News and Features
November 1-7, 2006

home | north bay bohemian index | features | north bay | advice column

Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Sydney, most Americans don't remember (not taught in school) that it was illegal and almost an act of treason to sell, give, barter or trade certain guns--repeating rifles, to be exact--with American Indians. This was during the 1800s, due to the fact we were at war with them ('cause they wouldn't give us what we wanted or do what we told them to do). History repeats itself. North Korea has a weapon we have. So here is my question: If our country and people were founded on a strong belief in God and equality, why not arm everyone (countries) with the same weapons?--Rant 'n' Rave

Dear R&R: This seems like a hypothetical question, and one that you are only posing because you are upset--nay, enraged and distraught--by the current state of humanity. And who can blame you? These are frightening times. It seems that ever since the collapse of the Twin Towers and the invasion of Iraq, many have not been sleeping well at night. And well we shouldn't. With so much blood on our hands, how can we rest without a nagging sense of fear and sorrow?

But here's the thing: Humans are a bloody lot. We've been killing each other ever since we figured out how to wield a club, and as much as I would like to say, "Hey, if we had a different president . . . ," or "If we only got rid of nuclear weapons . . . ," or any of a million "if onlys," this wouldn't change the fact that we continue to perform desperate atrocities against each other and the earth, always have and--always will? Probably. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but I just don't see that we have the collective intelligence, and overwhelming selfless love of others, to make peace a worldwide and never-ending reality. This is one of the tragedies of our existence. We would be fools not to weep.

Dear Sydney, are we a nation founded on Christian beliefs or Darwinism? I mean, our money has "In God We Trust" printed on every piece, and even though "justice for all" has been removed for some time from our Pledge of Allegiance, we fought over "under God" being erased from same. So why are the American Christians so fearful of other nations having the same powerful weapons as U.S. Unless of course we deep down know we are just as unchristian as the others and fear that they will respond the way we do with vengeance. Does might make right?--Easy Sleeping Wiccan

Dear Sleepy: Are we a country founded on Christian or Darwin beliefs? Of course the answer is the former. After all, this is country founded on the belief systems of a group of religious zealots who massacred the native people, burned witches at the stake, condemned anything even moderately enjoyable as a sin, and who felt no compunction whatsoever when it came to oppressing anyone who did not live up to their definition of godliness. I would like to think that things have gotten better, and I suppose for a select few, things have, but you are absolutely correct in your assertion that we have a hell of a long way to go. Of course might does not make right--whoever said that it did? And why would anyone listen to such a foolish assertion?

Dear Sydney, I have a daughter just over one, who's perfect, of course. I have some friends who have a daughter who's just over four, who's a monster--of course. I swear that my perfect angel is influenced by the monster. After they have been hanging out together, my daughter throws herself on the ground and pitches fits when she doesn't get her way, and she hits more and yells (she didn't get any of this from me, of course). I live far from family and other friends right now, and these folks are two of the four friends we have and I like them a whole lot. They babysit a lot and, well, do I just turn a blind eye? Should I mention it to them? Do I try to keep my kid away? Am I overreacting?--Mom

Dear Mom: OK, just take a deep breath and relax. First of all, this monstrous four-year-old you're talking about? Get used to it. She is no doubt the first in a long line of unsuitable or otherwise "bad influence" friends that your daughter is sure to have throughout her childhood and adolescence. My kids have them too--the ones that always try to get them to steal the ice cream out of the freezer as soon as I leave the room; the ones that say, "Hey, let's go outside and play with matches!"

This is what adults call peer pressure, though in your situation, it's still only bad examples. You may not like it, but it's important for your daughter to learn early on that just because she sees her friends behave badly, doesn't mean that she can behave badly, too. This is a skill kids need to learn. But most importantly, you must remember not to make too much of a pain in the ass of yourself.

My belief has always been that if kids misbehave at my house, I will deal with it. I tell them, "Your behavior may be cool at your house, but it isn't at mine, and if you don't like it or can't be respectful of my rules, then you can go home, no hard feelings." I never, ever complain to the parents. And when people call me to complain about my kids, this is the only indicator I need to know that they are so inept at caring for children that they deserve pity not apologies.

Now, if the bad behavior goes on at the other kid's house, then don't let your kid go over anymore, but never call up the other parent and say, "You aren't taking good enough care of my kid." Take charge, and next time they offer to babysit, politely decline. As your daughter gets older, I'm sure you'll find that she is very good at monitoring whose house she likes and whose she does not. I find this is always a direct reflection on which house a kid feels safe at, and that is all you need to worry about. What matters is that she's safe, not that she might pick up a bad habit or two. Bad habits can easily be nipped in the bud. Rest assured that she won't be smoking cigarettes by age two. Her general safety and well-being should be your only concern. Outside of that, it's all part of growing up.

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.