Well, this morning I broke Pollyanna Week (the week in which I was going to make no criticism) before 8:00 a.m.
The Big Man was going to take the Big Girl to school, so the four of us were happily sitting together until it was time for them to leave.
Then the Little Girl started pointing to her mouth, in what we thought was a cute way, until she started making gagging noises. It took me right back to the Big Girl’s period of car-sickness.
“Quick, get a towel, she’s going to throw up!” I yelled.
The Big Girl darted into the kitchen, but she still hadn’t emerged when the Little Girl began heaving half-digested milk all over herself, me, and the furniture.
“Big Man, get a towel!” He’d been sitting, mesmerized by the sight.
By the time they both rushed back from the kitchen with dish towels, the Little Girl had finished throwing up, and she and I were wallowing in a big, yucky mess.
“Team, that was not the fastest action we could’ve had,” I said in an aggrieved tone.
But why did I throw out a nasty comment? It just added to the general loss of morale without making any useful point.
By the time I returned from giving the Little Girl a bath and changing my own clothes, the others had left for school.
When the Big Man called after drop-off to get a report, I was able to be very positive: the Little Girl was perfectly cheery now, they’d done a great job of cleaning the furniture, it was very lucky that he’d been around this morning to help. But at the critical moment, I had reverted to criticism.
Last night I did a better job, largely because I was so tired that I went to bed at 9:00 p.m. Being asleep is a great way to avoid being critical.
But I faced this question: when I said to the Big Man, “I’m so exhausted that I’m going to bed now,” was that a complaint? Or just a statement of fact? I think it counts as a complaint. I should’ve found a positive way to phrase it: “Going to bed sounds so great to me that I think I’m going to turn out the light early.”
Another temptation to be critical is what might be called affiliative criticism. When a friend said, “My sister refuses to go visit my aunt in the hospital. She says she’s too busy, but she just took a two-week vacation. She could go for one day,” my impulse join in with something like, “Some people use work as an excuse to get out of doing whatever they don’t want to do.”
But just in time, I caught myself and said, “Your aunt must have really appreciated the fact that you took the time to visit.” Now that I consider that exchange, I think that my friend was probably (perhaps unconsciously) trying to steer the conversation to a validation of her own efforts rather than to a criticism of her sister’s behavior. So being positive did make the conversation generally more satisfying.
One of the problem with Pollyanna Week is just remembering to stay on my guard, to watch what I say. So this morning I put on a clunky orange bracelet. My hope is that it will be a constant reminder of my goal.