I figure my main job as a parent, is to ensure that my kids do not grow up to be assholes.
I have had this sentence rattling around in my head for years, and this is the very first time I have ever put it down on paper, without editing that last word with asterisks. Good grief. Here I am a man of forty-three years old, with eight kids, and a wife of 22 years, and I just now have the courage to put swearing into print. Sheesh.
For some of you, that last part lost you, you don't find it courageous, you find it reprehensible,and yet, I am dead certain sure, that if you have kids, you appreciate the sentiment. For me, it is especially challenging, since I have allowed myself to become one and am now in recovery, assaholics anonymous, as I heard it put on a sitcom the other night.
Believe me when I say that anyone who had been through the stupid crap I have been through, been kicked between the uprights emotionally speaking, as many times as I have would probably feel justified in just drifting off into crotchetiness, but I happen to think there are still things for me to accomplish in this life that are being hindered by my attitude.
It really all came crashing in on me the other night while perusing my junk mail, which is pretty much all the email I get. There was one article there about how successful people deal with toxic people,and, for whatever reason, I was drawn to this piece of flotsam in my inbox. So, I read it. Do you know what I realized? I have never given a damn about how to deal with toxic people and have pretty much written off every bit of advice that I have ever seen in that vein for one simple reason, which I did not realize until the moment I read that title, I am a toxic person.
If you have ever had a similar realization about yourself, you will understand, why after forty-three years of life, this came as a surprise to me. The rest of you will probably not get it, but I am going to write about it anyway, because this is what I need to do right now,and if you don't think this applies to you there are about a half billion blogs out there all written for similarly perfect people go read one of them. Anyway, as I was saying, it hit me right between the uprights, with a sinking certainty, that I never needed to know how to deal, cope, work around these difficult people, because I understood them as only a native could, I was their king.
It had always escaped me, the reason that I was frequently socially swept aside, not so much rejected, as marginalized. Included, but not in every way. Part of it was my reticence to be a joiner, I have never been a true blue fan of anything much, but part of it was that I have been making people uncomfortable for a very long time, and it needs to stop. That was my realization and it took me completely off guard. My wife, if she were reading this would be shaking her head by now, because she has been telling me this for over a decade, but of course, I can't see through her eyes. I am one of those people who need to learn everything for myself.
One of the weirdest parts of this realization was this: not only was I being a jerk, but a big part of the reason, and this is going to sound weird, was because I was trying to be nice. Truly. Let me see if I can explain this. For one thing, I am a know-it-all. Really, I am. I remember the oddest things and rarely forget, plus my work history has led me into so many different fields, and I read nearly anything I can get my hands on, so I genuinely know a little about a lot of things, and feel pretty comfortable sharing it.. especially when someone seems to be having trouble with something I think I know. For another, while I am a fairly forthright individual, I am also very sensitive, and so, I frequently avoid saying things that I think are incendiary. But, the problem is, those things also, frequently happen to be true, and repressing them does not make it better, but it sure makes for some beautiful fireworks when the repressed stuff I should have dealt with comes out later at some awkward, inopportune moment.
In addition to all of this, I am in love with being right. So much so that I will frequently find some way in which I am right even in the most obvious of “you're wrong and you know it” kind of moments. It comes off as pure arrogance, even when the intention is to save face myself, it feels, to the other person, that I am trying to make them look bad, forcing them to accept the thing I am trying to avoid myself.
Then, there's the fact that I never, ever, not one time in my whole life, have ever backed down from an argument. So, wrap that package up and what do you have? TADA toxic person in a box! Throw in a smidge of impulse control and a whole lotta smart ass, with a bit of a temper (not given to physical, but verbal violence) and you have a lot of fun at parties, am I right?
So, all of this comes rolling at me through one little email, and amazingly, the take away for me, was this: I need to be more honest with people about how I feel. Although I have always thought myself to be overbearing, I need to have the courage to speak up when something truly bothers me, instead of waiting until it pisses me off. I need to stop cramming myself into uncomfortable situations, to try and help. I need to learn to mind my own damn business. I need to detox occasionally, in private, to reduce the risk of infecting others.
So, what does this have to do with my first sentence? Apparently nothing, but, my challenge to myself right now is to write what's real, and this realization is real for me right now. I don't really know much about parenting anyway. Everything I do know was self taught, trial and error and somehow my kids are turning out okay, despite me, which I hope gives everyone who reads this hope!
You may be thinking, sheesh this guy is a mess, makes me feel better about myself, and I can honestly say, congratulations! Glad you don't have my issues to deal with, but I bet you have your own, we'll get to those later. For now, I am feeling just a little bit better, learning how to live in truth, courage and humility. Maybe I'll get back to that not raising assholes thing in another post.