Sunday, March 13, 2011


While walking the dog today, my iPod shuffled onto this sweet little song: How Could Anyone? It had been years since I'd heard it. But it grabbed me by the throat (isn't that what Bruce said this morning?) in that way songs sometimes do, remembering. Sislisters, I know y'all remember the retreat I'm thinking about. One of those rare moments where I was, indeed, convinced that I deserved to be treated as though I were beautiful, even if I wasn't.

Then the song grabbed me around that jaded thinking part. (Sorry, not sure in which anatomical part this resides. The bile duct?) And I thought, "Oh my God, could I be any sappier?" Could that song be any more insipid? Isn't this an example of a whole era of parenting gone wrong. Everyone is beautiful. Everyone is smart. Everyone deserves a ribbon, a medal, a trophy. You can do anything you want to do.

And somehow we're left with children who believe the world owes them, big time. Entitled and full of expectations, they have no sense of who they actually are. Then they show up on "American Idol," with auditions that make some of us cringe but attitudes that are cringe-worthy for most of us: "How can you not see how wonderful I am, you loser judges?"

Then my jaded thinking part was sidetracked while the dog almost pulled me down while chasing down a squirrel. After wondering how a 40lb dog could almost pull down a very large woman, I wandered back to a snippet of conversation among friends this morning about the things people sometimes say. "Oh, you're going to wear THAT color?" "Oh, that's the quilt you just finished? It looks, um, nice," or the ever-popular opaque review "Well, THAT was something."

Sometimes, we need to hear hard truths. Sometimes, we need to hear love. As friends and lovers, children and mothers, how do we know when we should say what? Does what we say matter as much as how we say it, or what kind of a place we say it from? I dunno. It seems like I get this wrong more often than I'd like, putting my foot in it when I don't mean to be mean, when I mean to be anything but mean.

What I do know: there is a world of difference between assuring children that they are fabulous in every way (which is something they usually know isn't true, anyway) and assuring them that YOU think they are fabulous because of every little silly thing that you love about them. And isn't that latter truth far kinder than a fake cheerleader assurance that they're number one? Particularly when they're not?

And there is never a time when anyone needs to be told they are ugly, stupid or worthless. Rare are the times when a truth that will hurt cannot be told in a gentle way, or a gentler time. So, if you see me out on roller skis this spring, be sure to tell me to tell me how fit I look in my workout pants, rather than noting that I look like a porker in my too-tight workout tights, ok?

I'm not sure which part of the anatomy (throat versus bile duct) won this round . . . .



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