WE DO IT OUR WAY
Advice is like castor oil, easy to give, but dreadful to take.
You are waiting for your mother on her front porch. You watch her as she puts on her coat and grabs her purse. She opens the door and smiles at you and then stops. “I forgot my keys,” she says and disappears back into the house. She returns to the door, opens it and says, “Oh dear! Fluffy!”
She disappears into the house and puts the dog in his cage. She returns to the door, and then she pauses. She goes into her closet to get her scarf. She approaches the door and then she says, “Oh, Oh. I can’t remember if I put money in my wallet.”
She checks her wallet and says, “Sorry, darling. I didn’t mean to keep you waiting,” and she pauses. She goes back to her desk, takes out her check book and puts it in her purse. She buttons her coat, shuts her purse gives the house one more look and beams at you. “All ready!!!” she exclaims.
Then she stops. “Did I leave the gas burner on?” she asks.
It is more than you can stand. “Mother, why don’t you make a check list and tape it to the door? Then you would be able to go right down that list and get everything ready before I get here.”
She looks at you and her eyes narrow. “Why should I do that?” she says. “My memory is perfect. I know what I need to take with me when I leave the house.”
If you were smart, you would take her arm and help her down the steps without saying a word. But you are human. You had seen this ridiculous rigmarole every single time you take her shopping or to the doctor and it is just too much. “Mother,” you say. “I will make the list for you. I have seen you do this at least a hundred times and it takes forever. I got here fifteen minutes ago and now you are late for your appointment.”
You mother looks at you with fire in her eyes. “You go on,” she says. “I will call a cab.”
Why won’t she take your advice?
She won’t listen to you because she has spent a lifetime telling YOU what to do. She has convinced herself that she knows better than you even though it is obvious now that she doesn’t. To make matters worse, the next time you pick her up she is standing at the door completely organized. She beams at you. “Ellen was telling me how she had so many little things to think about before she left the house that she never got out. So do you know what she does?”
You shake your head afraid to say anything and your mother nods wisely. “She tapes a list to the front door and checks everything off. See?” and your mother points to a checklist taped to the side of the door. “I thought that was such good idea that I did it myself.”
Your mother went to school with Ellen. She was her bridesmaid. The two of them exchanged advice about how to toilet train YOU and what to do when your dad got a wandering eye. Your mother listens to Ellen and Ellen listens to her. They have been on the same page for years.
Your father pays all his bills in person. At the end of each month, he gets in the car and drives to the water company, the phone company payment center, the garbage collector and the gardener. He writes his check right in front of them and waits for each of them to stamp ‘paid’ on the bill. Some months this routine can take him two days to complete. “I don’t trust the post office,” he said. “They lose letters all the time. I am not going to pay interest on a bill when I know I paid on time.”
“Dad,” you say. “Your bank has an on line bill payment program. I can show you how to use it and you could save all the money you spend on those personalized checks and all the time and gasoline you waste driving to all these companies by spending less than fifteen minutes at the desk.”
You father looks at you as if you had just suggested he run over an innocent child. “I have been paying my bills this way for fifty years,” he says. “I have a perfect credit rating. I don’t owe one cent to anyone and I intend to keep it that way.”
You know better than to argue with that one. You have been trying to pay off your credit card for five years now and your college loan is still years from being off the books. Your car payments are overdue and you still haven’t managed to pay anything toward the principal on your mortgage.
Not two months after this conversation, your father takes you out for a beer and he says, “Son, have you heard about the new bill payment option at Chase Bank? It is really simple. My banker showed me how to do it in less than an hour. Why I can even set up automatic payments and not have to worry. I tell you, its amazing what these financial guys think of, isn’t it?”
And if you are smart, you will say, “It sure is! How about another beer, dad? This one is on me.”
No one likes to feel that they cannot handle their own business of living. The last person in the world they think can tell them a more efficient way to operate is the child they brought into the world. They spent a lifetime teaching you how to organize your life and they aren’t going to admit that you could have discovered an easier way to accomplish the same thing. They take advice from people they think are experts and they listen to their friends. When you think about it, your parents have underwear that is older than you are. What right have you to tell them how to run their lives?
You will understand how they feel the day your five year old says “Daddy why are you trying to light that match in the wind? It keeps blowing out.” and you say,” Listen Junior. You let daddy light this match his way and you go play with your scooter. “