Friday, February 24, 2012

Signs


Yesterday during my walk around New Haven, I ventured into a store that was so visually powerful my first words were, I need to take pictures.  There were vintage posters of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley.  In every nook and cranny there were tiny statues of every Indian God you can think of.  There were bumper stickers that I would never ever imagine putting on my car but I enjoyed reading all the same.  Incense was burning, music was playing and my senses were overloaded with joy.
All I could think about was Instagram.  The pictures would be amazing.  Apparently I missed the sign that said not to use cell phones in the store and no picture taking was allowed.  Unknowingly I was about to break to rules.  Focusing on a bronze Buddha, my finger was just about to hit the shutter button when the man behind the counter bellowed “No camera’s allowed!”.  Actually, he did not bellow, but my brain interpreted it that way.  Sorry!  Didn’t see the sign.  Didn’t get the message.  
“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?”
FIve Man Electrican Band
No big deal right?  Just put away the camera and move on.  Only to me it was a big deal.  I felt bad.  Like I did something wrong.  You know that feeling?  I hate it.  Sometimes I obsess over it.  I can recall moments of my childhood vividly 30 years later when I broke a rule and was publicly reprimanded.  Like when I was lying on the playground face down, arm bent in an unnatural way and the only voice I heard was that of a snotty fifth grader pronouncing that I (mearly a third grader) was not even supposed to be on that side of the playground (reserved for the upper grades).  This is what I remember!  
It got me thinking about our children and how they must feel when they are reprimanded, scolded or embarrassed in public (or private).  The glorious moment that they may have been immersed in will be forever ruined.  Years ago  I took my niece to an art museum and she leaned in just a tad too close to a painting and the docent scolded her.  She was not going to touch it.  She was simply drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  She needed to see it closer to see the brush strokes and wonder at the artist’s ability.  I am curious if she remembers that moment and if that became the focal point of the day in her memory replacing the joy and wonder.  I think some people have an easier time letting go of the negativity and focusing on the joy.  I wish I were more like those people.
In my daughter’s old school the students are made to sit alongside the fence at recess if they did not finish an assignment in class or worse yet, forgot to bring in homework or have their homework journal signed by a parent.  Every day at least 5 children would sit along the fence watching their peers play, knowing that they were being singled out, humiliated publicly for a very minor infraction.  It has been three years and my daughter still talks about the one time she was “on the fence”.  (I did try to no avail to have this punitive, demeaning policy stopped.  I was not successful but I was very clear that my child would never be sent to the fence again.)  
This is not what I want for my children to remember.  Rules are a part of our life.  There are written rules like those we must learn to obtain a driver’s license and there are unwritten rules like knowing how close to stand next to someone before you invade there personal space.  Rules are a necessary part of life.  But how we enforce those rules is entirely up to us.  We can scold or we can guide.  We can speak with a kind voice or we can bellow.  We can soothe or we can scream.  We are in control of our own behavior and what we choose will affect the lives of those around us.
I am going to keep the memory of this experience close to my heart so the next time I lose my patience or raise my voice in frustration, I will stop and think how the beautiful little person in front of me may be feeling and what memories she may be storing away in her brain.   I will ask myself, is this what I want her to remember?  

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