such a difference in how we experience and interpret the world. For sure, those experiences with your kids probably were viewed in a more dramatic way – I wouldn’t know what to say if I got bowled over by a garbage bin either. 🙂

    But I admire how you always calmly talk to your kids through anything and make it a valuable teachable experience.

    And for the record, I’ve always wanted to travel the world in a giant peach!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, to be fair, I certainly don’t catch every experience to talk my kids through things. Sometimes I have to take a pass and circle back when I have the patience – but I love that they are ready and up for it most any time.

      And you’re right – that garbage had to look huge from Miss O’s perspective. I’m laughing all over again. Poor kid!

      Yes, yes – I loved James and the Giant Peach when I was a kid, too. Looking forward to my kids enjoying that one too!! Hope you are having a great Monday, Ab!


  8. Yep, me too. Presbyterian. I was never aware of being a member of the Frozen Chosen club before either, but it seems to ooze beyond the boundaries of Presbyterianism into the realm of all religions. Like guilt. None of us are immune, I guess—until we wake up one day and realize that we’ve oozed beyond our own boundaries out into the world of freedom and self-awareness. That’s when it really starts getting good, right?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh, my new favorite phrase, “oozed beyond our own boundaries out into the world of freedom and self-awareness.” Whoa, Julia. That’s a good one. I think you’re right – that’s when it starts getting good but it still takes some work to live out in that Wild Wild West!! 🙂 ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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