doctors have to take a Hippocratic oath before they are allowed to become doctors. do you know what that is? it means, they aren’t allowed to do any harm. makes sense, right? they’re doctors. they are supposed to make people well, not unwell.
i know that many people scoff that it seems there are tests that we have to pass at every stage in our lives (meap tests, drivers tests, multiple choice tests all through school before we can have our degrees, etc.) but no test anyone has to pass to become a parent. i see their point. i mean, i guess the argument is that that would infringe on some constitutional right or something. life, liberty and the pursuit of messing up your kids. if nothing else, there should at least be required reading and an apprentice program, as i’ve said before in previous blog posts.
maybe parents should be forced to take a hippocratic oath, to do no harm. although i guess that harm is in the eye of the person being harmed. that’s the tricky part. an indian burn given to me by my older brother may be excruciating to me and only mildly ticklish you (trust me, it wouldn’t. hurts like a mofo. he’s got hands the size of baseball gloves). moreover, something that debilitates me empowers another, something that causes me great anguish doesn’t even phase someone else. so, who’s to say what’s harm and what’s harmless? should there be a committee on this? a handbook of guidelines? (letting your child stay up an hour and a half past their bedtime is mildly harmless, but letting them watch bevis and butthead before the age of four is harmful and could warrant a ticket with a sizable fine?)
take me, for instance. the other night, the three of us were driving in the car, laughing and having a good time, when all of a sudden, ruth says, affectionately, “you fuckin’ guys!” greg stops laughing. “terry!” “what?! i’m not the only one that says ‘fuck’ around here. ruth, guess what? that’s a word that only grown-ups can say. it’s not a nice word and hurts peoples’ feelings. promise not to use that word any more?” “yeah,” she says, “you silly guys!” “that’s better. thank you, ruth.”
ok, so what’s the real harm in her hearing us drop f bombs now and again (maybe more than that?)? some of you may gasp at this, but what’s the real harm in her saying the word fuck? it’s just a word, and can be very pivotal for getting across your meaning at times, don’t you find? it might be better if ruth said ‘fuck’ every time she got really upset about something rather than doing what she does now, which is to let out a window-shattering screech and to throw things, hit herself and others (mostly me) and launch herself onto the ground. i’d rather hear a stream of ‘fuck’s over that mess any day.
or would i?
once again, having a child lets you into the nature of being human and you are able to see yourself and others so clearly sometimes. a toddler is like a walking, talking id. their hearts are not only on their sleeves, their hearts are on their faces, being yelled from their mouths, and acted upon by their hands. when a toddler feels something, you’re gonna know it (along with the rest of the k mart shoppers from here to aisle 12). they are unbridled emotion, still don’t really have a concept that other people can see and hear everything they do, have not yet been girdled in by any social norms, acceptable behaviors. as a toddler, we kick anything we don’t like, yell as loud as we like, and throw ourselves to the floor when we are displeased. adults don’t do that (at least most don’t, although, i dare say, we all have our moments). as adults, we bottle things in, letting them out later at “appropriate” times, like in our zumba class, or by yelling at our spouse over a minor infraction after dinner. we take out our rage on the grout in our bathrooms. we complain to the city about our neighbors’ grass, we are sarcastic to our health care representatives over the phone, our credit card and phone companies. we sigh exasperatedly in line at our bank. or we avoid. we smoke, drink, do drugs, repress, repress, repress. we turn on ourselves. our arteries harden, blood pressure soars, dna breaks down, etc.
maybe it would be better if adults did what ruth does and just have an all-out fit once in a while? it is my goal as ruth’s parent to validate her emotions, let her know that no matter what she feels (how silly or outrageous it may be) that it is a valid feeling. the second part is to teach her healthy, socially acceptable ways to express those emotions. i can’t help but feel i shouldn’t be anyone’s role model for this part. however, on a scale of totally effed up to beaver cleaver land, teaching ruth to say ‘fuck’ and yell a bit (or a lot) might be better than some of the other options for dealing with overwhelming emotions listed above. thoughts?
am i doing more harm than good? or vice versa? i guess that’s probably the best we can do as parents. the vice versa.