Saturday, June 30, 2007

Looking at Things the Other Way Around

Barb over at SFO Mom had an interesting post about those unkind thoughts that sometimes pop unbidden into your head. It got me thinking, and since I didn't want to hijack her comments box I thought I'd write my own post.

Here are a few of the things she cites:
I'm wondering what's up with the mother of a young toddler. Mom is wearing large silver bracelets with her swimsuit, and she's talking on her cell phone while helping her little one in and out of the baby pool.

I'm trying to figure out why a little boy who appears to be about 4 years old has obvious highlights done to his hair. Not the "sun-kissed" highlights some kids (including mine) naturally get, and not that strange bleaching where the tips of the hair are bleached but the parts close to the head are the natural color, but actual highlights. Did this little boy ask for that?
I think everyone has this experience. You see someone do something that you can't imagine yourself doing, and immediately wonder "what is wrong with that person?"

Sometimes, I find, it helps to try to think of reasons things are happening the way they are.

Let me give a couple of examples. I read once in one of those little filler anecdotes in Reader's Digest, about people who had gone to see the opera (I'm a little sketchy on the details, but the point is the same) and as the curtain went up and the music started someone's cell phone rang. Now, naturally everyone near the offender gave dirty looks and probably thought things to the effect of 'can't that person even go to the opera without having to talk on the phone, what's wrong with people these days?' The person answered their phone, spoke quietly into it, and then turned to her companion: "We need to go, they have a donor organ for you."

One time I saw a young person who was obviously crippled (for lack of a better word) who was struggling to walk with crutches and twisted legs. My first thought was "how horrible". But then I thought: What if that person was never expected to walk? What if every step they take is a victory. And then I thought 'How wonderful."

It's all a matter of which way you chose to look at something.

So for the matters that Barb cites. Perhaps the woman on her cell phone with the toddler was getting an update on a gravely ill grandparent, perhaps she was talking to a friend who was going through a stressful time, perhaps it was a business call, and if she didn't have the cell phone she'd have to be at home, with the child watching TV so she could concentrate, or even at an office, while the child was in day care. Maybe instead of thinking about how this woman couldn't even seem to be giving her child her full attention, you could think, it's good that she's able to take the child to the pool, even when she has to be on the phone.

And, yes, it's possible the woman is just having a discussion about her latest manicure and always has the phone to her ear - but if we don't know, why not think the more charitable thing.

The little boy with highlights in his hair. I don't know why. I do know that when Pippi was two years old and had a head full of curls I had a neighbor ask me if they were natural. (Who would take the time to curl a toddlers hair? I can't even get her to let me brush it, I thought.) And maybe the little boy did ask for it, because he saw his Mom highlighting her hair and he wanted to be like her. Or maybe that was the best they could do to make it look better after he poured bleach on his head (hey kids do weird things).

Sometimes I can't come up with reasonable ways to look at things. When, on the first day of school, a first grade boy came to class with his hair in a multi-colored spiked mohawk, I couldn't (and still can't) imagine why anyone would want their child to look like that on the first day of first grade (when he's a teen he'll rebel by going Prep!)

So, my unsolicited advice is just try to look at things from another angle. That kid on the crutches: we can think of every step he takes as a tortured misery - or a hard-won victory.

1 comment:

Esther said...

Very good reflection. Must be the New Jersey water that makes you and Barb so wise. :-)