Category Archives for "Kids"

Why do our parents irritate us so much!

Akenn asks: I really love my parents and they love me too but sometimes they bring out the worst in me.  Why am I feeling this?

Hi Akenn –

What you’re describing isn’t just normal, it’s universal.  It’s been true as long as parents have had children.

Think of it like a computer.  If you got a completely unprogrammed computer, and started to program it, you’d give it certain orders, right?  Like “When I push 3A, it puts out a beep” or “When I write out 1382721, it skips down three lines.”  Right?  So from then on, any time anyone pushes 3A or 1382721, that computer will do those things.  Okay?

Well you’re the same way.  You were born largely unprogrammed.  And the programming started immediately.  And all that data was entered by your parents!

Now everybody (yes even me) has qualities that can irritate or anger someone.  Maybe someone has a slightly grating voice.  Or gets upset in an annoyingly passive-aggressive way.  Or loses their temper too quickly.  Or even makes an irritating sound when they chew! 

Now most people would just shrug off these qualities.  “Big deal, I like being around _______, so I’ll put up with that about them.”  But not when it’s your parents!

You see, when you were a little child, you saw them as perfect (the way I see Handsome, and he sees me).  But as you got old enough to think for yourself, those qualities in your parents started to bug you more.  But you still feel you should see them as perfect, as a good kid. 

And when you mix those mild (or bigger) irritations with voices inside you saying you should see these people as flawless, you’re bound to get SUPER IRRITATED!

And then we get back to what I said about programming.  Because now, while your friend’s parent will have some irritating qualities too, they don’t bother you nearly as much as your parents’ silly quirks do.  And – and here’s the bad news – for the rest of your life, those weird things about your parents will keep showing up in other people (friends, coworkers, spouses!) and bug you even more!

And in the meantime, you correctly say they “bring out the worst in” you.  What’s the worst?  Oh intolerance, judgment, even cruelty. 

And how do I know all this about you?  Because, as I said before, this is true of EVERYBODY!

So what can you do about it? 

Struggle.

Yes, as you get older, you’ll learn to accept your parents more, especially as you meet more people and learn more qualities that bother you.  You see, your parents might chew too loudly, but someone else will really betray you, or rob you, or lie about you… and suddenly those qualities of your parents, which will always bug you, won’t seem like such big deals.  And your parents’ great qualities – their love for you, the fact that they took care of you as a child, the qualities you share – like senses of humor or love of art or music or sports, whatever it is – will become more treasured to you.

So it’s going to be fine.  All will be alright.  Just try to take a deep breath when your dad turns that same turn of phrase he always does, or your mother cuts vegetables in that particular way.  There will be a day, maybe not too long from now, when you’ll actually treasure the irritation!

Now I’m sorry I have to go, since Handsome’s calling me.  In that same way he always does with that tone of voice that is so demanding and unfair and bothersome…  the love of my life!

All my best,

Shirelle

What to do when you’ve kept something loaned to you for way too long

Icyplum asks:

A year ago, I was staying in a residential society (a gated community) in a metropolitan city and I came across a message through a society app, someone from another block wing, stating something I related to, about starting a reading club within the society. I liked the idea and also thought it might be nice for me to start reading books. So, one evening, I decided to go over to that apartment (sender’s house) to get more details about it. 
I met the lady who sent out the message, and she was surprised, super nice to me and I thought I made great first impression on her family. She introduced me to her kids, a boy and a girl same as my age, and they were all welcoming. Though the program of reading club was only for kids, I observed that they all were a family of avid readers and somehow the conversation went onto reading, genres, etc. When i expressed my interest to start reading, they offered to lend me a book to read and I obviously couldn’t deny it. They asked me to return the book once I finished reading it, after a month or two. 
It’s been a full year and I never returned the book back to them, mainly because of procrastination for the initial few months which later turned into big guilt and the fear of facing them after so long without any reasonable explanation for the long delay.  Now it’s been an year and here I am wondering why I delayed it, that I should have returned it… and I am back here again. I feel guilty and at fault, and I don’t know what to say to them. How do I return the book now? 
I ruined that first impression of mine entirely. Now they must think I stole the book, had no intention of returning it, and ran away with it. I also know that they cherished their books, because they have their own library in the house, filled with books of various genres. I have met people whose world revolved around books and who love to read all day long.  Their books mean the world to them and they get really pissed when someone take something so dear to them and never comes back. I had no ill intentions but now I am all the more afraid of their reactions and what they must be thinking about me. 
I wouldn’t need to worry if it was my friend, but we just met once and they did me a favour, and I disappointed them.
How do I make this up to them? Should I make an excuse, the easiest way to not ruin the relationship and my image to get out of this whole dilemma and decide never to do this again?
I have no idea how to apologize for my ignorant behavior. Should I write an apology letter over email? Maybe a little bit formal. If so, I need help from someone who can write an apology letter on my behalf, as I am not good with English and my vocab is limited.

