The Bubble

14 Jun

A friend of mine once told me about a time a drunk man approached her (for change maybe) while she was out with her children. I think it was meant as an anecdote about how unsettling it can be when you’re approached by an “oddball” while out with your kids.

And it is unsettling. Regardless of what the person looks like or does, there is a moment of “mother bear” instinct that flares up as you assess the situation: how should I act around this person? What should I say? Is this person a threat? Do I need to get away fast?

I sympathized with my friend because uncertainty can frightening, especially if your mother bear instinct is silently screaming, “Protect the children!”
But I also expressed my belief that children need to be around “strange” and “off” people: it’s part of a life rich in experience and understanding.

To illustrate, I explained that my children have been “exposed” to a gross drunk man since the day they were born. They call him Grampa.

Sometimes I’m taken aback, and even shocked, by the ignorance of others. If my friend is reading this and recognizes herself, I’m not saying she is ignorant! (She is an amazing mother and one of my dearest friends) But our conversation got me to thinking about the general tendency to try and ignore the less attractive aspects of society. The unaware attitudes I encounter on on daily basis are astounding.

Some children really are raised in a bubble and kept away from anyone who is “different.” And I don’t even mean different races or religious beliefs. I’m talking about invisible disabilities and mental illnesses and poverty and homelessness: things that aren’t immediately visible. How nice for the children who are privileged enough to be kept inside that bubble.

But is it really nice? Is it a positive thing? Would I want my own children in that bubble?

I grew up seeing my dad fall down, pass out, stumble, slur, yell, and act like a hypocritical asshole. I hated him sometimes but he served as a terrific example of how NOT to live life.

I also think that seeing someone so riddled with addiction and depression made me more tolerant to those with differences and diseases; definitely more aware.

My boys don’t quite understand what’s wrong with Grandpa although my oldest does get annoyed with him sometimes.

I hope my children will grow up with the same lessons that I learned: how not to live life, how drugs can ruin and hurt you (and the people around you), and how disgusting a lifetime of addiction can make your body. They can learn it all as they witness their Grampa acting like an idiot. And they don’t even have to live with him!

My boys will get the best of both worlds: loving parents AND exposure to extreme dysfunction. I don’t think I’m doing my boys a disservice by NOT sheltering them from one of life’s unpleasantries.

I hope dear dad lives long enough so they can remember how he acted, rather than us just telling them. I also don’t want my boys shocked and disgusted when they (we) see or are approached by “different” individuals in a public setting.

Having a noticeably different grandfather will no doubt foster some interesting discussions about sickness, addiction, family differences, societal differences, tolerance, and respect for all humanity.

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