When I was a kid I had a smart mouth. I was a know it all. I was scruffy and from the trailer park, my clothes always reeked of cigarette smoke and I probably had an annoying tendency to ask too many questions or correct people in a rude way.
I didn’t recognize any of this in myself when I was a kid of course. I figured it out later in life from the parents of childhood friends, and usually through snide remarks. The time that hit me most in the gut was when I saw the mother of my best friend growing up at Costco.
I greeted her and she asked if my kids were as smart mouthed as I was as a kid. My first instinct was to say, “Hey, F@#$ off C@#$” but instead I kept it classy and made light of the backhanded remark. I’ve come a long way since my days as a snippy, smart mouthed child.
Another classic moment came when I was a waiter in college and had to serve the older sister of a former friend. She practically refused to look me in the face the entire time. Was I really that bad!?
Today, I see history repeat itself. My sister never experienced the awakening or level of self-realization that I did. She thinks asserting your opinion and throwing your weight around at all costs is the only way, otherwise you’re being walked on or used. She has zero tact and approaches all arguments or disagreements like it’s a no holds bar street fight where anything goes, especially hits below the belt or trying to gouge your opponent’s eyes out.
My sister loses jobs frequently and the jobs she holds are usually less than desirable. Her relationships also tend to end up in shambles. Her first husband abandoned the relationship emotionally while her second husband and she have an unhealthy tit-for-tat, cycle of revenge cheating. In fact, she is so poor at interpersonal communication that if she happened upon this blog post and realized I was referring to her, she’d be quicker to cuss me out than take the criticisms as constructive at any level.
This weekend I let my sister’s daughter, my niece, come stay at our house. Suddenly I see my juvenile self in full force. She’s a sweet girl, just socially retarded. She is a product of her parents- smart mouthed, intrusive, argumentative, and kind of unpleasant to be around.
As a result, I don’t think she has many friends. Actually I don’t think she has ANY friends. I think the poor kid sits at home all the time being tasked as the babysitter of her little half-brothers. When she came over yesterday, her step-father basically drove up, let her off at the curb and drove away.
My wife and I try to mentor her, teach her better habits, be solid parental examples, but a big part of me is just ready to send her off. It’s a personal challenge, a challenge to perhaps break the cycle.
Maybe I can make a difference for her. She’s the only other female grandchild in the family apart from my two. The rest are little boys who destroy at least one thing in my house every time they visit. Bleh, I hate kids that aren’t my own!
But maybe this one, my niece, I’ll take a plug at shaping and mentoring a bit. I wish I’d had someone to do so for me when I was her age.