But then she started complaining that her father was going to make her late. My husband was, as per usual, stomping around the house looking for keys he couldn't find, a missing wallet, some skates that need sharpening for hockey and his golf shoes for a game today. In short, a typical morning for him.
I looked at my daughter and spoke words that I wish someone had said to me when I was 13: "Don't complain that the guy who's always late...is late." She cocked her head at me. "In other words," I said, "of course Daddy is late. That's who Daddy is. What made you think today would be different?" I didn't say it angrily, or accusatorily. I simply stated a fact. Daddy is late because Daddy's past indicates that he will be late in every situation. It's the old Dr. Phil adage: "When someone shows you who they, believe them."
It's advice that flies in the face of someone who's chosen to stay with a man who cheated on her. Or does it?
If there's one thing I've learned through all this, it's that my husband is who he is. If he's changed (and I think he has in very important ways; not so much in others), he's done it because he's made the choice to. NOT because I've demanded it, insisted on it, manipulated him into it, guilted him into it, shamed him into it or issued ultimatums. That's not to say I didn't try all those things. I did. Tried and tried and tried...my head still hurts from all those years of banging it against a brick wall.
What finally got him to change? Fear of losing me was likely the starting point...but even that wouldn't have been enough if he wasn't already sick of his own behaviour. And from there, he changed because as he put it, he wanted to actually be the man I had thought he was.
In other words, his change was inspired by his own desire to live differently. If he sees no problem with being late then he'll continue to be late. I've learned to no longer wait for him. It makes him angry to see me walk out the door if he's not ready (I do it to my children, too) or start eating dinner without him when he's late arriving home. But I've also noticed that he's less late than he used to be. And when he starts in with his apologies, I simply wave them off. He can show he's sorry with actions, not words. So THAT is what I hope my daughter learned from being late this morning. We can expect people to be different, we can guilt, bribe, shame, cajole, beg and plead. We can be angry, resentful and disappointed that they are who they are. We can assume that we're not important enough. Or valued enough. Or we can remind ourselves that their behaviour, really, has nothing to do with us.
The smartest thing we can do in life is take responsibility for our own behaviour and get ourselves where we want to go.