It’s Time to Retire the Cliché “You Can Have ‘Em if You Want ‘Em” When a Stranger Compliments a Child in Front of Their Parent

It’s Time to Retire the Cliché “You Can Have ‘Em if You Want ‘Em” When a Stranger Compliments a Child in Front of Their Parent

It’s always bothered me.

To be out somewhere like the grocery store or a restaurant and see a stranger compliment a child in front of their parent:

“Oh, look at what a well-behaved little boy you got there.”

Or…

“I see a pretty little girl with her mommy. She’s just precious, isn’t she?”

Then the understandably exhausted parent jokingly responds with, “Well, you can have (him/her) if you want. You want to take them home with you?”

Of course, it’s all said in jest. And I totally personally relate to what it means to feel ready for a break, as a parent.

But.

I simply think it’s in poor taste for a person to joke about giving their child away. Especially when the child is right there.

Though I personally have had no issues with fertility, I personally know people who do. We all do.

And it’s not a joke to them.

The right thing to do when a stranger compliments someone’s child in front of them is for the parent to immediately express acknowledgement and appreciation of having such a good child. After all, a stranger made the effort to give the child (and by default, the parent) a compliment.

Not only does it show the stranger that the exhausted parent knows how to take a compliment on their parenting skills, but it reinforces the parent’s love to their child; in front of them, among adults. Because the child needs to hear it. They need that positive verbal assurance.

I think one of my biggest psychological fears in life is for the general population to think I have poor taste.

Yes- poor taste.

People can say I’m boring, not funny, too short, balding, overweight, underweight, unintelligent, not talented, that I have a big nose or that I’m too hairy… whatever they want in a useless attempt to offend me.

But being labeled as a person indulging in poor taste is the only insult I actually fear.

The way I see it, a parent jokingly offering to give their kid away is the epitome of poor taste.

It’s time to retire the cliché of offering to give kids away to strangers.

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What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 102: Assuming Intentions, Talking Too Much, Referring to Inside Jokes, and Interrupting

Exploring more unspoken rules of conversation, since What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 101.

In this second installment of revisiting what we already know about communicating in North American culture, I’m taking it to the next level, peeling back the first layer to discover even more hidden (and less obvious) elements of being a good conversationalist and being considered a friendly (and normal) person.  And alas, here are more unspoken rules.

Don’t assume a person’s intentions by saying “you probably…” Though I assign “cliché status” to the joke “you know what happens when you assume…”, there is so much validity in it.  People usually don’t want to feel like they are being “figured out”.  So to assume that someone is not trying hard enough at something, for example, may not fair well.  Some people are slower learners but solid performers, and even better teachers once they do learn.

Refrain from using the phrases “it’s complicated” or “to make a long story short” more than once a month. If you do, there’s a good chance you talk too much, or say use too many words to tell a story.  If so, the listeners are often not fully listening to what you say, as they are really just thinking “get to the point already”.  If you find yourself about to say one of those phrases, stop yourself for a moment, long enough to think, “Okay, tell them the ‘edited for time’ version of this story, using 1/3 of the details as you’re used to”.  Then act accordingly.

Shorter stories help the listeners to become involved in a conversation with you, instead of it becoming a one-way conversation.  Telling stories is a good thing, just remember that if you preface them with “it’s complicated” or “to make a long story short”, you’re taking too long to tell them.

Never start a conversation off with “Did You Know?” unless you have already verified the facts. (Click that title to read more.) People who make a habit of this phrase typically follow it with urban legends and unchecked myths.  Therefore, their listeners tend to take them less seriously, especially when the listener immediately looks up their story on Google or Wikipedia.  Surprisingly, even the story how “granddaddy long-legs spiders are one of the most poisonous spiders in the world, yet they can’t hurt you because their fangs are too small to puncture you” is not accurate.  They can bite you, their poison does get into your bloodstream, but the venom does not affect human the way it affects their prey, such as Black Widow spiders.  Humans have immunity against daddy long-legs’ venom.  Check it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pholcidae

No inside jokes. If you find yourself referencing an inside joke with one or more people (but not all) in a group, take the time to briefly explain it to the uninformed.  Otherwise, you’ll end up excluding people, which will cause them to think that you’re cliquey, that you already have enough friends in your circle.  Most importantly, make sure you never say “you wouldn’t understand”.  Instead, help them understand.

