Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Just Men

To my son Tommy,

For some reason I have an episode of Malcolm In The Middle running through my head.  I wasn't a huge fan of the show or anything, but I watched it if it was on and it did make me laugh or chuckle often and this scene stuck in my head.  It was the mom's birthday and the husband and kids had screwed everything up yet again.  The mom (I think her name is Lois) goes on a rant to her husband and three kids looking at her with blank stares and jaws agape saying something like "Is it too much to expect that someone else in this family sees something that needs to be done and shows some initiative and does it without being told and can meet my expectations and think not only of themselves?!?"  and the husband surprisingly answers correctly and says "Yes! that is too much to expect!".  He goes on to explain that they are just dumb men and the best that she can hope for is to tell them what she wants done with as specific instructions as possible and hope that they don't screw it up too royally.  This exchange had me rolling on the floor laughing because I thought it so true.

In that very instant my mind's eye was filled with all the times my mother was disappointed with me and your grandfather and we really had no idea why.  All the times that we instead of taking the empty toilet paper roll off we just put a full one right on top or all the times we left the seat up.  All the times we had stepped over a spill or mess instead of stopping to pick it up.  All the times we would forget birthdays or other major events or be clueless about upcoming chores or obligations for the weekend.  The amount of frustration in my mother's eyes was almost tangible and she tried so hard to raise me to be a considerate person.  Though from time to time your mother would disagree, I think I turned out very considerate...well at least for a man.  But I, like most men, still need to be told what to do.

I was also thinking of family functions with the Fraziers and Maggios.  Specifically I was thinking of when we all get together with a goal, for example like decorating Nansy's house for Christmas.  If your Grandmother Eileen, and the other ladies in the house, wouldn't run around and put people to work and make sure they were doing it right, it would end up taking the men in the house triple the time and our results would be one wreath hung and we would be proud of ourselves for that.  Your Bwama does it so effortlessly and always poses it like a question, but it really isn't one you can answer no to.  "Oh, can you grab those chairs and they go right here. Thank you." I am not poking fun at her here, quite to the contrary, I am impressed and awed at her ability to take a ragtag bunch of slacker men and get so much accomplished.  It is inspiring and quite an amazing site to see in action.

The point is, sometimes you just got to tell people what you want done.  You can't just sit back and wait for them to realize it on their own and volunteer.  Though all my examples focus on men being the problem, it really can go both ways and even brought into the business world and other real world relationships.  If you want something done and it is not being done, use your Grandma Eileen's approach and go and tell someone to do it.  Draft them into service!  Then forgive them when they screw it up or don't do it at all.  Forgive them not seven times but seventy times seven times.  Then try again over and over each time with more specific instructions and hoping for a better outcome.  If something does get done without you having to ask, praise endlessly as if they cured cancer.  If something gets done without you having to ask, but not quite the way you want it done, criticize softly as you try to explain or as you redo, otherwise you may kill the dim spark of initiative for future events.  Don't use your grandmother's fallback approach too often which is to just do it herself.  You can't do everything yourself and by asking others for help you really give them an opportunity in their lives to help and learn and be better people.

As for being told what to do, it never ends and I still to this day need this in my life.  My best suggestion for you and your future is try to be considerate as possible for a man and find a very forgiving wife like your mom.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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