Keeping the Faith: Good all the time

Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 10:21 AM.

I heard humorist Jack Handey say that you should never criticize someone until you walk a mile in his or her shoes. Then, when you do criticize them, “You are a mile away and have their shoes.” That’s not bad advice, especially when it comes to telling others how to parent their children. If you want to kick over that notorious hornet’s nest, do it from miles away, or at least make sure those shoes on your feet are running shoes.

While this is one of the quickest ways to get into serious trouble, this doesn’t stop the practice from being all the rage these days, however. Websites, blogs, reality shows, that crazy old blue-haired lady at the park, the priest who has never had the experience of being an actual father, your grouchy neighbor whose own children are now on Social Security themselves: Everyone has an opinion, and words of instruction, for what to do and not do with your children.

Personally, I don’t appreciate very much of this unsolicited counsel (I don’t know many who do). Yes, when we need advice we should seek it, and we should all bend listening ears to those people we genuinely trust and respect. But armchair parenting? No thanks.

That’s why I couldn’t believe that I became one of “those people,” one who stuck his big nose into someone else’s parental business. It happened so quickly, so impulsively, that I have gained a new understanding for those who sometimes rush in with uninvited guidance.

I was sitting at my son’s mid-week football practice, watching with a group of other parents when a mother stood to leave and called to her young lad: “It’s time to leave; we have to go to church.” Her son, not more than five-years-old, had been busy playing with his friends. He was not happy with the interruption. He popped off, “No! I don’t want to go to church!”

His mother answered, “Well, then God will send you to hell with the devil and his angels if you don’t go to church.” And that is where I stopped being an observer and became an interfering, meddlesome busybody. “Don’t you ever say that to your child again!” I snapped, not realizing at the time how loud my voice had become.

For her part, the mother I chided looked as if she could have stuffed me, and my little fold-up lounge chair, into the trunk of my car. I don’t blame her, for I had interfered at too close a distance and had embarrassed her publically. Yet, I just couldn’t let her comment pass, because it was horribly wrong.



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