Somewhere along the way, I believe I have divided people’s view of me into two polarised camps. Naturally, I don’t know any of this for a fact, but I am more than capable of doing other people’s thinking for them. Actually this is a habit I am really trying to curtail, as I work to embrace the philosophy that what anyone else thinks about me is none of my business.
I often don’t recognise myself in how others choose to react when I openly reveal in conversation some well established character trait (read flaw, which is often confessional in nature and is in fact true). They appear genuinely surprised and incredulous even and deny the possibility of the existence of such a trait in me, insisting they have never ever borne witness to it. In fairness, not many people except those who are nearest and dearest to me are going to join me in moments of self flagellation…and my nearest and dearest are only going to do so from a safe distance whilst wearing a hard hat and maybe hiding behind the sofa.
Evidently, I often project an air of being laid back but organised, calm cool and collected but firm when the occasion arises. Assertive and approachable, kind and generous and possessing an abundance of patience ….’earthmother’ has been mentioned once or twice. This person is unrecognisable to myself and my children. If my children are ‘street angels and house devils’, it is only fair to admit that I was very much a ‘wait until I get you home disciplinarian’. Please note the past tense.
Then there are the group of people who I believe see me as a self opinionated , egotistical and judgmental biatch. They would often be people who I don’t know very well, or people in whose company I feel nervous. People who I just don’t like or even more to the point people who I feel don’t like me. They can also be those unfortunates who just encounter me when I’m feeling belligerent, competitive, hormonal or just pure cranky with a touch of psycho. This state of being does not lead to great first impressions.
Despite my best efforts, often my first verbal utterance sounds like the opening volley in a hotly contested debate. One which I intend winning and in which I am fully armed with a well equipped arsenal of witty and sometimes outrageously sarcastic comments. It usually vehemently and completely contradicts what they have just said. It can be uttered with such emphatic force and in such a tone with a cutting underscore that I am surprised by the lack of blood. If perchance the recipient is a brave and foolish soul who decides to engage, it is game on and I go into full verbal battle mode..it very quickly deteriorates into me wanting to win an argument at all costs.
Honestly, my skills honed from school debating have a lot to answer for. More often than not though uncomfortable silences ensue and I mentally inflict some shin kicking on myself again. Yes, I am guilty of judging both them and their opinion and finding them both wanting. My filter has been been turned off and my mouth has quickly but efficiently run away with itself. Let’s be clear here, these are often not value based opinions of any great social or moral importance. The more inane the comment the increased likelihood of giving me ire. Offender: “I always cut the crusts off little Benji’s sandwiches, it’s not going do him any harm and it means he eats them.” Me: ” Really, how old is he now? Oh 12 going into 1st year, would you at least get him to cut his own fucking crusts off ??
I should after making this first unnecessary verbal foray, retreat, hmm & errrr a little and even apologise . Maybe ask a question, try some diversionary tactics, be willing to practise the art of patient and active listening or at the very least develop my latent (completely absent) ability to ignore. I find this nigh on impossible. After all, it should have no bearing on my life whether Benji goes crustless or not and that is not the issue, (though all my children ate up their crusts from a relatively early age, just saying!) I just resent having to listen to this drivel. I am either caught in a moment of embarrassed shame about my lack of tolerance and am speechless or I go into full verbal battle mode.
If battle mode is engaged it is like the future of our modern civilisation now depends on me convincing the offender of the error of his ways. Benji will be eating his crusts at tea-time. I am like a dog with a bone and I should know that the bone is well past its sell by date. I am striving daily though to bury that bone.
These people and their offspring could easily cast me in the lead role in an Irish version of World’s Strictest Parents crossed with Supernanny. I find it very difficult to ignore obnoxious behaviour by children in public spaces and I do blame the parents. If they can blithely ignore that their little darling is causing havoc in the playground over an extended period of time and making it a miserable space for other children I cannot. Words will be spoken. I ceased to be embarrassed about giving out to my own children in public a long time ago but I do refrain from full out public humiliation and I try to do the telling off as quietly as possible. I still save the main bulk of the rant until I am home.
I can remember being mortified when my hubbie would let a roar out at one of them in a public place. This was not something I experienced at all growing up. There was absolutely no need..one look from our Mother put you back on the right track pronto. Out of all the parenting books I have read throughout the years, I have to say I am still astounded by the effectiveness of the counting technique up to a certain age. What they thought would happen when I got to four still amuses me. It is time to stop employing this technique when they applaud you, pat you on the head and say “Well done Mammy, you can still count”!
The truth is that I am neither Earthmother nor Gunnery Sgt Hartman. I am neither Jekyll or Hyde. I don’t have a patient bone in my body but I work very hard to curtail my impatience. I see the best in people until they convince me otherwise and this counter balances a lot of my impatience.
I am often lacking in the tolerance department regarding mundane matters. I am an opinionated person but I try to refrain from the unsolicited voicing of those opinions more and more. I practice the counting technique internally for my own benefit………..’just get to ten without saying anything and don’t make eye contact and you’ll be safe’. “Do not feed the beast”, I tell myself. Feed your vociferous appetite for a good argument or debate with friends who understand your weakness. Be kinder, keep your judgments to yourself and if that fails just stay away from Benji’s parent types. If a random encounter occurs just keep humming “Let it go”. If they’re really irritating, I just sing the whole bloody song. If nothing else it cuts short the inane drivel and yes I do know all the words.