The other day, I was in the company of a teacher friend. Something happened and I got to thinking about all those kids she works with. I asked her, “Do you ever tell any of your kids that they’re gross?”
She was surprised that I would suggest such a thing. “Of course not, I would never say that to a child.”
Why not? Aren’t kids just a little gross? Runny noses and/or fingers in them. Poor bladder and bowel control. A general lack of hygiene. If you want a contagious disease like a cold, flu, or strep just hang around with children. Don’t forget parasites. Just thinking about kids with lice gives me the heeby-jeebies. On top of all that, they’re not very bright and they quickly go savage under the wrong conditions. It’s no wonder that a common horror movie trope is evil children; they freak us out.
In spite of all that, a good teacher would never call her children gross or any other terrible names. In fact, have you ever noticed when we witness someone putting a child down we are physically uncomfortable and that distress might linger for a long time. That’s our own past shaming experiences bubbling to the surface and gripping our hearts all over again. That’s why so often when we see or hear someone being bullied we freeze up even though we want to intervene to try to save the child from pain we can so easily relate to.
So she said, “Of course not, I would never say that to a child.”
What about kid so and so who has issues? What about the one whose clothes seem two sizes to small? What about the kid with the mental challenges or the deformity?
“Absolutely not! I would never call any child gross or any other name. It’s offensive that you would even ask that question.”
But you see, just a moment before I asked my question, she had glanced at herself in a mirror and I heard her tell herself something. I looked her the eyes with all the care and compassion I could and I asked…
“Then why do you say it to yourself?”