The extroverted feeler and responsible behavior

My son is an extroverted feeler and my daughter is an introverted thinker.

When he was 12 and she was 7, their father and I were working out the details of a divorce. Their father moved out for a year, moved back in for a year, and now was out again. It had taken me two years of couple’s counseling to decide that yes, we did need to get divorced. Now we were in the year of hammering out the details.

One day he came over and was obnoxious and rude. I got angry and yelled and threw him out. I slammed the door after him. I didn’t usually do that and it felt both good and bad.

The kids were conferring. I wondered if I’d scared them, losing my temper. They both came to me.

“Mom, we don’t want you to yell at dad and make him leave.” said the EF, arms crossed. The IT stood beside him. “And no slamming doors.”

“But he was rude first!” I said, realizing as I said it, uh, lame. And where have I had this conversation before?

“We know that he was rude. But we aren’t talking about him. We are talking about your behavior. We don’t care what he does.” They both looked stern and fierce.

“So I have to behave no matter what he does.” I said. They nodded. “You are right. I apologize for yelling at dad, throwing him out and slamming the door. I need to behave anyhow. That’s what I tell you, right?”

“Yes, mom.” And then they both hugged me to comfort me.

I felt sheepish for behaving badly, but mostly proud. Proud that my kids felt comfortable confronting a misbehaving adult and the one with whom they were living, me. Right after a yelling tantrum, too. And proud that they were giving me back the message that I’d given them for years: I don’t care what the other kid did, that is not acceptable behavior. And overall I felt pretty good that I really had not yelled and slammed doors very often: we’d done the majority of our fighting in the counselor’s office and had tried to make it very clear that it was not the kids’ fault.

The photograph is of my son in Thailand. He was a Rotary Exchange Student, to Trang. I don’t know who took the photograph.

Previously published on everything2.com.

 

Who is driving the car?

I am at my parent’s house.

My mother and I and the baby, a toddler, go out to the car which is a huge newish SUV. I open the back door and see a drawing lying on the seat, beside the car seat. It is a drawing of my son, from a photograph. My mother has written on it, her ideas about how she wants to do the painting. I took the photograph and know it: my son has an exuberant joyous toddler expression. I climb in to the SUV. My mother gets in the front and turns the car on. She pulls forward and I start screaming, “STOP! STOP DON’T DRIVE! THE BABY IS NOT IN THE CAR!” My mother is pulling forward and backing, in confusion. She stops.

I leap out and search. Under the car by the back wheel, but not under it, is a kitten. A black kitten, lying on its side. I reach and very gently pick it up, supporting its spine. I am crying. The kitten cries as I pick it up, with pain. I say, “She’s hurt! I am going to die!”

I wake up.

I think about the dream. Even though there is a picture of my son in the car, I am a teen in the dream. The toddler is not my son. The toddler is not my daughter. The toddler is my sister. My parents had old cars, never a new SUV. The house in the dream was my parent’s house in Alexandria, Virginia. We moved there when I started ninth grade and my sister started sixth. My parents sold the house and moved in 1996.

Who is driving the SUV? Is there a responsible adult? Are they taking care of the children? Or are they driving recklessly and leaving the children to try to care for each other? Some adults are not responsible and should not be driving.

 

My son took the photograph of my daughter in 2011 for a school project, recreating a movie poster: True Grit.