Hi icyplum –

I would love to say that I have no idea what you’re talking about, that every human I’ve ever met has been perfect and never made an awful mistake through procrastination or even purposeful avoidance. 

But I can’t.

In fact, everyone I have ever seen has done something just like what you did!

And here’s the best part, not only am I sure that every person at that apartment has been in just this situation, but I also am sure that, because they’re such great readers, they’ve all read numerous stories about people who find themselves in embarrassing predicaments for which they need to confess.

In your case it’s about a book.  Admittedly a book they thought enough of to recommend, but let’s be honest here – books are replaceable!  Most likely you’re right, that they’ve given up on you… and so bought another copy of it!  But it’s not as bad as… oh, say, in Crime and Punishment, when the man has to confess to a vicious murder.  Or Great Expectations, where he has to confess to having become a snob.  Or Gone with the Wind, where she has to confess to chasing a married man for years.  Or…

Do you get where I’m going?

The situation you’re in feels awful, but the worst part of it is right now!  If you return the book to them and explain what happened, and they do their worst – yell at you to get out and never come back and such – at least you’ll be done with this whole mess. 

But having said that, I like your idea of writing an email first.  Just to clear the air.  Say that you’re horribly embarrassed – and that your embarrassment has even made this go on longer.  And that you want to bring them the book and beg their forgiveness, and honor the kindness and welcoming they showed you.

But I then have one other thought.  What I imagine they’d like best would be if you actually… read the book!  What they wanted was to get kids reading, and if you bring it back without having done so, that might feel disappointing to them.  How much better if you could come back, with the whole confession and all, but also with a report on what you thought of the book they liked so much!

Would that be possible? 

But even if it’s not, my biggest suggestion is to get moving on this so you can get past it.  For their sake as well as yours.

It’s going to be okay.  In fact, this might become the beginning of a great friendship – with people who can share their stories of embarrassment!

Best of Luck,

Shirelle

Whose fault is it when one person is hurt by another person’s joke?

sweetparker asks:

I had a fight with my brother and we haven’t talked in a week. He was joking around with things I’m sensitive about. I ignored him for several days because he hurt my feelings. Then he got angry and he stopped talking to me too. My mother thought I was at fault for escalating a simple joke and that I should lower my ego and apologize. But I don’t want to. Is this an act of self-entitlement? He never apologized for hurting my feelings. So why should I?

Hi sweetparker –

Your question is so important, and so open, that I can’t give an exact answer to it.  There are so many questions I’d have about it – are you just a little sensitive about those issues or are they huge and devastating to you?  Did he know how much his joking would hurt?  Does he do this all the time?  What made him so angry (as opposed to any other time you’d gotten upset with him)?  Does your mother always take his side?  How would she be if he made jokes like that about her?  And do you often react this way? –  so many questions that I can’t remotely offer an opinion.

What I can talk about though is what happens next.  It sounds to me like you’d like the issue to be resolved, and for you and your brother (and mother) all get along.  But it sounds like you also need to have your feelings acknowledged.  So, in other words, you don’t want this to lead to you and him never speaking again, but you also need to know that he understands what he did that bothered you so much.

My best advice is for you to write him a letter.  Yeah, I mean old-fashioned, where you write in pen on a piece of paper.  And explain three things:

First, explain what he means to you, and how much you want to have a relationship with him, even a better one than you’ve had before.

Secondly, explain what it was about his joking that hurt you.  And that while you are okay with him joking (maybe you even really like it) sometimes, this was a special case where it bothered you too much.  And – and this is the most important part – that you feel you can’t trust him the way you need to until he shows you that he understands the difference.

And third, tell him what you need.  What he can do to make it all okay, so that you two can have the relationship you want.  And that you really hope this is possible.

Now I can imagine you reading this and saying “Why should I spell it all out for him?  Isn’t he mature enough to realize all this on his own?”  Well, maybe he’s not!  And if so, how great for you to teach him how to deal with this issue – because it will come up again for him.  Maybe with a co-worker, maybe with a girlfriend or wife, and maybe even with your mom!  And his life will get so much better if he knows how to handle situations like this!

So that’s my best advice for now.  But if I’m missing something important, and can help with that, please let me know.

And to your question about entitlement, yes, a family member IS entitled to being treated fairly and caringly by her family.  And the others are entitled to be treated right by you too.

After all, when I’ve done something I think is funny and my human friend Handsome doesn’t – like biting his ankle – or he’s done something he thinks is funny and I don’t – like teasing me with food and then eating it – we’ve had to teach each other what’s okay and what isn’t.  And from doing so, we’ve got about as great a relationship as any I’ve ever seen anywhere.

