Rudeness and “breeders”

Rudeness and “breeders”

Summary:

I once had an acquaintance who happily informed me she was going to DC to work for some liberal advocacy group whose aims I would hope would be thwarted. Did I say that? No, I congratulated her on achieving her career goal and went on from there. In fact, living in Massachusetts, I often encounter people with whom I disagree on many public policy issues (many of them within my own extended family). You might not be able to tell from the blog, but I usually try to avoid rancorous confrontations in real life. I don’t think winning an argument trumps being a friend or being civilized. Certainly, winning doesn’t mean conversion; vanquish your opponent on the field of rhetorical battle and they’re likely only to go away nursing wounds and thoughts of revenge, not how you were right after all.

Neither am I advocating being a shrinking violet, too timid to speak the truth. Thus if I think I have the opportunity to evangelize with a word or action, I will take it.

Another time, when a friend of a friend told me with some glee that he’d had a vasectomy, I did not give him the congratulations and locker-room ribbing he might have expected. I simply said, “I’m sorry to hear that. Children are a great blessing.” That was that. I didn’t berate him or drown him in admonitions. If I had, he would have immediately closed his mind and heart. Instead, he knows my beliefs (he’s not Catholic) and I gave him something to think about.

But we no longer have such discourse in our society. It’s all fiery emotion and angry words and injured self-esteem.

The worst possible sin in society is to tell someone they can’t do something they want to do. The second worst sin is to hurt their feelings. The most treasured “right” (which is really an abuse of the word) is the right to tell someone else whatever I’m feeling right now. And folks aren’t shy about exercising that one.

Look at what passes for public discourse: Late-night political yell-fests, daytime yak-fests, Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump trying to out-insult each other. Ugh! Look at what passes for political discourse: Demonizations of the worst sort on both sides, although I have to say that Bush Derangement Syndrome is worse than any of the Clinton psychoses we saw in the 90s.

What Danielle’s husband’s co-worker should have said was, “Congratulations.” Maybe she could even have added, “My, what a large family.” Instead, all she could think of was herself, damn anyone else’s feelings.

I think we’d all be better off if people said less than half of what they already say and thought twice as much before saying the rest.

Danielle Bean recounts the anecdote of the time when her husband told a female co-worker that they were expecting their fifth child and the woman responded: “I have two kids … And I will not be having another. I’d rather eat glass.” Danielle recalled another recent occasion when a friend of hers, while standing beside her two pre-school children, said that she is “so done” with having children.

We no longer have such discourse in our society. It’s all fiery emotion and angry words and injured self-esteem.

There are two issues here. The first is the prevailing lack of openness to life. I can understand that some people may be frazzled by the responsibilities of parenthood, but to voice such emphatic disgust with the idea of having children—eating glass? really?—is startling.

I’ve often seen parents denigrate their own children as burdens, sometimes to the children themselves. What effect must that have upon the children?

My second impression is how rude our society has become. The correct response when someone gives you news they are excited about is to congratulate them and keep your opinions to yourself.

How not to win friends and influence enemies

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
13 comments
  • With the exception of abortion, you’re absolutely right.  I just wrote something similar.  I see it as one of the consequences of legalized abortion. 

    It is very hard for me to be “civil” to the other side in political discourse when they so callously support such an atrocity.

    Nevertheless, like you, I hate confrontational speech.  Pretty much my experience with pro-abortion relatives is that they *expect* me to be a certain way.  I do my best to be civil with them, up to a point.  I try my my best to avoiding confrontations with people, but they eventually find it necesary to “pick a fight”, which I usually finish, and then they just say it confirms their pre-existing opinion that I’m belligerent.

    On the other hand, for me, it’s not so much about their “conversion”; I know I have no power over that, other than to pray and offer whatever input I can.

    It’s more about my duty to God to speak the truth and my duty to my children to make sure I’m not exposing them to harmful influences.

    As for co-workers, I usually keep things as tactful and civil as possible and avoid controversy.  WIth my pro-life bumper stickers, the religious art and prayer books on my desk, etc., they know where I stand. And that serves as a witness: they know I’m a committed Catholic; they also know I’m a nice guy and a productive, team-oriented employee.

  • When my husband told co-workers that we were expecting our 6th child the response was “Are they all with the same wife?”  I guess it would have been okay if he was on his third wife.  Miss Manners has a lot of work to do.

  • What’s crazy is that these are not isolated incidents. From my experience, it’s really the norm for mothers to speak of children that way. I was at a playgroup one time where ALL the women there agreed that they were “done” having kids. Two were pregnant and were planning to be sterilized when they went to the hospital to have the baby. The other women’s husbands had vasectomies scheduled. None of them were older than 32.

    What’s most disturbing is that all of this was discussed in front of their toddlers. So weird.

  • As a child who was repeatedly referred to as an “accident” when I was younger, I can relate to this too well.  Ugh. 

    People these days are also willing to ask you if your child was “planned.”  I’ve always been diligent about how we refer to our daughters, and I try to remember to use the word “welcomed.”  I guess people are used to infertility issues now, so when you announce an expected arrival without talking about your “treatments,” they figure you have an “accident” on the way. 

