Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Dinner's Ready! - No, It's Not!

Why, as human beings, do we try to trick one another?

One of the more annoying things about human nature is how we try to spoof each other through passive-aggressive games. When I was a child, that is to say a teenager, my parents used to always call us down to dinner every evening.

My brother and I did not like to go to dinner, as it was the time my father used to call us out on our various faults or perceived faults and then ridicule and run us down as to why we were horrible people.  Usually this involved the length of our hair, which although it seems odd today, was a big issue back in the 1960's and 70's.  "Why don't you get a God damn haircut!" my Dad would always say.  And of course we would then rebel even further by refusing to get our hair cut.

Since we didn't want to attend dinner with our parents, we always were trying to delay the inevitable. So our parents would call us down to dinner, and we would dilly-dally, often working on some projects such as building a model rocket or model airplane or just goofing off or watching television or whatever.  They would call us to dinner, and we would delay, and they would get more and more angry.  It was a vicious circle.

My father, being a manager, thought that one solution was to call us to dinner early.  Rather than waiting until dinner was on the table, he would wait until five minutes before dinner was ready, and then call us for dinner, figuring that we would dilly-dally for five minutes and arrive just in time as the meal was served.  This might have worked the first time, but once we realized we had been tricked, we adjusted our schedules.

Thus, the next time Dad calls us for dinner, we figured that it was actually five minutes before dinner and then waited ten minutes before showing up.  This became a classic game of passive-aggressive behavior.  Dad now calls for dinner ten minutes early, in which case we would delay fifteen minutes, and so forth.  In the end, it got to the point where he was calling us to dinner before the stove was even turned on and we would delay for half an hour to an hour or more. We really had communication problems, in retrospect.

Mark's Dad did the same thing with the bus.  Since Mark liked to sleep in (and still does) his Dad was always worried he would miss the bus, which he did on occasion.  So the same game was played, with his Dad calling, "Mark, the bus is here!" when in fact, it was at least a half-hour away.  So I guess this is a common game that is played in families.

Now that my parents are dead, I wish that I could say this sort of behavior was in the past and just a mere curiosity of one's childhood.  But it continues on to this very day.  Every morning, we make breakfast and sit down to eat. About 4/5 of the time Mark makes breakfast which is usually some simple 400-calorie egg sandwich or something of that nature. About one-fifth the time I will make breakfast to relieve him of the burden.

Lately, I've been noticing that Mark will do the same trick my Dad did, namely calling me, saying "breakfast is on the table!" when in fact it isn't.  And usually this is because I am working on a blog entry and he gets upset when I am late for breakfast and thus wants to call me in early.

He knows I'm in the middle of a blog entry, and not willing to just abandon it, would rather spend two or three or five minutes finishing it before sitting down to eat.  So instead of waiting until the food is actually on the table to call me breakfast, he has been increasingly calling me earlier and earlier much as my Dad did for dinner when I was a child.  Needless to say this is frustrating, as I thought I put this sort of behavior behind me for good.

The other day, this reached a crisis point, as he call me to breakfast and when I got up and went into the kitchen, I found the stove was not even turned on.  Apparently he thought that he should call me to breakfast almost a half an hour in advance as he felt that I would dilly-dally for that amount of time before sitting down to eat.

I realized we needed to work on our communication skills. The reason why I wasn't sitting down to breakfast when he called was not because I was being obstinate or didn't want to eat, but rather I was in the middle of a project and want to finish it before I sat down.  Breakfast could wait five minutes or ten minutes at the most.

But I understand his perspective.  The days that I make breakfast - granted which are not the majority - it is frustrating to get everything working together, toasting the toast, cooking the eggs, boiling the coffee and whatnot.  And when it all comes together you want to serve it hot and fresh at its peak enjoyment.  And it is frustrating when you realize that your audience is gone missing and doesn't show up for until minutes later when everything is gone cold and no longer is palatable.

I'm not sure what the answer is, other than communication is the key.  I'm not sure that trying to trick or fool your spouse or your children by calling them out earlier and earlier is necessary the answer. Because in a way, that is just deceiving your partner in the deal, and they will realize they've been tricked when you call them early and then show up and nothing is ready.  It isn't fixing the problem, only making it worse.

Maybe it is wrong to show up late for supper with somebody calls you to the table.  But calling people to the table earlier and earlier is not necessarily the solution. Two wrongs don't make a right. And passive-aggressive behavior never results the satisfactory outcome.