Arrogance is easy.
There will always be someone to look down upon, should we choose to appoint ourselves a lofty perch from which to view the world. There are “smarter” and “dumber” people everywhere, alongside richer and poorer, sophisticated and simple, educated and ignorant. It’s easy to ascribe higher value, or greater “success”, or more positive feelings to the former of each pairing, and to discount, sneer at, or just plain ignore the latter. The very idea of such labeling is the starting point for discrimination and prejudice.
“The meek shall give me their toys”:
My son has already shown a knack for finding the meek in a group of children, and going after them. It’s mildly horrifying to turn him loose in a playroom, only to see him charge up to a quiet, smaller child, shriek and push the child or hit them. There are a couple of kids we know at the library who he targets somewhat regularly. When I can, I proactively walk Jay up and suggest a conversation, “Hey! It’s ‘****’! Say ‘Hi, ****, want to play?” Sometimes it works, for a while anyway. Role modeling helps. At least it shows him an alternate way to interact, and may reduce the trepidation of the other child. I hate it when my kid is the one others try to get away from.
It will take time. There will be setbacks. While I don’t “enjoy” it, I find some solace when other children demonstrate similar behaviors. In my eyes, it’s always Jay as the aggressor. One of his friends, a girl almost identical in age who has always mirrored her parents’ “Vermont Hippy Farmer” ethos, has been whacking kids on the head lately. I feel their pain. And, we share it. The mother, a good friend, came over to us at the library on Tuesday. She shared a conversation she had with a friend. The gist of it is that little ones just do that. Puppies bite and chew on each other mercilessly. Kittens ambush, grab and roll, scratch and bite without remorse. Foals bite and kick their mothers, and bite and kick each other. Goat kids head butt and kick each other silly. They outgrow it and learn from it.
Still, it’s hard to watch, especially knowing how Jay chooses to target certain (“weaker”) kids.
In the end, my mind always takes me back to, of all places, an episode of “All in the Family” that I saw decades ago. There was a character in this episode with Down Syndrome. He talked slowly, and processed somewhat slowly. Of course, that was easy fodder for Archie Bunker. At some point, the young man got fed up and ran off, yelling “I’ll show you. I’ll show you!”
Of course everyone but Archie was horrified, and worried about what would happen. When the young man returned, he had a sheet of paper with the words he wanted to show Mr. Bunker:
Everyone is my superior in that I may learn from them.
It’s a heady concept for a 2-year-old, and one many adults don’t, or can’t embrace. I fall short way too often. But, we do ourselves a disservice when we assume someone has nothing to offer because we find them inferior in some way. I hope at some point, someday, Jay can at least wrap his mind around that.
And it’s not just ourselves that benefit. When we allow ourselves to learn from and honor others, especially those who often find themselves marginalized, they too are enriched. To help someone is to have value. To teach someone is to offer your knowledge, your skill, yourself to the world. To express yourself, and to have others find value in that, is to feel the soul swell.
This week I started to include Jay in the pizza-making process. He absolutely loves it. Any time that I’m cooking, he walks into the kitchen, reaches for me, and asks, “Uppy Daddy?” He wants to see what I’m doing. I lift him, and from a safe distance, show him everything that’s going on. I narrate: this is cooking here, and those vegetables on the counter will be used for that over there, etc.etc. Once he can see the process, he’s good. Now that he sometimes gets to help, he’s thrilled.
I am awful at stretching pizza dough. If you want “thin and crispy”, I’m not your guy. I’m okay with that, and as life goes on, I want Jay to know that I’m not infallible, at anything. No one is perfect, not me, not mom, not Jay, and that’s okay. Somewhere there is a pimply 16-year-old Little Caesar’s employee with a 1.8 grade point average and anger management issues, who has a lot to teach me.