Bargell: Growing pains
Last night our oldest daughter woke up with growing pains – acute, cry-out-loud, and wake-up-mom-and-dad-so-they-know-how-bad-I-hurt – growing pains. Fortunately, it was nothing a good dose of Motrin and a warm bath couldn’t cure, and after shedding the final tears she settled into a sound sleep. But those growing pains, they haunted me.
Now, I don’t really recall having growing pains while I was growing up. I must have experienced them, however, or I wouldn’t be so quick to pass off the shooting leg pains the girls sometimes complain of as growing pains. Our daughter’s growing pains caused me to ponder the adult version of growing pains – and I’m not talking about the ones that happen when I have to let out my belt a notch at Thanksgiving. But I do think I have experienced acute, cry-out-loud growing pains – they just tend to center more on the upper left hand side of my body – right over my heart. And, it’s a good kind of pain (more like the Jane Fonda burn) because it demands my attention, and forces me to think about the directions I need to grow.
One really bad growing pain occurred a few years ago when I was taking part in a discussion with a friend, and the comments about a mutual acquaintance took a nasty turn. Now, the comments could have been characterized as humor, but they clearly were at someone else’s expense. The growing pain was sharp, and I realized that biting comments, even made with a smile on my face (or perhaps especially made with a smile on my face) were nothing more than gossip. Since then, I’ve realized that not all gossip takes on a snide tone but instead can be cloaked in terms of a “funny” that no doubt makes the person conveying it feel a bit superior – but only for a moment or two. This particular growing pain took me right back to my mom’s lap, and her constant counsel that if you can’t say something nice about someone, why say anything at all? Of course, I’m not suggesting adult dialogue and discourse should not occur – it’s just when it becomes personal without constructive purpose, we all need to take a step back.
Then there was that severe growing pain that occurred when I realized there could be a problem with my conviction that my busy-ness had become so much bigger and, well, busy-er, than everyone else’s busy-ness, that no one really could understand (what, I’m still not sure). I realize now that everyone is busy, and that taking part in the competition for the most stressed-out human being isn’t exactly where I want to grow. So, I’m trying to remember there’s no prize for being busy (or, at least it’s one I want to avoid – like a heart attack). Sadly, however, through the business of busy-ness, I see that I have missed so many opportunities to care about the people closest to me. Ouch – the pain! Lately, around our house I’ve been trying on the mantra of “it all gets done.” Somehow, when I remind the kids (and now when they remind me) of this fact all the busy-ness of life doesn’t seem like such a big deal. The house someday will be clean, so what if it occurs in April, 2012, it all – eventually – gets done.
One of my most severe growing pains hit one day after I had dug in on a conversation with my spouse, insisting that I just had to be right about a particular topic. I don’t recall the exact context, but I do remember that I just wasn’t – right, that is. Admitting my mistake was difficult, but the alternative – of failing to admit it – was downright painful. Sorry Ryan O’Neal, but I do think sometimes love means having to say you’re sorry. This doesn’t settle well with my legal training, where making an apology is akin to admitting there’s a chink somewhere in the armor. I wonder how many costly lawsuits could be avoided (and lawyers put out of business) if the parties involved just took a step back and said they were sorry – that somewhere along the line a mistake was made. While I’m guessing apologies won’t become the new courtroom fad, I’m learning that being right often comes at the expense of my family, and causes a sharp growing pain I’d just as soon avoid. So, a heart-felt apology is being added to my repertoire of grown-up responses.
It’s curious to me that when those adult growing pains hit, and they will, the cure isn’t necessarily Motrin, but instead opening up a little bit more to love, to grow in the right direction. A warm bath often helps as well.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
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