Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why your parents said, "You're just tired."

Becoming a parent teaches you things about your own parents that you never really knew before. I remember something my parents used to say to me when I was being particularly unreasonable—crying, throwing a fit, yelling, defying their authority. They'd say, "You're just tired." This was usually followed by high-pitched, abrupt negations by me, possibly involving me physically throwing myself to the floor and refusing to move. My mom or my dad would then pick me up, repeat, "You're just tired," and carry me off to my bed so I could sleep it off. As a child, it felt like my parents were ignoring the real issue of whatever it was that was bothering me. As a parent, I realize that my parents were not simply trying to avoid the issue; they were trying not to kill me.

There comes a point with every child where rational thought and appropriate self-expression is replaced by hysteria involving a lot of crying, whining, and other behaviors that can be neatly summarized in the expression "throwing a fit." A parent's natural inclination at this point is to quickly and resolutely respond to such poor behavior with a form of discipline that falls under the category of corporal punishment, which may or may not involve the expression, "Pull yourself together." However, the sheer lunacy of the child promotes a feeling of compassion and sympathy in the parent such as one has for Lenny in the book Of Mice and Men. Thus, in order to justify not taking a firm stand against the child's insubordination, the parent repeats the phrase over and over, "You're just tired." In other words, our parents told us this not to calm us down or to help us understand what was going on, but to restrain their inclination to spank us.

Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad.

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