My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Maybe it’s time to not be kind to one another
February 9, 2012, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Parenting

Maybe it’s time for some tough love.

Don’t get me wrong, and just hear me out. There are a lot of things that have me thinking these days. I still have yet to read more about The Happiness Project, though it sounds right up my alley. And, I have always been a fan of “Random Acts of Kindness.” I do enjoy a thoughtful “hello,” or a “good morning” from a fellow traveller on the sidewalk. I am a fairly upbeat and happy person, except when I’m not.

But let’s think for a moment about life and what life lessons have been revealed to us. In my own experience, I can remember and name almost all of my elementary and middle-school teachers.  I remember my softball coaches, my tennis teachers (and, if you know me and my lack of altheticism–there weren’t many of these types of people, but still…) Yet, the ones I remember the best? The ones who put me in my place, even humiliated me. Do I remember them fondly? Not hardly. But you can bet your sweet you-know-what that the lessons that they taught me were never forgotten.

Come with me on a time-travel journey for a second. The year is maybe 1984, and I had a Girl Scout troop leader in elementary school who drove me home after every meeting. You see, my mom worked, and I was one of the pre-arranged carpool kids. Well, on one occasion, there were several of us girls all congregated at the car ready to leave. Tarah, who I can name here because she’s a childhood friend and we’re still vaguely in touch, was bringing up the rear, and I yelled, “C’mon, Tarah, you slow poke.” Well, Girl Scout Troop Leader thought this a most offensive insult and promptly instructed me, “Jayme, Girl Scouts don’t use that kind of language.” Umm, okay. The whole ride home all of us were very quiet and I was probably just fuming, cheeks aglow, with the embarrassment of being scolded in front of my friends. But you know what? Valuable lesson learned: I never said the words “slow poke” again. Just kidding. This lady was a legit beyatch (so many other stories I could share), and better I learned at a young age that sometimes you have to just deal with it. Difficult people abound, and being able to read people and act accordingly in different situations is tantamount to succeeding in life. So, it’s quite accurate to say I never said the words “slow poke” in front of Girl Scout Troop Leader ever again. And I continued on with girl scouts for a few more years, didn’t do it for a year, then did it again. I didn’t let meanie troop leader determine that for me, because you can’t let the meanies beat you down.

Now another situation, present day (or relatively speaking, I think this happened a year ago). I’m out to breakfast at a very run-of-the-mill pancake and egg place with my family. The table across from us was a bunch of young men, early twenties I’m guessing. While we’re enjoying chocolate chip pancakes and the grown-up equivalent, these men–boys, really–are discussing nasty things such as sexual conquests. They are speaking about women with the care and sensitivity of an Andrew “Dice” Clay aficionado. The c-word, the p-word, and ongoing references to being “nailed,” “pounded,” and how (with their presumably microscopic members) they otherwise gave these females the times of their lives. Really? Over breakfast? I think not. My husband is oblivious, but that’s nothing new, but I am breathing heavily and mustering up the courage to talk to these boys. On our way out, I let my family go ahead of me and I stop by the table. I say something along the lines of “Gentlemen, completely inappropriate discussion for public consumption. I have young kids with me and perhaps some day you will too. Clean it up.” And they looked down into their plates sheepishly and muttered, “Sorry.” Two seconds after I left, they were probably calling me the cow in the mom-jeans who bitched at them, but I don’t care. If I saved one other family from having to overhear such a hideous conversation, then it was worth it. I was not kind to these men. I wasn’t out to berate and humiliate them, but I certainly wanted to let them know in no uncertain terms that they suck.

Aren’t there an infinite amount of situations that you can think of where you yourself learned a valuable lesson because someone was tough, not kind? Because someone shoved your arrogance back at you and fed you a big-fat wake-up? Do you remember your science teacher who gave everyone “A”s for showing up, or the one who forced you and all of your classmates to the library on a weekly basis because you always had to research something new?  Do you remember the “nice” boy who asked you out repeatedly, or the one who caused you all sorts of tears and drama and, in a roundabout way, taught you what you did not want in a relationship?

Continuing in my circumloquacious manner, it is important for us all to have humbling experiences. Humbling is way better than humiliating, but sometimes getting knocked off your high horse is necessary, too. I was thinking about all of these things as I registered my daughter for kindergarten today (no, no, we still have decided NOTHING, unfortunately, but I’m leaving our options open). I was thinking that maybe she will have a crappy teacher. And she will, maybe not next year, but at some point she will. Everyone does. And the thought occurred to me that sometimes it is the rotten teachers that teach us more than the really good teachers. You learn from every experience. Sometimes you learn more from the very bad experiences.  I don’t want that for my kid, because I want her to be gently be exposed to these difficult situations, but that is sometimes out of our control.

At the end of the day, I’m not advocating going out into this world and being nasty. I’m just offering the idea that maybe all this “gentle discipline,” or “political correctness” does us a disservice. Being unkind has it’s place.


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