Wanna Talk About Me

February 9th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 35 comments

Toby Keith’s country music song, I Wanna Talk About Me always makes me laugh. It stops being funny when it isn’t about a guy who says to his girlfriend, “I like talking about you, you, you, usually, but occasionally I wanna talk about me,” and instead represents the plea of children to the adults in their lives.

We live in strange times. Many parents are clueless. In the 1940s, Mama’s Bank Account was a popular book. Renamed as I Remember Mama it became a movie, play and TV show. It was a peek into author Kathryn Forbes’ Norwegian grandparents’ lives as they raised a family in the United States. The title story, if memory serves me correctly, was how her grandmother frequently spoke about a bank account that could be accessed in an emergency, thus providing her children with a sense of financial security. Only when the children grew up did they find out that there wasn’t really any savings account and how vulnerable they truly had been.

Many adults today similarly work to provide their children with a feeling of safety. The mother whose checkbook is running low but whose children see her putting money in the Salvation Army bucket isn’t only modeling charitable giving. She is reassuring them that they are fortunate enough to help others rather than alarming them about their own financial difficulties. The father who presents a confident face to his young children despite privately worrying about being laid off, allows them to focus on their schoolwork rather than on fear.

And then there are the, “I wanna talk about me,” parents and teachers. Sometimes, they are simply careless, speaking about adult matters within earshot of children. Or they just might not have the self-control to regulate their emotions during tough times. Most of us can relate to those scenarios, though hopefully we work on ourselves to do better.  Other parents and teachers are more problematic and need to be called out.

They are the adults who misuse the children in their lives for their own aims, often political.  Teachers have their students write letters to politicians opposing anti-union measures. School projects are based on environmental fears. Assignments present complex issues as one-sided and terrifying. In the anti-logging political environment of Washington State in the 90s, some parents had to deal with sensitive children’s night terrors where youngsters pictured loggers armed with menacing chainsaws coming after them.

What brought this Pacific northwest memory to mind was reading a quote from one African-American mother as to why she participated in the women’s march opposing President Trump. She spoke of her daughter’s fears that they would be deported to Africa. Now, this was not an illegal immigrant from Ghana; the implication was that this was a multi-generational American citizen. If her daughter was truly afraid of deportation that means that the adults in that child’s life are responsible for that fear. Whether it is the mother, teachers, or friends’ parents, these adults are ignorant and need to better educate themselves. Alternatively, they deliberately play into lies in order to advance their own political philosophies. Meanwhile, a child is needlessly terrified.

This is not a Right/Left issue. I am a pro-life proponent, yet I object to posters that show dismembered babies at public rallies  because they don’t belong where children can see them. No one should deliberately place  horrible images in a child’s mind. Likewise, I  would object to a teacher assigning letters to a politician pleading for refugees not to be let into America because students are worried about being blown up by terrorists. Terrifying children is a particularly unwholesome activity.

We walk a fine line between educating our children about issues of the day and passing on our own convictions, and betraying our trust as their guardians. Even when real and immediate danger is present, thrusting our fears onto our children’s fragile shoulders is wrong.  Certainly, using them as political pawns is indefensible.

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35 comments

Jeanne Bacon says:

This is so true. Love your writings. Thank you.

Susan Lapin says:

Thanks, Jeanne.

Martha Weldon says:

Another good one, my friend! I always read them – just don’t always sit at the computer long enough to reply. <3

Susan Lapin says:

Hi Martha!!!! And when I do go on Facebook I see updates from you and usually don’t stop to reply, but I’m always glad to see the amazing things you’re doing.

Ruth says:

Too bad many of us did not have wise parents to pass it on..

Susan Lapin says:

Ruth, all our parents, being human, were lacking in some areas. We will be lacking too, but as adults we need to correct whatever flaws we are able to pinpoint.

Lauren Thomson says:

This is an excellent commentary and reminded me so much of my childhood. Even during the Cuban missile crisis, I felt safe doing the required drills. I attended a religious school and always knew I had a supreme being I could rely on to take care of me. Maybe more faith and less drama should be incorporated into our children’s lives.

Susan Lapin says:

Lauren, I decided not to include the idea of faith because the Musing would have gotten too long, but, yes, believing that there is Someone who is in control and that there is a Plan doesn’t stop awful things happening, but if we are thinking correctly, should help us get through tough times.

Marilyn says:

Lauren, l was in middle school when those drills were going on!
I remember being worried because we didn’t have a bomb shelter at our house!

Melma says:

Thank you for reminding parents that not only are our children watching, they are listening to everything. Little sponges ready to soak up any form of knowledge.

Susan Lapin says:

One of the scary and growth-inducing things about being a parent, Melma, is seeing and hearing yourself in miniature.

Lyna says:

OH, so true! But sometimes you will overhear them being good and true to your best teachings. Sweet!

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you for reminding me of the good, Lyna!

