I am not one of those ‘do as I say, not as I do’ parents. Well, I try not to be. I’m usually not. I really do believe in living by example.
But sometimes I fail.
And when I do, it usually hits me like a brick.
Last night Ryan and I were discussing the issues she’s been having with her cousin (again). After going over the whole ‘she said/she said’ thing, I reminded my beautiful, bossy, stubborn-as-hell child that you get what you give in this life. If you give good, you’ll get good back. I reiterated The Golden Rule and pointed out that she hasn’t been treating her cousin the way she’d like to be treated herself.
As the words were leaving my mouth, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I haven't been living by example. At all. I haven’t spoken to my brother or sister-in-law in nearly three months. Ryan knows this. I’ve justified my behavior and hidden behind the fact that the falling out wasn’t my fault; that it was my brother who accused me of things I didn’t do; he didn’t care about the truth; he said horrible things to me; I was the one maligned and hurt; I have every right to be angry and absolutely nothing to apologize for.
But when I was telling Ryan she has to try to get along better with her cousin, I realized that none of my justifications matter. I failed my child – and myself – because I couldn’t move past my own anger and resentment. And I felt like crap.
So last night and this morning I fought an epic battle in my head and my heart. What I wanted to do (stay angry and hurt and silent), was kicking the ass out of what I should do (swallow my pride and extend the proverbial olive branch; set the right example for my daughter; try to make peace in my family for Ryan, my niece, my mother, and my other brother and sister-in-law, who are all suffering).
Though she doesn’t always, the better person in me won this time. So before I started work this morning, I wrote a letter (I trust my pen more than my mouth when I have something important to say). I explained why I was breaking the silence; I addressed the most important issues between us; I apologized for my part in the whole situation; I asked that we put it behind us. And then I mailed it. It’s only going 12 miles, so they ought to get it tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.
When I picked Ryan up this afternoon, I took her out for ice cream. As we enjoyed our Frosties, I apologized to her. I told her I had set a bad example and I’d been wrong to expect her to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself. She said she had realized it and was bothered by it all, but she hadn’t felt comfortable pointing it out to me. That was a kick in the teeth, let me tell you, and I made her promise that if she ever felt that way again, she would tell me.
So, I ate a serving of Humble Pie today. A big serving. It tasted like chicken. Chicken Cordon Bleu. Have I mentioned that I hate Chicken Cordon Bleu? I do. But I don’t think it ever killed anyone.
It hasn’t ever killed anyone… has it?