Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Power And Powerlessness, Despair And Hope

The dentist went fine and Owen was very brave and was allowed to select a full-sized, rather awesome squirt gun from the selection of rewards for the "big boys" but when he saw his mother after the whole thing was over and he was clutching his water gun to his chest, he threw himself at her and began to cry which I think was probably completely normal and understandable. Going to the dentist is stressful and for a boy not-quite four, even more so, and they had insisted that he go back without his mother.
But. And oh.
I wanted so badly to smack the dental assistant who actually physically removed Owen from his mother and made him stop crying and breathe and told him that he had been given his present because he was so brave and that if he didn't stop crying, they would take it back and I can't believe they let that woman work there.
She kept her hand on him and he didn't want her hand on him and I felt helpless for him.

It probably bothered me far more than it bothered Owen but still.
I hated her in that moment, that woman.

I listened to some of the speeches today from the commemoration of Dr. King's I Have A Dream Speech and I cringed when his daughter, Rev. Bernice King, cited places like Syria, Egypt and Florida as places where freedoms are denied. I missed the speeches of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and I should go and listen to them on the internet. I admire those men so much. President Carter, especially. It seems to me that both of them have worked tirelessly since leaving their offices as president to help the powerless, the ill, the under-represented.
I read a quote on the blog of a Savannah writer, Jane Fishman, from Carter and I keep thinking about it. Fishman had gone to Plains, Ga. to attend his Sunday School class and in it, Carter had asked the question, "What is the purpose of our life?" and then answered it with the words, "Healing the sick and reaching out to the despised."
I am not exactly sure what that word means to Carter- the despised- but to my heart and soul, I think we must try, if we can, to reach out to the powerless, to those who have little or no control over the destiny of their lives and isn't that what all sorts of civil rights are about? That all of us should be able to start from as common a place as possible to live our lives, no matter our status in life, our skin color, our sexual identity, our talents, our handicaps, our beliefs about religion, our wealth or our poverty?
Shouldn't we?
And isn't it about not allowing those who are traditionally in power, be it governments or priests, to hold anyone back, to deny rights and liberties based on any of those things? Not only to not allow them to deny, but to make sure that they are the very people who make those denials unlawful, immoral?

I don't know.

And then I think about Owen and that woman who had her hand on him, who, from her position of stupid power as an adult, as someone who controlled the fucking toy box, told my grandson how to feel, to behave, and I know that it all begins with children and it will always begin with children because to deny children rights whether of housing or of health care or of respect for their feelings, their emotional and physical well-being, is the worst of the worst because they are the most innocent, the ones who literally have no power at all when it comes right down to it.

I shouldn't even be trying to write this out. I am tired, it's been a day of not-wellness but merely of plugging through, of one foot-in-front-of-the-other until I could lay down and rest. But I'm thinking these things and I am feeling in despair because when I was nine years old, Dr. King said those words, he had that dream, and although things are so much better, there is so much still wrong. Not just here but all over the world and it makes me sad and it makes me angry. As angry as I was at that woman in the dentist's office and with a more universal anger because humans have such a potential for empathy, for compassion and it would seem to me that there are enough of us who feel those things that we could make some of the wrongs right.
And yet, it never seems to even out, does it?

Hope is that small thing with wings, I guess. Or whatever that saying is. My wings are hidden tonight. That does not mean they are not there.

Here's a picture which gives me hope. It's Owen being fierce before his first Tai Quan Do class with his daddy. His sweet daddy who allows Owen to be as strong and fierce as he wants, and as tender and loving as he can be.


  1. To empower and protect a person like my daughter, who can't speak or move, seems to me to be the last frontier of the struggle for basic human rights.

    And Owen is brave and beautiful.

  2. Carter reminds me of that quote..."There are christians. And there are Christians."

    That man is a true example.

    Obama's speechw as powerful. I too, cringed with Ms. King spoke.

    I only saw the back of the monument and the fringes of the crowd, as I drove home, but I felt the historical moment of all of it.

    PS -- I seriously fucking hate that dental hygienist too. I would have cried too, if I were Owen or you or Lilly.