I’m hoping for the same for you, your brother, and your mom.  Forever!

Shirelle

How to stop overthinking

Alllyyyy asks:

I’m a overthinker. I always overthink in every situation. My mind is always disturbed by this overthinking.  Nowadays I’m not able to sleep properly either, from this overthinking.  Please suggest to me what to do.

Hi Alllyyyy –

I have to admit, to us dogs’ eyes, all you humans overthink all the time! That’s one of the biggest differences between us. 

But maybe it’s better to say, you guys think way too much about the wrong things!  See, we dogs don’t have a big sense of the past or future, not nearly as much as you with your gigantic brains.  We stay centered in the moment.

Just as an example, imagine someone gives you a big piece of pizza.  Your mind is going to go ten directions at once:  “Wow, I love pizza!  Yum!” “Why did they give it to me?  Do I trust them to not be drugging or poisoning me with it?”  “If I don’t eat that now, they’ll take it away and I’ll never get it!”  “If I eat it, I’ll gain weight.”  “I wonder if this is as good as the pizza I had at that place on Main Street I loved so much.  I wonder if they’re still in business.  I need to find out.  Maybe if so, I can go there next week.  But who would I take?  Maybe that new coworker who’s so cute?  But I don’t know if I’m good enough for…”

Now, do you know where our minds go?  “YUM!”  And it’s gone!  No more thinking, no more questions! 

Now does that mean it’s easier to sneak a drug into our food than yours?  Sure!  That’s how Handsome gives me my supplements every day (but don’t tell him I’m onto him please)!  But yes, that also means it’s easier to hurt us than you.  And also, our way of thinking would never get us a date with that new coworker, or even finding out if that pizzeria is still around.

So your thinking has a lot of strengths, and there’s no reason to try to stop them.   Most of the time!

But sometimes, you do need to just give it a rest.  To live in the present, to center yourself in your body, to empty your brain of all…

Is this sounding like something familiar to you?

Yes, my friend, I’m going to recommend you try meditating.  I’m not pushing any religious or spiritual agenda on you, but if you can spend even two minutes every morning just closing your eyes, sitting still, and focusing on your breathing, that’ll be great.  If thoughts come to you, let them be there and go, and refocus on breathing in and out.  And if you have a little more time, try shifting your focus to what you’re seeing (I know your eyes are closed, but what designs or light do you see while there?), smelling, tasting, hearing, and touching.  And with each, putting your attention fully onto that sense.

See what you’ll have done?  You’ll have stopped those thinking wheels in your brain for just a few minutes.  And worked to build your brain’s “muscle” of being in the moment, focusing on just what’s there.

The strength you’ll develop from this won’t be that you get stupid or thoughtless.  Rather, it’ll be that you can direct your focus away from “overthinking” when that helps you.  To slow down panicky worrying, to stop yourself from ruminating over useless questions (which, in my experience of people, usually begin with “Does he/she like me?  What did he/she mean when…”)!!

Doing this won’t solve everything, but it will definitely help.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

And if that works, maybe you’ll learn our incredible ability to block out all thoughts but one for hours on end, usually involving staring at a tree and waiting for a squirrel to walk back down it!  Now that is a glorious mental skill!

All my best,

Shirelle

Sorry Not Sorry … the nature of regret

            Handsome recently told me about a fascinating movie he’d just seen.  Hard to describe, but in many ways, it was fundamentally about the nature of regret. 

            We dogs don’t deal a lot with regret.  Or rather, we don’t deal with it for long.  We’ll regret something we did because of its immediate consequences (whether that’s the punishment sort, like when I steal food off Handsome’s plate and he yells at me and makes me go outside, or the cause-effect sort, like where I stick my nose too far to sniff inside a hot oven and… OW!), but we don’t carry regrets on for days, or months, or years, the way you do.

            So I look on the whole concept in a different way than people would.  And what I see is… mixed.

            Okay, first let’s talk about the good.  A person does something thoughtless or awful, that has terrible consequences.  They drive drunk and cause an accident with permanent injuries, or they say something hurtful that someone never gets over.  And having realized the effects of their actions, they make a change.  They stop driving intoxicated (or maybe stop drinking altogether), and hold back on comments that might be taken in the worst ways. 

            Well that’s great!  They’ve grown, matured, learned… they make themselves into better people, more useful citizens of their community.  Regret has prodded them to self-improvement. Fantastic.

