“Look. I have to wear these tomorrow,” Hannah told me as she stood there at 7am clutching a dirty, crumpled up uniform. She was going to her dad’s that night, but her grandad had plans with her after school. They would not show up at her dad’s until at least 10pm. I knew immediately that I’d have to ask her stepmom to wash it or, at the very least, throw it in the dryer.
“Why in the world did you not put those in the wash for me this weekend? And why did you not get this stuff ready last night?!” I demanded. “It’s not my fault!” she answered, flouncing away. I read straight from the mom script and called after her, “Well if it’s not your fault, whose is it?”
We had to leave for school that minute. We both grumbled to the car. As we drove, we continued pointing the finger back and forth. I got more worked up, she got more worked up.
Then we were quiet.
I started to ask myself what I was afraid of. Some kind of fear had to be fueling this anger. And Hannah and I had discussed before how every negative emotion comes from fear. So I decided to try something.
I said to her, “Ok so what are we afraid of?” Why are we so upset?” Hannah answered, “I’m upset because you’re getting mad at me.” Mmmmk. Not what I was looking for.
“Well, I think I am afraid of being judged by <stepmom>. I am afraid of being seen as the mom who doesn’t do her job,” I offered. Even though her stepmom has never given me a reason to think she feels that way, it was my insecurity creeping in and making me terrified of judgment. And I felt like Hannah put me in that situation. A situation where I would not look perfect. So I blamed her.
Hannah was quiet for several minutes and then she said, “I guess I was afraid of a lot of things. Not getting my homework done tonight. You getting upset with me…” I said, “Do you think you were afraid of being blamed?” She nodded her head. I told her it was ok. We were just both afraid. But the uniform was not a big deal.
So by the time we pulled up to the school, both of us were calm. There was no exiting the car in tears and slamming the door while I berated myself for being so critical.
We smiled. I kissed her goodbye. That was awesome.