Tuesday, September 6, 2011


I grew up with a bossy father. He's now almost 87, and I'm 54. He's still bossing me.

Dad was a corporal in the Marine Corps during WW II, but when his five children were still living at home, we called him the General behind his back. We were his little troops. He ran us ragged, we thought.

For example, we had a pop-up travel camper that we traveled up and down the Eastern seaboard with in the summers. The camper top was made from tent canvas, with aluminum poles that needed to be put up, and snaps that needed to be fastened.  

When we pulled in to a state park campground at dusk, after traveling all day in our 1966 black Valiant station-wagon (hotter than blazes), Dad assembled us. He barked out the orders, and we scrambled. Tired, hungry, our young fingers fumbled with poles and snaps, the mosquitoes hummed and bit. Dad got redder in the face by the minute. Bossy? He defined the word.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, we had the camper up, could get some grub, and get to sleep. Putting up and taking down the camper was dreaded by us all. The General micromanaged us to the brink of anxiety attacks, if we had known what anxiety attacks were in those days.

Years later, my sister and I put the camper up by ourselves one evening. Without the barking of the General, we managed to raise the camper top in ten minutes without a cross word. We were astonished that it was so easy to do when the General was not shouting directions. Here that, all you bossy folk?

His bossiness and iron will meant corporal punishment was unknown and completely unneeded in our family. One pointed look from the General, and we stopped in our tracks. He ruled supreme-- I doubt there was ever a dad who commanded more obedience from his children with so little effort. Not that we were always model children, far from it, but when he was around, we did what we were told!  

Anything less than compliance, and quickly, was fruitless. Rebellion? We thought about it. We grumbled plenty behind his back, but resistance seemed not only futile, but suicidal, even though he never laid a hand on us. I still marvel at the immensity of the power he wielded over us.

Now Dad and Mom live five minutes from me, and hundreds to thousands of miles from the other four children. This means that Dad has only Mom, me, and occasionally my long-suffering husband to boss around, and oh lawd, he does he have fun bossing us.

Of course I'm braver now that I've realized that he can't really shoot death rays from his eyes. I've even said to him several times, “You're being bossy!” He only shakes his head at this treasonous behavior. I think I've even seen him hide a smile at my too little, too late attempts at insurrection.

He knows I am powerless to resist. I will eat the meal he insists I eat when I'm not hungry, I will “sit down and rest” at his command, I will get him the glass of iced tea, I will fix the TV remote. His bossiness knows no bounds, and may be one of his most treasured daily activities as his health gradually declines.

Once bossy, always bossy. The frightening part is I find myself bossing my students around as though it were second nature to me. Ah, how sweet it is for the perennially bossed to be able to boss minions of our own.


  1. If I may, Melanie, you are a good daughter. I read your blog and see you heart. So many kids (including our age) have become selfish and uncaring ~ compassion gone. My Mom still has her moments, of being bossy, and even outright mean at times. But I have learned to have compassion for her, and forgive. It is what God asks of us, after all.

    I LOVED this blog. Thank you for sharing so openly. (Smile!)

  2. It can be hard. I pray for patience! Dad likes to harass poor innocent waitresses, asking them for items he knows they won't have. I tell him "Dad, I'd like to be able to come back to this restaurant again!" He likes causing a little commotion.
    Yes, I tell myself I'm lucky to have someone who cares about me enough to even want to boss me around!
    Your encouragement has me grinning! Thanks!

  3. Okay, it's funny I just read this. I watched this home video the other day of Georgia's first time crawling. I was APPALLED listening to myself in that video - I was SO bossy. Telling everybody every little thing they should do. I embarrassed myself. Horrible. But I can't stop. It's a disease. I try, though. One must try. :)


  4. Ha-ha! Thanks-- some days I think I have a "Boss Me" tattoo on my forehead; other days the tattoo reads "I AM THE BOSS OF YOU!"