441. Grumpiness

I’ve always known that some people get grumpy when they get old. When we get old, there’s often more to complain about. Little inconveniences we used to put up with or not even notice begin to really bug us. Children, who are reliably young, have things to complain about, too, but it’s not the same. Nowadays, I’m finally beginning to understand something about the grumpiness that often comes with age. I don’t mean to reinforce a stereotype – only to try to explain a pattern I think I see in myself and other people who aren’t as patient as they used to be.
Take interruptions, for example. First of all, way back in the early 1970’s, I was telling children that they shouldn’t interrupt – that interrupting was mostly impolite and counterproductive. True, those children are now adults, and the ones who are interrupting now are different children. But sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Sometimes it feels as if I’ve already paid my dues – worked hard to get children to learn some basic rules about relating to people. And now they should know those rules.
Of course, such thinking is irrational; the children who interrupt today hadn’t been born yet in the early 1970’s, so they couldn’t have learned what I was teaching back then. No matter how much energy I once put into teaching children, children today still have to start from scratch, and so do the adults who teach them. We adults may have more experience, wisdom, and skill when it comes to teaching, but we can also have the feeling that we’ve already taught, and shouldn’t have to do it again.
I don’t want to get really grumpy, and so far, I haven’t. But as I approach age fifty, I can already feel the beginnings of grumpiness – at least enough to be able to examine it a little. For years, I’ve heard from other people that I’m unusually patient with children, but nowadays, when children do things that I consider inconsiderate, I’m a little less patient than I used to be. Part of that is a function of being disabled; if a child leaves something on the floor of my condominium, I’m trapped. But I also think part of my occasional grumpiness has to do with my age, and may become more pronounced as I get older.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all grumpiness is irrational. And I’m not saying there aren’t patient, cheerful old people, or grumpy young people. We all have the right to expect people to be considerate, and when they aren’t, it makes sense to be annoyed. I’m just saying we need to consider our moods and perspectives. Children and other living things have to deal with us, and we, the people they have to deal with, are just as responsible for our words and behaviors as we want them to be for theirs.

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