Parenting just got a little bit easier
By Ellen Snortland
Our lame duck president is more like a “loose goose” these days. As of this writing, Drumpf has not formally conceded, which is not surprising as we knew he would not go gracefully. He told us as much. True to form, he seems hellbent on wreaking as much havoc as possible to the very end.
Nonetheless, his loosey-goosey behavior doesn’t dampen our collective relief. You can hear “phew” from just about everywhere, especially from parents. Although I am not a parent—my sisters and I did not breed well in captivity—I have profuse empathy for parents and grandparents and what they have endured over the last four years, especially since March. A potent reminder of that recently surfaced on CNN.
I was only vaguely aware of CNN commentator Van Jones before the Biden/Harris win. I had seen a few excerpts of his work and remembered him as an Obama confidante. It turns out we have a lot in common: we’re both commentators, lawyers and very relieved that the Drumpf regime will soon end. We’re also not afraid to show our emotions in public.
Van really grabbed my heart hard and shook it, when on CNN Anderson Cooper asked Van what the Biden win meant to him. While answering, Van openly cried and kept crying while expressing the depth of his feelings of relief as a parent that Drumpf lost. My soul simultaneously cried and exulted with him.
I’m a sucker for men who cry anyway. The men who dare to cry in front of others are expressing the opposite of toxic masculinity. Take a “gander” at the synonyms for the word toxic: “poisonous, deadly, lethal, harmful, pernicious, noxious, septic, pestilential, baneful, mephitic, mephitical, poison, poisonous, toxicant.”
“Toxic” has become such a ubiquitous modifier of “masculinity” that we often lose what it really means. These toxic men are poisoning not only the planet but their families and the culture. In Drumpf’s case, he has literally been toxic, spreading COVID-19 with abandon all through the White House and Secret Service. Hazard pay, anyone?
Anyway, back to Van Jones’ tears and his assertion that it’s easier to be a parent now because it’s now easier to show children that character does matter.
A friend I initially met decades ago at Augustana Academy in Canton, South Dakota, recently messaged me on Facebook. I’ll call her Ingrid for this column. Her daughter’s name is Heather, and her granddaughter’s name is Allison. (Allison is 4 and more mature than Drumpf.) Ingrid couldn’t wait to tell me about an exchange she heard between Allison and Heather:
Allison: So, who is the president?
Heather: It’s going to be Joe Biden.
Allison: Does he call people stupid?
Heather: No, he does not.
Allison: Does he call people by their real names?
Heather: Yes, he does,
Allison: Will he call me, Allison?
Heather Yes, he will.
Ahhh. A breath of civility.
Names are both a simple and profound thing. Dale Carnegie, the father of self-improvement, said, “Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” The fact that Drumpf tried to normalize name calling is so emblematic of his personality that it’s mind-boggling.
I am experiencing sweetness again without the specter of No. 45, causing me (and us) daily—if not hourly—outrage, anger and heartbreak. I now watch the sun outside my window and notice hummingbirds sipping there. I’ve seen birds splashing in our fountain and an occasional squirrel as well. My dog lies at my feet. I am aware of these things again, while also circumspect that I had stopped noticing them for a while.
With a last name like Snortland, it’s easy to see why I defended myself a lot with “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” Not true. That was merely a bromide meant to minimize the pain of playground cruelty. To deal with the endless taunts, my third-grade teacher, Sonja Staley née Erickson, dealt with it head-on. Sonja personified the opposite of toxic masculinity. Her action was sheer nongendered, adult decency.
After sending me on a “bogus” chore to the principal’s office, “Class, you have made Ellen cry, making fun of her last name. Please don’t do that,” she said.
And it stopped.
All it took was a loving adult to step in and take charge by taking some nontoxic action.
I feel bad for the man who hurts inside so much that he spreads his hurt to others by taunting and bullying. But not bad enough to avoid celebrating his lame duckness. He may be lame, but he can’t fly away fast enough for me.
Correction: Sharper eyes than mine caught the mistake in last week’s column. Obama defeated McCain in 2008, not “W.”
Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.