  3. Are you fucking kidding me? That dental assistant has some serious issues. Threatening a little boy? My dander is up just thinking about it. Those same people who told me that The Family Bed was wrong. A little child should not have to be separated from his parents in a scary and new situation. It makes it easier for the dentist and workers but not the child. Seriously, I am sitting here seething.

  4. Well, that was just downright truthful. I have always admired Jimmy Carter. And everything you said.

    When I took my children to the dentist, that is what they wanted too. No parents in the room and not telling them anything about what was going to happen. I refused. I will send my child in alone only after I have explained to them what is going to happen and the need for it. They could refuse. But armed with what to expect, they didn't.

  5. God, it's a fucked up world. That's what I'm thinking today.

    But that Owen -- and his daddy -- are gorgeous.

  6. Oh man. I'm so sorry for brave little Owen, and I'm sorry that the world is the place where boys only four years old are told not to cry when they're sad, and I'm sorry about that hand on his shoulder. And it becomes the invisible hand. And I almost wrote you a long e-mail about how that's what we do -- plod along, one foot ahead of the other, thinking we're capable of better, but really? Is this it? And so on.
    Thanks for writing every day, even if you don't feel like it. xoxoxo! (mouth kiss. :-)

  7. How odd that that dental assistant thought she had a right to intervene between a boy and his mother AFTER the dental procedure? I don't get it. I might have had to rip her hand off of him. It seems to me the toy was given for bravery DURING the procedure, which he definitely displayed. What an asshole! You are right, he should be fully allowed to feel what he feels. It is up to Lily and Jason to teach him about controlling his feelings as appropriate but he ISN't EVEN FOUR YEARS OLD! I am stuck there right now. Sweet Jo

  8. That dental assistant woman is despicable. She was seriously out of order. Of course he was scared getting his tooth drilled by himself at only 4 years-old, but he kept his fears in check until he saw his Mom. He had every right to express them, and she had No right to interfere in that.

    If I were Lily I would look for another dentist. If that is how an employee in that office is acting in front of a parent, it makes me wonder how she is behind closed doors.

    Owen is a beautiful, brave boy and deserves to be treated better than that. Hugs to all of you. x0 N2

  9. That dental assistant should be brought to the attention of the dentist. What she did was not okay. And Owen's daddy is clearly a wonderful daddy. The photo says it all.

  10. You wrote so much here I don't have the words in me today to respond but know I heard you.

    I'd have wanted to bop that dental assistant a good one. In fact I DO want to bop her a good one hearing what she did. Pisses me off.

  11. Standing up for the despised and the oppressed is a noble thing. I think that Owen was oppressed right there in the office. I hope that he won't remember it but those kinds of unpleasant events have a way of staying in the brain for decades. I can still recall many from my childhood. Sometimes these things come right out of the blue, just as it did in that office, and other times they are premeditated and designed to demoralize and devastate. No matter what, it's good to stand up at those moments and be counted.

  12. I agree with Elizabeth, Owen and his Dad are gorgeous and it is a fucked up world....
    it's also a beautiful world with beautiful people and that alone right there makes a difference. The sweet and the sour, the dark and the light.They define each other.
    ps that dental assistant story made my stomach hurt.

  13. Lily needs to find another dentist. Seriously, as someone who was traumatized at the dentist (as an adult, no less) it can be downright crippling for him if he isn't met with compassion and understanding at the dentist. Lily should make a point to mention it to the front staff or the dentist because the assistants are the backbone of his is sorely lacking.

    I'm always saddened when I see footage from the 60s, the King speech, JFK, the civil rights movement. You'd think America would be further along in this evolution (not to say that Canada is any more evolved). Change is slow.

  14. I didn't even know that could be a thing, to not let the parents be in with the dentist and the child. Ugh. So sorry for the tiny man.

    I love your ability, as a writer, to tie in your life with events of the larger world. What a gift you have.


  15. I know it is the next day but I am still angry about that dental assistant. What she did was emotional abuse. Everyone has a right to feel whatever they are feeling without being threatened. I hope that woman faces some sort of disciplinary action for what she did.

    OK, I am done now.

  16. This is a GREAT post, and what President Carter said was FANTASTIC, as usual.

    And you didn't tell me about Owen, and I am pissed off, too! I share your indignation, your ire. THAT BITCH!