            And then there’s the bad.  A person does something they regret, and it damages them forever.  A breakup goes badly, and the instigator says “I hurt someone I cared about, and feel awful, so I never want to try romance again.  I’m too harmful.”  Or on a more general level, someone does something they regret and never feels good about themselves after that.  “I’m just not a good person.  I make mistakes that go bad.”  You know the type – the person who never stands up straight, only smiles with a nervousness, and can’t accept a compliment.  It’s not their breakup or mistake that’s ruined their life; it’s their regret that’s done it.

            But then there’s another sort.  Let’s call it “Dramatic Regret.”  The person who wears their regret, makes a show of it, lets it define them by choice.  You know them too.  The girl who is always telling her schoolmates she shouldn’t have broken up with that guy, the young man who’s always putting on a show about what a bad person he is for having punched his dad.  The regret might be real, but, again, these folk tend to make their regret into a new set of clothes for themselves! 

            Of course, what’s the very best is when regret leads one to simply act in a way that undoes it.  I know that’s not always possible, but when it can, I’m for it.  When Handsome accidentally steps on my toes, I yelp, and he collapses down, hugging me, apologizing, and kissing the tops of my feet to make them feel better… it works!  Sure I don’t want him stepping there again, but all the pain has gone away, and I’m fine!

            So, about this movie.  It was hard for Handsome to describe to me, and it’ll be even harder for me to relate, but it’s about a good woman with a bland husband, a rebellious daughter, and a distant father, trying to get through her difficult working day, while facing economic difficulties.  But suddenly she’s enabled to see all the different possibilities out there – of her past choices and her present.  It’s confusing, and surprisingly violent, as she confronts all these different realities.  But in doing so, she grows to learn more about who she is. 

            In other words, to grow, she is forced to face countless regrets.  Even for things she didn’t know were choices she’d made.

            If you’re able to see it, I recommend this movie.  It’s called Everything Everywhere All at Once, and while it’s being compared to superhero multiverse stories, it’s really more unique than that.

            But if you miss seeing it, or you think it’s not your type, that’s okay too.  It’s YOUR choice, and you don’t need to walk around in regret about it!

            What I want most is for you to look at yourself, at your own life, right now.  And see what regrets you have.  Are any of them fixable, like Handsome kissing my toes?  Or “growable,” like the driver changing their drinking habits?  Or if not, are any of them unfair, just pulling you down?  Maybe you can let those go.  (Or are any of them ones you choose to indulge, for attention-grabbing reason?  PLEASE let those go!)

            As a human, you have a huge brain that holds incredible amounts of memory and imagination.  You will never be able to live with no regrets.  But if you handle them right, and carry just the ones that you absolutely have to, then maybe, just maybe, you can live as happy and constantly-refreshingly-happy a life as a dog.

            And that’s something you will NEVER regret!

Why can’t the people who care about us understand what we’re feeling?

Soumyaguna asks:

I want to know why do people tend to show their emotions to us and when we try to say what we have to, we are not understood.

Why do people not care about what the other person might be going through, especially when you are not just anyone….you are someone special.

To be clear, I’m tired of explaining myself every time….I’m tired of making others understand what exactly I feel and how.

But deep inside I’m very sad realizing that I actually don’t have even one person in my life who understands me or with whom I can share things, not even my closest ones.

I ‘m tired of this all happening to me all the time….I’m done with this and cannot take anymore, cause it is causing so much harm to my mental peace where I don’t know how to move forward.

Things have just burdened me a lot, with piles of stress and a lot of complaints with close ones as they are the ones whom I care about and always will. But the ignorant attitude just isn’t going down well with me.

Hi Soumyaguna –

         I know you asked about a lot of things, but fundamentally it seems to me that you’re asking about the problem that people aren’t sensitively picking up on what you’re feeling, or even expressing, and seem to need you to spell everything out for them (if they even care then!).

         Of course I don’t know the people in your life, but I will point out something I’ve noticed about humans, which is that you guys have gigantic brains, and they tend to be filled with gigantic amounts of stuff!

         We dogs are relatively simple.  We feel every bit as deeply as humans do, but our thoughts tend to center on a smaller number of items: our safety, food, play, territory, and giving and receiving love.  That’s largely it.  Even the super-smart dogs you see doing amazing tricks in shows have been trained through love and food.

         Meanwhile, you guys have SO MUCH STUFF on your minds.  The same day your heart is broken by someone dumping you, you might have a big exam in a science class, you’re trying to remember all the lyrics to that new song you like, you’re trying to master how to drive your parents’ car, you’re struggling with conflicting feelings about your dad, you’re wondering if you wore the right outfit, and you’re responsible to remember all the different plays on your basketball team.  That’s SO MUCH!

         And my point is that that goes two ways.  When a dog is upset, we’re clear about it.  Maybe we yelp in pain, maybe we whine and lay our head in your lap, maybe we growl and snarl… whatever it is, it’s clear.  But you guys have so many subtler expressions – sarcasm and silence and distance and begging for attention (okay yeah we do that last one too). 

