This week, I had to hold my tongue and sit on my hand to keep from saying and writing what I really felt about something. It took more strength than I thought I possessed. Last night, I told Mike that my body ached from head to toe.
“Flu?” he asked.
“Tension,” I replied.
How silly. What could be that bad?
An adult — someone I trusted — made inappropriate comments to my daughter that broke her spirit (temporarily, I hope). I know, I know…these things happen and they’ll happen again. That’s life. Some days are like that. Mean people…stink (I know this isn’t the “s” word that goes with the phrase, but I can’t stand to say it). Don’t take it so seriously. Don’t take it personally.
Our child is hurt. Don’t take it personally?
I picked up my cell phone and tried to press the numbers to confront this person, but something much calmer than the blood racing through my veins instructed me to abort the call. Then, I remembered a phrase I wrote on the board at school earlier in the day.
Be pretty if you can. Be witty if you must. Be gracious if it kills you.
Gracious. What does that mean, really, in a time like this? To be courteous and polite; to be pleasant; to be kind. To be merciful.
Now we’re talkin’. Merciful. Let’s use that word in a sentence, shall we?
The lady was merciful when she chose not to make the phone call.
I had every reason to be furious, and I had every reason to defend my child — even though I wasn’t “there” to see someone refer to her, in the presence of others, as an annoyance. For the past few years, the word “victim” has been tossed around as something that people like to portray to get attention or to justify the act of feeling sorry for themselves. However, my child wasn’t playing the role of Victim because she never told me what had happened. Another parent brought it to my attention, which made it worse, actually. My daughter was afraid she had been so wrong that she’d get yelled at by me, too.
And that’s when I cried. She didn’t do anything wrong other than being in the wrong place and at the wrong time. She’s a pleaser. She tried too hard to do something right, and it backfired. But should I have fired back?
After putting down the cell phone, I picked up my pen and I began to write. At first, it was a paragraph of angry prose that was scribbled on the page like a kindergartner’s hand. Rough draft; round one. Edit. Rephrase; round two. Correct. Revise; round three. Final draft; sign, seal and deliver.
I wrote the note instead of typing an email because it wasn’t business. It was personal.
When I relayed the story to a colleague, I learned that she had been in a similar situation this week, too. Her child was embarrassed by an adult that he had looked up to and respected, and in one scene of uncontrolled frustration, their relationship was ruined. They’re kids. Aren’t the bullies supposed to be within their own age groups?
I recently found myself in a discussion with another parent regarding a hot topic in the news, and the exchange moved from basic questions and answers to an ethical debate that challenged my character. Thank goodness I’ve been teaching persuasion this semester! I didn’t get the last word, but I got the final question: Who do you think you are?
Ava, who wants to become an elementary school teacher one day, has developed a new interest in journalism. She loves to read, but now she’s sniffing out harder stories that appear on the front pages of newspapers and magazine covers. Then, she asked if she could have her own blog, too. I thought for a moment. No to Facebook, but yes to a blog? Isn’t that worse?
She explained her goals and the intended audience, and she tried out a few headlines and ideas for posts. All were very good. But, I had to give her a short lesson on self control.
Would the story hurt someone’s feelings?
Would the story embarrass someone — including her family? Herself?
Would the story cause someone to get in trouble?
Would the story cause friendships to end?
If she can answer “yes” to any of these questions, then she has to delete it. Period.
The same holds true regarding gossip. How would you phrase your comments or reactions to something if the subject of the conversation were standing right behind you, listening?
We’d be much more selective with our words and tone, I’m sure.
I used to worry about other children picking on my girls, but I’ve been seeing more immaturity out of men and women my age. The lesson is a tough one: To avoid sticking one’s foot in one’s mouth, it’s best to let the heat of the moment pass. And if we are attacked by someone’s insensitive remarks — as people seem to have lost their filters — then it’s best to kill ‘em with kindness…if being gracious doesn’t kill us first.