Handling Offenses – Online and Off

As a new driver here in Sydney, I see a lot of people on the road – those who are patient with me as I struggle with my huge Tarago, and probably seeing this huge family car reckon I have kids with me and I am seldom at the receiving end of a honk. Then there are those who have trigger-happy hands which honk the very second the light changes and I haven’t floored on the accelerator, like, one millisecond ago. Or the last young chap, who was waiting for about 3 long seconds while I parked, and after I was in the lot, he drove past, wound down his window and proceeded to wildly gesticulate with an angry face, and I’m sure, angrier words. I was fortunate to not hear those choice words he must have had for me (or have my three impressionable kids in the car hear it) – cos my windows were closed. Little fortunes. (Of course I did tell the hubby that if the kids weren’t in the car and if I was in a fouler mood, I’d probably have rolled down the windows and went, “WHAAAAT?!?!” *ahem*) But I usually let it pass.

I find that if you have a point, make it. But if you start to lose it and pepper your sentence with coarse language, soon all people hear are the beginnings of the ffffs and sssss and whatnots. And it detracts from your message. Say, “I didn’t order the rice, I ordered the noodles.” And not “#%^&#@3#!S NOODLES NOT RICE G@#R$%^^#&” Be classy, yo. (And yes, this is my own profanity-free space, so I shall leave the symbols to your imagination – my little kids are going to read this, and I prefer to keep this a cursing-free zone (as in real life!).

But more often than not, the people that rile me the MOST… are those who hide behind their keyboards and make snide comments. I mean, we all have Facebook friends or Twitter contacts like those? Or if you don’t, just pop into any online forum and you can see silly nonsense.

Take the passing of Robin Williams for instance. An actor I love – for his unforgettable performances in Dead Poets’ Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, to name a few. And as if his suicide wasn’t tragic enough, you get trolls who traumatize and scare his daughter off Twitter. Trolls. What a well-coined word to depict those ugly individuals who delight in causing pain and revelling in another’s suffering.

Yes. We all have a voice, we are all entitled to our opinions. But surely what we say has to first be, at the very minimum, humane? You might not agree with what is being said, but adding angry words to the conversation hardly solves anything.

I guess as a blogger, and more specifically, a parent blogger, this resonates with me and my values. What kind of a world my kids will enter into when they grow up and mature (which isn’t too far away)? We try to emphasize on family, love, loyalty, harmony – but the “real” world often treats these as laughable and “cheap” values, and our ongoing battle is always to counter that, and at the back of our mind, to pray that what we’ve done is enough to give them a good foundation to navigate through life.

Jay had and is still having behavioural problems in school. But his teachers are assured that when he hurts another student, it isn’t out of malice or because he wanted to hurt the person, but more because of mischievous impulses that he acts on without thought. And there are times I wonder if coming to Sydney was the best decision for him – in terms of his social development. Just a little over a year ago, he was happy in his childcare centre, surrounded by very able and loving teachers who understood him, and friends who were as young, and dare I say it, innocent as him. Sure, his mischievous streak was evident even then, but even when he got disciplined, it was not a big enough deal for the principal to keep “reporting” to me, though it did deserve a mention in the biannual teacher-parent conference.

And so he probably wasn’t prepared for school here. No, not probably. He wasn’t prepared for school here, period. I’ve blogged a little about it. And while I don’t try to make excuses for his behaviour, being in the company of older boys probably has influenced him for the worse. He is such an impressionable chap, and has the penchant for remembering (and repeating ad nauseum) when he hears funny phrases or, worse, swear words. Just the other day, out of the blue he remembered a particular Hokkien term what his cousins used to sprout back in Singapore, “W.. L..” and he went around repeating that at almost every opportunity. Despite us telling him each time to stop it. Despite us trying to explain it is not a term that is good. We don’t even use such swear words in the house… but his brain is like a piece of sticky tape. Once something gets stuck, it takes a while to remove, and even when it is removed, there’s sometimes residue that remains!

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