Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I don't have it in me

Monday Night Class only has three sessions left. It's a good thing too because after the one we had last night I just don't know if I have the desire to attend any more of those things. See, on one hand this year's night classes have been really good. There's been a lot of helpful information, some good ideas, some theraputic venting and some really enjoyable moments. On the other hand, there's been Vincent. (Not his real name but for some reason that's what I always think it is.)

Vincent is a blowhard. Vincent likes to wait for someone to make a point or ask a question and then sit back and spend about 10 minutes dispensing some of his folksy, "golly gee, I'm just a simple man and what do I know" wisdom. He talks with long pauses and thoughful faces and dramatic hand gestures. To really understand how annoying this guy is there are two things you need to know about old Vinny.

1. He always seems to think he knows what's best even though he really doesn't seem to know diddily crap. Casually mention that you've had a rough week and he'll go on a long tangnet about how you should take up building birdhouses as a hobby and you can include your kid and that will cure all your problems. Vent about your child having a major meltdown in the middle of your best friend's wedding and he'll school you for 5 minutes on how giving your child a peppermint patty when they're feeling bad will solve everything. Ask him what his own child's official dianosis is? He won't know. Ask him if his son goes to physical therapy? He can't tell you. Mr KnowItAllAndJustGottaShareItWithYou doesn't even know enough about his own damned child to say if he's in therapy or not. He must know that his son has a special need because he comes to this class but he can't even tell you what that need is. But he can cure everyone else's problems

2. His advice is always a little bit insulting. Sometimes it's the look he gives you when he says something. Sometimes it's the way he seems to be insinuating that if you were any kind of a parent at all you would already know the answer to whatever question you asked. Sometimes it's just the fact that he seems to think that we're all just standing around scratching our butts and waiting for someone to enlighten us all about the best way to raise a child with special needs. If I talked to Vincent the way he talked to other people here are a couple of things I might say to him: "Gee Vincent. I don't know a whole lot about nothing but it seems to me that you might want to cut little Bobo's hair. I'm just a simple gal but it seems to me that little Bobo looks a lot like Holly Hobby. Not a good look for a boy! And have you ever heard of a comb Vincent? There's no reason to style the kid's hair with an egg beater, heh heh heh heh." or "You know Vincent ..... (long pause as I stare up at the ceiling and bask in my own amazingness) ..... I've always found that people seem to like it when you don't act like a giant know it all asshole towards them. Of course, I don't know much and maybe I'm wrong and certainly don't mean to offend anyone and I know we're all on the same side here but it just seems to me like you're acting wrong here."

So last night, Vincent really crossed the line with me. I don't know why. He's certainly made me the focus of his down-home wisdome before. I don't know why last night it touched such a nerve in me. I probably have to examine that and see what it is about it all that pissed me off so much but in the meantime, here's what happened.

One woman in the group mentioned that her 6 year old will be playing t-ball this summer. She said she was worried that he would go out there and not participate and would just end up off in his own little world. I mentioned that we had a person from Arise (a local service that helps kids with special needs take part in sports and other non-school related activities) come out and help Joseph out when he played soccer last summer. I said I thought it was great because his Arise person was really good about making sure that Joseph got everything he could out of his time in soccer. I could already see Vincent puffing himself up in preperation for a big speech so I went on to further explain what I meant.

I said that I really didn't care how well Joseph played soccer, I just wanted it to be a positive thing for Joseph. I explained that Joseph's Arise person had helped him enjoy soccer more because she helped him with everything from better understanding the practice drills they were doing to jumping in when she saw him get picked on by an older kid to reassuring him when he was unsure about being able to do something. All of that helped Joseph to enjoy the experience more and he was pleased with how much better he got at the game. Again I said that his soccer ability was not what mattered to me.

I hardly even had lst word out of my mouth before Vinny jumped in. I'm paraphrsing here but not exaggerating.