CK says:

Dear Susan,
You are more right than you may know! I am doing some introspective self-evaluating on myself now–a sort of mental spring cleaning–and one thing that keeps popping up as I look at my own history is this: over the decades many, many people have given me advice. Most of it well-intentioned, but almost all of it bad advice! It was advice based on cliche’s, self-delusions (theirs), and refusal to consider any situation but their own. I pray for the humility and wisdom to truly listen when I listen, yet wish I had been less willing to listen to a lot of people years ago.
Wisdom, that from God, needs to come back to our world.

Susan Lapin says:

Ah, if we only had the wisdom when we are in situations that we have years down the road. All we can do is keep on growing -it sounds as if that is just what you are doing.

Lenore says:

What a lovely memory! I saw and read I Remember Mama. I consciously raised 7 kids on that advice when money was month to month. Believe that was a part of the reason we have contributed 7 marvelous, well adjusted, productive adults to this world.

I was always careful of what I discussed with children present. And what they watched on TV. Anything that goes into the mind will remain there.

There are things that we should know about, but at the correct time and medium. Books are often more appropriate than movies….. an example; in my late teens I read The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich. Something an adult should know about.
Not sure children are getting the background knowledge to understand why things are happening today.

Hope that changes are ahead for the education of our kids & grandkids.

Susan Lapin says:

Lenore, I once advised an elementary school to change their reading selections because they were based on what was wrong with America (slavery, Indian relocation) when they hadn’t yet learned of what was right – such as the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Learning things in the right order is very important. I am also thrilled with Betsy deVos as Education Secretary and hope it portends a new wave of education in America.

Elise Green says:

Wise words.

Susan Lapin says:

Yes – wish I knew them as well when my children were young as I do now!

Kindra Gibson says:

I agree with you that our society as a whole has lost sight of the simple truth that there are things in our daily life that should not become our children’s burdens.

Susan Lapin says:

And oftentimes, we expose them to those things in the name of helping them, Kindra.

James says:

Unfortunately many adults have a perspective to share on this issue, and each one is unique. We were raised in an atmosphere of looming fears. Only long after my mother was gone did my father reveal: ‘If there was a precious, fragile object on the shelf, most mothers would slap the child’s hand when they reached out to touch it. But YOUR mother would slap your hands BEFORE you made a motion to touch it.’ And her own sister revealed to us not long ago: ‘She was ruled by her fears.’ Even her Father God was stern and puritanical with His All-Seeing Eye and Big Black Book, if you know what I mean. And our father wondered why we grew up shy and timid, why we hesitated to take chances or risks. I was able to vanquish this spell quite a bit, but my poor brother never quite succeeded. So your Musing strikes home. She was wise in so many ways, but we could have thrived better on more hope and faith and much less fear.

Susan Lapin says:

Wow. What an insight, James. Recognizing that about your mother probably made a lot of your childhood make sense. You are, of course, making an excellent point of how we need to balance our presentation of God as both loving and demanding, Father and King.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear James–
While there is no question of how colossal an influence on our lives our parents are, at some point or another, it is given to each of us to put that all behind us and forge our own pathways into the future. Until, of course, it becomes our turn to impact the lives of our own children. They they too must eventually liberate themselves.
Funny isn’t it that we could probably find many who’d complain that their parents did not impart enough fear into their lives with the result that they went off and engaged in destructive activities. They now feel that with more fear in their upbringing, they would have avoided those perilous times.
There is endless variety in God’s ultimate creation–humans!
Thanks for writing and thanks for your positive message of hope. You were able to rise above it
Cordially
RDL

Donmarie Taylor says:

How would you suggest that we counter what is negatively taught to our children? God tells His children to teach wisely the commandments and other issues and even tells them to rehearse some very intense scenes that they may grow in wisdom to not repeat the same mistakes or even the festival of Esther. If we sit back and say nothing to rebut what is put in their minds, are we not walking in agreement, that our children can be taught falsehood and we will say nothing? Not all families can afford private education and regardless must remain proactive in the lives of their children to KNOW what is being funneled into them. Of course, there is nothing more educating than a life lived before them but sometimes it does take quite a bit more because our enemy is very interested in teaching our children.

James says:

Hi Rabbi and Susan Lapin – Many thanks, for I treasure your feedback. She ‘recovered’ from the harsh upbringing her own mother offered her. Still, the damage was done, for her and for us to rise above. As your Ancient Jewish Wisdom so aptly points out, the consequences of an unfortunate decision reproduces itself unto the seventh generation, and the troubles we experience as children have their roots in poor decisions some ancestor made years and years ago.

What comforts me the most, dear Rabbi Lapin, is your analysis of the teaching that ‘there is no man without sin.’ What penetrates so many Calvinist churches is the ominous interpretation: ‘See there, you worm, you cannot be without sin,’ so many abandon all hope as detestables in the eyes of God. But you emphasize in Ancient Jewish Wisdom that the true meaning of the phrase is quite different: God knows that we will make mistakes, but He still expects us to get moving and to try our best to fulfill our (righteous) destinies, and this is much better than sitting idle in the basement, avoiding all activity for fear of committing a sin. Focus on the goal, NOT on the sin. Am I right? Shalom!

