As a child/adolescent/teenager I was just the worst. I got good grades (on the extra homework I requested), was really into extracurricular activities (as in ran between club meetings in my soccer cleats while simultaneously doing a mental run through of Junior Miss pageant choreography), and kept my nose squeaky clean. For instance, I was the 16 year old who called my mom to pick me up from a party because there was alcohol there. I wasn’t even drinking it, I was just uncomfortable with the idea of being in the same zip code as underage drinking. Paint the picture? Yah, I was obnoxious.
So one day my parents had a pow wow and decided that they were going to alter their parenting strategy – making the shift from supportive and loving to supportive and loving with a hint of “take her down a peg.” They figured if I wasn’t going to get myself into any trouble and insisted on being involved in trophy related activities I was going to get an inflated ego and/or become an insufferable ball of perfectionism and anxiety and start being super annoying to share meals with. As a result, my most vivid memories of my youth are the times when I was being an idiot. Not necessarily because the moments were all that life changing but because the stories were told repeatedly at family gatherings, the grocery store, the bank, the weekly Tuesday public forums convened to discuss my shortcomings, et cetera, et cetera.
To be clear this is not a knock on my parents. Not at all. Their strategy really worked and I’m (mostly) tolerable now because I know deep down in my heart that I’m just not that special of a snowflake. I learned to laugh at myself, a lot. Because when you are asked to put a small potted plant into the shade on a hot summer day and you decide the best way to accomplish that is to drag the 11 foot picnic table it is sitting on across the length of the lawn, you kind of have to laugh. Or when you are sarcastically asked “What is going to happen to the popsicles if you leave them outside in July?” and you react by putting them in the shade. (Why are so many of my stories about not understanding the sun?) Oh! And the time my popcorn didn’t pop enough in the microwave so I decided to close the bag back up and pop it again. But I couldn’t find any tape, so I used a pen to close the bag, by folding the two sides of the bag together and jabbing the pen through. A pen, with a metal cap. That I put back in the microwave… (I wasn’t as young as you want me to be in any of these stories.)
To this day, I’m most comfortable in my own skin when I’m laughing at myself for being a disaster. Life is a lot more fun that way. And if I can teach my children one thing it would be to not take yourself too seriously. I mean, try your best, be kind, and follow your dreams and all, but for heaven’s sake if you fall down rub some dirt on it, and maybe even turn that fall into an uncomfortable looking attempt at a somersault so you can get more mileage out of the story. Oh, and totally unrelated but since I’m in teaching mode – children, please also never ask a woman if she is pregnant. Ever.
With love and respect for Merm and Pop (and just a few thousand dollars worth of therapy bills),