Interrupting a Person Then Never Returning Back to that Point in the Conversation. It’s amazingly how many grown adults never understood the importance of not interrupting a person when they’re talking to someone else.  However, there are times when you must interrupt a person real quick to tell them something crucial, but this is not offensive and is completely redeemable when you say “I’m sorry, you were saying that (insert where they left off) ”.

Blue Skies Eventually Become Outer Space: From the Real World to the Heavenly Spiritual Realm

“Is there a God?  Why is He waiting? Don’t you think of it odd when He knows my address?  And look at the stars- don’t they remind you of just how feeble we are? Well it used to, I guess.” –John Mayer, “New Deep”

Though it may be difficult to grasp, neither the Wild West (in the past) nor Outer Space (in the future) in fictional entertainment have ever really interested me.  In fact, they have actually turned me off from certain franchises.  Back to the Future, Part III was a Wild Western, as was American Tail: Fievel Goes West.  And though it was before my time and marketed to the opposite gender, before being cancelled, the Saturday morning cartoon Josie and the Pussycats went to Outer Space for their final season.  Going into the Wild West or Outer Space both come across as “jump the shark” moments to me.  (Star Wars is an exception because it happened a long, long time ago, which is weird to think about.)

Here in the year 2010, the Wild West has been replaced as modern-day Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas have more trouble with violent gangs than they do misbehaving cowboys or Indians.  However, no matter what year we survive to, there is still an unseen future- and an unexplored Outer Space will always be something we remain fascinated by.  Even if we can shake off the possibility of other life forms out there (see Do Aliens Really Exist?), the scientific fact remains that there is no end to the Universe.  Space never stops; it literally can’t.  The ultimate great wide open.

A cliché idea is that when you look up at the stars you realize just how small you really are.  It’s true.  Even right now if I look up at the sky, I think how if only I could see far enough, I would see Outer Space.  And part of the whole “you realize how small you really are” doesn’t just account for physical size, but also for our spiritual relation to this Universe.

I am not convinced that Heaven is millions of light years away from us, way out there past Outer Space, like I have always unquestionably assumed.  God doesn’t fear that we humans will become so smart and efficient with our space travel programs that we will physically be able to fly to Heaven and therefore force our way in, despite our spiritual condition and relationship with Him.

For all I know, Heaven is actually so physically close we could throw a rock to it.  But our inability to see the spiritual realm prevents us from seeing it now.  Even when it somehow becomes easy to forget the relevance of God and eternity and how everything really is spiritual, Heaven isn’t that far away.  We definitely don’t have to travel past the blue skies into Outer Space to find the place.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on outer space, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Russian Roulette with a Made in China Cap Gun

I’ve heard the phrase “we’re not promised tomorrow” enough throughout my lifetime that it’s become a cliché. And what else can I really do to truly “live my life” and “make the most of it”? My issue is that I’m too aware of how short and precious life is.

During the summer of 1998, right before my senior year of high school, I spent a few weeks at a music camp in which us kids stayed overnight in the dorms of the college at Snead State in Gadsden, AL. I wasn’t the kind of kid who looked for trouble when not supervised. So instead of sneaking out at night, one of the things us teenage boys did in that dorm was play Russian Roulette, with a toy cap gun that was made in China.

Because, what else would we do?

In other words, the seven of us staying in that hall gathered in one room around a toy gun that we loaded with its accompanying ammunition, the equivalent of Snap and Pops. It had a barrel just like a real gun and we would only place one “bullet” in at a time. Meaning that there was only a one-in-six chance that the toy gun would make a big “POP!” when the trigger was pulled.

We all took a turn, passing the toy gun to the next guy after we pressed it to our own temple and pulled the trigger. If it was just a “blank”, we stayed in the game. If it went off, we were out.

It was a very entertaining game. Actually addicting.

