And I remember trying to get a word in edgewise, trying to get people in the family to take me seriously. I tried my best, sometimes making a joke, or being disruptive, or just making pain out of myself. Sometimes I succeeded; but mostly, people ignored me.
By the time I got to college, I had a strategy. I would wait for a couple of people to speak up in class, offering their disparate opinions, and then I'd step in and voice my own interpretation. People noticed that I spoke after the others, and it lent my opinion a greater air of authority -- as though other students were too anxious to talk, or had spoken without thinking, while it seemed as though I was judging the situation.
There was one exception to my approach. If a teacher asked for comments, and everyone sat around awkwardly with no one daring to speak up, then I would jump in -- making it look as though the other students were afraid to speak, and I was the brave one to offer an opinion.
The strategy didn't work all the time; but it worked more often than not and got me through a lot of literature classes, as well as history, philosophy, economics and sociology.
Later, as an adult, I used to joke that the reason I finally decided to have kids was because it would mean I'd get extra helpings at dinner. I'd noticed, whether at home or a restaurant, that the kids never finished their meal, and it was almost always the dad who was picking food off the kids' plates.
But that wasn't the real reason I wanted kids. The real reason was because I wanted someone to listen to me. If no one else would pay attention to me, then I'd breed my own listeners.
Well, as anyone who has kids probably knows, that one backfired on me. Big time. Kids thrive on not listening to their parents; they make their name and reputation by how often, how long and how blatantly they ignore their parents' advice. (And to be honest, they listened to my wife more than they listened to me, anyway.)
Actually, my daughter was a little different. She would make a big issue about how we shouldn't try to tell her what to do, or give her advice ("Oh, Dad, that's so obvious!"). She'd ignore what we said, or argue about it, or make fun of it. But, I noticed as the years went by, that actually, she rarely ignored my advice. She just didn't want to acknowledge that she was following our instructions. So she would ignore us for a suitable period of time, just to show that she wasn't doing what we said, and then when no one was looking she would go ahead and do her homework, or clean her room, or do her chores.
My son. He was a different story. He marched to the beat of his own drum (literally . . . in middle school and high school he not only played the drums but also the saxophone, the guitar, piano, and anything else that made a lot of noise). He did listen to his mother occasionally -- and maybe he soaked up a little of our moral and ethical approach to life, just by living in our home and listening to us talk -- and in the final analysis he made the whole high school and college experience work for him. And now (much to my surprise!) he is gainfully employed and has his own apartment.
Anyway . . . maybe that's why, subconsciously, I write this blog. Why else would we spend so much time pecking away into the night, or early in the morning? It's 60 years later. And I'm still trying to get someone to listen to me!