So, the thing is… I am effectively wrong.


Why is it that I always want to be Right?


I not only want to be Right, I want a badge for being Right and I want all people who come before me to recognize my innate Rightness.  Billboards and signs on buses shouting that, "Barb Cooper is Right!"  Official recognition by the President of the United States of "Barb Cooper is Right" Day.  I want the T-shirt, darn it.  “Mrs. Right.”


When I first started my career in the non-profit world, I was lucky enough to have a great mentor who used to say to me, "Do you want to be Right or do you want to be Effective?" I never really got that.  “Whatdya mean?  I want to be right AND effective.  When you are right, aren’t you also effective?”


He’d just smile.  But FINALLY, I think I get it.  Some fifteen years after he said it to me.


See, I’ve been having this run of bad luck.  Unlike most people who have a bad day or a bad streak of luck, my bad luck runs in months – YEARS even, if you count the eighties.  It’s not an every-day, all-year-long-deal or I’d probably never get out of bed.  But it’s just a series of seemingly unrelated events that add up to Bad Luck.  I think there is some kind of lesson plan that God has for me and sometimes I am a particularly slow study. 


Anyway, so far, this year has been like that.  Until this week, I thought this year was all about teaching me humility.  I’ve been walking around saying a little “2003-hue-mill-eh-tee” chant.  Without going into every excruciating detail, my year started with what was possibly the worst financial mistake I’ve ever made – a bookkeeping error of gargantuan proportions –and went downhill from there.  Over Memorial Day, I tried to blow out one of those canned heaters underneath a chafing dish and took off half of my eyebrow and singed my eyelashes so now I have this look of perpetual surprise but only on half of my face.  (I know it could have been much worse, but see, that’s my point.  It’s not about TRAGEDY.  Just a dose of humility.)  You can stop laughing now.


Then, I injured my ankle and haven’t been able to run. And Jane (2) pulled an entire carton of eggs off of the counter and I YELLED at her.  And in one of those, “How did I GET here?” moments, I took the girls down to cheer my husband in a race and we got trapped in the Hooter's parking lot.   We had to wait for 25 minutes before this Hooter's girl to come move her car--in full costume.  You can imagine the dialogue with my girls.  "I don't actually KNOW why she's dressed like that.  Maybe she thinks she’s a super hero."


In addition, my husband and I have been cranky with each other.  We aren’t very good at disagreeing so when we do, things go south rapidly.  It seems when we’re not allied in our pursuit of happiness, happiness just eludes us.  We don’t have any fun.  (Not to mention that our children smell blood in the water and they exhibit the behavior of badly trained puppies.  Seriously, Jane even peed on the couch.)


Anyway, everything seemed like a conspiracy to show me exactly how incompetent I really am.  And then, the cherry on top: last week, just after I’d picked up my van from the shop where it had extensive bodywork for hail damage, I backed smack into my husband’s truck.


In our own driveway.


I just couldn’t believe it.  I sat there, in tears, and thought about how embarrassing it was that I had to walk back into the house and tell my husband that I’d just wrecked my van, (not to mention his Explorer) after I had just sniped at him for putting a tiny scratch on the front bumper.  “Hue-mill-eh-tee,” I sighed, and got out of the car. 


My husband was entirely gracious about the whole thing but I spent a bad week, beating myself up for my shortcomings and digging myself deeper and deeper in this hole of needing validation for my competence and not doing anything competently.


But then I had one of those moments.  I went for a swim and in the middle of it, I realized that I've been really childish.  I want to be Right and that’s just so… so…




It’s a wasted endeavor— a self-defeating effort -- this need to be Right.  What I’m trying to do now is to ask myself,  “What are my goals here?”  And usually, they come down to the same things: 1) I want to be effective as a parent and 2) I want to be a good partner to my husband.  I think I’ve been focusing on all the wrong things.  Instead of the goals I really want, I’ve been focusing on getting some kind of CREDIT for all I do.  On being Right.  And that’s not EFFECTIVE.


You would think I would have learned from watching my husband.  He always says he has a very healthy ego but oddly enough, no one ever thinks he’s arrogant.  And I think that’s because his focus is always on achieving his goals and not on who gets the credit for being Right.  What does he care if someone else gets all the glory if he gets what he wants? 


But I, on the other hand, am insecure and because I have this need for validation, I get that “arrogant” tag a lot.  Well, maybe not a LOT but enough to make me question what’s up.  I think I understand now.  I bet a lot of people who have lack self-confidence have a need to be Right.


I've been this way about so many other things lately that I'm ashamed of myself.  What does it profit me to be Right with my children when what I really want is to teach them better manners or behavior?  I suddenly realized that this is the secret to the wonderful, laid back, takes-distraction-to-some-new-level parenting style of one of my  Mom Friends.  She has no need to be Right.  If something isn’t working with her kids, she tries an alternate tactic.  And in the end, she’s very effective because the kids do or learn what she wants them to and she hasn’t broken their spirits.  And she stays calm and unruffled and, um, nice to her husband.


So, for the rest of the summer and indeed the rest of this year, my focus is going to be on being effective, as opposed to be Right.  And of course, in that odd way things work in this world, when I’m effective, I don’t need anyone to acknowledge it.  (Okay, so this is only Day Two but it seems to be working – -I haven’t had a single car accident!)


My new chant: 2003 –Ee-feck-tive-lee.


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(c) Barbara Cooper 2003


Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (5) and Hurricane Jane (2.5).  She lives in Austin, Texas and she’s taken to parking in the street in front of her house.