The Problem With Mixed Messages

Do I look fat?

It’s the age-old question that begs dishonesty in most American households. You see, I ask this, but don’t expect an answer that is anything other than, “What? Oh no; honey you look absolutely amazing.”

“In fact, you look so good, it looks as if you’ve lost a hundred pounds.”

Actually, this does not work either.

Too extreme an answer. Once, I lost eleven pounds and asked Hubby if he noticed a change, and that was his word-for-word response.

This is what happens when one talks in extremes:

1. Either he believes I look as if I have lost 100 pounds, and since the scale registers  significantly more than 100 pounds, he thinks I weigh entirely more than I actually do.


2. I need to lose 100 pounds.

Neither render a favorable response.

It is best to speak the truth, and nothing but the truth.

The problem with speaking in extremes is it easily causes confusion and/or conflict.

When my youngest was around four years old, she befriended a family a few houses away from ours.

One day, she made reference to their home environment one too many times, and I had just had it.

I said point blank, “If you want to live at Michael and Ryan’s house, go ahead.”

My extreme response was riddled in jealousy and hurt.

Don’t misunderstand, I do not encourage such living arrangements, especially at preschool age, but this is not the point.

She took these words of mine at face value.

I stood there, shocked, as she put on her boots and red coat, with the faux fur-lined hood, and strutted right out the door.

What in the world?

I watched in horror as she walked the snow-lined street on her way to their residence–without even a single look back.

Actually, I noticed a sort of determination in her stride, and am almost certain, a slight smile that increasingly grew with each step.

I thought for sure I played her bluff.

But, she was four and she didn’t understand bluffs.

Neither did she understand my mixed signals lined with hints of sarcasm.

So, eating a snow version of crow, I ran out the door and called her back.

This was not at all a pretty snowscape scene with mom and daughter running toward one another with arms open wide–both in tears at the thought of losing one another.

No, it was a different type of heartbreak.

“You said I could live at Michael and Ryans!”, as tears pour from this miniature person’s eyes.

Her dream of being part of the fine Irish family would not come to fruition, and my heart shattered at the realization my baby would rather live elsewhere.

All because I did not mean what I said.

The lesson here is a simple one:

Let’s say what we mean and mean what we say.

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