Confessions of a Nice Nag
Fine! I’ll admit it. Yes, I am a nag, but I’m not just any old nag. No, no, no. I’m a nice nag. Yes, in case you are wondering, there is such a thing.
You see, what inspires most nags is a constant need to improve. Obviously, there are those who just seek to control their surroundings and those who inhabit space in those surroundings (these are the “nasty” nags), but for those of us with more altruistic spirits, the idea of “control” seems like modern-day slavery. Instead, for some reason or another, we were “blessed” with a sort of second sight that prevents us from “seeing-but-not-seeing” and we are compelled to comment ad nauseam in hopes that our little worlds, our communities, and our planet will be better places after said nagging. Now, you may wonder if there is any real distinction between the two groups of nags. The distinction lies in intent: the nice nags are not merely trying to dominate for the sake of rule. We simply want things to run more effectively, look nicer, and prosper longer.
Don’t think that I believe that we nice nags are all good. Of course, we, too, have our flaws. For example, oftentimes, we are unable to “fix” the things we are nagging about. We see the problem, can comment on the problem, but can’t always eliminate the problem, so we nag (my husband’s horrific driving is an example of my failure to fix through nagging). Another flaw lies in the fact that sometimes we nag before we truly understand an issue. Yes, many a nice nag has had to apologize for nagging too soon. One winter afternoon, upon arriving home from work, I noticed all the windows and doors open. Before I addressed my husband lovingly, the nagging shot out unharnessed. I had no idea that the carbon monoxide detector had gone off, and for my family’s safety, my husband began opening windows and doors to ventilate the home. This illustration brings me to a third flaw: stubbornness. Even after realizing one’s faults, even a nice nag has trouble apologizing for premature nagging because we truly believe that we nag to help. The nasty nag would succumb to stubbornness and forego any hint of apology, but the nice nag, after some intense moral discussion with herself, will apologize eventually regardless of intent.
That leads me to the point of this post. I have a confession to make: I unwittingly have been running a nagging boot camp in my home, and my oldest daughter is my star cadet. Because I am on spring break and my girls have had bronchitis, I have spent more uninterrupted time with them in the last couple of days than I have since Christmas. I have heard “Mommy!” more times than should be legal, and more often than not, some tale of the misbehaviors (regardless of how insignificant) of my youngest daughter are falling gratifyingly from my eldest daughter’s mouth. The first couple of times I was grateful for the information (“Mommy, she’s trying to juggle the knives!” and “Mommy, she’s dancing on the glass table!”), but the more I rewarded her for letting me know what was going on as I folded laundry or cooked dinner, the more the tattling increased. To make matters worse, I could hear, “You’re being very defiant, young lady!” and “You need to listen!” slip effortlessly from lips that did not belong to me.
Now, I’m stuck trying to figure out how to get a four-year-old to discern which information is truly necessary for Mommy to know, while remembering that sometimes in the real world we’re safer if we keep our mouths shut.
The truth is that although I nag (sometimes without even realizing it), the last thing I really want is to raise a nag. It’s hard constantly having to check yourself before you say something that will offend or alienate someone you love, even when they most need to hear it. Some would say that this is the mark of a “good” friend, but as an admitted nag, I’ll confess that it’s also a curse because sometimes encouragement in the face of “wrong” will benefit a person more than the tough love, complaining, or tattling.
Because I’m a high school teacher, I don’t know if elementary school teachers still leave one kid in charge to write the names of the misbehaving students on the board when they leave the room to refill coffee mugs, but if they do, I know that my baby will be all too eager to get that job. I’m afraid that she’ll be sitting alone near the fence at recess because no one wants to play with her. I’m afraid that she’ll never learn to jump double-dutch because two other girls are unwilling to turn the ropes. I’m afraid that she’ll become some weird expert Solitaire player unable to make any real connections with her peers. I’m afraid that she’ll be 35 with 17 cats and an unnatural connection to her laptop (if such a thing still exists then).
What am I to do? I need help. I’ve admitted that I’m complicit in this. I’ve even resorted to keeping quiet instead of complaining in front of her. HELP!