12.21.2005

My Father's Eyes

It would seem that I am turning in to my dad.
I don't have his stature (I'm slightly taller). But I have his nose. And forehead. It's the Skaggs nose and forehead. Ever see Ricky Skaggs? He's got the Skaggs nose, too. So, picture him with a buzz haircut and you're pretty on target for what I look like (or will look like in 10 years).
 
So...looking in the mirror and seeing my dad-check.
 
How else am I becoming my dad? Apparently I've picked up his vocal mannerisms. 
Growing up, I would frequently think that my dad was yelling or mad at me. Ever see "That 70's Show" where Red Foreman says "This is not yelling. When I'm yelling, you'll know!"  That would be my dad.
 
All through his life (from what I've observed and of his retelling), he's had to fight to be top dog. This sometimes results in the "Good Message-Sucky Delivery" approach. And it also ensures that some people will be put off by his abruptness.  Growing up, my papaw was also this way. And now it seems I have adopted this approach to my own vocal stylings.
 
I don't know when it happened, but it's there. My wife doesn't say it all the time, but I can tell she notices when I'm sounding like my dad.
 
It's a little tough to deal with (OK-it's a lot tough to deal with). I'm making my own kids feel the way I felt as a child. There were times that I wondered what in the world I had done to make my dad upset. My mom would serve as interpreter and peacekeeper between my dad's gruffness and my childhood psyche. She always reassuring me that yes, he did love me, and no, he didn't mean to sound so mean, that he wasn't really upset with me-he'd just had a hard day at work. And now, 30 years later, my wife is doing the same thing my mom did. And I'm filling the role my dad played.  It took me quite a while to realize that the gruffness of my dad did little to really show the love and generosity in his heart. It didn't totally excuse him from hurting my feelings, but with kids of my own, I can see a little of where he was coming from.
 
I can distinctly remember swearing as a kid that I would not behave in this manner toward my kids, that I would not act like he acted toward me with my own children. It would seem that I have turned out to be a liar. Nature v. Nuture. It's a powerful frickin' force.
 
I just realized this morning that this extends beyond my own kids. I said something to a co-worker and his reaction to my comment led me to realize that this abruptness must carry over to anyone I speak to. It hasn't reached pandemic proportions, yet. But I definitely need to work on it.
 
So...now what? I know I can come across as an asshole. I'm I guess I'm mostly ok with that (as long as you're not related to me, or a close friend)-I can't change what you think about me-and I don't care to. I know what I mean and I know when I'm angry or not (and if I'm yelling or not)...and if I AM yelling, I'm probably not angry (I usually shut up (or shut down) completely when I'm angry). But I don't want to hurt my wife or kids by being this way. It creates too much tension and causes things to escalate much more quickly then they should. A discussion of how the cordless phone works sounds like WWIII. And it's pretty much all on me.
 
I have to work on the buffer. The buffer between when my head wants me to say something and when my mouth actually says it. Too often I will just say it as the thought is forming without pausing to think whether it's really appropriate or how it will be received.  I know this puts my wife in a position of having to heal the wounds that this may cause. It's not fair to her and it's not fair to my kids. As a kid I was expected to do something the minute my dad said to. I expect that out of my own kids (whether right or wrong). And they're just not that way. They are not me. I am not my dad. Except when I am.
 
And it frustrates me that I see myself doing this. But I guess recognition of the problem is the first step. Now I just need to stop it. I can already see it filtering down into how my kids talk to people. How can I expect them to treat someone with civility when they think (thanks to my example) that being the most forceful one in a conversation is the way to "win." It's definitely not cool and doesn't sit well with me. I owe it to them, my wife and my own peace of mind to get my shit together.

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