Every year for Christmas, Mom gets me a new calendar. For years, she chose "Far Side" calendars; then Gary Larson retired and she had to find a new theme. Knowing my love for sayings (she's the one who started me collecting them in the first place), it seemed natural for her to choose a "Quote of the Day."
Although I've run across several keepers so far, one recent quote hit me wrong, prompting me to tear off the page, wad it up, and toss it in the trash. A few minutes later, I pulled it back out, curious about the reaction it had triggered in me.
The quote came from a writer named Marcelene Cox: "A child can never be better than what his parents think of him."
Total rubbish, I thought. (Funny how my thoughts come in italics and often sound British.) What anyone thinks about you can only hold you back if you let it.
Putting all the responsibility on the parents relieves a child from having to try. It says, It's not up to you. You can blame someone else for what you don't do. Sure, children whose parents believe in their abilities have a tremendous head start, but those who don't - don't get a free pass.
And thinking that way sounds suspiciously like rationalization.
Rationalization is, for me, a long-practiced skill. It's what enables me to qualify french fries as a vegetable, apple turnovers as fruit, and pudding as dairy. It makes it possible for me to call getting passionately involved watching weekly ball games as participating regularly in rigorous physical sports, to unblinkingly blame the dryer for my jeans being too tight, and to feel comfortable about my solid retirement plan even though a good deal of it involves lottery tickets.
I know rationalization. We have a history together. And something about Marcelene Cox's quote made me suspicious, hinted of some unpleasant truth.
I Googled her name. Up came more quotes:
"A vacation frequently means that the family goes away for a rest, accompanied by a mother who sees that the others get it."
It was a quote to which many moms could relate, but also one hinting that some bitterness lurked. I read on: