Today I yelled at Micah while we were out with others.
It wasn’t too loud in terms of decibels but I felt a rage within. I should have taken some deep breaths instead as my thoughts and emotions come charging way too fast. I had given him a few chances before the outing, nearly canceling the trip altogether to show him that consequences are real.
But of course, being cooped up all day in our small apartment on a gorgeous summer day in NYC sounded more like a punishment for Mama and I hadn’t misbehaved at all!
It wasn’t just his not listening to me in that moment but other factors, too.
Isn’t it ALWAYS other factors though?
Stuff in my head that was begging to be paid attention to as we stopped at our usual spots in the zoo, after observing for the umpteenth time that Micah is sensitive like his Mama and how that word is so loaded.
How often has it been used to absolve the offender after he/she hurt me with their INsensitive words and actions: “Oh, but you just sensitive.” Or from my parents, “Why are our children so sensitive? Why can’t they be strong like ______?”
Throw in intense sun. Crowds of kids on fieldtrips with their daycamps. And though preoccupied, always on high alert. Making sure the kids don’t fall, run ahead, or pull each other down.
Then sheepish and judging myself for being the only one to yell during this outing with a few other buddies.
After both Micah and I got it together, I apologized to him for yelling and asked him to forgive me. I also asked if he would like to apologize to me for anything. We talked it out and resumed our lunch, meaning they hardly ate because they wanted to go throw sticks and I was famished but waiting to eat at home if/when things were less frenetic.
Right around this time, a stranger, well, acquaintance of an acquaintance, began to comment on the lunch I was feeding the kids. I was feeding them some bahb and gheem (rice and roasted laver aka seaweed) since my kids almost never eat sandwiches.
“Oh! I didn’t know you could do that!” watching our food like a hawk. “Wrap rice in there like that! Ohhh!”
I know she was trying to be friendly over some chitchat about our kids’ respective lunches. No malicious intent.
Seemingly innocuous comment and if it came from my friends, I’d be straight or at least I’d clown you…but hey ma, I just met you and you got me during a moment where I’m just coming off another er…moment.
I’ve always had less patience than Kevin for the times we have to provide the Land of the Morning Calm tutorials at restaurants. I’m fine until it gets really nitpicky and acquaintances start asking about each of the 12 bahnchans in a more National Geographic way than I’m comfortable with. “What IS that!?! WHOA!” when it’s perfectly obvious that it’s a pickled garlic. I wanna say, “Gnarled toad testicle. You’re not down unless you try it!”
Back to the mama at hand. When I mumbled about how it’s just crazy raising these little ones, MY attempt at being friendly by talking about our commonality, she said something about how her girl is SUCH a good girl instead of throwing me the obligatory parenting bonding bone.
“Yeah, this is seaweed. The same thing they use for sushi rolls. Of course, you can wrap it around rice.”
“But that’s all crispy. It looks different. My kids like that stuff but augh, I don’t like it. It smells. I mean, I like sushi but…”
Okay, I didn’t say that but my face did for a split second. First of all, WHILE someone is eating something in front of you, don’t be saying that you think it STANK. Basic manners.
But the silent “FUCK YOU” in my mind made me think.
…of how so many of our hurts and unexpected “FUCK YOU”s that leak out of seemingly nowhere are not about ONLY the present moment. It’s oftentimes the SUM of past hurts PLUS the brand new one, however small or trifling. They are all added up together and then suddenly, you hear yourself, whether out loud or in your brain, let out a “FUCK YOU” like a fart that surprises you during a meeting or crowded elevator, surprising you so much that another fart honks in aftershock.
For instance, seaweed is loaded for me. When I was a little girl, being bussed to my gifted magnet elementary school with rich white kids whose families were movers and shakers in Hollywood, with a few classmates even missing school to audition for parts or be in a movie, some of them made fun of my packed Korean lunches. Squealing and pointing at me, staring and surrounding me at lunch screaming, “Ewwww, she’s so gross! She’s eating black paper with fish eyes!” (Seaweed and anchovies). Yes, my mama packed me some KO-rean lunches while I wished that she could gift a girl with some PB&J or bologna samich.
Decades later, those kids are now crowding up my sushi joints and banh mi spots, talking about algae and tofu and the benefits of an Eastern diet and my initial reflex, before I can catch myself, is “Fuck you.” The reaction is unexpected but visceral and Kevin has had to process my childhood stories with me over and over again.
So when this lady I had just met seconds AFTER I felt like a jerk for yelling at my 3.5 year old was talking about how she thought that my black paper stank, my initial response in my head was “Oh fuck off and go hump a meatloaf,” but I checked myself, tucked away the “Fuck you” so that I can be a productive member of society and instead said, “Really? You think it smells? Must be a cultural thing ’cause I don’t smell anything.”
Thankfully, we kept it moving and moved on to other small talk. Well, after she asked me how to make rice.
This mini-interaction made me think again about how everything is connected. If you’ve never healthily processed a grievance, or fully let an emotional wound heal, don’t be surprised when you find yourself overreacting in an unrelated, new interaction or relationship with a new person, be it spouse, friend, or child.
In the meantime, if you talk shit about my gheem, consider yourself warned.