Monday, July 28, 2008

Nervous Breakdown?

By unfortunate coincidence, just after last Thursday's blog post about behaving in a way that our kids can respect, I lost the plot and acted like a crazy person in front of Josie.

I'd taken Josie to see a doctor here in Korea, where we're on holiday, because she'd been complaining about her ear hurting. To make a long story short... I was struggling to understand the doctor with my meager Korean, my father was trying to translate for me, and Josie kept whining at me at the same time. I suddenly screamed at Josie like some sort of possessed woman, grabbed her out of the chair and shoved her outside, yelling at her that she couldn't come back in until I said so. Then I went back into the doctor's office and insulted the doctor, doing as much damage as I could with what little Korean language skills I had. My father had to spend more than fifteen minutes on damage control afterwards.

I don't know what got into me. I'd never spoken that way to Josie before or treated a stranger with such disrespect. Some of you might say, "Shin, you've been under a lot of stress, what with your cancer treatments and the looming fear of leaving your children; no wonder you had to let it all out at some point." Maybe. But I wish I hadn't chosen a visit to the doctor's office with my impressionable five-year-old daughter to go completely berserk.

The thing about being so clearly in the wrong about something is that the more you think about what a completely horrible thing you've done, the more upset you feel about it. I even tried to apologize to the doctor after I calmed down, but I just couldn't express what I wanted to. And by then, the doctor was so angry and upset, she was yelling at me.

To make things worse, shortly after the crazy episode was over and I was sitting outside the doctor's office in the waiting area, the cleaner went into her office and I could hear the doctor yelling something at him. Great, I thought. I've started a domino effect. That cleaner's probably going to go home to his wife and yell at her, she'll scream at her kids, and the kids will start fights with their friends, and then the whole thing will snowball until my temper tantrum has a ripple effect, bringing out the worst in dozens of people I don't even know.

I knew this uneasy feeling was going to fester and put me in a lousy mood until I did something about it. I thought of sending the doctor flowers or something silly like that. I figured I'll probably stand out in her mind and future stories as "that crazy woman who threw a fit at me", so I might as well balance that with "that crazy woman who went nuts and then sent me flowers". But I thought she might just think I was some kind of weirdo.

So in the end, I wrote her a letter in English, saying exactly what I wanted to say to her in apology but couldn't because of my elementary school Korean. Maybe she'll just crumple up the letter and curse me. Maybe she'll feel pity for my sorry self. But maybe, just maybe, she'll let my words of apology melt her angry, insulted ego so that she doesn't pass on that anger to anyone else.

As for the damage I did to myself in Josie's eyes... I'm hoping to bury that one-off incident with many other scenes of her mom being a rational, polite, kind person. Luckily, kids are more forgiving than adults. Luckily, I still have time to fix this.


amytg said...

Welcome to motherhood. What took you so long?

Gloria said...

Think you must be pretty stressed out...take deep breaths

Yvonne said...

Dear Shin,
I am reading your blog everyday but have not written anything for a while. M feeling a bit weird over my end, have been having chest pain for more than a week, left side and back pain. Maybe lately not enough rest, maybe sign of ageing, or maybe just too much to handle with children, course, volunteer work, etc. I am like you too, is only human, somedays we are just maybe tired and/or spirit is low. As what my husband told me, we continue do our best, and not to worry what impression we left behind with kids, as they will be able to remember all those memories that we have been working on all these while. I have so much to write but I will do so next if possible. Take care, my dear friend. Love always.

lisacc said...

In a long term way, I think you may have done her a favour, because you will now be more real to her. She now knows that even strong, loving parents can have freak outs, and when she grows up and freaks out herself some day, she'll remember you and know that she is normal, and that all human beings have their strengths and their vulnerabilities.