Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Pity Behind the Praise: Sunday Stilwell's post on Adventures in Extreme Parenthood today about the condescending way Ann Curry spoke to a teenager with special needs and her dad on the Today show really resonated with me, as I'm still processing a similar sort of comment made to me in church this past Sunday. It was from an older woman who usually sits in the pew behind us, someone I've often thought must wonder why I don't make my son behave better. So when she made it a point to speak to me after Mass and told me I was a very good mother, I was initially relieved and gladdened, because, well goodness, there are so many not as nice things she could have said. But it's sort of impossible for me to hear praise like that without assuming that the subtext is sympathy and regret for my burden. When I think back to how hard church was with my son in his early years, his current behavior seems unremarkable to me, and so it's a jolt when someone -- with all good intentions, in all Christian charity, entirely undeserving of my ingratitude -- acts like I'm in need of mercy. It's worse when someone does it on national television, of course, but respect and acceptance of the kid would make most parents feel better than being praised for their parenting fortitude.

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