Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Man Cave: Learning to Occupy the Back Seat

I am the ultimate authority figure in our home. Kathy has given me permission to sit in the driver's seat whenever she says it's OK. When you become accustomed to sitting in the driver's seat as I have it can be a challenge to watch others take the wheel.

And I'm not talking about teaching kids to drive (that's a whole 'nother post.)

It's really hard for me to watch Kathy or the kids do something that falls more within my area of experience or expertise and not offer instruction. Whether it is fixing a leaky faucet, filling out a 1040, or playing a D Minor on the guitar, I like to think that my way is best. I'm still trying to train myself to keep my mouth shut, and adopt an attitude of "just because they are doing it differently than I would doesn't mean they are doing it wrong".

But sometimes they are doing it wrong! Tolerating differences in approach or philosophy is one thing, but sitting quietly by knowing that what they're doing will have to be done over, or forever be less than correct is almost unbearable for me. In those times I try to tell myself that to learn, one must sometimes fail. If I were to correct them at every step they would never gain the experience that real wisdom requires.

I imagine it is equally hard for them to sit by and watch me struggle with something that they have more experience with or knowledge about. (Situations like this are rare, but do happen.) When I find myself on the other end of the exchange I try to accept their advice graciously, and put myself in a frame of mind to learn from someone who knows more than me. It almost never happens, but I try.

Why is it always this way? Oh I remember: pride, ego, and the unquenchable desire to be right.

I'm not going to lie and tell you I've mastered being a non-obtrusive backseat passenger. I'm not even going to give you a list self-help techniques to practice. Twenty-some years of marriage and raising two kids has taught me that handling these moments properly is akin to rehearsing a comedy routine: it's all about delivery and timing. Some non-confrontational advice offered at just the right moment will sometimes be received well. Conversely, the words "here...let me do it" almost always (and by "almost always" I mean "always") result in the person turning on you like a rabid attack-squirrel.

Sometimes it's best just to steer clear.

1 comment:

  1. This is totally true! I have a hard time especially when it is said in an arrogant way. I try not to do that to others but I am an honest person and will admit that I am the one in the drivers seat that usually doesn't know where she is going:)