But at the same time, it made us nervous. Our hearts would speed up in the anticipation. All over a popping sound from a toy gun bought at a gas station.

Just a dumb game we played that summer. But for me, it brought some reality to the fact of how true that analogy is in every day life. I do everything possible to eat and drink healthy, to exercise regularly, and to reduce stress. Preventing disease and cancer is a lifestyle to me.

Yet, as people who smoke cigarettes and who regularly eat fast food and who don’t make an effort to exercise daily all tell me, “we all gotta go sometime”.

There are still car accidents. There are still those random deaths like an unexpected brain aneurisms, and I don’t even know that that is.

I am completely over-aware that every morning I wake up, it’s a game of Russian roulette. Maybe not a one-in-six chance of life ending. Maybe more like one-in-a-half-a-million.

But to me, I’m only alive another day because God let it happen. So really, it’s not a matter of any chances. Not one-in-an-anything.

And that truth is one of the most sobering, frightful, and yet grace-filled thoughts I can think of.

Manspeak, Volume 2: Heroism

Subconsciously I view handymen and auto mechanics as super heroes. Because the only thing I can build is a Lego house and the only vehicle I can fix is a Lego car. While I’m not a “slow learner”, I don’t learn new skills quickly. It takes daily practice for at least several weeks before I master something new. So to see a man who gets daily exposure to these expected masculine events, I can’t help but have admiration.

Any laugh track infused sitcom that features a typical “dad figure” has had at least once episode where there is a need for home repair and the man of the house rises to the occasion (against the advice of others in the household, namely the wife). Of course, the man botches the job for the comedy highlight of the episode: On Who’s the Boss, Tony “fixed” the toilet upstairs but smashed a hole in the floor which he fell into, causing only his butt to be visible from the living room ceiling by his family below. On Perfect Strangers, Larry “fixed” the shower but it caused the shower head to shoot water across to the other side of the bathroom and blasted Balki in the face, who decides to just stand there with his mouth open and drink the water instead of move out of the way. And as for Home Improvement, “man hilariously attempts home repairs” was the theme of every entire episode.

The fact that under-qualified men continue to try to fix things when they don’t really know how to, is a universal issue. Why? Because it is a man’s job to fix things. It is literally the way men were wired. A woman says to a man, “Our garbage disposal isn’t working right. I think we should call someone to come fix it.” The man hears this: “You’re a man, capable of figuring out how to fix this, but instead, I’m going to call another man to get the job done because he’s more qualified than you”. Shrinkage follows at just the thought of another man walking in the door with his tools.

A man walks around with this hidden fear that he will not be successful in life. In all ways big and small. If he can’t successfully make the evidently simple home repair, he fears he may be seen as insufficient, incapable, and useless. When he longs to be the hero. And hiring someone else to do the job makes him feel unnecessary. May seem a little over the top, but being a man, I recognize the tendency of thinking in terms in worst case scenarios about this stuff.

This also explains the all too familiar (yet somehow not cliché because it’s so true) story of the man who won’t stop to ask for directions. It’s a man’s job to explore and find his own way if he’s lost. A major sense of accomplishment if he can do it. And just for the record, he’s not lost. He’s either taking the scenic route or the short cut (depending on how much time is delayed).

One of my proudest accomplishments regarding home improvement was when I turned down an aggressive salesman who knocked on the door one sunny Saturday morning. If I signed a year-long contract right then since his company was already in the neighborhood, his company would regularly spray my house for bugs for the low, low yearly fee of $545. He inspired me to immediately drive to Lowe’s and purchase a 5 gallon sprayer for $11. Needless to say, I now consider myself a professional bug killer.

Last week as I was getting ready for bed I heard my wife scream loudly from the stairs. My initial thought is that someone broke into the house. I ran over to the stairs to find the intruder to be a wolf spider. A very large scary spider that appeared quite afraid to end up lost and confused at the top of the stairs. I took on the form of the 1984 no nonsense straight-faced Bill Murray, racing downstairs to transform the vacuum cleaner into a proton pack with which I sucked up the monster with great force, feeling the vibration of the thump as it was crushed to death by my weapon. I was a hero. An ego trip shortly followed.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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