I am an overreacter.
I really don’t like this trait in myself. It drives me crazy, actually. I wish that I could have normal reactions to things. I wish I could think logically through them and then speak coherent, respectful words to work through the situation. But, apparently, I’m missing that gene. When something pushes me, I overreact. My response is not proportionate to the action. I know that. I recognize that. But, until last week, I didn’t know how to fix that.
Here’s the thing about overreacting. No matter how right you are about something, if you overreact, you look like you’re a hysterical idiot and your rightness goes right out the window. No one hears what you’re saying when you’re overreacting, so – right or wrong – it doesn’t matter what point you are making. You’re just seen as being emotional. Add to that the fact that I am pregnant and now I have become the classic hysterical, hormonal pregnant woman.
Lately though, I’ve been paying attention to when I feel those overreacting moments coming on and I’m starting to see a distinct pattern.
Take this weekend, for example…
During the work week, I get up with Bean every day. I get him dressed, give him breakfast, pack my lunch and his school bag, and then about 15 minutes before we head out the door, Chris comes out to get hugs and kisses before we leave. This is not a complaint. It’s just how the timing of our days works out. Everyone’s happy with this arrangement. But on the weekends, I’d like a day off. I don’t need both Saturday and Sunday, but for one of those days I’d like the chance to sleep in. Or not even sleep in (since it is physically impossible for me to sleep past 6am), but just the ability to lay there and not have to jump right into Mommy Mode. So, one morning a week when I hear Bean get up at 7:00 on the dot like he does every morning, I nudge Chris and tell him to go take care of Bean. And Chris mumbles, “Okay,” and then he lays there. And then 10 minutes later, Bean starts yelling for us again. And so I nudge Chris harder and say something like, “Are you going to go get him?” and he says, “Yep,” and then he lays there. And then another 15 minutes go by and Bean now starts crying because no one has come to get him and so I throw the covers back and I get up to go get him while Chris continues to sleep.
But the end of the world? No.
A rational person would just say to Chris, “Honey, when you just lay there on the weekends until Bean cries, it makes me feel bad for him and so I always end up being the one who gets up. Do you think you could go get him a little faster so that he doesn’t start crying and so that I can sleep in one morning?”
I mean, look at him…
He’s the most rational, kind, patient being on God’s green earth.
What part of Chris makes me think that I can’t say that calmly to him and that we can’t work through some small little problem like this civilly. Like real adults
But not me. I don’t say anything to him. I let it go on for weeks and months and except for the occasional mumble under my breath (which he probably doesn’t hear because he’s already fallen back asleep), I don’t make a big deal about it. Until I explode. After weeks of this, it all bottles up and then one morning – BAM! It all comes out in a very irrational, overreacting manner and suddenly instead of just asking Chris to take turns, I have become the hormonal, irrational wife.
Which is always sexy and attractive.
I had a similar experience happen at work with one of classes, too. The class is just driving me crazy. Behavior problems make it hard to teach anything in that period and I was really starting to lose it with them. After one particularly rough afternoon in which I stopped teaching altogether because of their behavior and just had them sit with their heads on their desks (productive, yes?), I went to our Dean and asked for some help. I explained that the situation was probably more me than them and that, as a first year teacher, I think I just lacked the know-how of classroom management with a group like this and would he mind offering me some advice on how to get better control so that my students…oh, I don’t know…LEARN something???
The first thing he asked me was pretty standard administration speak. “Have you called the parents yet?”
I explained that I had called parents numerous times, but nothing was changing.
“Okay,” he said, “but what are you saying to the parents when you call?”
“Well, I tell them that their child is having some behavior problems in my class. That I know they have so much potential and that this is probably just a temporary age-related thing…” and then the Dean cut me off.
“Nope,” he said. “You’re starting the conversation by mixing your signals. Either the behavior is acceptable or it’s not. You can’t tell them you need some changes, but then sugarcoat how great their kids are. You have to just tell them, ‘Hey! Your kid needs to straighten up!’ Otherwise, you just confuse them and they don’t understand how serious the problem is to you.”
I went back to my classroom and thought about what he said. And then I thought about how that was really good advice not just for teaching, but for all relationships. If you don’t tell them what’s bothering you until it builds up and you explode in a classroom somewhere, making 12-year-old kids have a time out, then how can you blame them for not making changes?
I’ve really been paying attention to this in my relationships lately and I’m discovering that sometimes when I think I’m giving pretty obvious hints that I need a specific behavior or action changed, it’s only obvious to me. For example, nudging Chris multiple times on Saturday mornings seems like a dead giveaway that I’m getting annoyed, but to him, it’s just me reminding him to get up. He doesn’t even know there’s a problem until I explode during his morning coffee. So, I’m making more of an effort to speak up before I get really irritated or mad. And to speak up calmly and rationally, instead of exploding after I’ve been silently pushed too far for too long. If someone pushes me far enough to make me overreact, then shame on me for letting it get to that point.
So, that’s what I’m working on this week in my marriage, in my personal relationships, and even at work. What about you? What’s a behavior that you have that drives you crazy? Or am I the only one who annoys themselves????
(Please say it’s not just me…)
Today I am grateful for my Mom.