I was mad at myself.
I let myself get sucked into a juvenile battle of egos. I work hard to avoid getting into a battle of wills with other adults over money and family issues. They’re stupid battles and no one ever wins. In this instance, though, I walked right into one.
I ran into an acquaintance I’ve known for a number of years at the grocery store and he started telling me about the lengthy list of colleges that his son has been accepted. I felt happy for him and congratulated him on his son’s success. I’ve been in the same situation and it’s a great spot to be in. You feel a mixture of joy, relief, and parental pride.
A conversation quickly going south
The acquaintance was obviously happy. He continued raving about his son, but I gave him “a pass.” We hadn’t seen each other in a while and he was proud. He had a lot he wanted to let out.
However, I found myself caring less and less though when the conversation stayed exclusively on him. Good conversation skills, like a good marriage, take practice and hard work. When the volley goes back and forth and it’s 50-50 or even 60-40, everyone wins. When it skews too far to one side, it may work for a while, but eventually the conversation starts to die.
As we talked, a second acquaintance who came along mid-story tried to offer some advice but the man quickly brought the conversation back to his family. “Okay, okay be happy for him,” I thought to myself.
Let’s get ready to rumble
When the second acquaintance asked how I was doing, I started to give her an update, but was quickly interrupted. The conversation once again returning to the first guy’s son and his chances of an Ivy League education.
I could see my own frustration building and mentioned that I needed to get back to my shopping. The acquaintance, though, kept right on talking, in his own little world.
At that point, my own parental fangs came out in full force. I upped the ante talking about my daughter’s latest academic achievement. For good measure, I threw in the two stories about my sons and my oldest son’s college choice.
Game. Set. Match.
In more modern slang terms, it was my own little version of a mic drop. If we were playing a video game, this is when the “Game Over” letters would appear on the screen.
If only that were the end of the story. Of course, I felt bad the rest of the night. I’m sure the acquaintance was fine. He was so wrapped up in his own life, his own words, that I doubt he even noticed.
But I still felt bad, frustrated that parents feel the need to play silly games. And even madder at myself for falling prey to the trap.