They’re not learning bloody anything! – My Father In Law
Referring to his youngest grandchildren, those were the very words my insolent father in law spat at me on Tuesday this week. For maximum impact of course, he did so in the presence of the children.
To give you context – the kids and I were away camping with him, my mother in law and my teenage niece too (the rest of the fam weren’t there due to work commitments.) We’d woken up after our first evening under the stars, we’d enjoyed a bacon & egg breaky and the kids had not long returned from an off-road adventure riding their bikes through the bush. I was feeling relaxed, the vibe was cheery – all was well.
The kids had decided to get out their new woodcarving tools and put some practice into this new craft. They jumped straight into it; busily carving away both boys were eager to offer advice on tool choice and technique to their older, less receptive cousin. The three of them were perched side by side on the grass with the blissful winter sun warming their backs as they created. It was delightful! The adults quietly watched on, all of us relishing the sight of this simple pleasure.
My eight year old was the first to excitedly jump up and bring his work over to show us. He proudly held up his chunk of wood displaying his carved out masterpiece – what he’d carved were the letters of his name. Starting at the bottom of the narrow piece of wood and working upwards he’d carved his first initial and the following letters of his name appeared above the letter below. He’d finished off by repeating his first initial jumbo sized at the top for good measure.
Standing in front of his grandfather, he smiled broadly. He was obviously quite chuffed with his work, and rightfully so. He was standing tall – his shoulders were back, his chest a little puffed; to say he was owning his space, would be a drastic understatement. Rising up to meet his vibe I shifted forward in my seat and responded sincerely and enthusiastically. I told him it seemed to me that his technique had really been improved upon from his last piece to this fresh one. To convey my genuine interest in his project I specifically mentioned the clearly defined edging of his lettering and the amazing overall style! I told him I thought it was awesome. I added that I hoped he was proud of himself, because I sure was. It was absolutely no effort for me to give my son what he needed, and deserved, in that moment.
Sitting in front of my son however, was an ever-reliable source of criticism and shitness – my father in law. He is the kind of man who, when shown or shared or served absolutely anything by anyone else, takes great pleasure in demolishing the other person. Feeling proud of the meal you’ve served up? The rice isn’t cooked enough and it’s too spicy. The dog won’t even eat it. I’ve chewed steak easier than this rice. It’s just like your awful rice pudding which, have you noticed I don’t ask for any more? Riding high on a technical challenge you’ve overcome? This is easy! I was doing stuff like that when I was five! And you’ve missed a section here anyway so its not right and its not finished. Keep trying. If he detects you are feeling successful on any level he sees to it that your feelings of accomplishment are instantly revoked. Your effort & your results are full of fault and are most unworthy. He does it to feel the temporary high of his perceived superiority. He is always so sure of himself. He’s a textbook narcissist.
Having said all this, can you guess what his reaction to my son’s carving was?
WHAT! You can’t even write your own name?? That’s not how to write! Why did you start at the bottom? That’s not how to write!! We write left to right, top to bottom. I can’t believe you can’t even write your own name properly and you’re eight! And why is there an extra A? The C looks like a U. You should’ve turned the wood sideways and done it properly.
My blood was boiling by this stage. I was so taken aback by his utter ruthlessness I snapped straight back at him. I defended my son’s writing ability and attempted to point out that the carving activity is what was meant to be in focus and not the layout of the content. I let him know that I didn’t appreciate him high jacking the conversation and that I thought it was awful he couldn’t support his grandson. His loaded words continued, directed at me now.
You’re not teaching them anything. It’s this bloody homeschooling thing; spending all day with mummy must be nice. They’re not learning anything! By encouraging this you’re teaching him that we write from bottom to top but that’s not right! They’re not learning bloody anything!
I contemplated trying to reason with him but quickly reminded myself the situation was futile.
My little man wasn’t smiling anymore. His stance had morphed from sure & strong to fidgety. It was him who finished the conversation by saying, I can write my name Pop, I just ran out of room. I just wanted to show you my carving. Now let’s all move on.
I sat and pondered the event that had unfolded before me as I tried to dull the hot energy within me. I couldn’t believe the dreadful things this man had said to his grandson. I was so appalled by the whole thing I decided we were better off at home. I spoke to the boys and they too were keen to leave. Even as I was packing up our things he was still ranting about homeschooling and convincing himself that our departure was confirmation he was right with what he was saying. We packed up immediately and went home.
Never before have I encountered such arrogance, or ignorance, or ruthlessness, or irrationality or inappropriate behaviour coming at me with such ferocity. I can only hope that by making a stand and deciding I wasn’t going to let my kids or myself be treated so poorly that I am strong in the eyes of my babes.
The irony of the whole situation is that my boys learnt more about the human condition in that single experience than any classroom teacher could ever hope to teach. They also experienced first hand how NOT to behave and if that’s all their grandfather is capable of contributing, whatever way you look at it, they’re learning. 😏
Choose love always, BC xx