    I also despise the words that we use to talk about sterilizations.  We talk about “fixing” humans like spaying or neutering a dog.  Disgusting.

  • I have 4 children and I admit that at times I get frazzled. I often wonder if I could handle any more. But I realize that this is a deficiency in me. The fact that I can’t be more patient, more generous, more self-sacrificing are weaknesses on my part that I should strive to overcome. I think that people often make comments like, “I am so done having kids”, because they are trying to justify and make excuses for their shortcomings. The prevailing culture provokes us to be self centered and self indulgent. But at some level, many realize this is wrong. So they need to rationalize their selfishness by saying those who accept more than 1 or 2 kids are the crazy ones. When in reality, true happiness comes from an emptying of oneself in the service of others, whether that be your children or whoever. How many examples of the rich and famous who are lonely and miserable need to be paraded in front of us before we get this?

  • I have sometimes been at a loss for words when a friend (usually non-Catholic) tells me they are having in vitro fertilization.  What should you say?

  • I’m the last of five children.  One dies at 3, one was still born, and three of us survived to adult hood, and all three still live.

    My Mother, and RN and faculty member at a school of nursing concieved me against medical advice, and risked her life to carry me to term.  She did this knowing the dangers involved.

    My father worked 12 hour days at a copper mine to be able to afford the medical care for my Mom, and to have ehough money left over too build me a place to live when I arrived.  he did this with broken ribs at one point.

    All I have to say to these folks is F.O.A.D.—the last three letters mean “off and Die”.  because, they are already dead.  When a person cannot see and embrace the love ofchildren, their humanity has died!

  • I can’t tell you the number of youngish women (and occasionally teens) that I have had the “pleasure” of hearing say something along the lines of, “I’m never having children. I’m not into babies.” Or worse, the second sentence being “I hate babies.” I never know what to say. I always think, “Well, I guess it’s a good thing for you that your mother didn’t have your attitude.”

    It’s kind of like the neighborhood moms at the end of the summer talking about how they can’t wait until the kids go back to school. I’m sure that there are good reasons for wanting that, outside of selfishness, but it just always sounds to me as if they can’t stand being around their own children so much. And it’s not as if they only say these things when their children are not around.

    And even though I don’t think that 4 children is a particularly large number, I also get the comments and have had “Are they all yours?” sometimes immediately followed by, “Do they all have the same father?” Which does not irk me even as much as being asked if my child’s last name is the same as mine. Sure, I know that there are plenty of children for whom that is not true (and since my mother remarried after her divorce, it was true for me for most of my childhood) but shouldn’t that be the default??

  • I know of someone who responded to a woman thinking about getting her tubes tied by saying “I would hate to be standing naked in front of God with my tubes tied.”

    We are not supposed to worry so much about the words.  If we are prayerful the right words will come at the right time. Otherwise don’t say anything and just pray for them.

  • Pat ant Stacey raise a good point.  Having a “large” family is OK in our society if you’ve had multiple divorces.  My wife has lots of students who have five or more siblings, when you add together their parents’ children by different spouses and then their step-siblings.

  • “I can’t tell you the number of youngish women (and occasionally teens) that I have had the “pleasure” of hearing say something along the lines of, “I’m never having children. I’m not into babies.” Or worse, the second sentence being “I hate babies.””

    My daughter and I hear that too.  Fortunately, although she is an only child, my daughter has been working part-time at our former daycare provider’s house with the 6 toddlers/children she takes care of.  My daughter enjoys being around the little ones and she enjoys baby-sitting too.  Now, she’ll just have to make sure that her future husband likes kids.

    I think as teenagers are around children less and less and families are smaller and smaller, the teenagers aren’t used to little ones and so don’t like them. 

    Also, we’ve got that whole narcissic thing going on too.  You have to be not totally self-involved to enjoy children.

    It’s a death spiral for society…

  • We’re expecting our 9th child (technically 10th, but the last child died mid way through the pregnancy last year). I’m due in December. I have yet to tell either my father or my husband’s parents.  I just can’t take the unhappy faces, the rolling eyes, and the remarks.  I know they’ll have to be told eventually, but right now there are other very serious stresses I’ve got to deal with and this is one I just can’t make myself want to take on right now.  Its bad enough coming from my dad, who practices no faith, but from my inlaws, who are supposed to be devout Catholics, it hurts my heart so deeply I just can’t face it at the moment.  If they go into ‘lecture mode’ again I’m afraid I’ll lose my civility.

    By the way, I have also had a Walmart clerk ask me “Them all yer kids?” (“Yes, unless the neighbors have slipped in one of theirs again, hoping I won’t notice.”)  “They all come outta yew?” (“Yes, but not all at the same time.”) They all got the same father?” (“I am certain, although it was pretty dark at the time…”) and then yell across the aisles “HEY Tammy! Them kids is all hers! They all have the same father!” – right in front of my family – making my children feel like sideshow freaks in public.  The oldest three just couldn’t believe how rude she was – and thought nothing of it.  The best way to handle it is with humor, when you have some handy.

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