“OhMyGod you are so stubborn!!!”
This is not an unfamiliar phrase to me, so when The Wife or anyone else yells this in my direction, I am inclined to take it as a compliment. For many years I attempted to deny my true self and would argue the point. From the childhood years up until the recent past I would occupy a good portion of my time arguing that I REALLY AM the King of Compromise. The day finally came when I had to wrap my mind around the fact that obstinacy has long been a hallmark of my character. This is a trait that is neither endearing nor “cute”. You know it. I know it. But that which I refer to as an iron will of the strength of perserverance can actually just irritate those around me (who, I might add, are constantly trying to bend me to their will; I’m on to them). So I decided to embrace all of those “stubborn-as-a-Missouri-mule-in-the-mud” analogies that people associated with me. Defiance as a virtue, I say.
Unfortunately, this jaw-clenched, bulldog style of living is not so much learned as it is genetically inherited. The Lyin’ Dutchman (aka my pater familias) is a shining example of how this behavior can lead you to seven ex-wives and not a friend in the world. And, much to my chagrin, Heathen #2 looked at me the other day and uttered a family trademark phrase when told to do a chore……“Don’t tell me what to do!” This from a 3.95 year old. MY 3.95 year old. This IS a disturbing development, to say the least. As the gleam in his eye took on a taunting shade, I roared back at him “WHAT?!! WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?” At that point his lower lip shot out 4 inches and the crocodile tears began to drop, as if on cue. God, this kid knows how to hit my switches; I took a softer tone and told him that, yes, I still love him, but backtalk and disrespect won’t be tolerated, even IF all the kids are jumping off bridges these days. He shuffled over to me, gave me a big hug and said “Daddy, I love you.” As he was busy wrapping me around his finger, I recognized this behavior for what it was: he was utilizing his heartbreaking charm to get out of putting his shoes away. Smooth move, kid. I like your style…but it won’t get you out of this chore. Head down in momentary defeat, he headed off to his room to engage in the unspeakable back-breaking torture of putting his shoes in his closet. I swear, I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least if he turned around, shook his fist at me and declared “You may have won the battle, Old Man, but this war is far from over!”
There are positive aspects to a stubborn streak, and I would have you look no further than my relationship with the Lyrical Jackass to prove this point. At one time, we got so pissed off at each other that we didn’t talk to each other for almost a year. The reasons are immaterial (read: my fault) and to this day we will argue over who approached whom first about mending fences. Around the time that he was going through an incredibly tough divorce from the world’s craziest hag, we crossed over our lines in the sand. Here was one of my very best friends getting drug like a plow through a mile of pig waste and what he needed was support, to know that his friends were there for him. I told the L.J. that in being my friend, he’d inadvertently bought a ticket on my own version of the Titanic, and as far as I was concerned, we ride this mother ALL THE WAY TO THE DAMN SILT! AND I WANT THAT PIANO PLAYED THE WHOLE WAY DOWN!” Fact is, I’m just too stubborn to let go of a good friendship, despite the many bruises we give it over the course of time.
I guess my hope is that despite all of the inane traits I may pass on to the Heathens, they will learn to grab the very best aspects of this life and hold on like a junkyard dog. I’m talking about things like appreciating a worthy friendship, knowing the value of a good set of tools in your shop, the worth of a cup of coffee made RIGHT. These are the aspects that I hope to instill in ’em. Despite my little lecture on backtalk to Heathen #2, I couldn’t help but admire his resolve. This behavior also drives his mother around the bend, a bonus as far as I’m concerned. I know that one day, his friendships will be based on the dogged determination to be a friend worth having. That, and an ability to ride it all the way to the silt, should the need arise.