Cogs in the Social Machine
Truthfully, I think I’m secretly a little glad my job is ending. The Kid has been making it really difficult to miss him. For every thing nice he says, he says 150 rude, obnoxious things. He is constantly telling me how WONG I am about everything, how I DON’T KNOW ANYFING, and giving me excuses about how he doesn’t have to do whatever I say because he’s a “scientist” and “smarter than [I am].”
I’m having a hard time maybe because he is exactly the polar opposite of what I was when I was a kid, and I don’t know how to handle it. I’m not saying I was better as a kid; I was a pathetic, sniveling, self-loathing pussy who was shy to the point of barely able to function. I was a sensitive cry-baby. I had a martyr complex the size of Vancouver which went largely unnoticed, which made it even more pathetic. If I had to take care of a kid now who was like me as a 4-year-old, I’d probably euthanize it. However, at least I would understand where it was coming from.
The Kid has no shame whatsoever. His sense of entitlement is immeasurable. I think he truly believes that all humans exist for his benefit and/or entertainment. For example, take this exchange:
ME: When we are crossing a road, don’t stop in the middle of the street; that’s dangerous!
KID: Well I HAD TO SCRATCH AN ITCH!
ME: You should wait until you cross the road to do that. It’s dangerous to stop in the middle of the street. A car might not see you and hit you.
KID: [impatiently] WELL my LEG WAS ITCHY. The car can JUST WAIT UNTIL I’m DONE ITCHING IT!
How this conversation would have gone with my parents and me, when I was a little kid:
PARENT: What are you DOING?!? Don’t stop in the middle of the street, do you want to DIE?
ME: [hang head in shame] no.
MY INNER MONOLOGUE: damn you are a stupid idiot. Do you want to die? How dumb are you for stopping in the middle of the road? God, you suck. Maybe you should just get hit by a car and put you out of your idiotic, pathetic misery.
I would probably ruminate on how much I sucked and how dumb I was for at least a week, possibly more. There was this one time when I almost got hit by a car crossing the street on the way to the bus stop; and it haunted me for months. Not because I was afraid of death, but because I was ashamed that I was too stupid to know how to properly cross a street. I was 5.
Anyway, I was polite. My parents hammered politeness into us. If we didn’t say “please” and “thank you” they just ignored us. It is so ingrained I don’t even think about it! However, The Kid is different. Here are the different ways he might ask for a drink of juice.
“WHERE’S MY JUICE?”
“No-wah, YOU FORGET TO GET ME JUICE” (when he never asked for it to begin with)
“I WANT JUICE… I’M WAITING!
and my favorite:
“No-wah, I TOLD YOU I want JUICE!” (usually this is how he asks the first time i.e., no, he actually never told me anything)
It kind of drives me crazy to be ordered around like a dog. However, today’s parents don’t seem to be overly concerned with this. This isn’t a criticism; it’s just a fact. I keep reading these articles about how teaching your kid to say “please” and “thank you” and be nice and kind is just opening the doors to them getting molested by strangers or whatever, and why should our precious snowflakes be subjected to arbitrary rules of etiquette set by The Man anyway? I’m looking for these articles… my cousins post them on Facebook. I read them, smoke comes out of my ears and then I forget them. Here’s one that’s along similar lines: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/i-do-not-want-my-daughter-to-be-nice/?_r=0 I’ll post more when I find them.
I feel hopelessly old-fashioned. The world is a series of cogs, and manners are the grease that makes things run smoothly. At least that’s what I was always taught. Don’t make things harder for everyone else; what makes you so special that you can hold up the grocery store line? The Kid has no such awareness of that at all. I’m not saying this is bad, I’m just saying this is different and so out of my experience I don’t know how to handle it sometimes! I mean, if I do something so that I hold up the grocery store line, I feel awful and apologize my ass off to everyone in line, and feel like a horrible person for hours. I’m sure the Kid would feel perfectly justified in holding up a grocery line, and if people were upset; that’s their problem because they are impatient or whatever. Get over it, people! He has no sense of empathy whatsoever. I’m not saying he’ll never develop any; I’m just saying that he prides himself on being exactly like his father, who brags about having no empathy. I, on the other hand, was so terrified about inconveniencing other people and making them mad at me that I scarcely ever did anything outside my own comfort zone. A little chutzpah can be good sometimes, I think!
Parents I see at the playground don’t demand their kids mind their P’s and Q’s (ok maybe just the American kids; foreign kids seem better behaved). Kids are rude and disrespectful of their parents in general to a degree that I’m surprised people my age and older let them get away with! i went to dinner at with an ex-boyfriend once at his friends’ house. They were a couple with kids aged 8 and 10. The kids spent the entire time ordering the parents around and then a large part of the time making fun of the dad’s bald spot. They seemed like a perfectly happy, functional family. Everyone’s needs got met eventually, and they were all able to have a laugh together. Seriously, though– if I had said any one sentence either of these kids uttered to my parents I would have been in Big Trouble. My parents didn’t believe in corporal punishment, but they sure did believe in the yelling/shaming/guilt-tripping kind of punishment. This type can go on for days as the transgression can be brought up again and again. We respected our parents at least on paper, and we were miserable. These kids seemed happy and well adjusted, and their parents seemed to genuinely enjoy their kids’ company. Is either parenting style better? I don’t know.
That’s the thing about The Kid. You can put him in Time Out or take away his TV time or whatever, but he never believes what he did was wrong. He always has an excuse/justification for what he did. If he smacked Daddy across the face, it was because Daddy wasn’t listening and therefore deserved it. If he told me I’m stupid, it’s obviously because I am. If his teacher takes me aside to tell me the Kid was being a psycho, she is obviously lying (and whatever he did it was perfectly justified). I *always* thought I was wrong. It took decades of therapy before i realized that sometimes other people are douches and that it’s not my fault. Maybe it’s good that the Kid has a healthy enough ego that he truly believes he is right and justified all the time. Lord knows I could have used some of that! However, in the short term, he’s totally rude. There must be some kind of middle ground!
The thing is, when the Kid is being rude and ordering me around, he’s not doing it to be a jerk. That’s his default mode. When I was a kid and I was a jerk, I knew what I was doing, was doing it on purpose, and fully expected the consequences. The Kid is just direct, and it comes across as rude, because he believes I am his servant (which to be honest, I kind of am) like all humans are. He just wants to get his needs met. That is his #1 goal. My goals as a kid were to not make waves, to not have my parents freak out, and lastly to get my needs met. It’s nice that The Kid has parents that will follow his orders when he barks them, so he doesn’t have to have that constant worry that they’re going to blow up because he asked incorrectly. I just am used to politeness being hammered into kids, so my first reaction to being ordered around is to bristle. I feel like an old fart. OY KIDS THESE DAYS, YOU GET OFF MY LAWN!!!