Every once in a while, I get kicked in the head when it comes to my arrogance of how other people “should” raise or treat their children. I’m not referring to abuse. That is a no-brainer and not part of this post. I’m talking about what others buy for their children, what they do for them, and how they support them. I am also talking about how they allow their children to treat them (again, not talking about any type of abuse). Relationships of all kinds are so terribly convoluted that we on the outside can’t begin to imagine what has gone before to create relationships which others have. It is hard enough to keep up with my own. Why do I persist in trying to change the situations of others?
I make some kind of wrong turn in my head when I hear about situations that bother me and I begin to believe that they (my friends) want my ideas. That they truly can’t wait to hear what I think and how much better their lives will be if they only listen to me. I think that if I tell them honestly how I see the treatment (either of or by other people), they will of course see the error of their ways, and immediately correct their behavior.
Who the hell do I think I am? I have had my own impossible situations when it comes to children, and certainly many people could tell me that many things which I did were wrong. Poor parenting. Lousy choices. Would that have helped me? Would it help me now? Would I agree with it? Can I change it? I love to discuss boundaries in my life. I wonder what boundaries I see others as having. Do they have the right to ask for my opinion before I so recklessly offer it? Do they have the right to tell me to shut up if I’ve decided that my ideas are so profound that they must hear and adhere to what I have to say? Yes to both. I seek wisdom in my life. But I must seek the wisdom to keep my mouth (and writing) shut until I am asked.
How does one place boundaries about this subject with their friends and family members? Where is the proverbial line that must be drawn so that I don’t offend in the process of believing myself so arrogantly wise? I’ve been thinking about this since I stomped on the toes of someone I love deeply without ever considering that she had toes. Without ever considering she may not want my alleged experience. Without ever considering that to be so arrogant and so public about my arrogance could damage not only our relationship, but her relationships with others.
I’ve come to this conclusion. If I am not being asked directly for my opinion, it is just for me to participate in the conversation. Draw them out. Ask how they feel about it, but keep my danged mouth shut with my own thoughts. If they are not seeking some kind of other way of acting for future course, I am to simply participate in the conversation. If my friend, sister, brother, peer does not specifically ask what I think, I am to simply participate in the conversation.
This adds a dilemma to the situation. I want to be honest about the things I see. Perhaps the only place I can effectively do that is by private journal. And I also must understand that my honesty is simply that. Mine. Not necessarily anyone else’s, particularly when it comes to parenting.
I am not in charge of how others raise their children. Absent truly lousy treatment, I have to guard my arrogant ideas and to do more questioning of me when I have these ideas. Sometimes we respond without knowing we did. I have to get better at that.
I am deeply sorry that I caused pain to my friend. I am deeply embarrassed that I consider myself so wise. I am terribly chagrined that I did not think more deeply about my actions and was so insensitive to a difficult situation. Sometimes I like to think that because I’m a writer, I am free to write whatever I want. My Life and all its stuff includes the actions of others. But does it? Outside of my family, do I have the right to write whatever I know if I think it is worth writing about? I guess this is where we get to the disclaimer, “If any of these characters resemble anyone, living or dead…” Coincidence and all of that. But I wasn’t writing a fiction novel. Nor a short story. Character flaws make us human and interesting and so very apologetic. Friends are so much more important than opinions.