Tonight I couldn’t sleep (feeling anxious about not posting on APM!) and so I tried to sneak downstairs so I could read the September issue of Vogue until I felt sleepy.
Alas, no matter how softly I pressed my toes to the stairs, they groaned. They squeaked. They made so much noise that I could hear Daughter #1 turn over in her bed, mildly disturbed.
There was nothing I could do about it.
Just like when our au pairs have come in late-ish at night, doing their best to get to the third floor without awakening anyone (like me, the light sleeper) — No matter how lightly they tiptoe, we hear them.
In our 120 year old house, there is simply no way that someone can walk up or down the steps late at night without making noise.
Just as I was ready to blame myself (or worse, my recent weight gain) for waking up my kid, I remembered:
“It’s the STAIRS, silly.”
It’s not me; it’s The System.
When it’s appropriate, blame The System, not the person. S/he is likely doing her or his best.
This is important to remember when you find yourself getting annoyed by some little thing your au pair does. S/he never puts the beach towels away? Well, is there a specific, appropriate place were they belong? Do beach towels actually fit somewhere in your linen cupboard? Or, do you need to create a real place for them, before you get annoyed at your au pair?
Can’t ever find the keys to the minivan? Do you have a place where everyone is supposed to put them? And,do you use this place yourself?
There is stuff in our house that just doesn’t work right, like the toilet on the third floor that just keeps running unless you giggle the handle. Now, I know to giggle the handle, but apparently no other person in my entire house knows to do this– and so the toilet sometimes runs all day long.
Should I get all irked at them, flash a disapproving stare, and show them once again how to giggle that handle? Or, should I just replace that ball & chain thing inside, or call a plumber?
The point being — when our au pair, or your spouse, or your child, keeps doing something that annoys you, take a moment to think about it.
Ask yourself: “Is it The System? Can I change something in The System that will fix this, once and for all?”
If the answer is “Yes”, then go ahead and get that done.
If the answer is “No” have a glass of wine, and then return to the first question.
Knowing when not to blame the person is so important, because none of us likes to be blamed for things we cannot control. We all need to remember to separate the person and the System, so that we work on the right thing to fix the annoyance.
Remember, too, that blame is something we express emotionally. We may “know” there’s nothing she can do about the squeaking, but still “feel” mad and direct our anger towards our au pair anyway.
That’s just not fair.
Better to learn how to say,
“Damn those creaky stairs. Guess that’s just what happens in a graceful old house.”
That’s what I’ll tell my DH, when I go back up.
Image: Stairs from zetson, on Flickr