         But when it comes to understanding what another person is feeling, that gets many times more complex.  A person has to focus on someone else (and not that science exam or their jeans), and then read their feelings correctly, and then respond in a way that lets that person know their feelings have been seen in just the right way…

         It’s hard, Soumyaguna.  It’s hard for everyone.  All the time.

         But I’m going to make one big argument about your concern that no one understands.  With all the complexities of the human mind, the amazing astounding unbelievable fact is that people everywhere are mostly just the same.  There’s a reason certain movies or songs or shows are universally popular – it’s because everyone can relate to those feelings. 

         Now you might have people in your life who don’t understand WHY you feel the way you do.  But I promise, there’s no feeling you’ve had that everyone you know hasn’t also had.  Sadness, heartbreak, ecstasy, hilarity, loneliness, alienation… everyone’s been there. 

         So your job – and I know it’s hard – is to find a way to connect to other people’s feelings, even if your reasons are your own.

         Here’s an example.  A guy falls head over heels in love with a woman who doesn’t love him back.  In fact, they don’t share many interests, and she doesn’t treat him well.  She breaks up with him, and he’s devastated.  He goes to see a friend.  The friend gets annoyed with him for acting so glum.  Now we’re looking at just one of those “no one understands” situations, right?

         So our guy explains he’s just been dumped.  The friend says “Good, she was useless!”

         He explains that he loved her.  “Well that’s just stupid.  She treated you horribly!”

         He explains that that’s true, but he still loved every second with her.  “But that’s silly.  You weren’t doing any of the things you like to do!”

         He explains that that’s true too, but that his love for her was bigger than all that, and her leaving makes him feel hopeless and unlovable.

         OH OKAY!  That friend has felt THAT!  And that’s when that friend, if they’re a good friend, says “Oh man I’ve been there!” and tells them THEIR awful story about when they felt that way.  Maybe they have a couple of beers.  Maybe they talk till they start laughing about their awful relationships.  Whatever it is, a line has been crossed.  And our fellow doesn’t feel alone anymore.

         Sure he still misses her, and his heart still hurts, but connecting with that friend helped him move forward.

         But as you see, the friend didn’t get it at first.  It took some work to get there.

         Now Soumyaguna, you may be right about some of the people in your life, that they’re not interested enough in your feelings to care.  If so, those don’t seem to be the best people for you to put your trust and emotions onto.  Better to find someone who’s better at it.

         And you know where I’m going to go with this – there’s NO ONE better for this than a dog!  We may not understand your reasons or your stories, but we connect to every emotion you have, and WE CARE.  We care as much as we do about ourselves! 

         And unlike your human friends, we’re very happy to lick all the tears off your face!

         So please don’t give up on everyone, and give people the chance and the information they need to connect with you.  But if they can’t… just remember, we’re out here, always eager to give you just what you need.

         All my best,

         Shirelle

What’s the best way to deal with false rumors at school?

Arty asks:

A few weeks ago at lunch one of my friends at school told me that someone who I thought was my friend made a story about me on FaceTime (Maybe she was jealous but she also might have just been bored or feeling mean. I’m not sure.). It was about me having sex with someone else who is now out of our school, and us having a child and giving the child away. When I heard the story I went to someone who’s always supervising us during lunch. She’s someone I guess I trust, and we’ve known each other for however long I’ve been at this school, and my friends and I love her and always talk to her. So I told her everything. And this lady I trust called the girl who made the story about me and told her she was very disappointed in her because the same thing had happened to her last year. Then lunch ended and my teacher called everyone who was involved. She talked to us and the lady I trust also talked to us. I was silent the whole time and was on the verge of tears (I had wanted the lunch supervisor to talk about it to the person who made the story, but not to bring my teacher into it and get people in trouble and stuff like that cause I feel people would call me a tattle tale.), but tried not to show it. When they were done talking, I asked if I could use the restroom. I felt vindicated but also horribly embarrassed.  When I reached the restroom, I started crying. Then one of my used-to-be best friends but now sorta-friends walked in, gave me a hug, and we both cried a little bit. Then we went back to class. I’m sorta over this, and no one talks about it anymore, but whenever I think about it I feel like I still wanna cry. I don’t know what to do anymore and who to trust or who I can trust. My parents don’t know about this and after a few days no one at school talked about it anymore – which always happens whenever something major occurs. Now I feel like I’m wearing a mask and everyone thinks I’m ok. It’s just so hard not to have anyone to talk to (Sometimes when I say stuff, my schoolmates sorta just laugh at me. I feel like I just can’t get personal with them. And I don’t want to dump my problems on them because I’m sure that they have problems of their own.). And right now I myself feel like I’m being dramatic and selfish.


