Saturday, April 24, 2010

There’s an ad for an upcoming episode of a new TV show that caused me to pause as I was flipping through channels the other night. A mom walked in the bathroom of the family home to catch her daughter in the shower with her boyfriend. I don’t know who was more shocked, the mother or the teens or me. There was a lot of confusion and yelling then the boy left the house and the daughter went to her room.

The frazzled mom walked into her daughter’s bedroom, plopped down on the bed and asked what every mother would ask, “What were you thinking?”

Then the fireworks began. “But I love him,” the daughter whined. She sounded like a four year old who wanted a puppy. I was fascinated with her rationale. She had violated every rule of common sense and a dozen mom-set rules and her I-love-him answer was supposed to make her mom say,” Oh, OK.”

“You just don’t understand,” the daughter said, like her mom had just skipped being a teenager when she was growing up.

The mom explained, “Oh, honey I do understand. I love you and I just don’t want you to make the same mistake I made.”

Then in a half scream half cry the daughter said. “So, I’m your mistake. I can’t believe you said that. Please leave. I don’t want to talk to you now.”

At that point I didn’t care who was right or wrong, I changed the channel because I felt horrible for everyone. Knowing she had blown it, the daughter felt like no one understood and that she was her mother's "mistake". The mother was trying to convince her daughter she did understand how she was feeling. She was only trying to protect her from unnecessary pain. But the daughter turned the whole incident back around on her mother. What a mess!

Since I’m used to watching Big Bird and Oscar calmly problem solve on Sesame Street with the grandkids, this situation was a bit unsettling. However, things like this happen in real life that giant yellow birds and red monsters don’t have to deal with. It really caused me to think about the way we phrase things. Well-meaning words can be misunderstood, twisted and backfire.

Have you ever had someone say to you, “You look so much better.” I know it’s meant as a compliment, but it makes me wonder how badly things looked before. The TV mom’s intentions were to protect her daughter from the heartache she experienced as a teen mom. But all the girl heard her mom saying was she was only a bad mistake.

How we say things can leave deep wounds and long-lasting scars. We need to be keenly aware of the impact of our words. Maybe it will be a Bert and Ernie discussion on an upcoming episode.

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