I Might be an @$$hole
Becoming a parent has provided many realizations about life, humanity, and my self. Not least of which is the very real possibility that I may be an asshole. Before kids, I was the friend with the empathetic ear and a down-to-earth approach to the problem. And I would listen as it was worked out, over and over and over again.
Enter the early days of infants. If it takes longer than 15 minutes I was suddenly not your person, because honestly, that’s still all the uninterrupted time I can expect at a go. I tried for a while to maintain that old familiar identity. I’d be watching dinner on the stove, phone in hand, baby propped on the counter nursing while my friends without infants droned on about their issues. And suddenly this person I thought I was, that had such patience and care for people was being drowned out by the voice I realized was always there but muffled, that of my own needs now taking shape in the form of my sanity and survival.
I was a quiet kid, painfully shy at first, second, maybe even fifth meeting. I was also the middle child and the peacemaker between my brother and sister. Long cross-state car rides always had me in the middle on the bench seat in the back of the station wagon, blocking pokes and slaps between my siblings. I grew up with this sense that my role was to make sure everyone else was okay. That has translated into adulthood with relationship imbalances and a reluctance to make my needs a priority. With the voice of frustration and boundaries turned up I realized it was always there, I just silenced it thinking that made me more likable and kept me in a familiar role. The comfort of dissatisfaction.
As time has marched on, as I’ve aged and experienced more, as I’ve benefited from a loving relationship, and as I’ve met other adults that don’t seem to struggle with self-censorship, I’ve realized that by not embracing my own asshole tendencies and giving people more honesty that I’ve actually been a dishonest asshole. That maybe apologizing for myself before I’ve said or done anything to apologize for has led to the conditions to do more covert, nasty things. Just ask my ex-boyfriends.
Now my husband and my kids benefit from my new relationship with demanding what I need and want. I go overboard sometimes with this relatively new phenomenon of expressing my distaste and emoting. (Not a pretty crier.) But so far, my experiment in being less what I think people want me to be and more what I really am in the moment has been well received. My husband’s still here. My kids still cuddle me and tell me they love me. My hope is that showing them some truth and not sugar coating everything the way I’ve done most of my life that they will be honest with and about themselves, and they’ll be able to recognize integrity when they see it- that they won’t be duped by other assholes parading as saints. As it goes with comparison and balance, you have to know the ugly to really appreciate the beauty. Or am I just thinking of asshole bleaching?