Then… a whole different story happened! Almost all of my classmates were added to a new group chat a few days ago (including me). And they started talking about a kid in my class. I’m going to name him r. Ok. So they were just talking about r liking every girl in the classroom and wanting to date me! And then they sent a picture of r with like a huge grin on his face and below it wrote r when he sees (I’m going to put j for my name) j. And I’m just like ‘ooook then’… I didn’t really have anything to say so I kept quiet. But with my friends (in a different group chat) were talking about it and stuff. Then r texted in the group chat ‘I like j’ and I was just completely shocked but told myself it was probably a dare or he’s just seeking attention and stuff like that. Then one of my other friends who was not in the group chat with my friends but was in the group chat with the entire class texted me and asked me if I saw the text r wrote. I told her yes. Then she asked if I liked him back. I knew that she was going to ask me and when I answered she would send it to her bestie and her bestie would send it to the whole class. So I just ignored her text. That was during the weekend. So come the school week, everyone is asking me ‘do u like r?’ ‘Are you and r dating’ ‘do you know’ and all that jazz. And one brat  told me ‘go kiss r’. My answer for all of those questions except the last one were ‘I’m not going to answer that question’ ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively (is that the right word?). Now, my question for u is what do I do? Do I text this boy and ask him why he did that? If it was a dare? Does he actually like me? (But I’m worried that if I do, he’ll take a picture and send it to everyone) or do I talk to him in real life. Or do I just ignore it and wait for it to be forgotten?  I will appreciate any piece of advise you have to offer. Thank you! 

Hi Arty –

Before anything else, I have one big statement for you:  you are NOT being “dramatic and selfish.”  You went through something terrifying with that crazy FaceTime incident, and are still trying to make sense of it, as anyone would. 

But I’m going to give you a suggestion on how to deal with all this that might sound really odd:  Take a deep breath, and do nothing!

Here’s my thought.  First of all, it seems quite clear that everyone quickly forgot about that idiotic story about you and the child.  It sounds to me like your class looooooves drama, and so is always looking for something new to talk about, so that crazy tale was forgotten as soon as some other nutty one came around!

Secondly, with the story about r, all he’s done was to write that note that said he liked you.  Well “like” is a very vague word.  I like you and I’ve never met you!  But he might mean that he thinks you’re cute (which anyone could say, whether or not they were actually interested in getting involved with you).  Or he might mean he has a huge crush on you.   Or, as you suggest, he might have just said it on a dare.

Regardless, he hasn’t done anything more about it.  And while a bunch of people are asking you how you feel about him (and I don’t know – do you actually feel anything toward him, good or bad?), they’ve probably moved on to other, equally earth-shaking questions, in the seven days since you wrote me.  But unless he’s done anything (like talk with you, or even try to get your attention), you have no responsibility in this at all!

You see, you care a lot about what your peers say and think about you, of course.  But what you’re not focusing on, or at least not telling me, is what you want.  In all the nutty stuff you wrote me about, I don’t hear anything about your excitement or hurt or wishes.  And I’m guessing that’s because they aren’t as important to you right now as what the group thinks and feels about you!

So focus on that.  Would you like r to approach you?  Let him know.  Would you prefer he not?  Then keep things as they are.

I know it seems the opposite is true, but YOU HAVE ALL THE POWER HERE!  Someone saying they like you is a nice compliment but nothing more.  People talk all the time about liking pop stars and actresses, who don’t need to respond at all.  Neither do you!  

You’re just fine, my friend.  And what’s cool is that, for the second time in a very short while, everyone at school got focused on you.  Think how it would feel to be one of those kids no one ever thinks about!  You’re one of the lucky ones!

So stay cool, and take that deep breath — and don’t do anything till you have a feeling that makes you do something.  You have the power, and you have the right!

All my best,

Shirellle

2 Acts of Contrition – the importance of apology

In a popular movie of 1970, a famous actress tells her boyfriend Ryan O’Neal, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  A couple of years later, he was in another hit movie, where another famed actress tells him the same line, and he responds “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

I agree more with the second one.

People say they’re sorry all the time, and even though they may not truly mean it at a deep level, it’s usually appreciated.  You interrupt a conversation with, “Sorry to bother you, but…” and it’s accepted.  Or you bump into someone accidentally, and say “Oh, sorry!”  Now do you truly, in these situations, feel deep sorrow about your action?  Of course not.  It’s not that big a deal.  It’s just nice to say.

But with bigger deals, it’s often far more important – and more difficult – to express sorrow and remorse.  To feel and relay it to a degree that changes how others look at you.

