I am a non-confrontationist. I’ve been one all my life. During the decade or more of my working life there were a few times when I had a difference of opinion with a colleague, an argument maybe, but mostly I managed without much of a fight. When a co-wroker was specially infuriating I fretted and fumed endlessly but always in solitude or I would unburden myself before the hapless husband. Having done that I would always go back to work the next day with a smile on my face.
When people stepped onto my toes, I’d not just remove my toes I’d also have a smile for them. Nope I wasn’t a Buddha. I resented each unfairness. But I let it go because of my fear - an irrational dread - of creating a scene. I’d back off even if I was right, even more if the other person was rude, loud or overly aggressive. Some of it sprang from being a very self-conscious person. I wrote about it earlier here .
But I thought it was a good philosophy - I mean, why rankle someone when you can get by without?
Then the twins came along.
It’s one thing to voluntarily subject yourself to unfairness, however small, and a whole different thing to watch the kids being subjected to it either by inclusion (because I wouldn’t stand up for them - ‘Let it go’, I’d say) or because they were picking up what I practiced.
I watched N agreeing with things she didn’t really like, letting people take her for granted, bending backwards for her playmates.
"There really is nothing worse than seeing your weaknesses reflected in your kids.
H was a different story. If I said ‘Let it go’ he’d say ‘But why? Isn’t it unfair.” It was. He was right. It was unfair and dishonest - dishonest to your own self. He bugged me till I had to face up to what I was doing:
"I was being nicest to the nastiest person.
That was the unpleasant truth about me : My best side was reserved for the person most likely to be nasty to me.
Once I knew the truth I could no longer talk myself out of answering some more uncomfortable questions.
- Is that what I want the twins to be?
- To give in to bullies (kids or adults) just because they were afraid of a scene?
- To bear with untrue/unfair allegations because they didn't want to put up a fight?
- To give in to pressure because they didn’t know how to protest?
- To always take the more peaceful, the easier way out of situations?
I knew the answer to that one.
And I made myself start over. It isn’t easy to let go of a personality trait - one you’ve lived with for decades. However, I have started to ‘take the bull by it’s horns’ to use a cliche. I’m not good at it at all. Repartees don’t come easily to me. I still am dumbstruck by outright rudeness.
Yet I have begun to find my voice sometimes. I register a protest, even if it is a tiny one, even if it is much after the incident, even if it seems a tad out of context. I make myself go back to the offender and say what I have to - that I didn’t think their behaviour was appropriate, that I did not agree with the way they treated me or the kids.
It’s hard but I’m doing it. It's not perfect either but it's a start. Sometimes it’s necessary to tell the person stepping on your toes to take his feet elsewhere.
That's a lesson I want the twins to remember.
Linking up to Finish the Sentence Friday. Heartfelt thanks to Leah from Little Miss Wordy
for this chance at introspection with her sentence prompt 'Once I knew the truth I could no longer talk myself out of...' Also thanks to Kristi from Finding Ninee for hosting.