Q: It seems that parents are considered remiss if they don’t have their kids scheduled every minute of the day. Do you recommend free time so that kids can exercise their imaginations?
A: I’m afraid you’ve fallen a bit behind – parents are now considered remiss if they do have their kids scheduled every minute of the day, and don’t block out the requisite free time for them to exercise their imaginations.
Or just to exercise, since parents are also considered remiss if their children are visibly sedentary or, bless their hearts, soft.
If you have a sense of adventure or a knack for tea leaves, then maybe you can get ahead of the trends and anticipate the next things parents will be considered remiss for doing and/or not doing. There’s money to be made there for sure.
Unless we manage to get to the point, like Dr. Seuss’ Sneetches, where society’s appetite for judging parents culminates in such a frenzy of trend adoption and rejection that it becomes impossible to tell anymore what’s in or out; should that come to pass, the Star-On and -Off machines will leave town, taking their profit potential with them, and leaving parents no choice but to raise their kids as they see fit.
Q: I’m in a book discussion group, which I generally enjoy. One of our newer members, who started out fairly pleasant, has become extremely snippy about others’ opinions if they differ from his. His voice drips sarcasm and implies stupidity.
This person suffers from a condition that I understand can flare up painfully on occasion, which might be behind his “attack” mode kicking in. I sympathize, but not to the extent of being willing to accept such rudeness. Others in the group seem ready to overlook his actions because of his condition. They might roll their eyes, but they say nothing.
I’ve just about reached my limit of biting my tongue when he says hurtful things to any of us. Is there any kindly way of getting him to stop without being a bad guy myself? Or is my only recourse to drop out of this group?
A: There’s a lot of detail here that doesn’t affect the question.
When a companion says something obnoxious, you say, “Am I hearing you correctly? That sounded snippy.”
Directness is respectful even of your ailing Captain Sarcastic – certainly more so than eye-rolling is. To assume he needs special handling is to treat him as a pity case.
Speaking up is more respectful, too, of the value of your own time. This is as much your book group as anyone’s, so you are as entitled as anyone to break a peer-pressured silence and point out something that bothers you.
If nothing changes after you’ve spoken up a few times, and if you’d rather not stay under the current conditions, then it makes sense to drop out.
About all that extra detail: You may have included it to be thorough, which I appreciate. If you included it because you thought it germane, though, then please remember that integrity is unaffected by the type of group, or the illness of one member, or the reticence of others, or whatever else. And remember that integrity is the only component of a “bad guy” calculation. If on principle you believe your silence abets obnoxious behavior, then you need to speak up. Your words or your exit will do.
Q: When friends or acquaintances tell me they are going through a hard time, or have a health problem they are dealing with, I always tell them I will remember them in my prayers. I do not proselytize nor do I go into any details about how I pray or where I pray. I don’t recommend they go to church or light candles.
However, a family member said this might offend those who do not pray or believe in prayer, or those who do not believe in God.
Should I stop saying this and just pat them on the shoulder, saying, “I hope you will be feeling better soon”?
A: But what if they don’t like to be touched?
What if they don’t want to feel better?
I neither pray nor believe in God, and when kind people who wish me well say they will remember me in their prayers, I say, “Thank you.” And I mean it.
Because if I start nitpicking the molecular composition of people’s kindnesses, then I have bigger problems than the one they’re offering to pray away.
I might have a different answer if the person offering to pray for me already knew I wasn’t religious and made the offer as a deliberate attempt to get under my skin or register veiled disapproval of my atheism. In that case, though, I’d still just say, “Thank you,” because life is both too long and too short to play my half of that kind of game.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com