This issue got on my mind recently, due to some international political scandals I heard about. On May 20, 2020, a world leader attended a party while making rules that people should stay in and not go to parties.  In November of that year, another leader did just the same thing.  And both then lied when they were caught!  And both got in trouble for their hypocrisy.  But today, one of them is hugely popular, while the other might well be dumped by his own party.  What’s the difference? 

I’d argue it’s all about apology.

In May of 2020, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, attended a party at his home, while pushing the people of his nation to, in caution against the Coronavirus, not even attend funerals, much less parties just for fun.  When asked about the party, he said he hadn’t even known about it.  Then he was forced to admit he’d actually been there.

Then six months later, the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, attended a dinner at a fancy restaurant, while he was pushing the people of his state to stay home and not go to restaurants.  When asked about it, he admitted going, but said that everyone had safely stayed outdoors.  Then when press photos of him showed that he was sitting under an indoor chandelier, he had to admit he’d been inside.

Two lying politicians, hypocritical about the rules they expected others to follow.  So what’s the difference?

Mr. Newsom began apologizing at once.  And then, for the next year, he constantly kept doing so, saying what he’d done was stupid, and made a strong point of not making a mistake like that again.

Meanwhile, Mr. Johnson continued to avoid talking about that party, and has been caught at others, including a celebratory one the night before his nation’s Prince’s funeral!  Finally this week he apologized for the 2020 party to Parliament, and for the recent one to their Queen. 

Both politicians have faced public fury, and attempts from their opposition parties to replace them in office.  In Mr. Newsom’s case, it even led to a special election.  But by that time, he’d apologized enough, and shown his better qualities in contrast to his opponent’s ideas, and won a greater percentage of the vote than in the election that had originally given him the job.

While, in Mr. Johnson’s case, many members of his own party are calling for him to resign immediately.

Again, I’m not trying to say either one is a total hero or total villain here.  Both showed stupidity and arrogance in the first place.  But one eventually handled it right, and the other didn’t.  And as Mr. Newsom approaches his originally-scheduled battle for re-election, no member of his opposition party has even yet publicly announced they want to run!

What’s the difference between the two?  Mr. Newsom might just be saying and doing the things he ought to, but he appears to be legitimately sorry he went to that party, and to see how hurtful it was to the people of his state.  While Mr. Johnson appears to only be admitting his fault to get out of trouble, nearly two years later, in a way that no one believes.

Now I’ll give another couple of examples of what I’m talking about, a bit closer to home: These are about me!

For the first few years I lived with Handsome, I tore up, chewed, or broke more things in his home than I can count – from windows to album covers to plumbing to furniture.  And, young and headstrong, I could see that he was upset about them but didn’t really care all that much.  Sure I wanted him to be happy with me, but that was about it.

But as I got older, I wanted to be more careful.  To stop disappointing him.  To be more of a partner.

But things happen. And sure enough, one day I was near a window when a neighbor I loved to bark at walked by.  I jumped up to let him know I saw him and wasn’t going to take that lying down – and knocked over a large potted plant, that shattered onto the floor, spilling dirt everywhere. 

Handsome heard the noise and ran into the room, and stopped when he saw it, “oh NO!” he yelled at the mess.

Now, again, I’d done things far worse, but not at this stage in my life.  I felt just awful!  I bowed my head into the floor, my eyes squeezed shut, full of remorse and pain. 

And what did Handsome do?  Oh you can guess.  His heart just melted.  He came and hugged me and murmured, “Oh sweetie, it was only a plant.  I can clean it up.  It’s fine.” 

And it was.

A year or two later, a friend of his, one of my favorites, was at our place.  I’d brought her a stuffed toy, and she was playing tug-of-war with me with it, both having a great time.  But then I took a deeper bite to get more of it into my mouth, and accidentally bit her hand.  “OWW!” she yelled, and pulled her hand back. 

All over again, my heart just broke.  I loved this lady (still do).  The last thing I’d ever want would be to hurt her, or to make her not want to play with me.  So again, my head bowed, my chest hitting the floor, my eyes wanting to shut this truth out completely.

And again, she saw it and knew it was true.  She petted me and said “It’s okay, you knucklehead.  You just have to be more careful.”  And gave me a hug.

Boy did I lick her face clean that day!

The point I’m making in all this is about sincerity.  To say you’re sorry is a nice gesture, but to truly feel sorrow over something you’ve done to someone – that means the world.

In an old movie Handsome loves, a character says that apologizing is a sign of weakness.  Well, maybe that’s true.  Maybe a true apology is telling someone “I’m weakening myself to you, because I feel so bad about what I did.”

I certainly showed weakness about that plant and that toy.  And I’m not ashamed of it – I’m proud!

You see, Handsome and his friend both gained respect for me when I did that.  And Mr. Newsom gained respect from the people of his state when he came clean about that stupid party.  Maybe Mr. Johnson can gain some respect from this too – althought it might be too late for that.

