There’s an old legend, told in many different cultures, about the cracked pot.
A water bearer has two pots that he uses to carry water to his master’s house- one perfect that carries a full load and one with a crack in it that leaks, so that by the time they get back up to the house, there is only half a load of water left. The cracked one is ashamed about how he is flawed and cannot do what is asked of him. One day, he shares his shame with the water bearer who asks the pot to pay attention to the world around him the next time they are to haul water.
On the way down to the river, the pot, empty like his partner on the other side of the water bearer’s shoulder, notices nothing- a worn path and a few weeds. But on the way back, as the water bearer turns around and hauls water back up to the house, the pot notices beautiful wildflowers on that side of the path.
When he asked the water bearer what it meant, the water bearer said “I noticed long ago that you were cracked and could not carry your full load of water. so, I planted wildflowers along your side of the path. Every day, you have been watering those flowers that I then pick and bring to the master. Without you, he would not have had that beauty in his life.”
I heard this story today at yoga- after a particularly horrible and trying day with Ray. A day in which I lost my temper at him; a day where I wondered if we’ve really made an progress at all. A day where I felt very much like that pot that was so cracked and frayed that I’m not sure there’s any water left in me at all. I certainly don’t feel like I am able to do the job that I was given.
It hurts so much when Ray is “irritable”- a really vague word that doesn’t even begin to capture his oppositional behavior that is primarily focused at me. When I ask “How was your day?” and he yells “WHAT DO YOU CARE?!” “When I say “Actually, I do. I’d like to hear about it,” and he grunts and turns his back on me. When I ask him to close the cabinets and he growls at me, dropping something out of the cabinet on the floor as he closes them and leaving it there. When he informs me, in a snarly tone, that he’s going to go outside to play with his friend, and I inform him that no, he’s going to show me his homework before he goes anywhere, and he throws his assignment book at me. It hurts when I inform him that he’s not going to play with his friend until he goes to time out and apologizes to me and when I ask him to tell me what the poor choice of behavior was, he yells at me “I DON’T KNOW!” I’m ashamed to say that I shrieked back at him… and placed him forcefully in his room, after ripping his Nintendo DSi from his hands.
Time out was clearly for me, not for him. When he came out, I asked him to show me his report card that was stapled to his assignment book. ”I DON’T WANT TO!” he yelled at me- clearly, time out didn’t work for him. I got very clipped and informed him that he was, indeed, going to show me his report card and we would talk about it and he had earned another 10 minutes of time out and every time he was rude to me, he would earn another minute.
By the time we were done, he had “earned” 22 minutes of time out. He couldn’t tell me why doing well in school was a good thing; he couldn’t tell me what he had done well in; he couldn’t even tell me why he got a lower grade in one subject. He told me that “All that matters is the CRCT (state test). Who cares about the report card?” He growled at me, grunted at me, turned his back on me. All while I knew that he was hungry- but refused to eat. All while ticcing, so I know that his Tourette’s was really acting up, so I know that his system is all jangled. All while refusing to answer any questions, have any discussion.
And get this- his report card? All A’s with 1 B (in writing). I told him that I wanted to celebrate with him- that I wanted to tell him how proud I was of him. But that I couldn’t because of his behavior to me. That I was happy to see how hard he worked at school, at which he then said “I DON’T WORK HARD. This is EASY!” If he’s this way over a good report card, what’s going to happen when he decides he’s done with it all and it’s a bad report card?
Which is why I again lost my cool, informed him that we expect him to work hard, and get good grades and that his behavior was NOT ACCEPTABLE and sent him away for his 22 minutes of time out. 22 minutes where I cried. 22 minutes where I retreated into myself. 22 minutes where I wondered why even “good news” is bad. After 22 minutes, he came out and then proceeded to “play” (ie. squabble) with Elizabeth, with Emily, with even the cat. I gave him Ritz crackers, which Emily and Elizabeth gobbled. I handed him back his DSi, which absorbed him quietly until he overheard Emily and Elizabeth and jumped up to ride bikes with them. He wasn’t still; he wasn’t contained- he was provoking confrontation. James came home finally, and I left for yoga and a moment of peace- leaving James with the fallout.
It was a whole evening of my hating his behavior, hating his Tourette’s, hating his anorexia- fighting with James over letting him eat nothing a jam sandwich while I was at yoga- loving my child, but hating my response to it all. The peace that I can manage to find in 22 minutes, in yoga, just pours away in the face of his intensity and the confrontations he seeks.
I don’t know about any flowers along the path, but I sure know that my pot is cracked and that I’m leaking all over the place.