Lori says:

Bravo, Susan. You’ve given us another wise musing…a bit convicting but a good reminder for me to do better.

Susan Lapin says:

We can all do better, Lori!

Adriana Mandon says:

Dear Susan, you pointed out the value of the showing of “low blows” imagines in order to create fear and /or discomfort, as not having any value at all, especially because of the sake of our children. I totally agree but if you look around, you can see that people is losing any sense of wonder or disgust (respect or morals), children are holding signs at the March of “Women”, exposed to the signs of female parts in big billboards or wearing pink hats in order to support what their mothers support. You also see children, included the children of the Mayor of SF, with rainbow flags in their innocent hands, hurrahing at the parade of semi naked men and women shouting how proud they are of their depravities, or naked women protesting in the streets for equal rights. The Nat Geo January’s cover of a boy dressed up as a girl and stating that is the new America, and thousands of messages of this kind all over being portrayed as the new “normal” to what we cannot complain because we are demonized and labeled.
Maybe you still live protected because of your homeschooling practices (I couldn’t afford that myself) and your religious community where everybody help everybody else and try to resolve your affairs inside the community, but it is a war out there, and I am not favor exaggeration, all the contrary always try to keep myself positive and still being a person of faith I try to do my best to counter, but the naked true it is that society, nowadays, doesn’t support families, doesn’t protect our children, children have been abused constantly, remember the law about thirteen years old that can have an abortion without to tell the parents ( is it not there to protect the rapist, the one who got them pregnant in the first place?).
We cannot sugarcoat (I am not saying that you do this) what we are leaving right now, especially in countries of the first world, not so much in poor countries (probably they have more primal concerns). These are times to be assertive, to be clear, to speak out not without kindness but with strength, and that is the reason why you and your husband are part of my life, you are part of that counter-movement!

Susan Lapin says:

Adriana, while my Musing was about teaching our children fear, I’m afraid that you are certainly correct that our culture promotes teaching them depravity and exposing them to things that they should have no knowledge of at young ages. Parents are fighting an uphill battle, but it is an important one to wage.

Rebecca says:

I grew up during the Vietnam War and was protected from anything discussing it. I wasn’t allowed to watch the news, read the newspaper, (except the funnies), and didn’t see the famous issue of Life magazine with the little boy running towards the camera, horribly burned, until I was an older teen. If only they had been that diligent with what they said and did behind the closed door of our home. We were always about to go under, going to end up in the poor house and this was from someone who was suppose to be a person of faith. Then there was their knock down drag outs and the horrible things they said to each other and to us. We were raised in fear and worry. And like one of the other posts I was raised seeing God as the all seeing eye, playing a human whack a mole game, just waiting for me to mess up so he could take his hammer and whack me on the head. Then we were told about God loving us, protecting us and providing for us. So I was a bit confused. But now my Sister and I know the truth about God as our loving Heavenly Father and at times our Judge. And I’ve said all that to say this. We parents are flawed humans and make mistakes but we need to remember that the most important lessons our children learn are from us. So we need to protect our children from the dangers outside the home and also from the dangers and negative lessons inside our homes.

Susan Lapin says:

You’re making excellent points, Rebecca. Having children is a blessing, a gift and a huge responsibility.

Lora says:

Money is something the girls have learned about in fun and not so fun ways. At times I am the parent who blurts out something unfortunate about money when kids can hear me from the next room. At other times, I have taught them to be frugal, and they are amazed at how little their friends of the same age know about money- where it comes from, let alone the more interesting things like movies, clothes, trips, emergency room visits, home made goods that seem to appear out of nowhere, dental work, and so on.
I’ve worked hard to shelter them, and then worked hard to educate them and allow their minds to unfold into each new perception and understanding. It takes timing. And in such a small house, yeah, they hear things I’d rather they didn’t. Usually I’m good, but then I slip. Or someone else will make a comment, and open a can of worms that way. I depend on my kids’ resilience and their forgiveness, because they have continually blessed me with both. Now to keep up the hard work they deserve from me.
Our mainstream culture is often one of consumptive addiction, and human beings have become the most objectified and consumed entity within our society. Children seem to be a particularly tender and appealing appetite in more ways than ever in society. I’m glad my kids are almost out of childhood because it is a fight that I could not continue for decades more. But at the same time, I have some pretty cool kids who stand by me, and our entire family is working on unity to withstand the worldly influences that bash against the rocks of our tiny little fortress. I thank God we are never alone.

Susan Lapin says:

Sounds like you have worked hard to be an intentional parent. And you are reaping the benefits.

Rebecca says:

Lori, It sounds like you are a very good parent. I love the way you described the relationship you are molding with your children. All we can do is try to be the best parent we can be with God’s help. And that takes a lot of prayer, a lot of love and many times the words, “I’m sorry” with an explanation of our words or actions. I grew up very poor and one of the positive things that came out of that was learning the value of money, an appreciation of everything God gave us, which made me take care of all of my belongings and a dependence on God for everything.

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