My son has been back in my care for nearly five months now, and all is well. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. I’m happy. He’s happy, and we are closer than ever. Our relationship is the best it’s been yet, and it’s just going to get better from here on. His grades on his school tests could be better though, and I have been trying to get him to work harder without having to do the OT that has been recommended by his teacher. (“He doesn’t need to have OT and I am happy with his performance, but he could benefit from it.” Whatever that means.) My view is, he simply doesn’t try hard enough… He’s a bright boy, but he rushes through his homework without focusing enough on it because he wants to play games, and I want to try to get him to concentrate without any occupational therapy. (In other words, he is a perfectly normal eight year old boy. Games are more important than homework, and so they should be.) I’m a strong believer in not going overboard with too many extra lessons or therapy. He is doing well enough at school. He’s only in grade two, and maybe he is under-achieving a little, but he is doing fine.
But that’s not what I want to write about today… Instead I need to focus on my sarcasm. I need to make an effort to cut it down a little in front of him. I didn’t understand sarcasm until I was about twelve years old, but Josh is getting it already, and he’s only eight. It’s not just me – he has a Star Wars Lego movie that he watches quite often, and in it, Sidious is often sarcastic to one of his minions (General Grievous). The minion then makes an embarrassing comment, acknowledging praise that was not sincere since it was said sarcastically, to which Sidious replies, “Sarcasm!” and then they all laugh at the minion’s expense. It’s quite silly, but it does convey the meaning of sarcasm effectively enough for a child to be able to understand, probably by accident because I doubt that it was done on purpose. That and my sarcasm seems to have brought Josh to an understanding of sarcasm that I didn’t have at his age. (Actually, unless it is my imagination, children these days are far more sophisticated than my generation was.) And as a result, he has started experimenting with sarcasm himself – quite successfully – generally with his grandmother as the designated victim. When he isn’t experimenting with his own snark, he asks me, after I say something sarcastic, if I was being sarcastic. (I’d be impressed if I thought that it was wise for an eight year old to understand sarcasm, which I do not.)
So here’s what happened this last weekend – it was just one of many examples where I relished the opportunity to mock somebody and have a laugh at someone else’s expense, but one that I could have avoided had I been thinking of the example I set for my son…
So we were at Nando’s, waiting for our order of a full chicken, fries, salad and drinks. Outside, I’d been approached by a woman who was struggling with her lot in life. She was poor, and was selling some kitchen cloths. Since she wasn’t begging but was trying to make an honest living, and was clearly hungry, I felt empathy for her, and had bought some of her microfiber cleaning cloths. The cloths were much like those in the image below, except they were packed such that they were all attached together, so what I had in my hand was a tightly packed rectangle of rainbow-coloured cloths.
We sat there for a couple of minutes, when an elderly white woman came in and also ordered some food. Then she sat down on the bench waiting as we were. But after a few minutes, the woman became visibly upset. She went to the counter and started complaining, at first to the cashier, and then to the manager. She was shouting and screaming and carrying on about waiting more than half an hour for her food, and making quite a scene. The cashier, who had done nothing wrong, looked embarrassed, and I always feel bad for service staff who get treated unfairly. Ever since I worked as a bank teller twenty years ago, I have felt this way. Eventually she sat down again, after the manager assured her that he would take care of the (non-existent) problem personally.
That’s about when I should have known better, but I couldn’t stop myself. So I did my thing…
I walked up to the counter, and proceeded to complain about their poor service. But I didn’t complain in my normal voice…. Nooooo. Instead I made a voice like Terry Jones from Monty Python, in those skits where he pretended to be a woman… [Squeaky voice] “Where’s my fucking chicken? I’ve been waiting for over half an hour! This is unacceptable! Where’s my chicken?” That (silly voice) got enough laughs already, but I was on a roll and that rectangular pack of super-colourful cleaning cloths became a weapon in my hands. I started waving it around, then waggling it at the cashier in front of me, before resorting to banging it against the counter… Whup! Whup! Whup! Where’s my fucking chicken? Where!?! Where’s [whup!] my [whup] chicken [whup]?
It was funny. I had three cashiers, the two people doing the cooking, as well as the manager, in stitches, not to mention Josh. The rude old woman didn’t say another word, but I wasn’t really thinking about her. I never do. (The victim I mean. The target of the sarcasm. The one everybody else laughs at.) Nor was I thinking about the example I was setting for Josh. And that brings me back to my reason for writing this post… I can’t help being a sarcastic asshole. It’s the culmination of years of practice. But I can make an effort to be less of an asshole in front of Josh.