5.20.2016

Stop Excusing Asshole Behavior

I'm a parent. I have been for almost 22 years now.  It gets you thinking. Like all the time thinking.  The primary thought throughout my child's growth to adulthood has been, "have I provided enough?" Enough life lessons. Enough nurturing. Enough good memories to sustain through the dark days my child may or may not face in their life?

I have reached a conclusion to that line of questioning.

Who the fuck knows?

I have been thinking recently about who gets revered in our society. And as my brain is wont to do, I tie things I see in with things I remember (or think I remember) from my own life.

I remember as children, and then later as new parents, the eternal struggle to make peace for our children.
A little girl comes home from school in tears because a little boy pushed her down on the playground.
A little boy comes home  from school in tears because another child took their toy.

The little girl is told that it's because that little boy likes you. He has a crush on you.
The little boy is told that it's because that other child is jealous and he should share with them in case they don't have all the same benefits as he does.

Parents, I'm going to let you in on a little secret that you may not want to hear.

Sometimes kids are assholes.

Stop making excuses for them.

By telling your daughter that behavior is acceptable, even desired, they will grow to think that abuse and mistreatment is their partner's way of showing affection. And believe me, that's a fucked up world view to have.

By telling your son to share, and not to get so upset, you are causing him to question those times when he truly needs or wants to be selfish. Sharing is learned in children. It's not inherent.

When I was a child, I think I was in late elementary school, my papaw bought me a radio from the flea market. My younger cousin came out to visit us at the farm.  She wanted to see my radio.  I didn't want to share. Sure, it was a used radio. But it was new to me. And more importantly in the childhood quest to be the favorite grandchild, I wanted to bask in the fact that Papaw bought it for me.  Things escalated. Phrases like, "I bought the goddamned thing, so I can say who gets to play with it" were bandied about. And eventually the radio went flying across the room. It hit the door frame and broke. It was one of the few times I truly got a glimpse of my papaw's anger.

But it triggered something else. It served as an example that if I didn't agree with something, it was better to just suck it up than to cause a fight and wind up losing a thing all together.

Was my cousin spoiled and playing the only grand-daughter card? Oh, I'm sure of it. Was I being a little shit about a used radio? You bet I was.

I would have shared. Eventually. The newness of the thing hadn't worn off yet. And one thing I've learned about myself. If I get something new (even a magazine), I have to be the one to make the cool discoveries about it. If I get a new magazine and someone else reads it first and wants to talk about the articles, there's a good chance I won't read that magazine with anything approaching the same level of excitement that prompted me to buy it in the first place.

It's weird, I know. But I'm kind of an asshole about it.  I'm not asking you accept that, nor do I want you to make excuses for me.  Just understand that there are things I'm a jackass about. You can call me on it and I'll most likely agree. I'll own it.

As a society, though,  I think we've shifted focus. Instead of calling someone out on something and holding them accountable, we're making excuses. As though the backstory always justifies the behavior.

Back to our previous example. The little girl should be told that it's not ok to hurt another person. And she should never think that it's ok to do that to someone or have it done to them. Don't try to put a positive spin on it. Not everything has a positive spin.

The little boy? I guess looking back, that little boy was really me with the radio.  I think in retrospect, I would have liked the adults in the room to understand how excited I was and how I didn't really want to share just then and to let me have my fun. Having my thing taken from me just so it would be 'fair' to my cousin was kind of a bullshit move.  The world doesn't work like that. There are things that people have that, sure, would be nice to have. But I can't go take them just because it's not fair that they have them and I don't.

I guess the other side of the lesson is, as adults we have a chance to help make sure our children don't grow up to be assholes.  That we give them the kind of guidance necessary to not be shitty to another person.

It's almost as hard as recognizing that sometimes we're going to drop that ball. At least once.

Sometimes, after the kids at school have been mean because she's the new kid, it's enough to hold her close and wipe the tears from her eyes, while gently telling her, "shhhh...it's ok sweetie. Those kids are assholes."

If nothing else, she should have a finely developed sense of when someone is being an asshole and when to steer clear of them.

Now, if we can get the rest of society to stop revering assholes, we'll be in good shape.

Peace out!
-A.T.

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