WHAT'S AT THE CENTER OF
I've just finished babysitting my two nephews.
Three days of babysitting. Three days that left me so thankful that
I don't have kids. Don't get me wrong, they are great kids. But
by the third day I’d started cataloguing all their annoying tendencies.
They interrupt continually. Whether on the phone or talking with
a friend who dropped in, Joel just barges in with his own problem
(“Paul's ice cream is bigger than mine!”).
two egos with fries on the side
Neither of them could really appreciate my own
problems. By the last day, I needed a nap desperately and begged
them not to wake me up. Within five minutes, they barge in wanting
to know if they could have more ice cream. Taking them out in public
can be a nightmare, as Joel is obsessed with death at the moment
and keeps asking any adults nearby if they are going to die soon.
And Joel can’t be trusted with money as I gave him a 20 dollar note
to buy some french fries. Instead of change he came back with no
change and a stuffed animal he lost interest in by the time we got
home. They were like pure ego on two legs, draining my patience
and love faster than I thought possible!
So here I am on my last day, tired, irritable and compiling a list
of how my nephews may be dearly loved, but how they are also self-centered,
embarrassing in public, impulsive, rude and continually fail to
realize that everyone else is not revolving around the throne they
have perched themselves on.
Who cast the first stone?
Then it hits me. I am compiling the same list
that Chris did before she left me. After some relational fumbling,
I finally thought I'd got things right with Chris because she was
so easy going. But after six months she got increasingly annoyed
at what she saw as my ignoring of her emotional state, seeming disregard
for her interests and obsession with various topics she found boring.
It bumped along for a few more months but she finally dumped me
after a few disastrous parties where I kept interrupting her in
conversations with others, saying and doing some highly inappropriate
things, and not supporting her through some tough family problems.
She knew a fair bit about Asperger's syndrome but she said she'd
had enough and I was the one who needed to change, not her. It's
not as if I didn't have any warning from previous relationships,
or my hassles with holding down work because I seem to always get
fellow workers off side.
So back to the baby sitting - I suddenly saw things through her
eyes (something that is meant to be pretty hard when you've got
Asperger's syndrome). The list of complaints I had about my nephews
was almost the same as the one Chris had made about me! It wasn't
a pleasant moment, coming face to face with my blatant hypocrisy.
This babysitting escapade is yet another self-revelation I've had
over the past few years. Bit by bit I seem to be slowly getting
the hang of social skills that most people learned in their teenage
years and just take for granted now. So I'm trying to learn the
give and take of conversations, by listening to others at least
half the time and trying to take an interest in their interests.
I'm trying to learn this whole bizarre emotional language that goes
on behind the spoken words, and try to tune into that and leave
logical rational thought behind when I should.
I know Paul and Joel will grow out of their natural self-centeredness,
impulses and tantrums on the road to adulthood, as they realize
they need to balance their needs, obsessions and interests with
those of the people they live with. I wonder if I can start a similar
journey in my late-twenties.
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