Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Mommy, Can I Be a Pushover Like You When I Grow Up?

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Dear neighbor,

Thank you for another opportunity to reexamine my assumptions about my fellow humans. I remain grateful, if an appropriate word even exists, for your constant demonstrations that what I believe everyone holds dear might not be universally axiomatic.

I had thought, for example, that encouraging young children to pilfer the property of others only occurred in the Dickensian world of abject poverty and Victorian class stratification, or perhaps in the more disreputable neighborhoods of Mumbai or Soweto. In our more-or-less modern welfare state, however, it should not be necessary to train one’s offspring to steal – such an ugly word, don’t you agree? – when the government can be relied on to ensure we do not starve or succumb to plague. What you have now taught me, dear neighbor, is that basic survival or the relief of unbearable suffering are not the only considerations behind inculcating in one’s children a basic disregard for others’ property: you have made clear to me that even entertainment and household décor can serve as justification for making off with others’ possessions.

Thus, when our brand-new doormat disappeared the week we moved in, nearly six years ago, I took some measure of comfort in the realization that someone else needed it more than we. It took some internal struggle to arrive at the conclusion that something as petty and marginal could make a difference in someone’s life, but I was prepared to give the mystery thief the benefit of the doubt. That rearrangement of sensibilities took some getting used to.

Now, however, you present me with an opportunity to take this practice even further: when I espy a liberated object simply resting in your yard for weeks at a time, absent any attempt to use it, I must find a way to comprehend how someone might justify its unauthorized appropriation. I must confess I cannot find just a justification through any conception of morality with which I am familiar.

This means I have much to learn. I welcome this opportunity to encounter a new moral system, one in which it appears, at least to this uneducated observer, that one’s own equity takes precedence over anyone else’s, regardless of individual need. I have yet to encounter such a societal system outside treatments of Biblical Sodom or the writings of Thomas Hobbes; now you have afforded me a chance to observe, even experience, how such a weltanschauung might operate in the practical realm.

Please, open my mind, dear neighbor. Opening things seems to be a challenge, I have noticed; this accounts for your offspring’s habit of locking you out. Watching you out there, alternately pleading and threatening, completely at the mercy of a marginally socialized kid, makes me think a number of thoughts:

– I had not previously considered that the piece of advice so often given to parents, not to let interactions with one’s children become a contest of wills, might be construed so as to completely surrender one’s will to the child. This is new to me.

– After this happened the first two times, most parents would find a mechanical solution, such as a different gate lock. You, however, left the gate alone. That might stem from your concern for the antique look of the gate, for which you evidently prefer the chipped-white-paint-and-rust appearance, and you did not wish to ruin the effect by installing something that looked newer.

– Perhaps you did implement a solution, such as having another grown-up around when the child stays home. I might suggest that having the other grown-up around would exert a greater impact on the child’s tendency to lock you out if said grown-up were to occupy herself with pursuits directly related to supervising the child, instead of sitting in front of your computer watching YouTube clip after YouTube clip. Please forgive my presumption, as this recommendation clearly bespeaks ignorance of whatever other parenting method might be in play here.

I wish to learn, dear neighbor; please teach me.

Yours truly,


Written by Thag

December 9, 2010 at 2:15 pm

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