Back in May I wrote a story and shared it with about a dozen people at a Storytelling Night. It’s longer than my normal posts so I kept telling myself that this isn’t the place to share it. Well, I want to share it anyway. If you’ve got a few minutes, read on.
How I realized that “Because I said so” is a life skill
When I saw the post on Facebook about this event I loved it and my first thought was “I’m going to go! As a spectator”. A few seconds later this thought followed “go and read” and before I knew it, I was signing up on eventbrite. There was no reason or explanation. I have never done this before. Just a voice in my head saying: “do it”.
Then I saw the theme. Because I said so. I write about living with chronic illness. I write about self development and how you can get yourself unstuck. What’s that got to do with Because I said so?
I spent the next 2 weeks being completely blank. What story can I tell? And yes, the rules aren’t rigid or strict and I could write about whatever I wanted but….. there is something inside of me that always tries to do what I have been asked.
My default association with this phrase is that is negative. How many times have I yelled this at my kids?
Yes, I patiently explain the logic behind my instructions or involve my kids in the thinking process in how to come up with a conclusive course of action. I want them to be independent, self-sufficient. Leaders, at least of themselves.
Not sheep. Not blind followers of others. Because I want them to choose their lives. And a tiny, terrified part of me that has watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds and that doesn’t watch the news anymore because of all the terrible things that happen, wants them to fight like mad if anyone tries to grab them or do things to them.
I want fighters.
Ok, here’s a confession. I don’t always do that patiently. The explanation. Sometimes I’m having a bad day or they are behaving little brats and pushing all my buttons and the conversation is more like this:
“Put your nickers on.
Come on, move it! How many times do we have to have this conversation?
Stop prancing about and put your bloody nickers on! Now!”
I kind of understand the running around completely naked thing but putting your vest and t-shirt on, even your socks and yet your butt is still bare? What the hell is that?
I have often thought of this tactic, because I said so, as being the last resort of a tired parent. Probably because I only use it when I am tired.
So while I was thinking about what on earth I was doing, signing up for this, I realized something. I had no reason, no explanation. I just listened to a voice in my head that said just do it.
That started me thinking: where else in my life do I do things, just because someone else has said so?
When I was a teenager my mum used to tell me to just get up and dressed by 8am on a Saturday, even if I was going to read in bed all day. Just get up and get dressed first. I never understood it (and fought it a lot) but I get it now. Sorry mum.
It happened at work too. Stopping that project half way through because someone at the top didn’t like it. There was always a lot of blah blah blah around it: “new direction”, “maximize synergies” etc but it always came down to someone new at the top saying no.
And at home. My husband telling me to eat. In my pregnancy with S, I was really sick. At 4 weeks, the vomiting started and didn’t really stop until about a week before she was born.
Within the first trimester I was admitted into hospital 4 times due to dehydration and lack of nutrition. And a kidney stone. I was extremely nauseous and on bed rest. I didn’t feel hunger and didn’t want to eat so I didn’t. So my husband made me snacks and I ate them when he told me to. If he left the food with me, then more often than not, I would stop eating after a couple of bites. So he started staying and I ate. Because he said so.
Then one day he looked at me and told me he was taking me to the hospital. Okay I said. We didn’t have an appointment but he said he was worried so we went.
You see I was vomiting so much that I was on antiemetics. There is one that is safe to use during pregnancy. However a possible side effect is depression and I had sunk so deeply, so quickly. I knew that if I didn’t eat more I could die and I didn’t care. My apathy was complete and I had no desire to change anything. I wasn’t eating, it was dangerous and it was ok.
When he looked at me he saw that in my eyes and he didn’t like it. He told me to put my shoes on and I followed.
They admitted me. I talked to a shrink. I chose to stop taking the medicine and within a couple of days the fog had lifted. The world, which had become hazy, had sharp edges again.
I was still extremely nauseous, but I was ok.
For me there is a power in these words “because I said so”. In that moment, it was the power of protection: you are hurting yourself and I am telling you to stop. No debate. No time wasting. Just stop.
There is also the power of liberation. Take the birth of S. The doctor told me when to push and not push. I was induced and it took quickly. Within an hour I was having contractions less than a minute apart and I was puffing like Thomas the tank engine on speed, trying so hard not to push. I didn’t have time to think and I didn’t know what to do. My first, F, was born via cesarean so I hadn’t done this before.
So I did as I was told: “don’t push, don’t push, don’t push. Ok push”.
I didn’t need to figure it out or make decisions. I could let go of all responsibility and just focus on doing puffing and pushing. What a relief.
I have changed my view on “because I said so” and I have found these 3 things to be true:
There are times in your life when you just have to listen to someone else. We do not always get to choose: like all those projects that got cancelled. We need to accept and with acceptance, frustration disappears. This is important for the happiness of our children. It’s a skill that they need to learn.
It is liberation and an act of kindness. How many of you been stumped by this deeply philosophical question: what should we have for dinner today? Some nights, it kills me.
“What? I need to decide everything? Just tell me what you want and I will make it.”
Sometimes we need to be free of the responsibility of making decisions and just have someone else do it.
So it is an act of kindness to my children when I tell them:
“We’re eating spaghetti for dinner today. No discussion”. Or “Time for bed”.
It is the last resort of a tired parent. Maybe there are times that I need to start the conversation that way.
Because I said so is a life skill.