My daughter is upset with me this morning. She somehow had misplaced her favorite jacket and was complaining about not having anything to wear. She was grumpy and in a surly mood. Her mother tried to hand her an alternate jacket and it was rejected ungraciously. Carey then tried to point out to our daughter that she had other options in her closet – other jackets and sweaters – but she didn’t want to hear that and stormed off in a huff. I gently chided her from the breakfast table, telling her not to sulk. She ignored me, but I knew she had heard me.
Five minutes later I piled the kids into the car like I do every morning so I could drive them to school. The usual “SHOTGUN” battle ensued the second we stepped out of the house and onto the porch with today’s winner, Christopher, taking the privileged spot in the front passenger seat. We were pulling out of the driveway, and I was about 75 feet from the house when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that my daughter had found a jacket after all.
Smiling, I looked at her and said, “Hey – it looks like you found a jacket after all!”
And then it happened. She yelled at me. With a nasty snarl she raised her voice and said “BUT IT DOESN’T FIT RIGHT.” As if it were my fault that the jacket didn’t fit. As if I had no right to say anything to her when I had already chided her for sulking. As if she hadn’t been presented with, literally, four other options before we left. She raised her voice at me.
I stopped the car in the middle of the road and told her to take off the jacket. She questioned me. I told her again, firmly, to take off the jacket and hand it to me. With very poor grace she removed it and thrust it angrily at me.
I opened the car door and threw the jacket into the middle of the wet, rainy, road. I closed my door and drove on.
As I was driving (in shocked silence from the kids), I very firmly told my daughter that her tone and attitude was unacceptable and that she is not allowed to ever, for any reason, raise her voice to me. Of course, by this time the shock of what I had done had hit her full on and she was very upset that I had thrown her jacket in the middle of the road.
I told her that it’s OK to be in a bad mood. It’s OK to have a bad clothes morning. It’s OK to be pre-teen hormonal and emotional. It is not OK to take her frustration out on me or her mother. Between sniffles, she agreed with me and didn’t talk to me the rest of the drive to school. When I dropped them off, she didn’t look twice, got out of the car, and closed the door just a trifle harder than necessary – as if she had to get in the last word.
I drove to work, stopping on my way to retrieve the jacket I had tossed out the window. My point had been made.