Who Gets The Last Word In Your Family?
The qualities we share
Looking at my youngest son is like looking at a reflection of myself -- only male, and younger, and much shorter. He is a constant well of ideas, imaginings and what ifs. I can remember feeling the same way when I was his age. Along with the humorous similarities between us, there is another, not so cute thing, we share, besides stubbornness and an Irish temper.
It's the overwhelming need to have the last word.
To constantly maneuver for the end of a discussion is maddening. Utterly,
entirely and fully maddening. We aren't just talking a 'you are wrong and
I'm right' kind of last word, either. This kid will pop rarely known facts
out of the blue as he leaves the room. (He has mastered THE exit, by the
way). He'll shake his head after my attempt at the last word, and
exasperatingly correct me 'Mama, what I MEANT was..." There is no way
anyone can out maneuver this kid in a conversation, and I pity anyone who
tries. I picture my son hammering out treaties on behalf of the United
Nations. Down to the last dotted 'i' and crossed 't', he will not relent.
The things we can't control
Strangely enough, he has taught me I can relent. Does it really matter if he feels the butterfly is drinking or eating nectar from a flower? In the long run, my exasperation wrestling words with him has led me to see I was holding out for nothing. In the long run, does it really matter who has the last word? Getting the last word is an illusion of control -- getting the other person to come around to your point of view. In reality, it is OK if he doesn't see my point of view. It is also OK if grumbling, abusive e-mailers accusing me of every ill known to man don't understand my explanation that typos happen in newsletters. It is OK if not a single soul understands anything I'm trying to say for the rest of my life. It is all out of my control.
It reminds me of an expression I heard years ago - 'You don't have to attend every argument you are invited to.'
I occasionally find myself gritting my teeth, but before digging in my
heels, my son has taught me to stop first and ask myself if a response is
worth it. Sometimes the best kind of control is self-control.