My daughters come from a long line of strong-willed individuals. Before they were born Mr. Grouch and I wondered what our kids would look like, or what they would be interested in, but one thing we knew for sure. They’d be headstrong. Our girls have aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, and, lucky for them, great-grandparents too, who are full of strength, who say to themselves, “I will be brave, I will not give up, I will not be stopped”, and who say to others, “I will be heard, I will follow my dreams, I will not be knocked down”. There is wicked strength within each individual and we, as a family, are a formidable force when our energy is corralled in the same direction. An unstoppable herd.
We are bulls.
Toddler Grouch is at the age where her bullheadedness can sometimes be frustrating. Like when she won’t put on her shoes, or brush her teeth, even when I say to her, “C’mon girl, we’ve gotta go! We can’t be late!” When she digs her heels in, asserting her independence and demonstrating her strong will, sometimes I call her my Little Bull. I place my hands by my ears, point my fingers up like horns, while I huff and shuffle my feet on the floor. She laughs and mimics the gestures, repeating the phrase, “C’mon, Little Bull!” Even when she doesn’t listen right away or when she blatantly disobeys, and I have to pull out my discipliny-mama voice, I’m secretly proud that she’s hard-nosed. There’s a lot of positive attributes to being a bull.
Mr. Grouch and I are both bovine in nature, both of us capable of being bullish to the max. Our individual ability to persist, to push on, to persevere has, for the most part, served us both well, and when we join forces, we are unstoppable. But, with any strength, comes complementing weakness. Bulls can lack grace. Bulls sometimes charge into situations, with their eyes on the prize, not thinking about the damage they may be inflicting upon anything in their periphery, with their bucking and banging, incapable of slowing themselves down. They can have difficulty seeing something from someone else’s perspective, seeing only the path that leads them towards their own passions. Bulls can be ornery and selfish. When Mr. Grouch and I are heading in opposite directions, the results can be brutal. We charge and we crash and when we’re back on track again, we have to sort through the debris, putting together the pieces that we unceremoniously smashed to smithereens.
As a family unit, we can not all be bulls. At least, not all at the same time. Four bulls in a house, all traveling down their own paths, means inevitable, even if inadvertent, trampling, wrecking emotional havoc and/or physical destruction. At any given moment, one of us needs to balance some of that brute force with a bit of softness.
So, how do we do that? How does a bull not act like a bull? Neither one of us can dramatically change who we are, but sometimes we can temporarily morph. We fill ourselves up, taking in all of the happiness and joy and light-heartedness that comes along with being happily married, and rearing young children. We swell with parent-pride, and transform ourselves into beings that are a little more graceful, a little lighter on our feet, with a little more bounce in our steps. Figurative bulloons, if you will. Kinder, stretched-out-smooth, versions of ourselves that make it easier to wipe off the shit-storms that emerge in marriage and parenthood, allowing us to more easily clear away unpleasantness and filth with a simple swipe, instead of allowing it to fester, stuck in our fur. Our bulloon selves are gentle to the touch, are buoyant enough to rise above our usual space of constant clamor, and are highly unlikely to cause any damage, even if we are to ricochet around the room. It works, for a while, until we deflate, landing on the ground with a thud, the floorboards creaking under our weight. Back to our regular punchy selves, we charge into action in our typical fashion until we need to fill ourselves up once again.