So let’s see. I’ve finished school. I’m old enough to drive. I’m old enough to drink. My children are almost taller than me. I’ve been putting money into a retirement plan for the good part of a decade. By all accounts, I’d say that I’m an adult.
But my dad doesn’t seem to think so.
Okay, maybe I’m mistaken. I’m expected to wear a bra. I’m expected to know what an IRA is. It’s expected that I won’t pick my nose or loudly point out the goiter on an old woman’s nose. I’m expected to get myself up in the morning. I expect to have coffee within 2 hours of waking up. No one tells me what I can and can’t eat. Hmm, I don’t know. I still think I sound like an adult.
So what gives, dad?
What’s his crime? He likes to show up and be helpful. I know, the monster. But before you call me ungrateful, I want for you to imagine a scene.
You are standing at your kitchen sink washing the dishes and looking at the butterflies outside your window. The sun is shining, the birds are… wtf was that? Oh, it’s your dad. He’s outside in the yard. You had no idea he was even in the area.
Then he’s pulling the ladder out of the shed. Next you hear footprints above you as he checks the roof. Then you hear the drilling sound of screws being driven into wood. Then you hear loud voices as he and the neighbor shout across the fence and the laugh like old times. Then he’s pulling weeds. Then he’s rolling out the trash. Then he’s pulling mangoes down from the tree. Then he’s doing goodness knows what, but it’ll take another hour for sure.
Do you still think I’m horrible? That’s okay. You must be of the sort of people who love surprises and endless family time. That’s great. Good for you.
Me, on the other hand, I need a cottage in the woods with nothing but trees, deer, and wifi. I love solitude. I like to feel that I’m in some control of when I step into human contact. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no hermit or misanthrope. I love people and the company of people. Just not by surprise, damn it. And in limited increments.
As he was creeping along among the garden vines, I hopped onto the group chat I have with some friends and rained my angst down on them. They took it kindly. Offered encouragement and validation that I was not crazy. That settled my heart rate. My problem now is the obvious one.
Do I look the dad creature in the eye and stand up for myself, like the woman that I want to be? Not gonna lie; I’m scared as hell.
Alright, I need reinforcements. And by reinforcements, I don’t mean those plastic panty covers for geriatrics. You know, the ones you wear in case your bladder goes weak and you pee on yourself. There is a very high likelihood that I may pee on myself. It’s happened before, folks. But that’s another day, another post. No, I think wearing panty guards will only compound my feelings of being an adult baby, right? All I need is to be speaking passionately to a soundtrack of shifting plastic coming from my bum. No, it’ll be big girl panties for me.
The only reinforcement I can think of has been around since the dawn of mankind. Knowledge. Other people must have struggled through this battle and come out with something to teach me. I’ll go find the sage ones.
How To Tell Your Parents That They Annoy You, or How To Have a Respectful Conversation With Your Parents About Boundaries (I like the first one better)
I’m immediately upset that all the advice seems to require an actual conversation with my dad about the problem. Psychologists are a lazy lot, apparently. All these decades of research and they haven’t worked out a way to avoid the actual confrontation. So here’s the lousy information that I’m left with.
1. Psychology Today says, among other things, that I should identify and accept my personal boundary needs.
“Everyone agrees: if you don’t protect your personal space, you are more likely to feel drained, fatigued and self-critical. You may often feel hurt and angry for what seems like minor infractions from others. And your self-esteem will definitely suffer. But in order to protect your personal space, you have to accept that it’s all right to have it.”
2. The Huffington Post states the need to speak my thoughts and let it go.
“One of the hardest things to realize is that trying to get a satisfying response from your parent won’t work. It is far more effective to say what you need to say using clear, intimate communication, while releasing any expectation that they will change. By practicing speaking up in a calm way, you strengthen yourself whether they respond positively or not.”
3. Schedule a weekly time slot for them to come over and visit and/or dig around in the garden. Somewhere in my reading, I stumbled on a parenting website for parents of young children. I read this advice about keeping the grandparents in line when they are using the new baby as an excuse to pop up unannounced. You know, we just had to see the baby. I didn’t think it applied to my situation, so I didn’t take note of the source. It was a guy’s advice to a parent on a baby forum. Thanks stranger dude. This one is at the top of my list.
4. Here’s a Ted Talk titled “The Power of Introverts”. The talk itself is enlightening and encouraging. It just might help some of you to feel a little more sane and justified in living a little differently than most. You aren’t the only one dreading the open concept floor plan at work, and you aren’t the only one craving solitude.
5. Here’s a Ted Talk titled How to Speak Up For Yourself. Adam Galinsky provides useful strategies to get comfortable making our voices heard when it needs to be done. It’s mostly about a power differential, he says. He provides some tools that will allow for broadening our power within certain contexts, allowing us to feel more encouraged to speak up.
What has this mini research taught me?
- There are a lot of really annoying people out there. Among them are parents that seem to have forgotten all the lessons about manners that they taught their children growing up.
- Many people have family, neighbors, friends knocking on their door for unexpected entry into their house. My dad normally stays outside and out of my way, so I feel like an even bigger jerk daughter now.
- Continuing to not speak up will only compound my dad’s image of me as a little girl who just goes along with his rules. I ain’t little and I follow my own rules. In most things, anyway.
- Approaching the situation with his perspective in mind will increase my chances of gaining his cooperation. So, if he’s coming over to keep the house maintained, I should take an interest and join him. Let him feel proud to share his knowledge, which I need. We can make his visits a family affair.
- Having our own private space is important. Different people have different amounts of space that they require. There is nothing wrong with us wanting to control when and how often we allow people into that space.
- Introversion is not a crime and neither is wanting to walk around the house in boxer shorts. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the natural rights of humans.
- I shouldn’t confront my dad when my heart is racing in anger. That will only create hurt feelings. Anyway, I’ve done that once before and it obviously didn’t work very well.
- It’s easier to find bravery in the flurries of passion, but the real progress happens when calm empathy and stern logic speak together. In his eyes, this just as much about him as it is about me. I have to find a way to meet in the middle.
- My goal: set up a schedule of specific days and times to work with him (and the kids) for learning how to maintain our home. It can be our summer project.
- I’m still terrified. I still don’t want to do it. But this, apparently, is what adulthood is: doing a bunch of shit that we don’t want to do. I’m going to have to schedule something epic for myself as a reward for doing this which, by the way, is a gift of adulthood.
I’m still considering if I can just live with the whole thing and forget this whole business. Of course, I’ll let you know how it goes. I wanna be a lady.
Are any of you out their pulling your hair out or biting your nails to stubs because of intrusions on your personal space?