    Love you so,


  17. OK, having read this, I completely understand why you wrote to complain about the hygienist. (Do they still call them hygienists?) Threatening to take back the toy was her principle offense, as I see it, but then I wasn't there.

    Jimmy Carter is truly a leader among leaders. I think he was just too honest to be a completely effective president at the time he was elected, and it's troubling that there's such a thing as a man too honest to be president.

    And why is anyone despised, really? I'm sure I despise people too, probably without completely knowing it, but at least I feel a little embarrassed about it.

  18. What the fuck? Do not go back to that dentist. All the dentists we've been to, and that's quite a lot at this stage, let the mothers sit right there. Find someone else. That's ridiculous. Remove your custom. Take it elsewhere! Ugh! I'm infuriated for you.

    And, um, I guess be careful with juice and sweets too!

  19. A- I think you are probably right.

    SJ- I've always said that I've only ever known a few "real" Christians. Jimmy Carter, although I do not really "know" him, is one of them. Top of the list.
    I was too angry to cry in the office. Still angry.

    Birdie- You're right. And I seethed all night and just wrote a letter.

    Ellen Abbott- I have always hated my ability to be completely cowed by doctors. I'm better than I used to be but not much. I think this is why I do not go to them unless it's absolutely necessary.

    Elizabeth- Aren't they beautiful?

    Betsy- I'm glad you DID write me? And you know what? It's always, ALWAYS a pleasure and often a joy for me to write here. Is that crazy?

    Sweet Jo- I pointed out that fact in my letter about four times- that the procedure was done and so was her part in any of it. Yeah. She was way out of line.

    N2- Honestly, I think this is a good dental practice. I took all of my kids there and now the son of the dentist my kids saw also practices there. But one bad apple...

    Angella- True on all points. Thank-you, m'am.

    Jill- If she'd tried that shit with an adult, she would have been fired and sued.

    Syd- I agree with you. And I, too, hope that what that woman did affected Lily and me more than it did Owen. He'd certainly never been touched or talked to that way in his life.

    Yobobe- Yes. We have to have darkness in order to be aware of the light, I guess.
    And my stomach is still hurting.

    heartinhand- Who knows? Lily may end up changing dentists. I hope it doesn't come to that. Let's see what the response to my letter is.
    And yes, change is slow and patience is hard.

    Lisa- It is easier for the dentist and his assistants because yeah, kids will keep their feelings inside when family members aren't around. I addressed that in my letter too. Fucked up shit.

    Birdie- We'll see what happens.

    Ms. Bastard-Beloved- I love you too, and you know it.

    Steve Reed- When you think about it, she was the very definition of a bully. She used her larger size and her position to bully Owen. I pointed that out in the letter too.
    I agree with you about Carter. He wasn't wily enough to be president.
    Some people I despise. Okay, a few. And I'm not embarrassed about it, either. But I don't think that's what Carter was talking about. Probably some Biblical definition.

    Jo- I'm torn on that issue. Yes, if the child wants mama or daddy to accompany them, I think they should be allowed without a fight but on the otherhand, it is one step in the child learning to be okay without a family member always around. You know, Owen's never been taken care of by anyone but family except for a few Sunday mornings in his other grandmother's church nursery. It was just a real fucked-up situation.

  20. There was a lot of truth here, but this is the part I like best: "My wings are hidden tonight. That does not mean they are not there." Amen!

  21. Fucking fuck. Sorry to be late to the cake here. When Page was six he had to have a tooth pulled that was growing on top of another tooth. Very deep and painful. He cried after and the assistant said STOP CRYING BE A LITTLE MAN and I raked her over the fucking coals I had a fit and yes they didn't want me in there with them but they could see I had the crazy eyes and I'm glad I forced my way in anyway. Fucking fuck. I love you.

  22. ps. Still dental phobic after all these years the both of us.

  23. The Bug- I am old enough to know that I will have days like that.

    Madame Rebecca- Yeah. This kind of shit is not to be tolerated and I wish I'd gone crazy ass on the woman but I did not. Please feel free to be sweary here anytime you want but you already know that.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.