Ask the grumpies: Changing opinions

Leah asks:

Is there any major personal opinion where you’re taken a big swing? For example, as a child, I was really anti-abortion until I learned why people might chose to have an abortion.

Ooh, ooh, I can answer this one for #2! Did you know that she used to be REALLY into Ayn Rand?  I wasn’t.  But she TOTALLY was.  I was all, you should totally write a scholarship application for that weird author you like who writes the long onanistic books (actually I didn’t say onanistic because I didn’t know that word yet, but I did probably use the hand motion…).  But she didn’t.  Like most people not in congress, she outgrew it.

I used to believe that people could be fixed and change.  I used to believe that evil didn’t exist. I used to believe more realistic villains thought they were doing the right thing, but were just confused on that, and the truly evil-seeming ones all had some sort of rare psychopathy.  Those beliefs have been firmly shaken these past couple years and now I realize all those “unrealistic” super-villains were actually warning us about what could be.  What now is.

Here’s #2’s actual answer:
I have ambivalence about the death penalty.  Generally, I am against it.  It’s irreversable, expensive, and racist the way it’s currently done.  It doesn’t deter crime.  It ties up the court with endless appeals.  It’s carried out in dumb and dehumanizing ways.  But there are some people . . .

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A remembered kindness

Trigger warning:  Middle school bullying

It is 3am and I just woke up from a nightmare about middle school.  Well, it was sort of about middle school and sort of about graduate school in the way that dreams are.  I was fumbling for money for the light rail and shades from middle school showed up to make fun of how I was in PE…

Middle school was extremely traumatic.  It has taken me decades to (I thought) mostly get over it.  But apparently I can still have anxiety dreams about it.

One of the worst bits (that #2 is tired of hearing about because the girl in question went to our boarding school too) was when a girl at my lunch table who I went to church and choir and Sunday school with and had all my classes with invited all the other girls at the lunch table (and in the G/T track) to her house for an overnight party and deliberately excluded me, complete with whispered not talking about it around me the next day.  The “don’t let her know” part was the worst, I think.  Really drove home that the exclusion was deliberate.  Later her mother was a teacher at boarding school– I should have asked how she let that happen (that’s an insight from 3am).

Once I was invited to an overnight party in middle school.  A very nice girl who wasn’t in my classes but was good friends from elementary school of someone at my lunch table (who both went to my church and occasionally invited me to her house in a “don’t let other people know I invited you” sort of way) and current friends with another girl in my neighborhood who was generally kind to me, invited me to a come as you are party.  A mini-van driven by her mother with a few girls in it showed up to my house, bundled me in, and we went around driving to pick more people up until we landed at her house.  People treated me normally, not like a social pariah.  It was fun.  They feathered my bangs.  We watched a Steve Martin movie on VHS.  We played games like twister.  I listened about boy crushes.  Everyone was nice.  In the morning we had fruit pizza with custard (which became my favorite dessert as of that morning).  She didn’t need to include me, but I was included, and I cherish that memory.

And I suppose I shouldn’t completely blame the girl who excluded me… In 6th grade the math/science teacher was a huge bully and the excluding girl and her best friend were his favorites while I was one of his victims (not an easy mark of a victim though– we had an exam where the instructions explicitly said to always round up in this situation, and he was berating the class as stupid for not rounding down despite what the instructions said.  That led to him saying if I was so smart why didn’t I teach the class and I said I’d be happy to, and then he asked how many people wanted me to teach the class.  I cherish the sole kid in the class brave enough to raise his hand.  I am still grateful to John K.  Sadly, 6th grade was the last year he was tracked into GT math/science so the only time I really came across him again was as a young adult when he was a cashier at Walmart.  Also my parents had complained earlier that year when that teacher gave me a B one quarter even though I’d never earned lower than an A- on an assignment and he switched the grade to an A after he could show no basis for the grade other than some blustering about how my lines weren’t completely straight in my graphs and I needed to better use a straight-edge.  He retired the next year.)  Prior to that year, the first girl had been nice to most people, even including the developmentally disabled girl who was the only person in school equally reviled to me (incidentally, said developmentally disabled girl saw me as lower on the pecking order and would call me names, but I never blamed her for that).  That’s a 3:30am mental connection.  Adults set the tone of school in ways that can have lasting effects.

So… thank you Emily, even though I can’t remember your last name.  I have remembered your kindness throughout my life and have tried to emulate it.  In high school and college and beyond, I have always tried to be inclusive and to never leave anybody out.  The more the merrier.  And I’ve encouraged my children to do the same.  Bullying sucks.  Exclusion sucks.  Small acts of kindness and inclusion can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Ask the grumpies: Fondest childhood memories influenced by parents

First Gen American asked:

On a related note…what are your fondest childhood memories that your parents influenced.

For some reason, my first thoughts are all negative memories.  (Getting sunburn while camping.  Though I do have a fond memory of my first soft-serve ice cream from the same camping trip.  Yum!)

Let’s see… my mom read to me every night until I was almost a teenager.  I went on road trips when I was little with my dad as we drove across country to move.  We’d stop places and see the sights.  My dad would make breakfast on weekends, like crepes or eggs.  My mom would take us to the library every weekend.

#2: I remember my parents reading a lot.  And I remember greeting my dad when he came home from work (when I was little) by running to meet him.  I dunno.  I mean, my family was pretty good but it’s also hard to come up with an answer to this question.

What are your favorite parent-influenced memories?

Fond grandparent memories

My MIL threw a party for DC2 when they visited this summer.  She rented a pony.  A PONY.   DC2 still talks about it– ze got to ride the horsie and feed it carrots and its mouth tickled hir hand.

My mother says she can’t compete with that and will stick to sending books (which are much appreciated!).  I can’t compete with that either.

But what are grandparents for, except spoiling kids?

I have fond memories of my grandmas (both grandfathers died long before I was born).  My one grandma had birds and would give me a banana every time I visited, which was often when we lived in the same state.   She eventually died of a stroke caused by a broken hip she got fighting off a purse snatcher in her mid-80s.  She was a tiny little woman who looks a lot like my sister.

My other grandma was considerably younger and thus more active.  In between stints with the Peace Corps, she made great chocolate chip walnut cookies and lived in fun places with barn cats or pools and lakes for swimming. (Until she moved to a boring little town in the midwest.  We still visited.)  She was the spoiling grandma– every time I went to her house there would be a new toy or dress for me.  When I was little and she lived in the same state she’d hide the new toy in a cupboard for me to look.  She gave me a much-desired Lemon Meringue Pie doll.  Once we went to the candy store (Fannie Mae!) and she let me buy one of every candy that they had (except the expensive pecan rolls).  My parents were upset with me for letting her do that, but what could be more magical than buying one of every candy in a store?  She didn’t seem to mind– she reminded my parents that she saw grandparent’s main job to spoil the grandkids, something my mother has repeated to me.

We lost her a few years ago after a decade-long struggle with Alzheimers, something my husband is dealing with with his remaining grandmother now.

But our memories remain.

What memories do you have of your grandparents?