When I was growing up in Salt Lake City, my parents had a family friend who never earned nor did he ever deserve a cross look from anyone for anything. Why? Because he was the kind of guy that you could never hate or find fault with. Nicest guy ever. His wife was a real piece of work but I’m not going to waste your precious time or any of my brain cells on her.
This guy was one of the kindest most selfless people I knew and I have always respected him because he never spoke ill of anyone even though there were many that criticized him for one reason or another. In fact, when people were mean-spirited or condescending towards him, it seems like he made an extra effort to be kinder, gentler and more humble, especially to those who treated him unkind.
I saw him cry once. I was tossing a football around with some friends outside a community dance one night and I saw him sitting in the car bawling. My first thought was, ‘Geez I never wanted to see a grown man cry like that.’ And just as that thought crossed my mind, he looked straight at me and there was that awkward moment when you don’t know whether to smile, wave or act like you didn’t see them. I chose to ignore him because, what do you say to a grown man who’s sobbing like a soccer mom who just lost her valium in the middle of a meltdown?
A few days later we were at church and I overheard him speaking in Samoan to my mother. Samoan parents had the misconception that none of us “American Samoans” could speak or understand the language. Luckily for me and my siblings, my parents made it a point to speak the language in our home so I didn’t really speak the language well, but I could understand almost everything the adults said, except of course their corny jokes and sexual innuendos. Those I preferred to ignore.
‘Are you feeling better?’ I heard mom ask.
‘Yes, I just don’t know why it really affected me this time,’ I heard the man say in his shy, barely audible voice.
‘I think it’s because they attacked your kids. Anyone would have reacted that way if their kids are being mistreated.’ Mom could have been a therapist if she didn’t have to contend with eight brats and all those people she often took in.
‘I feel bad I yelled at them.’
‘Well, it was a natural response. I just thought you should know that my husband and I really care about you and we hope that your kids aren’t affected by their mean words.’
I was baffled. Nothing in that conversation made any sense to me. The guys kids didn’t seem to be hurt physically because there they were swinging from the stage curtains in our chapel just fine during the entire conversation and carrying on like they were raised in a monkey troop.
Looking back on that conversation gives me perspective now because there are people in this world who will take out their frustrations, their anger and their jealousies on our kids. Why is that? Is it because they are too afraid to face us and tell us what they are really thinking. Do they think that they are justified in mistreating our kids because of some preconceived notion that they are better than us or perhaps we are just not good enough for them?
This type of behavior is uncouth, it is juvenile, it is inappropriate. And for me to say this seems hypocritical because for many years I couldn’t stand being around kids; even after I had my own kids! But something changed along the way and I can honestly say that I enjoy being around kids. I enjoy the simplicity of their interactions. I love the fact that their minds are untainted by the stupidity, arrogance and despicable behavior of adults.
I have worked as a volunteer with young men and women for all of my adult life. It is a tough and sometimes discouraging job because you see what these young people go through. Their struggles are ten times the struggles that I endured at their age and yet they do their best to maintain all aspects of their lives only to be criticized, ignored and sometimes debased by adults who either can’t stand the kid, or have a personal vendetta against the child’s parents.
As an adult, if you loathe a child for whatever reason, suck it up and don’t make that child feel like they are not a human being. A child (from infants to 18-year-olds) lacks the understanding and experience of how to conduct themselves in many situations. Don’t condemn that kid for climbing on your sofa when all they know is that it’s okay to climb on their furniture at home and they haven’t been told that it’s not okay to do it in someone else’s home. It’s not okay to detest a kid simply because some of the things they say or do drives you nuts. You’re the adult, deal with it as a responsible adult should.
If you hate that child’s parents, don’t be a coward and take it out on the kid because it shows your lack of character and the lack of a spine. If any of my sons come home and says, ‘Timmy’s mom called me a SOB after I tried my best to be nice and help out. I don’t know what I did wrong.’ It’s going to make me the angriest Samoan you’ve ever encountered if I hear words like that come from my kids mouth because my kids (or any kids for that matter) don’t deserve to be treated that way. If you can’t stand me or Super Mom, than tell us and we’ll graciously and carefully avoid having any contact with you and we won’t waste another thought on you.
Am I fired up? Hell yes I’m fired up because I see it happen all the time. It’s happened to my sons and I’m sick of it. I’m sick of adults acting like children and children being treated like stray dogs. But most of all, I’m sick of people treating other people like they are second class citizens. Grow up!