When taking-turns becomes a battle


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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