"You know Jen, I think you ...... and by you I mean society as a whole ....... might be focusing a little too much on things that don't really matter. I know that when they gave us little Bobo's diagnosis they told us-"

I jumped in here to ask him to remind me what little Bobo's diagnosis was again.

"Hmmm.... well, um, heh, well I ....... You know, I can't really....that is to say .... heh heh. Anyway, when they gave us the diagnosis they told us that he probably wouldn't ever be the best football player or the most popular kid in school or the smartest or whatever but you know, I just don't care about that. It seems to me like when you put that kind of pressure on Joseph then you might be showing him that you care more about that stuff then you say you do. You say you don't care about that kid of stuff but the truth is, we all do. I mean, I don't but I think most people do. You just might need to accept that Joseph might not every be the best soccer player. That's just how it seems to me but I'm not really an expert on these types of things."

I didn't even really respond. I knew he would just use anything I said as an excuse to further school me on why he is awesome and I am not. In my head though I was just raging.

"How dare you! How. Dare. You. I have sat here in this room and expressed over and over and over again how amazed I am with Joseph's wonderful wit, loving personality and kind heart. I have marveled at how smart he is and overflowed with pride in his accomplishments. I have made clear that what matters to me is that he's happy and healthy and safe. I could make a list of 100 things that I hope Joseph is good at in his life and you wouldn't find soccer or any other sport anywhere on that list. I don't care about sports more than I care about my child so haw dare you say those things to me."

Logically I know why he said that stuff though. He said it because he listens to about 1/10 of what people say and he uses that as a jumping off point for one of his lectures. He cares so little about anything other than what he has to say that he doesn't even bother to notice all the other little details. Even if those other details are things like other people's feelings or his own child's diagnosis. And that's just sad for him.

You know, I started this post really angry. I didn't know why it set me off so much and I guess I still don't but I have realized something. Vincent is sad. And when Monday Night Class is done he won't have a captive audience to share his "wisdom" with. He won't have gotten anything out of the group. He'll have wasted his time there because he was so determined to prove how smart he was about everthing.

I'll have gotten some good information, some contact numbers, some helpful ideas and some laughs. If I find myself getting pissed off at Vincent during the final three groups I'll just have to sit back and let him babble on, knowing who's really coming out ahead in this situation.


Jill said...

You have a good attitude about the whole situation. And I know when I blog about something that aggravates or angers me, a lot of the tension seems to melt away simply by getting it off my chest. As I was reading your post, I was thinking "He just doesn't listen to what people are saying. He hears what he wants, then spends the rest of the time waiting for his turn to talk." Then you said the same thing, essentially. I can see how it would be totally frustrating and he had no right to insinuate the things he did, but it's probably good that you didn't confront him then and there, since the classes are ostensibly for constructive conversation.

Any time you want to vent, that's what we're here for!!

Judy said...

My God, Jen, I admire your control. I would have let him have it with both barrels. The nerve to say that you care about the level of proficiency of sport more than you care about Joseph. He is an ignoramus to not even know what his child's diagnosis is. (maybe it's Vincent Parentitis and he doesn't want to admit that). You are one amazing woman to have tolerated him so long! Does the child's mother ever come to the meetings?? I so admire your patience with this! Judy

shyestviolet said...

I hate when you're in a conversation with someone and they're just waiting to talk, rather than listening.

I feel sorry for little bobo. what an asshat of a parent. funny, as you describe him, I'm picturing vincent from project runway. ouch.

keep on keepin' on, you awesome mom.

Charles Pergiel said...

Step up to the plate and squash Vincent. I'm thinking you are not the only one at these meetings, so there are other people being subjected to Vicents time wasting blather. You don't necessarily have to go head to head with him, just cut him off, ignore him, talk to someone else. If he complains tell him to shut his fat yap. You will be doing all the other people in the meeting a big favor.

In case you can't tell my "most pleasant" is somewhere on most people's "hostile" side of the scale, so some people may not like my advice, but I stand by it.