Thursday, February 11, 2010
Why It Helps To Clear Up Misunderstandings
People don't always understand messages other people are trying to convey. Once the words leave the lips, they get distorted in the brain, intentions get lost, and if we don't immediately clarify things we THINK we hear, we end up confused, completely bewildered, and sometimes hurt.
Just recently one of my granddaughters and I were talking on the phone and I thought I heard Sarah say, "My friend and I are gonna pee in the john." To which I respond, a little TMI, Sarah, a little TMI ("too much information" for those of you who don't have grandchildren to explain our new English shortcuts)!
Don't get me wrong – I like the fact that my children and grandchildren share intimate details of their lives with me, but sometimes I just don't need to know EVERY thing, like their bathroom schedules – especially when it involves another person.
But what I heard was not what Sarah said, which was, "My friend and I are gonna to see 'Dear John'" (the movie).
That conversation reminded me of the time her mother, my oldest daughter, Keeley, and I had a misunderstanding that, had I not tried to understand, may have resulted in life-long trauma for my oldest baby.
When Keeley was around 4 years old, I took her to visit a friend, and when we left the home, which was on a fairly busy street, I opened the door to the car to let her in. For reasons I couldn't understand at the time, she adamantly refused to get in.
The argument escalated while she stood her ground, repeating over and over again, "But there's gas under the car!"
"It's OK. Nothing will happen," I repeated for what seemed like the thousandth time.
She still didn't believe me. I tried to push her into the car. She pushed back and ran far away from the car.
"Keeley, get in the car. Everything is going to be OK. I promise."
"NO! There's gas under the car!" Her expression was one of panic. Tears were streaming down her face.
Did she have a dream that we were going to die in an explosion? Did she think the gas would explode when I started the car? Whatever. I was getting angry. I promised once again that NOTHING would happen. Really! Now GET IN THE CAR!
Reassurance after reassurance after reassurance that nothing would happen didn't convince her to get into that car. The weather was freezing and I just wanted to get home. Instead I stood outside my car arguing with my 4-year old daughter to get in the car. She refused my demands. Again. My frustration was increasing.
Finally, in exasperation, I screamed, "NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN UNLESS I LIGHT A MATCH TO IT, OK??????????"
Her eyes widened and she looked at me as if I had somehow become evil incarnate.
"But look!" she cried, pointing under the car. So, just to appease her, I bent over to take a look.
Sometimes, in moments of utter clarity, facial expressions and moods suddenly make perfect sense. Her urgency was noted when I discovered a couple of "cats" (not gas) under my car. She thought I was going to run over them.