I had had a pretty crappy day. I overslept a few minutes, I ran into traffic on my way to work, and within an hour, I could tell that it was going to take every fiber of my being to keep from mentally punching everyone I encountered in the face. I was already behind on my work for the day and the emails asking me to do things that weren’t in my job description were coming in faster than I could respond with a bold-italicized HALE NO. We’re all entitled to a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day every once in awhile, but it was like the world was just laughing at me by scheduling mine on a Monday. Way to be creative, World.
To add insult to injury, about halfway through the morning I realized I was also on my period. Of course. All my monthly ecoutrements were *gasp* in my car, which was parked across the street from my office, which meant that I would have to get up and trudge the 0.00002 miles across the road on an unseasonably warm and sunny January day to fetch inexpensive, quality-of-life-improving sanitary napkins that didn’t even exist beyond a state of processed wood chips until about a hundred years ago. Sometimes life is really hard. I got up, took the trek to my car that made the Trail of Tears look like a Fourth of July parade, and luxuriated in my ennui for the rest of the day at work.
Of course, I’m joking now, but that day at work, I was completely convinced that the slurry of First World problem-y events I was experiencing were my ticket to just retreating into myself and taking myself and all the stupid minutiae I experience daily completely seriously. As much as I struggle with my self-confidence and self-esteem, I really.freaking.love.myself when it comes to throwing major pity parties.
Remember those parties that Puff Daddy used to throw in the late-90’s where everyone in attendance was required to wear white and bring a kangaroo on a leash and know all the lyrics to “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” just in case Diddy wanted to quiz you on the spot? That’s basically me with my pity parties. We throw down, yo.
And the thing is? Many adults will completely let you get away with that crap. Diddy wants you to bring 37.9 popcorn-flavored Jelly Bellies to his party? Well, yeah, you’re going to do it. Emily wants you to take a moment of silence because she’s having a somewhat offputting day? Let’s all bow our heads together.
Self-absorption. I’m guilty of it, and chances are you’re guilty of it too, to some degree at least. I cannot strain myself to truly empathize when I see a friend or family member struggling to get through a moment of sadness or difficulty, but when I’m having (what I perceive to be) a bad day, I refuse to take it with a grain of salt and just laugh at a., myself, and b., the world around me.
Withholding empathy is not a good problem to have when you are, y’know, a member of the human race and all. But it’s especially not-so-great when you are also the parent of a toddler. There are two reasons for this. One, it’s kinda-sorta your duty to show them how to be good people, and the best way to do this is through example. I never, ever want to be one of those do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do types, but I often am, and that is decidedly not great.
Secondly, and this is a bit more pragmatic, it’s not a fantastic idea to expect your toddler to bend to your self-serving whims because, um, she’s a toddler. Even the most miraculously selfless three-year-old on the planet is incapable of actually caring when you’re on your period or whatever. They simply are not built for it. Toddlers are self-centered because they need to be.
I, on the other hand, have no developmental excuse for breaking out the tiny violin whenever something mildly sad-facey happens. There is always someone who is having a worse day (or week, or month, or year) than me, and if I want to be a really good human for myself and for my child, it’s my responsibility to let that insight color everything I do.
On their deathbed, no one has ever said, “Wow, I really wish I had indulged myself more sulky afternoons and taught my kids to complain about stuff that doesn’t really matter.” No one has ever said, “I’m really glad I cancelled all my plans and shut myself in a dark room because I got my period.”
We can all do to take ourselves less seriously. Our toddlers don’t care when we get our periods, and maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t either.