by K. S. Volcjak
I am really curious to know what people think about events going on around us. As part of my research for this column, I read the letters to the editor in the paper and comments posted on local news sites. Sometimes, it gets to me.
Occasionally, the comment pages contain interesting, respectful, and insightful exchanges on the story. The heart-felt prayers and sympathies for folks in dire straits are touching. It's that unspoken qualification that some people tack on that is aggravating: sympathy applies only in the absolute absence of contributory negligence, as determined by their infallible common sense.
The headlines can be even more frustrating, particularly when the story has to do with schools. People who love words enough to use them professionally should come up with something more nuanced than crayons in the hands of a kindergartener. "Just the facts" headlines can be red meat to those convinced all we need is the hand basket and that mere employment by a school system constitutes contributory negligence. It's hard to read the evidence after they have slobbered over it.
When the following exchange occurred recently at our house, I couldn't help but imagine how it would play out on an internet news site.
Mama: "Pick up your Lego box and put it away."
Son: "I can't find it. Can you help me find it?"
Resulting headline: "Mother Refuses Young Son's Plea for Help"
Can you imagine the online abuse I would be in for? They'd want to take my children and tie my tubes if it hadn't already been done.
The cooler heads often look for more information. Here it is:
Mama (in the middle of cleaning house): "Pick up your Lego box and put it away."
Son (soon to be 7 years old, stands stock-still in living room with back to coffee table, staring directly in front of him. Box in question can be clearly seen behind him. Two seconds earlier, he indicated he knew it was in the direction of the coffee table): "I can't find it. Can you help me?"
Of course, I am helping him- helping him build self-reliance and develop his visual acuity.
Not that this would stop the online abuse. 'Something Else' must be going on for a child to simply freeze and ask for help without moving. The on-line judges likely think I have abused him or he is mentally challenged. They are not fools. They know these things. And its always the parent's fault.
Well, he's not abused and he is not mentally challenged. In fact, he is quite bright ("May you have intelligent children" - a blessing, or a curse?).
But they are right about one thing: it is the parents' fault. The parents talk too much, me in particular.
You see, I like to explain things. And my son, being a curious, observant and creative child, has developed this knowledge into a particularly elegant form of procrastination: Keep Mama talking, keep the ball in her court with 'how' and 'why' questions (she loves those!) until she has done most of the work by demonstrating how to do it.
I'm sure he never intended for his work-avoidance-technique to expose me to ridicule or worse.
Having identified this tactic, I am working to Nip It In The Bud. But even though I try to keep my voice down and observe traditional Southern strictures against Being Ugly and Making A Scene In Public, I can look like a Mean Mama to those who don't know me.
I'm not sure its a good thing that people are braver online than they are in Food Lion. I do like to hear what other folks have to say - but not when it is none of their business.
I really am curious to hear your take. Drop me a line at email@example.com