So my doggy advice, if you find yourself in a situation where you should apologize?

  1. Apologize as soon as you can.  Right away is best.
  2. Don’t say anything you don’t mean.  Just tell your heart’s truth.
  3. Don’t make excuses.  (Mr. Johnson, in his speech to Parliament, said he’d only been at that party for “25 minutes.”  So?  Who cares whether he broke his own rule for five minutes or five hours?  It just made him sound insincere.)
  4. Don’t ask for forgiveness, at least not yet.  That’s immediately asking the person you hurt to do something for you!  If they don’t forgive you, you can ask later, but don’t make that part of the apology.
  5. And for crying out loud, don’t just go back and do the same thing again!

If you can master these, your apology has a great chance of being accepted.  And with that, your life will be able to move on from whatever it was you did.

Because in truth, love often IS saying you’re sorry.  And meaning it!

What to do when others are intimidated by your size and energy?

Arty asks: I feel very self-conscious lots of the time. I’m overweight, and I have pimples and acne. My friends also call me mean and evil (though that’s just one guy) and aggressive and sarcastic, to an extent where they can’t tell if I’m even being serious or not. Of course, I know that most of the time, when they call me that, they are just joking around, but sometimes I feel they are serious. One girl even tells me that my voice just sounds a way in which she can tell that I’m being serious. Sure I’m loud, sometimes I’m ‘energetic’ and sometimes I shout (in a joking manner). But overall, I feel like one day, I’m just gonna be abandoned by my friends and that scares me. What do I do?

Hi Arty –

So if I see this correctly, you’re bigger than your friends, and your playfulness can be overwhelming to the degree they don’t know if you’re being playful or aggressive?  ARTY YOU’RE ME!!  That’s just what I get in the dog park!  I want to play with everyone, but because I’m big and very active (I don’t have the skin issue, but no dogs do!), many of them get scared.  Both dogs and people!

While pretty much all humans get self-conscious, and dogs don’t, it does sound to me like you’re dealing with a problem that we dogs do face a lot.  Little dogs bark all the time, even bite a lot, and no one takes them seriously, just laughing at them and going “Oh you’re so adorable!”  Then a huge dog makes one friendly bark and everyone is terrified they’re going to get eaten!  You’d think this means us more-medium-sized dogs would have all communication perfect, but no, it doesn’t work out that way.

The truth is, Arty, everyone needs to adjust their energy somewhat to others.  I can’t run up and jump on everyone the way I’d like to.  Smaller dogs have to be more careful of people stepping on them than I do.  And you – you’re a big guy with a voice that somehow intimidates some people (at least that one girl).  So my advice is simple – learn to soften it.  Learn to approach people in a way that shows you’re not threatening them.

But also learn that these qualities are YOUR POWERS, and you shouldn’t shut them all the way down.  There will be times when it’s great that you’re big, and have that powerful voice!  Don’t give that up!  Think of the SpiderMan line, that with great power comes great responsibility.  I’m saying to, yes, take that responsibility – but for heaven’s sake don’t give up the power!

I once heard a great line, that the definition of a gentleman is a man who knows how to play the accordion and then doesn’t.  Yes that is meant to be silly (after all, lots of people love to hear accordions!), but there’s a lot of truth in it: Having the power to do something, and choosing when to do it, is the key to greatness.  It does no one any good for you to deny your strengths, but it also doesn’t help you if everyone is always afraid of your uncontrollable presence. 

So learn to be able to keep your voice down.  And learn to be able to hold back your sarcasm.  And (and this will take time) learn just the right amounts to let them out to serve your purposes.

If you can master that, you won’t just be Arty.  You’ll be an ArtISTE!

Best,
Shirelle

Should I be concerned if my child cries too much?

Mqasana asks:

I have a 11-year-old boy who is very troublesome. I love my first born child but he’s very disrespectful, doesn’t like to take bath to stay clean, cries at you when you talk to him, and his school is also trouble, he comes home late every day.
Where can I find a school that can help me and my child?

Hi Mqasana –

I can’t tell enough from your letter, but it sounds possible that your son has an actual emotional disorder.  The disrespect and hating baths are nothing out of the ordinary (both are true of me!), but his crying worries me more. 

I’m thinking less that he needs a new school than that you should ask if his current school if they have a counselor, and if not, if they can recommend one.  You might also consider taking him to a doctor to see if there’s anything physically wrong with him.

All kids go through rough phases, and eleven is a common age for boys to be problems.  But please find out if anything else is going on.  If so, there might be some treatment that can help him.  And if not… I don’t think it’s a new school that you want, but rather maybe a family therapist to help him grow through this phase.

Thanks and good luck!

Shirelle

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