Monday, April 30, 2012

The bad news is good

Blue's new bike!
Bad news is good news.  And the good news is that the news is always bad.  That bad things make the news, are considered newsworthy, is actually a wonderful testament to how well our world spins.  This sounds kind of topsy turvy, I know. In small towns, the police report is reported in the newspaper.  In cities, the police report would be longer than the newspaper.  Property crimes, theft, beatings, drunken driving, small time drug rings don't make the paper in a big city, because they aren't news.  They are regular old life and no one is shocked by a stolen bicycle except the person who got robbed.  If humans had only ever known war, then war would not be a news worthy item.  It would be like: AIR BREATHED TODAY BY 7 BILLION!!!!  Not news.  But we don't all live inside war all the time (unless you had the great misfortune of being born into Afghanistan) and there are fewer now than ever and we imagine peace like we know what it is.  That neighbors occasionally help neighbors, that friends take you out for lunch, that children are loved, that puppies are cute, that chickens lay eggs and live with heads attached, those are all as it should be, life as expected.  But when the puppy is terrifyingly ugly and when that chicken lives a long and productive life of fame and fortune without having a head, well, that is news. 

A 2005 Coyote
So when I hear bad news, (Dear readers, this is an emergency message, this is a Digression AND soapbox alert!!  Expect golf-ball sized pronouncements, torrential self-righteousness and 170 mph hot winds) ...earthquakes and nuclear meltdowns and children who got into their daddy's guns and accidentally killed themselves, I cry. This is standard here in the mornings, after I read the comics, to read the paper and to cry almost every day.  Perhaps, you might suggest, "You should stop reading the paper, Sarajoy.  Duh"  Maybe I should, but I don't mind crying. No matter how much bad news I read, I am determined to maintain my humanity, my compassion, my open heart - it's crucial to my survival. May no callous ever grow over that soft spot.  (You may now leave your bunkers).

So, anyway, when these terrible things become so common place that they are no longer considered newsworthy, THAT is when we've got a big fat problem.

Keeping this in mind, Coyote got in big trouble last week and I am so glad about it.  He's learned a great lesson.  Here's what he did: the school library has a computer catalog where kids can write reviews of the books they read.  Coyote got on that and wrote, "Hey F***er" (spelled correctly!! YEA!) on about five review spots.  His teacher called, incredibly upset, probably in part because she really likes him and also probably because she takes swearing very seriously.

It must be difficult for our children to have to straddle two worlds.  At home, we consider swearing to be a social linguistic construct that is scientifically proven to make owies feel better and, according to my home grown theory, can give us a sense of power when we are feeling the least powerful.  We here admit to being human and humans are creatures of culture; culture is what we do, so we will play along with these false structures somewhat.  We teach our children that 1) swearing is not inherently bad and 2) don't do it for two reasons 1) it shocks old ladies and teachers and gives a bad impression and 2) you want to preserve the power of those words and they tend to loose their juice if used too much.

Coyote in bath and hand-me-down pj's
When Blue was four, we got a note from Montessori school that she needed to stop swearing at school.  We talked to her about it, but my un-official response was that she would stop swearing if the kid who kept telling her she was going to hell and that god died in a tree would stop proselytizing.  Telling a four year old she's going to hell for eternity, especially one who understands the mathematical implications of eternity, is actually more offensive than saying sh**. 

I was teased, as the pastor's daughter with comments like, "You shouldn't swear.  It just doesn't sound right coming out of your mouth.  You're dad's a Pastor, for Pete's sake!"  And so, I worked long and hard to earn the ability to swear like a sailor, naturally and fluently.  I'm not about to give that hard-earned talent up just because I have kids.

So Coyote lost computer privileges at school and at home.  We don't need to get all upset about it, just make the punishment hurt enough to learn the lesson, and let us rejoice that the boy learned at the age of seven that there is no such thing as computer anonymity and that he's learning this long before he's 50, and mayor of Spokane offering city "positions" in exchange for sex with teen boys.  Not that he would do that, but at least now he knows about the myth of internet anonymity. And the cost for that lesson was so cheap: he did not loose his job, his family, his home, nothing but a few weeks of computer time.  Great.  No need to get our panties in a wad - this is actually awesome.  (Wait, is this blog-story going in his permanent record?)

But I understand his teacher; I do.  Anger is not a logical emotion and does not respond to reason. For all the experience I have with anger, I still don't know much about it (now this makes me sound like I need anger management. Whereas, I would like better anger management, I'm no where near being court ordered to do so, rest assured.) Coyote himself had some great insight recently.  He said, "Anger is the most difficult feeling because it just comes up and forces itself out.  You can't stop it, because that is what it is, too strong to stop.  It's a red square that pushes itself out of you and hurts you." He went on to describe the fascinating colors, shapes and manageability of many other emotions too.  But anger was what got him started on this compassionate analysis because I'd just apologized for responding angrily to something he was doing, instead of just calmly, ideally, doling out the consequences.  So I get being angry.  And in some way, because she was so angry, I felt I was off the hook for shock and anger and just had a talk with him.. 

So, what everyone wants to know is: WHY did he do it?  Anger?  Frustration?  Nope.  "To be funny." My theory: he was counting coup.  He was committing a non-lethal act of bravery in front of his tribe (kids) against the opposing team (teachers) in order to gain rank in his society (kids). Punishment makes his bravery all that more apparent. 
He loves the Perplexus he bought Blue for her birthday
The universe conspired to name him Coyote for a reason, people.  I know, I was just on my high horse this morning about taking responsibility for our lives and how that allows gets us into the flow of the universe, however I will bow out of responsibility for naming him.  The name came so clearly and so overpoweringly in the library (a la Wings of Desire or City of Angels or the New Testament) while I was reading about the Nez Perce at eight months pregnant that it was unquestionable. Boy, girl, monkey or squirrel, the name was Coyote.  And yet the week after he was born, anticipating your response, I stayed up until 3 am every day, searching the internet for a name, any name, that would be better, more namey, because I could not name my son after a wild dog that eats chickens and house cats.  But then there was Huck, who's sense of entitlement to naming his children bizarre names should be obvious. And he was unmoved.  He could not have been convinced of another name had I even found one.

I suppose I'm talking about his naming right now because I imagine you thinking, "What kind of parent/family/idiot names their child Coyote, a boy who knows the f-word?!?!?!" Well, it's a mystery, ain't it. If you want to know, you'll have to ask the "angel" that told me. But that's what it is. He's ninja sneaky, tricky, funny, compassionate, and he sees the world inside out. He's got some lessons to learn, and like any good boy of adventure and curiosity, he'll be learning some of them the "hard" way.  And that's the all the "bad" news that's "fit" to "print"!


  1. When I was roughly Coyote's age I was riding in the front seat of the family station wagon seated between Doug and Dennis. I told them that I thought this guy was a real f@$&er. One of them asked me if I knew what the word meant. I said no. The other told me I shouldn't use words that I don't know the meaning to. I fell dead silent and felt pretty small. A little further down the road, I think it was Doug who told me what the word meant. I was pretty excited, and asked if I could now use the word, since I knew the meaning. They gave me permission to use the word. Just not around Mom and Dad.

  2. Coyote is just following in the auspicious footsteps of Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. There are no inherently bad words, just evil ideas and actions. As long as we are going to expect very young men to register to serve in the military, and by extension kill people and knock stuff down, then I think we ought to allow them free and liberal use of all the words.

  3. Darrellp: that story is hilarious! I bet you have lots of crazy stories about those older brothers of yours.

    Rocci: Agreed! The kids always ask: Did they really just make up words just to have words you can't say?



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