Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Making a Molehill out of a Mountain: A Rant

I am a part of a small writer’s group here in my area and each week we pick a word and write whatever we want to pertaining in some way to that word. One of our words was “Mountain.” Here is what I wrote…

I have a bumper sticker on my van that reads “Don’t lie to kids.”  Many people ask me why I have it there, what does it mean? It means what it says. Tell the truth.
Recently I was at the Y in an aerobic class and noticed the words they have tacked up on the wall for the young ones who come in for gymnastics. These words are repeated all along one wall: respect, honesty, generosity, etc. Trying to teach children how important all these things are so they’ll grow up with the right ideals and be good adults. I guess they’re doing the “if-they-SEE-the-words-enough- it-will-make-a-difference” thing.
Okay, so, what happened to us? We grew up with these same words all around us. We grew up with adults telling us we could do whatever we wanted if we tried hard enough, if we were good enough, if we were persistent enough, blah blah blah.  Honestly? Do you remember when you stopped believing what adults TOLD you and started DOING what they did instead?
I can’t count on all my hands and feet how many many, many times I’ve witnessed adults act as if these words have no meaning, as if they don’t even know they exist. My sister is dealing with a man in court right now who doesn’t have these words in his vocabulary much less know what they mean. Someone else in my family is dealing with another person who fits this bill. Every day on the news I hear horror stories about what people do to one another. (hear positive things too, but I’m on a rant right now)
What I see is that we, as adults, are liars. Every one of us. We tell our children lies about what is truly valuable, what is good, what is right and how we should stand up for these things, these principles, these values and ideals. But do we actually live by them ourselves? I think that ‘ideals’ are all these words and their meanings are, just ‘ideals.’ They're not really to be used in the ‘real’ world. We should only pay them lip service, not live our lives by them. No, because we ‘grow up’ and learn that no one else does so why should we, or how can we when no one else plays fair?
And you know what? I think that the only time we, as adults, really DO use these words, really do put them into action in our lives is during catastrophic events (most of us). Then these positive heart-warming actions DO come out in us. We are the best we can be as individuals. So why can’t we live by them in our ordinary lives? Why do we lie to our children? Why don’t we tell them, “These are the words and ideals we all strive to implement in our lives but it is VERY hard to follow through on them and we fail more often than not?” Maybe because we don’t want to admit that we fail when we try.  Maybe we even think that we continue the lies because perhaps this child will be the one who actually does come through and live the words…
My mother in law tells us we are ‘too nice’ to our children. What comes across in this message is that first, our children only have worth if they are miserable (unconditional love?), because then you can feel sorry for them and try to help them, but the qualification is that they must be miserable first. No one wants to help people who are happy. Second, they must make money; be self sufficient no matter how hard and/or miserable they are or become as people. I think what she wants to mean is that children should grow up and stand on their own two feet. I agree with this, very much so. I don’t think I could be prouder of my child than to see him or her make their way in the world on their own, having their own sense of accomplishment and knowing they have done what they’ve done by their own merit. I don’t think there is a better feeling than that, except to also love and to be/feel loved.  I believe a child has a right to unconditional love first and foremost and will then be able to go on in the world knowing they have that love behind them. I’m not talking about enabling bad behavior. I’m talking about a child having a right to actually feeling that they are what we loosely apply value to here in this country as “our greatest assets.”   
Trying to explain to our son why another boy in his 6th grade class was so set on bullying him, the only thing we could say was, one, we knew that his father had just recently left (a divorce) and therefore the boy was probably very unhappy and scared, and two, it is SO much easier to be mean than nice, especially when you yourself are already in pain. We didn't lie. We didn't tell him the boy was bad and he was good. But perhaps that sums us up as humans. We think we’re so civilized but we aren’t nearly as civilized as we could be. We have learned how to be brutal and mean with “the strongest survive” mentality in a different way (money talks).  In my opinion true civilization would be making it easier to be nice than mean, to deal with our messes honestly and admit we are fallible. We as a species still have too many mountains to climb before we reach that goal.
In spite of this rant, in spite of lying, I believe we still have hope. We can still tell the truth.  I think, as a parent, the best thing one can do is to help our children learn to live with respect, honesty, and generosity, and to teach them to work around all those whom they meet who don’t.
photo from: www.letmebeme1.wordpress.com

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