We are all familiar with the comic-book sequence: the boss yells at the dad, the dad yells at the mom, the mom yells at the kid, the kid shoves the little brother, the little brother kicks the dog, the dog pees on the rug. (I call this emotional hot potato.)
— Lawrence J. Cohen, Playful Parenting
How long do you think it ought to take to pee and brush your teeth before heading out the door in the morning? Ten minutes, maybe?
How long do you think it actually does take to pee and brush your teeth before heading out the door in the morning if you’re, say, just short of four years old? Twenty minutes? Thirty minutes? Even more?
And let’s say you’re that four-year-old’s mother. Let’s say that you might get stuck sometimes — OK, let’s be honest, almost every day — contemplating the difference between the time you think it ought to take to do these things and the time it actually does take to do these things. You want to get outside. Outside! Where the birds are singing! Where the sky is blue! Where you don’t have to look at the hideous pink and orange tile covering the walls of the bathroom in your stuffy rental apartment!
I’ll admit it: some days the madness of the waiting and the waiting and the waiting are enough to drive me mad. And I do get mad. And oh how I want to yell. HURRY UP! STOP THIS NONSENSE! Let’s go OUTSIDE!
But there was that time I didn’t yell. I don’t think I said anything at all. I just sat there and watched myself, felt my feelings — my panic (we’re going to be late! again!), my anger, my wanting wanting wanting to get OUT. I didn’t like the way the feelings felt — uncomfortable, hot.
That was the time I saw what the yelling is all about: not wanting to feel uncomfortable. Not wanting to hold the hot potato.
So now (when I remember), my practice is to hold the hot potato. It’s uncomfortable. It’s also not so bad.
Like everything else, the hot potato changes. It cools off.