Here’s the story of the meanest thing I have done (that I remember) in adulthood and how it caused me to doubt my doubt of karma.
My brother-in-law lived my basement for quite some time while he finished college. This was early on in my marriage,I was doing grad school, full time job stuff, and generally just trying not to scream at accounting homework at any given moment. My wife was starting up her career and learning that while homework is a good thing, someone (her) has to grade it. My brother-in-law is a very social person and would often have friends and classmates over to hang out, play Left for Dead and work on whatever project was due that week. This was awesome. The house was lively and fun and we were all in our early 20s, so who cared if we were up until 2am with work at 7.
One of my brother-in-law’s friends was the most obnoxious human beings I had ever met. The guy never stopped talking. Never stopped moving. Never stopped making dumb remarks and rude jokes. It got to a point that I would leave the room if he was over. As finals approached and I had to write and write and write, I told my brother-in-law that the friend could not come over when I was home.
It was horridly mean. I feel bad about making the request to this day. To treat a guest as such simply because they are a terrible human is no excuse. But for crying out loud this was seven or eight years ago and I still remember the guy’s constant, near hum of a voice. Like a caffeinated hummingbird that only knows knock knock jokes and loves to misquote popular movies. It was a necessary request.
There’s a thing parents do not actually tell expecting parents, and it is a good thing to know; kids have two stages of tired. The first step is “I’m sleepy and cuddly and adorable, but I should go to bed now.” This stage happens an hour before dinner, or too early to actually send a child to sleep else they wake at 3:00am. Stage one does not last too long before Stage two kicks in like a booster rocket on an Apollo mission.
Stage two is when kids are so tired they are hyper and dance around the house like a pagan fire ritual (hide your goats!). There is no stopping Stage Two. Stage two is when parenting instincts stop and survival instincts take hold. I don’t drink, but Stage Two is good cause for a night cap.
My four year old comes home from daycare in Stage Two. Every day. Hours before bed time and well before dinner is ready to be barely consumed and then put away.
Earlier this week he arrived at home just as I finished making dinner. Noodles! Teriyaki Sauce! Vegetables! All his favorites. He barely ate. What he did do through dinner? Talked non-stop. And bounced. And talked some more. And talked a little louder. Then we drove to the library. He talked in the same manner a dog scampers through snow; energetically and constantly making sure someone was watching him.
It was exactly like having the hyper college student back in the house and this time I couldn’t just leave to get some quiet this time.
But here’s the thing. Maybe, all those years ago, instead of writing off the hyper college kid as being in need of a “chill pill” I could have talked with him (not that I would have been able to, but that is beside the point). I could have learned how to refocus his energies or figured out some way to distract the kid from always being in need of attention. In taking a moment to learn about this guy with the energy levels I could only hope to obtain through gallons of Red Bull, maybe I could have learned some ways to deal better with that behavior.
It was an opportunity that I lost and a moment when I could have been nice, but was not. Now I have a four year old that is does not slow down, has stories to tell and things to do and it is amazing. I do not always handle the constant noise very well, but I’m learning ways to keep myself from exploding. It could have been learned long ago though. So the lesson of the whole thing; be nice. Even when it is really tough. Differences are awesome, if annoying, and we can learn from everyone we meet even if they suck.
I’m not totally convinced that my rudeness to one guy nearly a decade ago has resulted in living with a couple of smart, energetic little people that I can hardly keep up with; but I’m not not convinced. Should have been nice; could have wound up with kids reading a newspaper and intermittently saying “I never!” as monocles fly everywhere.