Expecting Assholes, Getting Assholes

Getting schooled by my teenage son - when you expect assholes, you're going to get assholes.

Expecting Assholes, Getting Assholes
Photo by River Fx / Unsplash

My 15-year-old schooled me this morning.

Because I schooled him first.

Let me backup and start at the beginning.

Yesterday was a crappy day. Not an Indonesia tsunami day. Not a Hurricane Michael day. Not a real tragedy and it’s going to take walking through some shit to get through this day. Just a crappy day. A day that started with me hearing pressure to do more than I was doing in one realm of my life and then hearing that same pressure in all the other realms of my life.

Blah, blah, blah.

By the end of the day, I was fried. Had nothing left. Well, not exactly nothing. I made dinner for my family and had the presence of mind not to bite my husband’s head off when he got home. Which, happily, gave me the ally I needed to strategize how to manage my load more effectively.

But I didn’t sleep well last night and was up early replaying conversations in my head and wishing I could rewrite the day.

Enter my son.

He was in a particularly chatty mood this morning – most likely because I was quiet which allowed space for him to be open (turns out that being quiet and calm is the biggest gift you can give a teenager – and yourself. Who knew?)

On the drive to school, he asked about a conversation he had heard between my husband and I the night before. We were talking about one of the issues I struggled with during the day and my son wanted to know more about it. I told him and then said, “My whole day was like that. Everywhere I turned, people were driving me nuts and I was really struggling.”

His response? “They may have been annoying but how much of that might have been just what you were seeing? How YOU were reacting to them?

I turned to him with a huge smile and said, “Coach Henry!”

And he said, “I’m just repeating what I’ve learned from you.”

Love that kid.

And I love what he said for many reasons (not the least of which is that at 15, this kid, who is navigating freshman year of high school in a new city, a new state, a new home, and without the cushion of siblings who are all at college, was able to summon up perspective at 7:30 am. And do so without snark.).

One, he called bullshit on me, albeit gently. I needed that.

Two, because he called me out, my perspective totally shifted. His words ripped me out - at warp speed - the hole I had created.

And three, because my perspective shifted, I was able to see that my impatience, my failure to communicate my needs, and my expectations, created most of the frustration I felt. The positive result I had with my husband as a result of intentionally greeting him differently was Exhibit A that how I showed up impacted the outcome. For everyone else, I was shut down, not curious, and totally unaware of what issues they might have been struggling with that day. Hence, crappy interactions.

So, how we show up matters.

How much of what happens to you in a day is because other people are assholes, and how much of it is because you’re expecting them to be so?

Story originally written November 16, 2018