Monthly Archives: November 2009

Quote of the Week

The hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men.
               – Henry David Thoreau
                  American author, naturalist and philosopher
                  1817-1862

Marching Band Pays Tribute to Teacher Who Saved Their Lives

Students in the American Fork High School Marching Band swept the awards not long ago in a competition at Brigham Young University.  What made this story interesting and somewhat controversial is this:  on the way back from another competition held in Idaho, the driver of the bus in which the students were riding fell asleep at the wheel.  All of the students survived.  The one fatality was the 33 year old instructor who grabbed for the steering wheel when she noticed the driver was out cold.

The controversial part occurred because some people believe that it is unseemly for life to go on, for joy to be in people’s hearts, or for friends and relatives to be happy and involved in their lives when someone dies.  Some people believe that it is disrespectful, cavalier and insensitive for others to carry on as though a tragedy didn’t happen.  Generally, this belief comes out of a confusion of pain, emotions and guilt over survival.

I think it’s a good thing that these students competed, and they did so in remembrance of Heather Christensen, the teacher who saved their lives.  And that’s the point:  she saved their lives so they could live, love, and play music.  I believe they showed her immense respect by playing in her honor, continuing with the competition for which she coached them.   Her immortality comes from being remembered fondly by her students who used the skills they learned from her to create the music she loved so much.

When someone we love dies, we don’t honor them by denying ourselves the normal pleasures of life.  I find that to be an insult.  Life is precious, and when somebody is gone from life, that which they lost should be treated with the utmost reverence by squeezing every moment of dignity, creativity, joy, adventure, work, love, compassion and fun that is possible.  This is the way you honor the deceased:  you carry on and do something of value with your life.

The students received a long, standing ovation as they marched off the field and embraced in tearful hugs.  What a fitting memorial to a brave, caring teacher.

Toddlers and Tiaras

We’re all outraged when we hear the stories of children being beaten, locked in cages, raped by adult “friends of the family” (if not family members themselves), abducted, and murdered.  These are clearly horrendous realities that offend all decent people. 

Then there are the “normalized” child abuse activities that barely make people shrug a shoulder.  We were somewhat amused and annoyed by the recent story of the reality show family who pretended their son was in a balloon flying high in the sky while the balloon was empty and the boy was hiding.  Turns out that this was all about auditioning for their own reality show. 

TLC has a show called “Toddlers and Tiaras.”  According to one of my listeners who alerted me to this program, it should have been titled “Mothers Who Exploit Their Children.”  It’s a show about young girls (as young as 4 years old!) who compete in beauty contests.  The worst part is not that the mothers over-dress and overly make up their children.  The worst part is not that these young girls put on immodest swimsuits and high heels and parade in front of an audience.  The weird part of the show occurs after the competition ends and you see how these young girls and their parents react to the final results.  One young girl, who couldn’t have been older than six, took second runner-up, and her mother was furious.  When the mother went backstage, there was no “you did a great job,” or “I love you.”  She simply said to her sobbing child – angrily – “I don’t know what happened.  Come on…let’s go.”  Another little girl responded to the results by saying “I’m first runner-up.  That means I’m a loser.”

These kids are learning that they are only worth something if they win.  They’re only loved up by their parents if they win.  And they’re learning that winning a beauty competition is the way to a meaningful existence.

These kinds of competitions shouldn’t even be allowed.  If I had the power – no one would be able to exploit their children for money, infamy, notoriety, selfishness or stupidity.  We all have heard the stories of the warped and sorry lives of most former child stars – the drugs, alcohol, suicides, and self-destructive behaviors throughout their lives – generally because their worth was hitched to the wagon of public adoration.

These so-called “family” reality shows are a form of child abuse and exploitation.  Children lose their privacy and have to cater to the desire of networks and cable executives for ratings and sponsorship income, and producers need outlandish behavior in order to get and keep an audience.  Parents expect them to do whatever it takes to keep their star in the sky.  It’s disgusting, and our society not only allows it, but elevates these shows to an incredible level of importance.  How about all those news stories of Jon & Kate and their eight kids?  They’re getting a divorce, and their pathetic story got coverage from actual hard news sources for weeks at the same time they were appearing on the covers of so-called “news” magazines.

We have become detestable in our acceptance and normalization of obvious emotional child abuse.  Shame on us.

Your Words Have Changed My Marriage

This is from Michelle:

Dear Dr. Laura:

A few weeks ago, you had a caller who was contemplating divorce, because her husband wasn’t being nice and, in turn, she wasn’t being nice to her young son.  During the call, the little boy started crying and to calm him, she picked him up and he immediately stopped.  You told her of the power of a mother’s arms, and you told her that if she would just treat her husband the same way, he would melt just as her son did.  I thought about it, but forgot to do anything, and then I listened to the program again this week.  It was like you were personally talking to me.

I have been married for 16 years to a wonderful man who has been the sole financial provider for all that time so I can be an at-home mom to our teenage son and daughter.  While I always thank him for making this possible, unfortunately, my attitude has been ‘well, while you were at work all day, I had to deal with very important things like toddler meltdowns to teenager meltdowns.’  But your words changed all that.

Last night, my husband arrived home after a business trip to find out we have some unexpected, high medical bills for our son (he has special needs so, while this has happened before, now is a particularly hard financial time).  Instead of me attacking my husband and telling him I had to consent to all the tests which resulted in the bill, I took your advice.  I held him in my arms and said:  ‘This must be so hard for you, when you work so hard and you plan all the finances for our family, to have something so big come up when you don’t expect it.  I really appreciate you supporting this family, and I feel our kids are so blessed to have you as their dad.’

Dr. Laura, he melted, just as you said he would.  We went on to have a lovely night, planning how we would pay for this bill and then talking about other things.  If I had not taken your advice, we both would have been angry and sulking and it would have lasted for days.  You reminded me that even though my sweet husband is a big, strong provider, he still needs compassion and comfort.  How blessed am I that I could provide that for him.

Your words have changed my life and my marriage, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Keep helping people do the right thing.