My Way . . . Or No Way

I have recently become fascinated by the number of people who believe that the world revolves around them.

I’m all for encouraging others to feel good about themselves, and I don’t disagree with trying to engender positivity. I like the concept of helping everyone to build self-esteem.

Yet it seems to me that the current “accept everything” model, together with the idea that it’s not right (not acceptable in a world that accepts everything?) to tell a child that they are in the wrong, is building a world full of selfish entitlement. It’s my way, or no way.

For example, you make arrangements to catch a specific train. That requires you to leave the house by a specific time so as to get to the station on time. Yet the attitude seems to be, “Well the train will just have to wait for me!”

I’m sorry, but when did your entitlement to be late overrule everyone else’s entitlement to be punctual?

Interestingly, such people will often make a major issue over your relaxed arrangements. This is a wonderful experience to behold.

“What time are we leaving?”

“After breakfast.”

“So what time is that?”

“Between 9.00 and 10.00.”

“Can’t you be more specific?”

“Not really. It depends on how long it takes everyone to get ready. But as long as we leave by 10.00 we’ll be fine.”

“So 10.00, then.”

“No. Between 9.00 and 10.00; when we are all ready. But definitely before 10.00 so that we miss the traffic.”

Then the fun starts. Breakfast over, you say:

“Is everyone ready to leave, then?”

“No. I have to get dressed”

“Go on, then. But don’t take too long. You have 15 minutes.”

Twenty minutes later, at 10.05 you go to check.

“Not dressed, yet? We’re going to be late and we’ll get caught in the traffic and miss the train.”

“Well, they’ll just have to wait for me, won’t they. You’ll just have to drive faster.”

And this person who was simply going to die unless you gave them a specific time now holds everything up, expecting everyone else’s life to revolve around him. (Or her.)

It’s one of the hazards of shielding children from the consequences of their actions, or covering for them, getting them out of trouble. They grow up feeling that they are the most important person in the world, and that leads to the same attitude as they age.

The reality is that we are not the most important persons in the world. The only way to be special is to treat everyone else as more special than you. But when we shield people, including children, from the consequences of their actions, we develop a thankless, heartless, entitled generation.

Next time you come across this attitude, whether in yourself or others, resolve, not to shield the perpetrator from the consequences, but to enforce those consequences with all your might. (As long as it’s safe to do so, of course!)

“Yes. I know you wanted to go to the park. And I know I said that we would go as soon as you’re dressed. But, look. The park gates are locked for the night because you took so long to get dressed.”

Be prepared, however, to suffer your own consequences:

“Well if you had told me to get dressed earlier we wouldn’t have been late!”

I know. It seems like you can’t win. But do this enough times and the message will start getting through.

Respect and dignity require mutual consideration, not insistence on our rights, regardless of the consequences to other people.

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Losing Mum – Again

Can there be anything worse for a child than to lose his or her mother? That person who should bond with you, gone from your life, whether by accident or design or sheer selfishness.

For a neglected child, losing the neglectful mother is harsh. She wants a relationship that will last forever, and that will comfort and support her. However, not only did her birth mother remain aloof and oblivious to her and her brother’s needs, but then she and her brother were snatched away from their mother and put in someone else’s care.

And learned to form an attachment to new mum; a mum who did care and who did love her; a mum she could love and trust in return. A mum that helped her and her brother overcome their feelings of abandonment.

And then new mum went to see the doctor. And new mum had to go into hospital.

But new mum never came home, and never will.

And a few days later, she and her brother have to say goodbye to another mum. A mum they could trust and love. Because they knew that she loved them. And they will stand by his side, holding hands with new dad, and crying together.

And death is the ultimate abandonment, with no going back.

And recovery from abandonment has to begin again. But this time, with no new mum to turn to.

Only new dad. And new dad is just as sad. But she knows, and her brother knows, that new dad loves them. And new dad will try to be their new mum, too.

Are You Sure You Want to Share That with the World?

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In May, 2014, the European Court of Justice decided that Google must offer the right to be forgotten. That decision, however, leads us to ask, “Do you really want to share your history with the world?” It also begs the question, “What does the world really want to see?”

A History of Communication

Let’s take a quick run through the history of sharing.

Communication has always been one of the most important features of human activity. In fact, people are known to have died through a lack of interaction with others. That is why solitary confinement is such a cruel form of torture.

People love to talk. And they will talk about anything and everything. Have you ever looked back on an evening spent with friends? We often describe the conversation as “putting the world to rights,” or some similar local phrase. Yet, if we were to be asked to relate the contents of that evening’s conversations, we would, undoubtedly, struggle to list more than a handful of topics.

Along came the written word, and communication experienced an expansion as people learned to share news with those who live farther afield. Posting letters is an ancient, and valued activity.

When radio and telephone were invented, it was not long before people learned to communicate over the airwaves. They could now pass instant messages to the farthest corners of the globe.

Amateur radio arrived and people started to share personal matters with relative strangers. Yet these were still relatively trusted people. After all, they were a special community of like-minded individuals.

