Sibling Rivalry 2

​Mam, I’m sick, she says 

I’m sicker than her, he says

Sibling rivalry

While the arthritic parents

Silently carry the load

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Water Under the Bridge

Mindless comments hurt.

Yet how many stories do we hear about people who haven’t spoken to each other for years, but they cannot remember why. 

Water under the bridge. It’s gone. And half our lives have gone, too. And the quarrel is forgotten. But the pain remains. 

Like the river bank, worn away, by the water under the bridge. 

Let it go. 

Losing Everything

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I watched as a pigeon landed nearby with a piece of bread, far too big to eat. He started to wrestle with it, his beak shaking it about trying to break it into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

All this activity did not go unnoticed. Another pigeon saw the commotion and flew in to investigate. Seeing such a grand feast, he challenged for possession.

The defendant dropped the bread and stood his ground. But the challenger was intent on getting the prize. He moved in, aggressively. A fight ensued, with both pigeons slugging it out, beak to beak. No quarter was asked, and no quarter was given.

The two antagonists kept up the fracas for a short while, making lots of movement and a great deal of loud noise.

But the fight was being observed from on high. At the opportune moment, a seagull swooped in, his great beak aiming at the target. He landed, gulped the bread down, and left, just as quickly as he had appeared; all in one smooth movement.

The antagonists looked on, stunned, and went on their way, hungry.

Watching this drama unfold, I realised that whenever we focus on our disagreements, we lose sight of the bigger picture.

And we risk losing everything.

Talent? What Talent?

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Watching a talent show, you wonder what the family are thinking when they allow their son, daughter, or whatever, to subject themselves to such public humiliation.

Most of us sing, from time to time; usually for one of two reasons. Either we feel happy, and burst into song, or we want to distract ourselves or others from what is going on around us. Lullabies are a classic example of the latter; a concerned parent tries to distract their child from pain, or send him to sleep, despite the excitement all around. Or a child will sing in a disruptive manner when she doesn’t get the attention she thinks she deserves.

Yet, how many of us really believe that we could make it as the next big pop star? No. We keep our singing to ourselves.

OK. Let’s put this in perspective. There was an advertisement for a famous chocolate bar, many years ago, that showed a new group auditioning with a record producer. During a break for refreshments, the producer says, “Can’t play. Can’t sing. You look awful. (Pause for advertised product.) You’ll go a long way.” Now, that was meant as sarcasm. But it seems that many of the people entering talent competitions, especially the televised versions, think it works. And I often wonder, “Do their families really hate them so much that they would allow them to go through such public humiliation?”

So why does it happen?

1. Hatred. There are several reasons, and overt family hatred is not among them, most of the time. Only the most perverse parent would want to humiliate their child in such a public fashion. Mind you, that doesn’t stop many parents from shouting derogatory comments at their child in public.

2. Don’t Upset Him. One reason is that people don’t want to upset their child, parent, or sibling. So, rather than cause upset in the family, they say nothing, or even encourage the foolish attempt to make it in show business, art, or the chosen talent. Maybe the would-be artist believes he has a great voice, but he also has a bit of a temper. So no one wants to upset him. They forget that he’s going to be upset, anyway, when the discerning public humiliate him.

3. Hatred Disguised as Love. Yet a far more insidious form of hatred is disguised as love. The current trend in parenting says that we should not provide a child with a negative view of himself; always try to find something good to say about his efforts. As commendable as such sentiments may be, do they really help to prepare the child for life? Self esteem is important. But to be valuable it has to be realistic. I once read a comment by a father who said, “If you present a bad report at the office, your boss isn’t going to say, ‘Hey, I like the color paper you chose.'”

Nurturing a positive view of one’s self without good cause is not loving. It is a form of hateful abuse. By nurturing the view that a child can do no wrong, a parent is setting the child up for failure. Children need to learn to be self-critical, not in the negative, self-harming sense, but in the way of having a realistic view of their own abilities and achievements. They need to identify when they got it wrong so that they can have the pleasure of problem solving without recourse to a parent masking the child’s failure. They need to learn to reason on their own work, find the mistakes, and fix them on their own.

