On Being Told What to Do

I am having a bit of difficulty with this whole authority thing. My recent circumstances have shown up, in very sharp focus, my complete aversion to being told what to do. It does ring a familiar bell, this rebellious streak. You won’t find my mother, for example, gasping in surprise to hear this. Nor my siblings or high school teachers. But somewhere along the way I learned a new type of formula that looked something like this:

 

Co-operative+Compliant  = Successful Adult Relationships

Capable +Insightful

 

My husband’s extra-marital activities and corporate politics, among other recent events, have led me to believe that the above formula should look something more like this:

 

Co-operative+Compliant  = Being Screwed Over by Those in Successful Adult Relationships

 

Using my somewhat scanty knowledge of mathematical principles, I have come to believe that a more useful formula would perhaps look like this:

 

[(-Co-operative)= Uncooperative] + [(-Compliant)=Obstructionist]  = NOT Being Screwed Over by Those in Successful Adult Relationships THEREFORE

 

Uncooperative+Obstructionist  = NOT Being Screwed Over by Those in Successful Adult Relationships

 

Capable and Insightful are optional but largely irrelevant.

 

I thought about this a lot the other night when my 7 year old son was resisting, with particular energy, the idea of going to sleep. After I had pretty much forced him to do so, with the threat of being sold to cover the expenses of his birth and upbringing to date, he got into bed reluctantly. He was angry. He kicked his legs around and passionately swore never to hug me again. Feeling particularly noble, I thought about my recent reactions to ‘being told what to do’, and so decided that in order to have any integrity I should give him a choice. This is what followed.

 

Me: What do you think will happen if you don’t go to sleep now?

Him: I will carry on playing my Playstation game.

Me: Yes but how do you think you will feel tomorrow morning when it is time to wake up?

Him: Pretty much like I feel every morning when its time to wake up.

Me: I am sure you will be very tired and difficult to wake up. And you will be grumpy.

Him: But that’s okay. Everyone gets grumpy sometimes.

Me (getting desperate): Well, it is your choice. You can stay up, but if you are tired in the morning, and behave badly, you will not get a star and you wont get your Ipad (don’t ask and don’t judge – whatever you may think, one day you too will use overpriced gadgetry to bribe someone).

Him: (After a long pause). Okay.

 

He slipped out of bed. I heard the sounds of his Playstation game start up and decided to wait him out. I lay there, knowing that his guilt and the need to make good decisions would drive him back. A few minutes later I heard the patter of his barefoot feet. Relief washed over me. I shut my eyes, pretending to be asleep. Let him have the dignity of returning to bed without a self-righteous mother watching knowingly. I felt a tug at my hand, and opened my eyes. “Sorry mom” he says “I just need your cell phone”.

 

After he was finally asleep, his tears at being forcibly dumped in his bed and having his eyelids held shut having dried on his beautiful cheeks, I realised a fundamental truth – somebody has to tell other people what to do. I just want to be the teller. That’s why consulting will suit me wonderfully.

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