My sister absolutely hates that phrase with a passion. I don't use it either unless I feel like teasing her. In that case, I might drop it casually into conversation just to watch her flinch. There are times however, you must admit, that these two words scream to be applied, when the context is so perfect that I want to climb to the highest point in South Jersey (which might be my attic) and scream for someone to shut his. And so begins my short rant.
The other day my husband made a courtesy call to let a friend of ours know that our son was driving his son to the mall. Since it was our son's first time driving anyone and the other kid is 16, Stan felt like it might be appropriate. The dad said fine, then he asked about our son's recent issues. As he was explaining what has been happening, the dad simply couldn't help himself, "Yeah, that's why we instilled fear into our kids so they know not to get mixed up with that..." This is not the first time this couple has told us that we should probably instill some more fear into our son like they do with their kids. They have successful kids.
I don't care to assess their parenting style, I'm not sure I'm even capable of summing it up seeing as I don't live with them. I keep thinking of the time when our sons were 3 and 4, playing in the back yard. Mine was at the top of a tree and his was on the ground looking up. That pretty much sums up their personalities and I can't imagine that our parenting styles had anything to do with that. (Genes might. My parents' neighbors remember me as the girl who was at the top of every tree.) OK, I lied. I do care to assess their parenting style, because once I heard the father say that he told his kids, "Don't ever let me see you drinking or drunk." In the context--you may be doing it, like everyone else, just don't let me see it. Interesting, but this fine parenting technique doesn't work with those who are addicts or alcoholics. Nor was it one I ever used.
Anyway, this conversation really made me think. Wow. We had friends make a wonderful comforting dinner for us at their house just to take the stress off in a most loving way. It was one of sweet, touching evenings of my life. I do not know when I've ever felt so supported. We've gotten cards, flowers, phone calls of encouragement, similar stories told to let us know we're not alone and give us hope. Our son's old coach even called crying to tell us how much he cared about him. And this dad felt he had to tell Stan about his own fine parenting skills. He had to talk about himself. It's not like I'm surprised...
I have to admit though, I find myself doing this all the time. Someone tells me a story and I have to somehow relate it to myself. That's rude enough, but when someone has just gone through something terrible, you do try to set aside your stellar opinion of yourself for just a few minutes, right? You don't usually tell them how you've deftly avoided such a fate by being so much the wiser? Do ya? God, I hope I don't. And I certainly hope I don't over and over to the same people again and again. The same "friends". Makes me wanna say things like....
Do tell me more about this exemplary parenting style you've perfected. Perhaps you could write it in a book for us. Maybe you could explain life to me, do begin.
Just as a side note, do you know that overeating kills more people than drugs and alcohol combined and is just as sinful? (I have no idea if any of that's true.)
Oh, did I interrupt? I'm sorry. Go on. Here I thought you were asking about my son, but if you'd like to talk about yourself some more, I think I have a few more minutes to spare.
Are ya done? Do you feel better about yourself now? Good. Glad I could help.
You know...when people have just been through a difficult time....it's nice just to listen to their answer to your generous inquiry and maybe even extend compassion or a 'hey, good luck wid dat'. If that's not your style, I might suggest turning away suddenly and jumping on the nearest bus to avoid opening that pie hole.