My parents had an old early-'70s Dodge as a second car that I'd been using through high school. The week I graduated from high school, the windshield wipers stopped working. As was typical for my parents, they never bothered to get the windshield wipers fixed. What this meant was that the car couldn't be driven when it was raining.
One summer evening, I was planning to pick up my boyfriend in my car and go to a movie. My mother wasn't home, so she'd taken their car. I thought my dad was in the family room, so I called out, "Bye! I'll be back after the movie," and I went out the front door. When I got outside, I saw that my car was gone. Where was my car? Then it dawned on me that it was raining.
I went back in the house and realized I was alone. My dad and brother were both gone. Where were they? Had they taken my car? Was I going to make it in time to pick up my boyfriend and get to the movie before it started?
About 15 minutes later, my dad pulled up in front of the house in my car. I was upset because a) I don't know he'd taken the car, and b) now I was late. His response: "I had to take your brother to Boy Scouts, and it was raining. I couldn't use the Dodge." I explained to him that I had plans, and now I was late. I said I wished he would have told me what he was doing before he took my car. (I could have dropped my brother off on my way to my boyfriend's house.) He blew up at me, saying that he didn't know what I expected him to do.
I know it would be disrespectful, but I think my response probably would have been, "REPLACE YOUR WINDSHIELD WIPERS, MAYBE?"
I love my dad, and we have a really good relationship now
. But he had a few moments sort of like this when I was growing up, in which I was given a choice to do whatever I thought was appropriate, and then when my choice didn't line up with my dad's values, he blew up on me. I felt like I was being set up to have a bad reaction so he could correct me. He was so convinced that I was an irresponsible flibbitygibbit* that he put me in that position, so he could be sure that I would receive a "life lesson lecture."
Episode 1) I decide that I'm going to try out for a fun extracurricular activity as its my senior year of high school and my last chance to participate. Dad didn't think this was a good idea, as he thought I already had too much on my plate with my classes and the activities I was already doing, but he "left it up to me" to decide whether it was good idea for me to try out. I looked at my schedule, decided the opportunity was important enough to me to devote my time and energy to it. I told my parents. Mom said, OK, but we expect your grades to stay up. Dad stayed silent and stewed... then woke me up at 4:45 the next morning before he went to work so we could have a long heart-to-heart talk about why my trying out for the activity was an irresponsible choice. When I didn't respond to this lecture in the way he thought I should (i.e. being fully awake, responding with thoughtful, mature comments and agreeing with him) he said this was another example of me being spacey and irresponsible.
I stood up, told him that he had to wait until after 6 a.m. for thoughtful, mature responses and went back to bed. That made him really angry, but he "washed his hands" of the situation. I tried out for the activity, participated, kept my grades up, all the while my dad predicted academic doom.
Episode 2) I was very heavily involved in Activity A since middle school. My parents were very active in the booster club. I was one of the more dependable kids in Activity A and never missed a practice. My mom and I went on a long, very tiring trip, the last day of which happened to overlap with a scheduled practice. I checked with the coach while the trip was being planned and he was fine with me missing one practice.
Mom and I happened to get back a day early from the long, tiring trip, about an hour before the practice was supposed to start. Dad said it was up to me to decide whether I would go to practice. But it was clear he expected me to immediately turn around, get in my car and cheerfully drive to practice, since I was able to go. I told him no, I was hot and tired from the long trip and I'd already cleared the absence with the coach, so I was going to eat some dinner and shower and probably go to bed.
Dad. Was. Incensed.
How could I shirk my responsibilities to the coach and the team? How could I be so irresponsible and flaky? How could I even thinking of missing a practice after all the hard work HE put in with the boosters?
I told him that if the coach was OK with it, that was good enough for me. And then I was treated to a lecture about how "good enough" wasn't a way to approach life.
I didn't go to practice. I did invite dad to spend less time with the boosters, if it was such a burden.
*I'm not saying I wasn't a little irresponsible and spacey, but I was a 17 year old. Show me a 17 year old that isn't. And I know I'm making my dad sound awful. He really is a good guy. He just had no clue how to talk to me. We are of absolutely polar opposite personalities and he doesn't understand how I process problems or information. I think he was so terrified that I would turn out flaky and silly that he over-compensated with "instruction."
Ironically, I turned out to be the most responsible of his children. Now that he sees that, and the way I've taken care of my children, my spouse and several other family members, he treats me with a heck of a lot more respect.