My dear boys
The truth is I hadn’t expected this to be the most difficult to write, until I sat down and started to. It was like opening Pandora’s Box – highly NOT recommended!
You see, the best example I could offer in today’s email entry on my Toxic people series is, well…me! Or more correctly the male relatives on your dad’s side of the immediate family.
Which of course also includes your daddy dearest.
Oh gosh, even writing that makes me feel like a hole should just open up beneath me right now and swallow me up.
A hole for one please!
Do you remember one night towards the end of 2020 when the world was still reeling from that horrendous super-spreader of a coronvirus called Covid-19?
It was December 2nd, a night to remember for me because I think it was the first time in a very long time that I had opened up to all of you about my struggle as a stay-home dad.
Looking back now, I realise that there was a small part of me that wanted your pity. And just realising that made me come to the conclusion that in me laid dormant but very present a desire to be needed all the time.
And that desire lies at the heart of this eighth category of Toxic People – the Needy Victims.
Now (bless your hearts) please don’t protest what I’m sharing here. It needs to be said. And you need to beware of folks (like me) who latch onto your strength and self-assuredness in order to bolster their own frail and fraught ones.
Yes, back then, mine were fairly frail and fraught alright!
Tattered and Torn
Your dad comes from a long line of needy men.
Okay maybe three isn’t all that long, but I grew up watching your grandfather (my father) and your two uncles (my two older brothers) and how they navigated life. So in many ways, they were the source of the behaviour I learned throughout my impressionable years.
From them I learned that, in order to get attention that you can’t get through hard work and accomplishment, the next best thing is to grovel and make it like the weight of the world’s on your shoulders. Or that we’re most unjustly treated – martyrs as it were at the unsung hero’s altar of sacrifice.
Yes, it really is as dramatic as that just sounded.
Your eldest uncle especially – always playing the sad victim. He always gave the impression that he was being maligned and wronged, misunderstood and cast aside.
I still remember back in 1996 when I had to bail him out of…(I’ll spare you the unpleasant details, since in truth they’ve become hazy to me now after so long). Instead of thanking me post-incident, he was busy talking himself out of all responsibility for what happened. Like he had no part to play in how things turned out!
Not once did I hear him say anything other than the fact that he was just plain unlucky, and that the world was against him.
At that time, I couldn’t recall any more jaw-dropping incredulous moment in my life!
And then there was your other uncle.
He was always asking (more like complaining about) why his university-educated siblings (your second aunt and me) refused to join him in his educational book distributing business since we were both in the teaching line.
As though what we did meant we were an instant fit for his kind of work.
But the “Needy Award” really goes to….
…your grandfather, the worst of the lot.
All his life he never apologised for a single thing as far as I could remember. Anything that went wrong would be your granny’s fault, or one of his children’s. He was always talking about how life was hard and we better know how much he’s personally sacrificed to keep the family afloat.
On and on and on he went, like a broken record. At many points he reminded me of you, Caleb, when you were young. Always whining and bemoaning like a spoilt kid over the slightest of things.
That was how your grandpa behaved too.
Unfortunately, some of that’s also rubbed off on your dear old dad here. There were moments when I would whip up the victim’s card and tug hard at your emotional heartstrings. Like when Jaedon would choose to go out with his friends than spend time with me. I would lament at how my “chicks are flying the coop” and made you feel guilty for your perfectly-understandable teen decision to be out with your buddies.
For that my son, I do apologise. I could have done better.
So keep a safe distance from people like me!
Like I said at the beginning, I had no idea this category would cut so close to home, hence my continued delay in getting this email to you. But since I’ve committed to this series, I have to see it through, right?
Just remember that, as with all the other categories I’ve written about, many of these toxic people had challenging, misguided upbringings; some with predilections beyond their control. They are often not even aware of what they have become, or even what they do to others.
So while you can be sympathetic, you’re not to be their crutch ok? Don’t take on their problems unless you feel a specific calling. Especially with needy victims; all the more you cannot take on their multitudinous miseries. You’ll be crushed under all that weight!
Simply observe wisely, listen politely the first time, then take the necessary steps to maintain a distance subsequently. Needy victims can smell a weakness (“sure I’ve got time and would help any way I can”) faster than a bloodhound! They will exploit your moment of kindness repeatedly and relentlessly, making you ‘their victim’, even as they portray themselves to be the woe-begotten victims of a cruel world.
And now that you know your dad comes from a long line of such toxic folks, you know I’m speaking the truth first-hand.
Sighhh…let me give you a bit of space here to process this revelation. Of course, the decision is yours whether or not you want to stay offended with me. I’ll understand.
Meantime, I’ll start preparing my next email to tell you of the ninth category of toxic people on my list of the Toxic 12 – The Non-starters/finishers.
Love you both always