Huh: When Life Offers You a Chance to Show Empathy, Get Defensive Instead

You know how, as a blogger, you want to take a minute, occasionally, to make readers laugh? So, you write a post that you think is quite witty, really, and you title it "In Which Smockity Considers Jabbing a Ball Point Pen Into Her Eye" because it's clever. (link replaced with Stork Dok's google doc)

The best of intentions and all. You're just being amusing, sharing how you were minding your own business, being pious and all (perhaps reading the good book in 90 days isn't the best way to learn about what Jesus would do. To be fair, neither was the six hours of bible I took when I earned my bachelor's degree). You relate how good your children are and tell an amusing story about a little girl who wants to use the computer. You describe her in detail, noting her flapping, her toe bouncing, and her repetitive comments about being patient. You say repeatedly that you remember it's not your child, so it's not your business, but you make sure to place the judgment that Grandma's being less than helpful at controlling the child and you feel the grandma's trying to be pushy to get you to get your kids off the computer. You don't ask, you don't let the grandma know they just got on. Instead  you write:

"The flapping intensified until I thought we all might witness the first recorded occurence of self propelled human flight. There was much more loud talk of “patience” and at this point I seriously considered jabbing a ball point pen into my eyeball to distract me from the temptation to address the situation in a less than patient manner. I immediately thought better of it because that would have made driving home very difficult, not to mention the mess of all that eyeball juice."

When commenters tell you rather kindly that it really sounds like the child had autism and that this behavior might have been a huge accomplishment, you get defensive and close the comments down. When bloggers find out about this post and begin to write response blogs and email you, you take your blog down and write this:

"It has come to my attention that my motives are being slandered because of what I meant to be a humorous look at life around me."

Followed by:

"I will not be responding to emails or attacks on Twitter, personal blogs, or forums."

I took the time last night to write you a heartfelt, and for me, restrained email about how big an accomplishment it was for my three to be able to go out with me to Walmart, how proud I was that they can navigate the experience without meltdowns, how hard it was when my oldest was little and we went out.

I wrote you that reading your post, I was sure mothers who had children on the spectrum had immediately recognized that little girl, and that reading your post, hearts undoubtedly cracked.

You could have chosen to take this as an opportunity to show grace, compassion, empathy. You could have used it as a learning experience. You could have apologized for any pain your pen-in-the-eyeball post caused.

You didn't, and I have no doubt that many of us felt our hearts crack wider at reading your update today.

We work hard for our children to help them navigate the wider world successfully, and there is a fair amount of heartache involved in these endeavors when we see them rejected, when we see their tremendous accomplishments belittled and made fun of. And we pray that they will not notice the looks or the whispers or the rejections. But we notice. Each and every time, we notice and our hearts break for our children. For others who experience this fundamental rejection.

But we also buckle down, realize we've got more work to do to make this world more accepting of our children and other people's children. And we don't do it with false piety, either, or a martyr-me this attitude. We recognize that we are frail, we are human, we are flawed. When we make mistakes, we take a big gulp, we look at ourselves, we admit the error and we resolve to do better. We move forward.

So, it's okay that you don't want to respond. It's okay that you want to self-justify this as a being slandered. You were just being funny. That's all. How dare moms get bent out of shape because we recognized that you were being funny about a child like our own. You know, one of God's children.

"Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me." Matthew 25:40


Melissa H said...

You said EXACTLY what I was feeling, too. Heart cracks and all. Sigh.

I also blogged about it:


Squid said...

Thank you, Kim. I appreciate how much energy and heart you pour into your ceaseless advocacy efforts.

Corina Becker said...

This is possibly the first time that I have been in agreement with farmwifetwo, and is horrified by the "Christian" behaviour of Smockity.

Apparently, she hasn't gotten to Matthew yet.

Smockity seems fixated on the fact that Grandma did not try to direct the girl's attention to books, backing up her assertion that the girl is being a spoiled brat because of this. She seems unable to understand that the highly-likely autistic girl was fixated on the computers, and would be unable to be distracted and even be upset by the interference.

In the comments for the post, I noticed that people remarked that it's possible that 1) the grandma is not the primary caregiver, and so is only following the guidelines the parents have set out to the best of her ability and 2) that this is a small step in a larger lesson in patience, and that interrupting the practical application of the lesson would hinder the girl's learning.

Personally, I think the girl has the lesson of patience down pat pretty well. Especially for a 4-5 year old.

I'm rather proud of the girl; she maintained appropriate behaviour. I don't care that Smockity thinks that she was being impatient; the girl was being very polite and not complaining about the wait (although, I suspect that her repeated patience comments were her version of "is it my turn yet?" hints).

Instead of making a tantrum, she politely tapped the other child on the shoulder, and did not get upset when refused. She maintained her coping stims, and waited in line. It's better manner than some NTs that I've seen.

Also, the post may have been taken down, but it's still available

Loving My Family said...

Thank you Kim, and all the others out there that responded to the holier than though post.

Liz Ditz said...

Both Squid and I are keeping running accounts of blog responses to Smockity.

kathleen said...

Yeah..this one really blew me away..my response-


Clay said...

Yeah, I saw that post discussed on Emily's blog yesterday. I wouldn't have been able to add much to the conversation, I was too PO'ed, and the discussion on the original post was already shut down.

KWombles said...

Thank you all for your comments and your blogs on this.

We have so much work to do, not just to make our children's day-to-day lives better, to create school environments that are safe for all children, that let all children find their talents and acceptance from their peers, but to work with adults to create an awareness of the harm their words, their thoughts, and their actions ultimately cause not just our children, but their children as well.

Nic said...

Just thank goodness that that little girl had her grandma as her supporter, rather than that sanctimonoius cow. That little girl needs to be applauded for her fantastic efforts to remain calm, with such stimlulus next to her.

If this is what being a christian is all about, then I am glad I am an athiest.

Absolutely horrific. Trying to justify with her sense of humour is utter nonsense. The mind boggles.

Club 166 said...

Well done. I think the Mathew quote was a nice touch.

Perhaps this won't change Smockity's attitude, but I bet it will change her proclivity to show off her ignorance in public.


Emily said...

Thanks, Kim. Also, I like the point about the grandmother. I think, the way she was described in the story, that she is, as Charlotte would weave, "Some Grandma." It sounds like she was doing really well with her granddaughter.