SoCS: The Irony of a Disagreement

My son and I had a disagreement yesterday. That’s not common, and always hits hard, because, in general, we get along very well, and have most of his twenty years.

But last night, we were both tired (he’d worked a long stretch of days in stressful circumstances without a day off, and I, as usual, had far more on my to-do lists than there is me to do those items). We were both hungry, and I was trying to figure out a rather complex client issue on what was scheduled as a day off – because I’d run out of time on my days ON.

In the middle of that, there was frantic barking in the living room, and excited sounding noises from my son and younger child, and then there was suddenly a LOT of dog right in my bedroom doorway, next to the console table where I work, ready to bolt onto my bed at a dead run.

Maybe I should mention here that our two dogs, combined, weigh about 140 pounds. One is a pit bull, and the other is a Lab mix we suspect has more than a dash of Great Dane blood. When “our girls” get playing, it is impossible to ignore them. And there they were… right in the middle of my trying to figure something out.

I got frustrated, and I did something I rarely do. I yelled at the dogs, loudly. They backed up and went back to the living room where they wouldn’t get yelled at.

To be fair, they aren’t supposed to play on my bed, and they know that (well, Noli the pit bull knows it. Smokey the Lab/Dane doesn’t know much of anything; we have this theory that she has about three brain cells in total, and when two of them collide in her big empty head, she has a THOUGHT! Mostly, though, she doesn’t ever seem to remember basic rules of the house, not because she’s naughty, but because she’s rather brainless in a very lovable way).

Crazy-play-face Noli!

Right after I sent the dogs off, my son appeared in my doorway. I’m still trying to work out that client issue, still frustrated – and, though I don’t remember exactly what was said, he got angry and hurt, and so did I.

Only when we talked it out an hour or so later did we see the irony of the situation. He was angry and hurt because he thought I was saying I didn’t trust him when he told me neither he nor his sibling had riled up the dogs before they tried to crash my room. I can see where he might have thought that, because I did say that I’d heard excited voices before I saw the dogs. What I really meant, though, is that the way to calm excited dogs is not to use more excitement (or yell at them, as a reminder to myself to do better in the future).

But he heard it as mistrust, which wasn’t at all what I intended. And because he was hurt, he withdrew, thinking I didn’t trust him, and I thought he wanted to punish me with the withdrawal (because that is what my mother did when she was upset with someone, throughout her life).

He had come to my door to ask me if I wanted a milkshake, because he was going to take his sibling for one.

That’s an even bigger irony… he came to do something nice for me, and it became an unpleasant situation for us both, because we misunderstood one another and let our emotions get the best of us (here’s a place where some self-care would have been a good idea!).

Thankfully, we don’t have the iron determination of his father, who would, when he was alive, generally ignore me for three days after any disagreement. Once, he even did the three-day thing, explained why he was upset, which had more to do with his perceptions than my reality, and then ignored me for another half-day because I hadn’t “made him talk to me” for those three days!

My son’s withdrawal was because when he was younger, he’d sometimes say unkind things when he was angry, or yell – and he doesn’t want to do that anymore. So, rather than any intent at all to be hurtful, he was showing signs of his maturity and ability to know what he needs to do to get his powerful emotions in check before they take control of his responses.

My son and I see things differently – our brains do not process in the same ways. But we also have similar temperaments, and that means that we generally can find our way back to peace pretty easily, once the intensity of emotion has settled. He suggested we go outside to talk. It was just getting dark, and our formerly feral cat came to keep us company. In only a few minutes, we were both able to see where we’d mistaken the other’s motives, and where we might be able to avoid another such misunderstanding in the future. And then we talked about contributing factors like working too many days without a break, stressful situations at his work and mine, the nature of being an adult that, at twenty and working more than full-time, he’s really starting to feel the weight of, the nature of stars and planets, and how he really wanted to make a ziti dinner.

He decided he was going to go shopping and get the ingredients for ziti, garlic bread, and salad, and that’s what he did. It was delicious, too (my husband was a chef, and both of our offspring seem to have inherited some skill in that area, which is nice for me, since I really would rather be writing than cooking most of the time).

And I got my milkshake. =)

So, without irony, I will say that I’m happy I spent a lot of time helping both he and his sibling learn conflict resolution skills. That’s something I wasn’t raised with, and it’s taken me more decades than he’s been alive to learn how not to react, but to take the time to think through a response, instead.

Sometimes a break in communications can be lovely….

This post is my entry to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Click the link to learn more and see the rules.

Check out this week’s hop! The prompt was “Iron/irony.”