My little brother wanted a pair of sandals. Our older sister warned him that none of his friends wore them and they would make fun of him. My mother took him shoe shopping and sure enough, he came home wearing a pair of blue leather sandals.
I was waiting on the porch when they got back. Looking at his blue clad feet, I laughed. “They’ll tease you.”
As he ran to take them off, my mother turned to me, her teeth clenched so tightly she could barely talk. “Think before you speak.”
The nuanced difference of prewarning versus post-laughing was lost on me, but her anger came through. This wasn’t the first or the last time my mom told me that. Sometimes it was said with a sigh. She probably said it daily when I was in my early teens and regularly challenging my dad. Eventually it sunk in.
It’s hardest to curb my tongue with those closest to me. My daughters say I’m brutally honest. But I’ve made progress.
I hear Mom’s voice as I speak to my students. As I stand before a kid who failed his assignment, disrupted the class, and got in a fight at recess, I barely bite back, “What’s wrong with you?”
Instead I take a deep breath. The consequences can come later. Right now, calm is needed. “What’s going on?”
I hear her clearly when I get ready to comment on social media. The post is so slanted I can’t believe anyone would buy it. Yet they have shared it with the rest of us. I want to scream, “Fake news!”
Instead I pause and hit Delete rather than Send and scroll past. Not worth it.
And some of the other things I see? Privacy settings and common sense go a long way. Think before you post. Advice for a new age.
My mother is gone now. I can guess how Mom would see the current political and social climate. In the five years since she died, millions of words have been written that give one side or the other support for what they already believe. It’s become strangely acceptable to shout your opinions, simply getting louder if someone disagrees. The answer to evidence that makes your guy look bad is dissemblance. “Oh yeah? Well, your group is worse,” is not elegant discourse. But I believe the spin masters do think before they speak. Their words are deceptive and hurtful by design, not by thoughtlessness. The rule is not infallible.
Our leader however is a different matter. What comes to his head seems to go straight to his tapping fingers. I know what Mom would say. If I could tell the president just one thing, it would be think before you tweet.
I entered Super Challenge #5 on Yeahwrite.me. This was my Round One piece and I made it to Round Two! The prompt was to write a personal essay about “a phrase that gets stuck in your head.” Here’s what the judges had to say about my piece.
What the judges really liked about With Reason:
- My favorite scene is the sandal scene; it’s rich in emotion, detail, and it feels real. Well done.
- You did a good job using the prompt in a consistent way throughout the piece.
Where the judges found room for improvement:
- The essay ends abruptly, and when it veers from personal anecdotes, it seems to lose focus. This is especially true after the line “Advice for a new age.”
- This essay would benefit from expanding on the detail especially with regard to that last paragraph which makes perfect sense in the context of the essay topic but just kind of lands there at the end with little tie in to what came before.