Friday, June 12, 2009

You're an idiot (excerpt 'Raising Nick' re:developing a thick skin)

It's not easy going through life with a funny last name. It's not easy at all but even I have to admit, it sure helps you sort the trash from the treasure. Well that and you learn how to defend yourself which is always helpful.

As a kid, the other kids would tease me about my last name- Newhouse. They'd call me oldhouse, bluehouse, redhouse, (insert term here)house and would always laugh hysterically after they said it. It took me a while to realize the majority of these people simply felt inferior to me for one reason or another and were just trying to feel better about themselves by bringing someone else down. When I finally did come to the realization, things got easier because I would just retort with laughing in their faces which really seemed to infuriate some.

So when Nick explained why he had been disciplined at camp for teasing another kid and the reasoning behind his teasing, I knew just how to handle it.

As I picked him up from summer camp today, his very young camp counselor shyly advised me that he had been calling other kids 'idiots' and she had to punish him. I thanked her and walked hand in hand with my little name caller back to our car.

Why were you calling the other kids idiots?

You don't understand mom. When they were calling our names this morning, the kids laughed when they said my last name and started calling me oldhouse.

I don't understand? Trust me baby, I know more than you give me credit for.

Actually I do understand. When I was little, kids used to say the same thing to me. They used to say all kinds of things- oldhouse, bluehouse, redhouse, smellyhouse. People can be mean huh?

Yes that's why I called them idiots.

But that wasn't very nice and you did the same thing to them that they did to you. You acted like an idiot too. Why would you call them idiots?

Dad told me to.

What? Dad told you to call them idiots?

Yes mom. Dad told me if anyone called me a name to tell them they were idiots.

.....(shocked my husband would give such horrible parenting advice and thinking what to say)
Even if someone is an idiot, you don't have to tell them. Like I said, then you're acting like that too. Let me ask you a question- is your name oldhouse?


Then why did you answer?

Because they were talking to me.

No, you just said your name is not oldhouse. Your name is Nick Newhouse so unless someone calls you Nick or Newhouse, you don't need to answer because that's not your name. Pretty silly, answering to someone else's name- don't you think?

I guess but what do I do if someone calls me names?

You should do nothing because your friends will never call you names and anyone that does, is not important. If you really want to say something, just ask them "didn't your mom teach you not to open your mouth unless you have something nice to say?" or tell them that the correct way to say your name is 'Newhouse.'

Does that work mom?

Not really but does it matter what people who are not your friends think?

And yes, Dad was disciplined too for telling him to call other kids idiots although it turned out Dad simply said people like that were idiots. He never attached instructions to retort with name calling.

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A wise friend once told me that the key to happiness was to 'Say what you mean and mean what you say'.