Middle: "When people read my 'I love Lola' shirt they think I'm talking about my dog."
Youngest: "Seriously, don't people bother to read?"
Eldest: "You should totally say, 'You know I enjoy careful reading... you should try it.'"
The girls laughed and giggled and then Dad had to talk... What followed was a great conversation about how some comebacks may seem really funny and may even be clever, but that using cut-downs meant to humiliate or demean others was not OK.
"Go ahead, let your inside voice say it, but please don't actually say it out loud. Deal?" I asked the girls.
There was no major eye-rolling -- it was just another "teachable moment," as they say. Some of you are reading this and may be thinking this was not the best advice. You may be right, but it did get me thinking about how we parents model interaction in times of conflict and disagreement.
As a person who has the privilege of having a writing and speaking platform from which I can raise issues that are important to me, it's not a surprise that I get a good deal of nastiness directed my way. Don't worry, I let most of it roll off of me... though don't let my momma find out who you are ;-) I'm not naive and I know that the big bad evil trolls are out there lurking. Waiting. At the same time, just because they are out there, does not mean that we should now abdicate public discourse to those who seek and reap division; accept this posture as the new normal or resort to the same kind of tactics.
Yes, this is one more post pleading for all of us to rise above the fray and choose to disagree differently. And I will say until I am blue the face that my commitment to remove tactics of humiliation, destruction and dehumanization from our interaction is not one that leads to a weakness in fortitude, devaluation of truth or limited impact. In fact, I would contend that in today's hyper-snarky, techo-crazy world, I think people who have the discipline to exhibit unexpected humility, excruciating graciousness and passionate love of the other are the architects, curators and builders of a better tomorrow.
I wonder if most parents would be proud if their children interacted the same way at school during passionate disagreements about playground life as their parents do during passionate disagreements about politics?
If you take the time to read through the comments on the above links, I think you get a good sense of where I probably am in my own modeling: Most of the time I feel OK about how I respond to others in the heat of the debate, but every so often, I resort to tactics that are patronizing, humiliating and destructive to the body as a whole.
These are not traits I want to pass on to my children.
So for my daughters' sake and all who may observe me, I will strive to be and do better.