Then Came The Internet

Then came the Internet; or, to be more precise, the electronic bulletin board, used to post messages to people who lived in different time zones.

In its infancy, these were mostly messages of a technical nature posted on university electronic boards. But they soon started to become more personal. This led, of course, to Instant Messaging and Social Networks. Now, people can share their thoughts, knowledge, and experience with anyone and everyone, almost worldwide.

Still, as I mentioned in my post, The Hazards of Social Media, we have to consider any information posted on the Internet as being public, or easy to make public.

Social networks, of course, mean more than just instant short message services. They can include blogs and other forms of personal websites.

Putting Yourself in Danger

Consider some areas where you could put yourself in danger.

Let’s say that you just bought a new music system, TV set, or computer. It is a top-of-the-range model and you are proud of your purchase. So you post photos of these items online for your friends to see.

A few weeks later, you tell your friends that you are going on holiday for two weeks; and the local burglars say, “Thank you for that information.” You come home to find your house cleared of all those nice new items, and several more.

Worse, what if you published an item saying that you were a little concerned about being alone in the house while your mate was away on business. What dangers could you be opening yourself up to, now?

Also, what about those photos that you take on the way home from work, every evening. Do they say, “Look at the route I take from work, every evening. And I walk this lonely path on my own. Come and get me!”

Putting Others in Danger

I have long believed that many parents protect their credit card details better than they protect their children.

How many parents do you know who post photographs of their children on the Internet? Oh, they try to disguise the children by giving them false names. Some people only post the initial letter of the child’s first name. Others will use the pet name that the family uses for the child. You know the sort of entries: “This is my daughter, J;” or “Here is a photo of Princess.”

Now, what is to stop someone with nefarious intent approaching your daughter and saying, “Hello, Princess. Mammy asked me to collect you from school, today.” These parents have given away one of the key safety measures available to the child: “If Mammy sent you, what does she call me?”

Should It Be Shared?

Another area that needs careful consideration is the question of whether an item should be shared with others, anyway.

In my post, What’s with the Selfie? I asked why so many self-portraits make the subject look evil. Is it the latest craze that I have missed? Or do people no longer care what they look like? If you are going to share a photo of yourself, at least try to make it look flattering. Posting photos of yourself looking as if you are the evil twin do nothing for your credibility, and could even lose you your job.

Another type of post that I often wonder about is the sharing of personal experiences, whether happy or sad. Okay, this is more difficult. The entry that says, “Sorry I haven’t been too active, lately. I just found the new love of my life,” is probably on the safe side. But when the writer goes into the details of his blonde hair, blue eyes, and muscular stature, I often wonder just how true the story is. I also wonder whether I really want to now.

The opposite side is, “I’m sorry I haven’t posted much, during the last week, but we had a bereavement in the family.” This is a little more acceptable as it is reaching out for comfort. Yet I still wonder how many people really want to know.

Sharing personal experiences is more about sharing knowledge and wisdom. It is about helping other people to cope with their lives by sharing your story of successfully overcoming your trials and tribulations. It is not about seeking sympathy. So maybe it would be better to write, “I’m sorry I haven’t posted much, during the last week, but we had a bereavement in the family. I’m so glad I have good friends around me. They have been so supportive.”

The Pity Party

Perhaps the worst kind of entry, then, is the pity party, especially when it is accompanied by photos.

I once saw some blog entries, accompanied by photos, updating the world on the progress of someone’s operation. Listen people, these are not photos that I want to see on a public notice board, especially when I’m eating my breakfast! If I want to see the stages of repair and healing I will go to the medical websites. Seeing your stitches, and the resultant scars, is not top of my agenda; and I don’t know many people who do want to see them.

These blog entries also frequently mention the author’s illnesses. Look. I know you want to share your experiences with the world, but if that’s the world you inhabit, then fine. Most normal people really do not sympathize with the “Woe is me!” mentality. Just because you are suffering, there is no need to make the rest of us suffer, too. By all means, share your experiences on websites dedicated to these illnesses; but leave the more public forums alone unless you are going to share the strategy that helped you to successfully deal with the problems.

For example, the Reader here on WordPress makes it possible to select blogs based on key words or phrases. So if I want to interact with people suffering from heart disease, I can. If I want to know how others cope with a child who has autism, I can. If I want to ignore those conversations, I can. Other Social Media sites, however, do not have that luxury. So, if I want to follow a certain person, perhaps because they share information that is important to me, I have to see their lives, warts and all.

To Share or Not To Share

So what am I saying, here? That I cannot control what I read on the Internet? Not really. That I am not interested in people’s petty ailments? No. I am concerned. I have my own health issues and I subscribe to channels that provide news feeds related to those issues. When I find a successful solution to my health issue, I share it in positive terms, telling people how it has helped me and encouraging them to consider whether it would benefit them, too. I do not whinge about every ache or pain that I suffer as a result of my health problems.

What I am saying is that we need to be careful what we share. By sharing personal, often intimate details, we are exposing ourselves, not only to danger of physical or psychological harm, but also to ridicule. There are plenty of obnoxious people out there who will think nothing of ridiculing a sufferer, just for the fun of it.

