And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Can You Take a Joke?

I was over at No Appropriate Behavior, catching up on what has been going on over there, when I saw this post.

How many of us have joked (those of us with kids, now) that we would like to "hang them by their toenails", "drug them up to get some piece and quiet", or "smack 'em silly". How about all the times we tell people we are going to run away to the Bahamas or something silly like that when the kids have been making us crazy.

I think I probably make comments like that every day.

The thing is, I never mean it. I surely never say it in front of the kids, and I (don't think) I say it to people who would take me seriously. It's a strange kind of immature release to say such things. You know, like when we were kids and would tell other kids "well, my dad is stronger than YOUR dad"! It is supposed to be mildly funny, and universally accepted as a joke.

Some people, however, don't seem to understand that we don't really DO these things.

I mean really, an Ambien? for a baby? Yeah, I have joked that my baby needs a Valium, but would I ever give her one? HELL NO!

Then I started thinking about other stupid things I have heard of parents and caregivers doing: Putting a feverish child in the freezer, a cold child in the oven, leaving infants in the tub alone, leaving kids in a car alone on a hot day, choking their kids when shoving things in their mouths to keep them quiet, not knowing when to take a break and shaking their babies to death.

It is so easy to blame these people for being stupid, to say that I am so much better than them. I don't have a college education, but even I know that these things are not okay.

I am changing my thinking, though. The thing is, our society has taught us all to believe it is all about us, that what the next guy is doing is okay, and that thinking about what we do (say, believe, etc.) is highly overrated. Someone else gets paid to tell us what to do, what is acceptable, what we should be striving to achieve.

The thing is, up until today I thought society was other people. But it's not. I am part of society, and by making comments (how much will you give me off my rent if I trade Little Sprout in?) the way I do, I may give some poor, thoughtless fool the idea that this kind of thing is okay.

This doesn't excuse idiots their stupidity. It just makes me responsible for my own actions. I can't make them smarter, but I can remove one small bad influence and replace it with one of a loving mom who is able to be firm with her children without hurting them with her actions or words.

It is a small step, but it is the only one that I can be responsible for. If I live a good example--if all of us lived a good example-- then maybe the tide would begin to turn. I know it would be a slow process, but lasting change always is.

Or maybe I am just too much of an optimist


Bitterbetty said...

That story was so sad...and crazy.
I do think when said to the wrong people words can hurt. And oddly 'common sense' is common but not everyone has some.

I always remember what I read about
parents and caregivers being kinder and more tolerant if another person admires their child. So if I see someone with 'a handful' I try and say how cute, funny or obviously bright their child is.

Maybe it helps.. maybe not.. but it sure beats rolling your eyes and making them feel worse.

Wendy said...

Very thoughtful post, and definitely timely. What struck me was your allusion to the idea of community, which we don't have much of these days. It is very much about "me, me, me", and we are all very much a narcissistic society. Look at our icons ... those people who make headlines: our President is a former coccaine user and Britney Spears is a mother!?!

Not to change the topic, but as we move closer to the end of cheap oil, living sustainably as a "community" will definitely become more important, and we will need to learn how to look out for our neighbors, and start being a little more thoughtful in word and deed ;).

Thanks, as always for your thought-provoking commentary :).

barefoot gardener said...

That is a really good idea, and I will keep it in mind. I know it helps me to gain perspective when Little Sprout is being a pain and someone talks about how cute she is at the store. *slapping myself in the for-head* I should have made that connection myself!

I am so flattered, and I don't think you changed the subject at all. Community, and the need for stronger community ties, underlies the entire issue. If these people had others close to them giving a good example and offering assistance, then maybe these tragedies wouldn't happen so often. Maybe if we weren't all so absorbed in our own little worlds we could notice that something just isn't right BEFORE it gets to this point.