My go-to for a good Netflix binge used to be Grey’s Anatomy. Nowadays, my Netflix sessions are far less poppin’, since I can barely make it through half an episode of Friends before snoring so loudly on my husband’s shoulder that he relies solely on subtitles. (How else would he gather enough intel to decide if Ross and Rachel were really on a break?) But back in the day, I was a Grey’s kind of girl.
For whatever reason, I used to have a girl crush on Christina Yang, played by Sandra Oh. We don’t have much in common as far as beliefs and aspirations but still, I always thought Yang was just the coolest surgeon Seattle Grace hospital ever saw. Sure, she spazzes out here and there (many thanks to the brawny, ginger doctor she canoodles with) but she possesses a certain confidence and poise that earned my admiration. In fact, even to this day, it’s often because of her that I manage to keep my cool when momming gets messy, and here’s why:
At one point in the storyline, Yang, a surgical resident, is working under Teddy, a female cardiac surgeon who isn’t particularly fond of Yang. Consequently, Teddy is giving her a hard time, being overly critical and passive aggressive and such, but somehow, Yang keeps her cool.
Skip to a scene in the cafeteria where the posse of residents is eating lunch and Meredith Grey (the Grey in Grey’s Anatomy) is fussing to the crew about the unfair treatment she’d witnessed from Teddy toward Yang. She’s insisting that Teddy is out of line, acting unprofessionally, and on and on.
But here’s where Yang impressed me: She sat calmly eating her lunch in the midst of Meredith’s rant and stated plainly over and over again, “I can handle it.” She was unphased. Whatever unpleasantry Teddy was going to dish out, Yang had resolved that she was able to take it.
So back to real life: The other night, my husband worked late and after a long day, I was putting the babes to bed on my own. Fast approaching the end of my rope, my patience was running thin and all I wanted to do was get the little ones in bed so I could kick back with a snack that I wouldn’t have to share and start snoring along to some Friends.
I finally got the smaller of the two peacefully in his crib and then went to tuck in my toddler before clocking out for the evening. She, however, had other plans and within a few minutes, was throwing an ugly tantrum that had the baby awake in the next room and screaming right along with her.
I. Was. Pissed. And totally illogically, my anger started seeping in my husband’s direction, like it tends to do when our offspring act up and he’s not around. I mean, how dare he work late in order to provide for our family? The nerve.
Realizing my toddler was too far exhausted to be consoled by reasoning, I finally managed to corral her in her bedroom hoping she’d tantrum herself to sleep. But it was with a wide awake little guy on my hip that I headed downstairs and made an angry beeline for my phone. In my rage, I started typing out a desperate, infuriated, “screw work come home now” text until I remembered Yang calmly and collectedly stating, “I can handle it.”
It was just a much cooler, much maturer manner in which to react to the situation. She wasn’t demanding respect, appreciation, sympathy, or any of those things we tend to pathetically grasp for. She simply decided she was capable of handling the situation with a cool head and that was that.
So I backspaced my sad, angry, “I can’t handle this” cry for help and pity and put on my big girl pants. Eventually, thanks to some desperate pleas for divine intervention, my toddler wore herself out, I got the little guy to sleep, laid him in his crib and tiptoed downstairs to freedom.
When my husband walked through the door shortly thereafter, I listened thoughtfully as he dished about his day and when he asked about mine, I explained the bedtime turmoil. He looked at me sympathetically, and when he said he was sorry I had to deal with it alone, I shrugged and said, “I can handle it.”
Don’t get me wrong. There are days this life delivers that have me feeling anything but able to handle things. I’m very often weak and wind up desperately calling out for help and support from my husband, parents, my husband’s parents, friends, God, and others. I do not think Yang’s declaration of her ability to handle things is always an automatic remedy in the midst of chaos.
But I do think – no, I know – that many of us impulsively unleash a pissed off, overwhelmed, panicked cry for help or attention unnecessarily.
A wise friend once told me that when things go haywire in parenthood, take a mental step back and assess what one thing most needs to be done, then do that one thing. Chances are, it’s neither a text that needs to be sent nor a phone call that needs to be made condemning an absent spouse or searching for sympathy.
More than likely, it’s a little one who could use some attention or a dirty diaper that has no business being worn another second longer. When I simplify a nutty situation like that and decide that, like Yang, I can handle it, I honestly feel pretty damn empowered.
Like good ol’ Henry Ford told us, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”