Digging blindly through what suspiciously appears to be an endless cavern of holding capacity, I muddle through my purse scooping each object out of the way to finally find the ringing just before it ends. Meredith, my first born is calling.
Hey chickie-baby! What’s up?
I pride myself with upbeat phone greetings.
How was your lunch date?
Oh mom, I think Nathan is a great guy, just not my guy. He asked me if I want to go to a cool archery range on Saturday. What do I do? I don’t want to lead him on, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings either.
Mere, you’re really asking the wrong person about this. I hate uncomfortable situations or hurting someones feelings. Saving face is my motto. Sadly, I let a guy call me by my older sister’s name for years because I didn’t want to make him feel stupid.
MOM, I don’t know what to do. How do I get out of this without hurting him?
Okay, you have only a few weeks of school left before you come home for the summer. Go to the archery place and then casually tell him that you are transferring to another school, so you’re not interested in a long distance relationship. Better yet, tell him that he reminds you of your brother. There, quandary solved.
But that still means I have to go on another date with him.
Well do you like him as a friend? If so, just think of it as enjoying a fun event with one of your guy friends.
Okay, I guess I can do that.
Looking back, this was not my best parenting advice. I was passing on my own insecurities to my daughter. Why was Nathan’s emotional status more important than my daughters? Why would I suggest putting her dread aside and suffering through the date?
This is the pattern of my growing-up years. The chosen method of control and parenting I experienced—heaping amounts of guilt and shame until I succumb to the needs of my parents. I’m amazed at how easy I fall to the power of shame—the fear of unworthiness from the removal of approval or love.
Once I realized what I had done, I called Meredith and told her she should never feel obligated to go on a date. I told her that her feelings are important and valid, not to live afraid to do what is right by yourself. Don’t lose yourself because you’re afraid of disappointing someone.
Reflecting on our talk, I realized how old behavior patterns bury deep down, lurking for the moment to spring into life. Like the persistent weed that grows through the mightiest of structures, we are all susceptible to cracking under the pressure of engrained beliefs.
The road of shame is a pathway I don’t want to travel, but one to be aware of. Poor patterns of unhealthy behavior don’t end over night, but thank goodness for the ability to see our mistakes, right the bad advice and spur greater change in all of us.