(Taking in some art in Marfa with one of my “sister friends/radar speed signs,” Janet.)
After a weekend that included a double sleepover, seven children tearing through my house, and “craftapalooza 2013” (i.e. a huge mess with paint, frosting, and food coloring…don’t ask), I need Kay’s post this morning. Big time. It’s good stuff. I’ll let her take it from here.
By Kay Wyma
A few years ago, our city added radar speed signs to the neighborhood streets. These signs might drive some folks crazy, but I love them. They’re so thoughtful to show me my speed. Most of the time I’m on target. (Remember, I have a resident speed officer riding in the far back of my car, always quick to alert me of any driver error.) But some of the time I’m over. On rare occasions under. And I’m thankful for the reminder. I don’t mean to speed. I’ll just get to talking with whomever is sitting next to me, and I don’t realize that I’m driving too fast.
I thought about those signs the other day. In as much as I appreciate them on my driving road, I especially appreciate friends who act as radar signs on my life road. I need them – folks in my life who will alert me when I’m getting close to the edge or when I’m crossing the line. Like the radar speed sign, I appreciate when they begin blinking and warn me to slow down and to rethink what I’m doing.
Friends walking the road with us rank as one of the most important components to living life well and parenting well. And like the radar speed signs, road-walking friends are honest… authentic. Isn’t that the core of true friendship? Honesty. Even in potentially awkward situations. When spinach wedges itself in your teeth.
A few weeks ago, Barton went over to a friend’s house for a little kitchen creating. One thing led to another and before either knew what was going on, powdered sugar was flying. Coming off a bit of a stressful day and hearing the commotion, her friend’s mom rushed into the kitchen. In the midst of frustration, she zipped her daughter despite a quick plea, “It’s okay, Mommy. I’ll clean it up.” The fun was done. And who can blamer her. We’re talking powdered sugar.
Barton matter-of-factly told me about the afternoon when I picked her up. She felt bad for her friend, so we talked. No judgment, just contemplation about our own actions and reactions, which I shared with my husband when I got home. “Honey – I think we might overreact sometimes. When talking with Barton today, she let me know – away from the heat of any moment – how much that hurts.”
Later that afternoon, the mom texted me to let me know what had happened. I was so touched by the way she owned her minor blow-up, didn’t try to justify, and basically called a spade a spade. Long day + huge mess = less than stellar reaction. Hey – we’re moms. And remember the Mother’s Bill of Rights? No one’s asking for perfection.
Before long, Jon and I got the chance to test our own reactions. Walking across the kitchen later that evening, carrying a fresh pot of mac & cheese, I encountered Barton. For some reason, she decided to give into a hand-stand impulse and put into action her gymnastic moves … in the kitchen. In one fail swoop, she reached for the floor, flung her feet in the air and caught my pot with her heal. Noodles and cheese slow-motioned their way across the kitchen, hitting the windows six feet away and almost every inch of floor and cabinet in between. Contents splattered the ceiling and coated my hair. I had mac & cheese all over me. She stood up, mouth agape in disbelief. “I’m so sorry!” she sheepishly started as she braced herself for our response.
But thanks to my friend, her authenticity, and thoughtful circling back, we chose civility over knee-jerk blow-up. “It’s okay,” I slowly assured her as I looked down at my shirt and wondered how we could get the cheesy concoction out of and off all the tiny crevices and surfaces. Our daughter could barely believe it. “It’s okay?!” she tested. I wish I could say I felt like laughing, but I didn’t. The mess was staggering. None the worse for the wear, she grabbed paper towels and began to dig us out.
My friend’s mea culpa flashed like the speed radar sign just at the right moment. If we hadn’t been authentically walking the road together, I wouldn’t have had the conversations. I just might have sped up and allowed an unassuming hand-stand to fire up my ire. But since my friend had me thinking, I could pick pasta from my hair with a genuine good attitude.
Radar signs have proven their effectiveness… Living life connected with authentic friendships – the kind where we admit our shortcomings, celebrate each others successes, and walk the road together – do the same thing.
So here’s to surrounding ourselves, or at least having a few, sister-friends (or brother friends) who lovingly call it like it is. Our “Radar Speed Signs” who will graciously hit us with honesty and hold us accountable. Who aren’t afraid to admit their own shortcomings. Who aren’t competing against us, but stand ready to ascend mountains and to skip through the valleys – together. Who love us enough to tell us when we’re speeding, and when we’re going too slow.
Kay Wyma is the author of Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. She shares the hilarity and the tears that come with raising adolescents & teens on her blog The Moat … because who wants to walk that road alone.