Sunday night I was talking to Kate on the phone. I was kvetching about my youngest offspring and her boyfriend. Specifically, I was talking about the use of Kat's driveway and front porch as a grease pit for an ill conceived car repair project. You would have thought a leaking oil tanker stopped by for a visit. The phrase that came out of my mouth was, "I think they are being allowed to get away with way too much."
An hour later I have the offspring standing before my, crying and angry, throwing my words back to me - but with a very different and very specific meaning attributed to them. So I had to calm down the offspring, relate the whole conversation with Kate, then go back to Kat and fill her in on the missing details.
I never did ask where the extra content was attached to my works. Did Kat speak it that way, or did the offspring hear it that way? Was it some of both? I didn't really care, and I didn't want it to turn into a blame session. So I just stated what I said, what the context was, and that my only intent was to have my words understood. Resolve conflict. In all of this, from first confrontation to end, I was polite and I was fair. The few times the conversation tried to diverge into placing blame, I politely brought it back on track. Will I be lauded for being reasonable? No. Will my example of not placing blame be remembered or, better yet, followed? No. Will the blame for all wrongs, real or perceived, be placed at my feet? Of course they will.
Would it be nice if, just once, members of the family didn't automatically assume the worst about me, about my words, about my intentions? Does every word that falls out of my mouth have to be carefully saved, filed and indexed so that, when the time is right, it can be pulled out and used as a weapon against me?
But wait. I forget. It is all really my fault. Everything is my fault. Just ask anyone who isn't me and they will tell you so.