Before I got married and still lived at home in the Bronx, I commuted every day down to Manhattan on the subway. We lived in Pelham Bay, which is the first stop for the number six train. I loved working in the city; wearing nice clothes and putting on your game face every morning. The energy would just sweep you along the sidewalk. It boosted my confidence, which enabled me to grow and learn such a variety of valuable skills and information; skills that almost twenty years later, still come into play in today's workplace.
This one particular morning, in my usual morning rush, I grabbed one of my favorite pairs of tailored pants, a smart blouse to complement it and rushed out the front door. Making my way up the stairs of the elevated platform, a helpful stranger pointed to the cuff of my pants and said “I think you ripped the lining of your slacks.”
I nodded my thanks and charged through the turnstile, not wanting to be delayed over something so trivial. As luck would have it, I hit upon one of the few times there were no trains waiting in the station. Sentenced to waiting on the platform, I looked down and noticed there was something sticking out of my pant leg.
Completely annoyed, I put my bag down and firmly tugged at the offending material, only to realize that is was not the lining in the pants, but the last pair of panty hose I apparently wore with them. Always being in a rush, I would typically race home, change my clothes in record time, which would require removing all articles of clothing at once, nylons and pants together. When I re-hung the pants, the hose must have still been inside, waiting until they had an audience to make their re-appearance.
I nonchalantly started pulling the offending hose, and in case you were never in the situation, I can tell you that the more you pull, the more it stretches, until it seemed as if I were the clown in center ring pulling scarves out of my sleeve. I noticed some of the other waiting commuters giving me sidelong glances, which, the cool customer that I am, inspired me to start feverishly pulling, until B-O-I-N-G out came the crotch fully extended, cotton oval and all. Startled by the sight of it, I needed a second to recover before I could resume the frantic tug that finally came to an end. I balled up the object of my mortification, stuck it in my bag, mustered whatever dignity I had left and marched into the nearest waiting subway car.
At the time, I failed to see the humor in the situation, but the years have mellowed me and now I am at peace with showing the vulnerable side of myself. I am so happy that I can let my guard down and let others see this side, it made me a better mother, and a better advocate for my child.
My children have heard me admit to mistakes, be upset or angry and be disappointed. I never want them to assume that they are the cause of my ill temper. Of course there are times when they are the exact reason for my foul mood, especially once the teenage years hit, but I was quite clear what actions and what poor choices spurred my reaction, and not the individual themselves. But as anyone who has ever had to go to school for a discussion about their child can tell you, it is gut wrenching, and very few can leave that meeting unaffected.
Rather than have my child feel isolated and that I was ashamed of him, I always was as honest as his age could understand. If there was a behavior that day, rather than berate him, I would talk to him about how it made me sad to hear about what happened, but that even though school must be really frustrating for him at times, inappropriate behavior was unacceptable. Opening the door to discussion, even at an early age helped me keep an even keel where he was concerned. While the expectations for appropriate behavior were never lowered, the constant reassurance that he is a good boy became a self- fulfilling prophesy.
I also let the school see my vulnerability. While I would never betray my child, I would try to be open minded when the events were relayed to me. Anyone who ever met with me knew my goal for my child was to be a happy, functioning member of society, not to get away with misdeeds. I was honest if what my child did embarrassed me, and apologized, but being his biggest advocate, I would ask how we could move past the incident and give my input to make a plan to ensure it would not recur. Schools like when you do this. It tells them you want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
Quite honestly, as the parent there are times when I felt a real distaste for some of the adults that worked with my son. But, just like I would tell him, life is hard, we have to do hard things in order to get to where we want to be. With these adults, there were times my vulnerability was difficult to hide, which only added to my dislike for them. Now that they are in the past, I realize I don’t care if they mistook my emotions to be anything other than frustration. The end result is a happy kid.