Tuesday, March 11, 2014

on being stupid

 Someone recently took me to task for an old post that somehow trickled up again into her interwebs:
I clicked on this link from a FB post this morning. As a mother of 4 girls, I enjoy reading other mother’s insights about raising daughters. However I was immediately put off by the contempt in the tone “And I am a little worn, a little weary lately, watching some stupid mothers and others hating on the beautiful young teenage women they have under their care.” Not every mother has it all together all the time and they are not necessarily hateful or stupid. One of the best lessons we can teach our daughters is to uplift one another rather than tear each other down with judgement and name calling.
Can I talk about the things I hate?

I hate feeling sorry for something I don't feel sorry for saying.

I hate the idea that we have to have it all together all the time just to avoid doing really egregious kinds of damage to each other.  Sorry, I rammed my truck into your garage door and chased your chickens around the back yard until they dropped dead, I was just really having a bad day.

I hate that a perfectly useful word ("stupid") has been tabooed.  Some things are just stupid.  Leaving your hoe on the ground so that you bean yourself when you tread on the blade?  Stupid.  Spitting into the wind?  Stupid.  Telling our daughters or sons in public (or in private, for that matter) that they're slutty, hopeless, an embarrassment, a mistake?  That's pretty stupid. Because it doesn't work.  Because it makes them more that way.  Because it makes you look even worse to the people witnessing.  Because it's lazy parenting.  Because it causes more damage than good.  Because it's just stupid.

But then I have to ask myself, just how stupid?  As stupid as calling other parents stupid? especially when you're hoping to convince them to change?

I hate how I keep trying to talk myself around to accommodate this responder.  Because obviously something touched a nerve for her.  Did she feel I was calling her stupid and hateful? Because maybe she has said and done some of those hateful things?  Because in my own hearing parents have said and done things that I think a broad committee of citizens would even today be able to agree are hateful words and hateful actions.  Because I myself --?

Well, haven't I?  Have I ever spoken with contempt to a child in my care?  Have I rolled my eyes?  Have I broken my own advice?  Yes, I have.

And it was stupid to have done it.
I don't say it with contempt, but in painful recognition.
It was really stupid.

And if I'm an adult, I should be able to read stupid as stop.

As in, if I don't want to be stupid anymore, I'm going to have to just stop spitting and I'm going to have to start putting the hoe away where it belongs.  Because as adults, we can recognize stupidity in ourselves and separate ourselves from it.  Separate it out of our ongoing actions. 

I admit this response has bugged me. And I keep catching myself stewing over it.  Is it because I hate being accused of name-calling?  I do hate that.  Maybe I hate that accusation because it's true and so it stings.  I do want to name things.  I want to call things for what they are.  I want to know the real names of things.  I know in my home I correct children who call themselves "stupid."  I make them re-say it as "still learning."  I tell them it's a truer name.

So would it have been better if I'd said, "those still-learning parents who are saying and doing really unpleasant and damaging things to their children"?  Maybe that would have been more compassionate.  For the parents.  And parents need compassion (for example, must we really "wholeheartedly blame the mother" of the Sandy Hook killer?  Why is it always the mother we wholeheartedly blame?  I hate that.)

But would "still- learning" instead of "stupid" have been more effective? more accurate? or just nicer?  Or just more words and boring ones at that?

Because I still hate this thing we keep trying to do to language, trying to take all the crunch out of everything we say.  The smoothieification of language.  Like the way we've started slipping kale into the blender with a banana and some orange juice, instead of just learning to eat kale like grown-ups with a little vinegar and bacon fat and pepper to boot.

Maybe that's the root of what I hate -- that we're turning into a whole society of children who don't know how to get past yelling ugly names at each other from one side of the playground to the other, that we're stuck on the island with the Lord of the Flies and no adults to take responsibility any more, no grown-ups to say, "That was stupid of me.  I'm sorry.  Here, let's try it again.  Because I'm certainly still learning."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

conversation with the biking-body

I had a little chat with the biking-body today.

We both agreed it had been far too long.  And that it was great to see each other once again.

"This air is great!" cheered the biking-body and praised my foresight in wearing fingerless wooly gloves and a toasty earband under the helmet.  I complimented her steady pacing even after four month's dormancy.

On the long sloping climb toward the fairgrounds though we had a little falling out.

"You're killing me!" I gasped.

"Breathe," she said.  "Come on, all the way out."

"I can't!" I gulped.

"It would've been better if you'd given me more of a warning you were showing up today," said the biking-body.

"I told you I was coming back this week!"

"Words," she sniffed.  "Not really my love language.  Keep breathing."

We made it to the downhill.  "You're going to be a little crampy after this," she warned.

"Tell me about it."

Neither of us are completely clear on the connection between leg cramps and lactic acid build-up, dehydration, potassium and/or carb deficiencies but we agreed that lunge stretches were going to be a good idea several times between now and bedtime.  And a banana or potatoes might be not be a bad idea.

"Why don't you slow down a little," she said.  "What's your hurry anyway?" So I eased up a little and shook back the shoulders to take a look around.  She pointed out how much brighter everything looks from a bicycle saddle and I agreed that our little town has an added charm when seen through an endorphin haze.

We ran through the morning's errands (which were somehow so much easier to accomplish).  We waved at happy strangers.  We grinned into the wind.

"Welcome home," she said.

"Good to be back," I said.

"See you tomorrow," said the biking-body, "Don't be such a stranger."

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