Worse than that, maybe, is the fact that we could be alienating even our long-trusted friends. These are the very people who could protect us from the ridicule; who would provide a safe haven in times of need. Yet, these trusted friends probably already know about our latest medical episode. So why broadcast it to the whole world?

Don’t get me wrong. There are some instances where sharing such information is invaluable. At times of disaster, the telephone network may be down, but we can still post to our social network pages. A message saying, “I’ve lost everything, but I’m glad to say I’m still alive,” is always welcomed. In fact, after many disasters, it was the amateur radio operators, in times gone by, and the social networkers, in more recent times, that have brought the news to the world.

So, before publishing your most intimate secrets, think about what you are saying. Read through what you have written with the eyes of a stranger; and ask yourself, “If this was about someone else, would I really want to know?”

 

Morality's Compass

So stubborn and rebellious,
Broke almost every rule,
He never got to bed on time,
He acted like a fool.

Proverbially, he was the one
That if he’d have been the first,
There’d be no other children, for,
He really was the worst.

Mixing in bad company,
He made his parents shiver
With thoughts of what those substances
Were doing to his liver.

But then, at last, he met a girl
Who was up to the task;
Who captured both his mind and heart;
Who saw beyond the mask.

They settled down and had some kids
And learned what troubles are;
And wanting, now, to meet their needs,
Began to raise the bar.

And now he knows the daily grind
Of bottles, diapers, meals,
He wouldn’t change it for the world,
Or anything on wheels.

He changed his life and learned respect,
Responsibility.
And though he still likes to have fun,
No more does he run free.

He sits at home, now, of an eve
And contemplates his lot,
And sometimes, yes, he misses it,
The alcohol and pot.

But then he looks into the room,
Sees children fast asleep,
And realises with a smile,
This joy he’d like to keep.

For after all is said and done,
There’s nothing in this life
More precious than the loyal love
Of children and a wife.

**********************************

My last post looked at the sad side of life and parenthood; how disappointing it can be when children don’t acknowledge and act on the wisdom of their parents. It was probably a bit depressing! So I thought it would be nice to look at the other side, this time.

So often, we focus on the bad things in life, but the reality is that, if we look for the good, we will, inevitably find it. Although I lament the mistakes that children make when they ignore their parents’ advice, I am also keen to acknowledge the fact that many young people can turn their lives around. To such young ones I say, “Well done. This poem is a tribute to you; and to your parents, who never gave up hope.”

Pride's Compass

She doesn’t know
The pain we feel when we see
The sadness in her eyes
That ought to shine so bright.

She doesn’t see
The tears we hold back,
The worry that racks our minds
Whether she is near or far.

She doesn’t understand
Why we should be concerned
About her welfare,
About her happiness.

She only feels
The anger deep within
That stems from knowing
She should have listened.

She only knows
That now there’s no way out,
Unless she finds the strength
To accept the help we offer.

And maybe, then, she’ll know
That all we said and all we did,
We did with best intentions,
For her protection and benefit.

She won’t accept
That we could know
The consequences
Of a life thrown away.

So now she cries
An endless stream
Of tears that will not wash
The sorrow from her heart.

She only knows
That there’s no going back.
Her path is set
By pride’s compass.

The Box

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Memories and feelings
All wrapped up in cotton wool
And bubble wrap;
Gently placed inside the box
With polystyrene pieces
And packs of desiccant;
Sealed and marked,
“Do not destroy,”
And archived.

For now, I have no need
Of memories or feelings;
Now that you’ve gone
And left me all alone
To face the bleakness of a future
Filled with sadness,
Filled with tears,
Filled with grief,
And uncertainty

Maybe, some day,
Our great grandchildren
Will look inside
To marvel at the love we shared.
“How quaint that they should be
Together, Oh so long!”
And give us pride of place
Upon their shelves
And mantels.

Or maybe you and I
Will reunite
To open up the box
And let the memories rekindle
The love that bound us
Together, forever;
To set the feelings free
To flood our hearts
And souls.

‘These three remain:
Faith, hope, and love;’
Anchors for this lonely soul
To which I cling with calloused hands
That long to feel
The softness of your cheeks.
Faith, hope, and love
That soon we’ll reunite
In Paradise.


Originally published April 10th, 2014

Innocent

Grandpa's Way

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“Sometimes a man is innocent, but the circumstances make it appear otherwise.”
Oliver Lacon in John LeCarré’s Smiley’s People (or was it Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)

It’s one of my favourite quotations. I may not have it exactly right. But I think the sentiment is important.

Over the years, I have come across people who were only trying to do their best, but their motives were questioned to the point where they appeared to be in the wrong. They, however, knew that the best way to deal with such allegations is to ignore them . . . and let the results speak on their behalf. Invariably, they were justified without saying a word.

I have also come across people who managed to hide their wrongs behind a façade of bravado, usually accompanied by vociferous false allegations against even those who had their best interests at heart. Invariably, they suffered. Their…

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