The same is true of talent. When a parent, or other significant family member, presents an unrealistically positive view, they are doing their child a huge disservice. Protecting a child from harm includes protection from self-inflicted abuse caused by an unrealistic view of your own abilities. And that can only be achieved by being tactfully truthful.

Children need to learn that the universe does not revolve around them. They need to learn that they can’t be right, all the time. They need to learn that they will make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that their life is over. The safest place to learn this is in the warm, loving environment of a warm, loving family, with parents who care enough to point out the failings in a gentle, loving way. They need parents who help them to identify and correct mistakes, rather than hiding the child from the consequences of their actions.

While it is important to encourage a child’s self esteem, failing to identify their weaknesses is failing to be a good parent. It produces children who greedily assume that the world owes them a living, and that they don’t have to do anything to deserve it.

Would it not be better to give the child a balanced, realistic view of himself. Maybe, then, they can become better parents, when it’s their turn.

Acceptance vs Approval

There’s a big debate going on around the world about acceptance and being non-judgemental. We are told that we have to accept people, even ourselves, for what they, or we, are.

I’ve always struggled with this concept. Here in Britain, for example, there have been several court cases revolving around discrimination against people’s chosen lifestyle. Yet allowing one section of society to exercise their rights usually ends up trampling on someone else’s.

Consider the case of a religious person who runs an hotel and refuses to accommodate a homosexual couple. So the couple has the free will to choose their lifestyle. But in doing so, are they allowed to trample on the rights of the person with strong religious feelings about who he allows into his home?

I often see this in car parks. Most car parks, these days have a section for disabled people and another for parents with children. Then I heard a case of disabled people parking in the child spaces because the disabled spaces were all full. That was viewed as acceptable. Yet when a parent parked in a disabled bay, it was unacceptable. Is this some form of negative discrimination and trampling on each other’s rights?

So we come to the idea of acceptance. I was once asked how I would feel if one of my children announced that he of she was homosexual. (I don’t use the term gay. I’m old enough to have been brought up with the correct meaning of gay being happy.) My answer was that I would accept it as his or her decision. Does that mean I approve? Not necessarily. I have my own conscience. And none of us has the right to impose our conscience on anyone else. I also have to make a judgement as to whether it is a safe option.

The same goes for the non-medical use of addictive drugs. I may accept people’s right to choose that lifestyle, but my judgement may tell me not to approve of it because of the dangers involved. And I may encourage people to give up that life because of those dangers.

Let’s get this clear. Acceptance does not demand approval. We accept that everyone has free will. But we also have a responsibility to be safe and to ensure that others are safe. And that requires a judgement call.

So where does this lead us? It means that we have to stop demanding approval. Just because I accept your choice, it doesn’t mean that I approve. I have to make a judgement based on my conscience. And that means that I don’t have to allow your rights to trample on mine.

So let’s give up this non-judgemental bandwagon and accept that we all have a right to judge for ourselves what is acceptable and what we approve of. And bear in mind that acceptance does not have to mean approval, and it does not have to mean refraining from making a judgement.

She Calls Him Softly

She calls him softly;
Touches his back,
Seeking reassurance
That he is still breathing;
Worried that he will leave her
In the middle of the night.

Seventeen years have passed
Since his little sojourn
In Coronary Care.
Yet still she wonders
If any of his peaceful breaths
Will be his last.

She doesn’t want to be alone.
So she worries
And tries her best
To keep him healthy
With all the right foods
And a minimum off stress.

She tries to shelter him
From worries and problems,
And tries to make sure
That he leads a calm, peaceful life.
She thinks he doesn’t know
How much she cares.

But he calls her softly;
Touches her back,
Seeking reassurance
That she is still breathing;
Worried that she will leave him
In the middle of the night.