19 February 2011

Hate to admit it, but sometimes I act just like Python...

Earlier this week, I shared one of my favorite W. African folk tales... and said I'd get back to it later.  Guess you could officially call now "later."


Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Earsretold by Vera Aardema, is presently one of Elsie Mae's and Mary Michelle's favorite stories. Frankly, I think they like the pictures and listening to Mama make all sorts of funny animal noises. But reading this to the girls the other day was a bit like getting a sledgehammer between the eyes...

There are many lessons that could be pulled out of this traditional moral story... and hopefully then applied in daily life, so we can ask all sorts of questions when we read this story together:
  1. Do you think Mosquito even thought about all of the bad things that would result from her silly lie?
  2. Could Iguana have picked a different, better response? What would have been a better way for him to talk with Mosquito about how lies and exaggerations irritate?
  3. What was silly about how Python responded? What would have been a wiser choice for him? 
~ and so on through the other different characters mentioned in the story...

I'll often ask the girls which character they feel like on a given day. Elsie Mae usually says Rabbit because she's a girl and because she would be scared of the big snake too. Mary Michelle likes to be the monkey trying to run through the trees!  And Nadia? Probably most often, she's like Mother Owl who can't do what she should when she is so sad, but as soon as she can direct her eyes away from her sadness, does what is needed and expected of her.

It is interesting to talk about how each one of the characters could have made a different decision, reacting differently to a scary, incomprehensible, unusual or hard thing in their day that might have changed the ultimate outcome. For example, how could the story have ended differently if Iguana had kindly and gently confronted Mosquito about his unbelievable and silly story instead of stomping off and putting sticks in his ears so he couldn't hear anyone?" Or, what if Crow had taken the time and initiative to simply ask Rabbit why she was running scared, and/or if there was something he could do to help?"

Lately, I've been feeling a bit like Python... and reflecting on my life daily and reading and rereading this story several times recently has given me one of those practice-what-you-preach-to-your-kids opportunites. Python immediately assumed the worst possible interpretation of his friend's lack of response to his greeting: it obviously meant that Iguana was mad at him about something. Python has no clue what he might have done to irritate or anger his friend, yet he was immediately convinced that if Iguana was so mad as to ignore him, then Iguana must be hatching a dastardly revenge plot for some reason and it was obviously aimed at Python.

Do you ever do the same thing in your relationships? Do you automatically assume, when a friend doesn't respond the way you expect, that something is hugely and catastrophically wrong? Do you get angry that a buddy didn't reply or take action in a manner you expected? Or do you consider the more likely and most obvious reasons... your friend may simply have not heard you. When Tim doesn't mumble good morning as he stumbles to brew his coffee in the morning, should I assume that he is furious with me - or just remember that generally, even though he appears to be awake, he really isn't conscious until after he's had a few sips from his cup of joe? What if my sister doesn't answer my email? Should I believe that she never thinks about or prays for our family - or simply remember that she hardly ever emails, they aren't her preferred mode of communication and it is better to text or skype if I really want to hear back from her?  What about when an email does come back - tersely worded... the bare minimum of words necessary to respond - do I presume and judge that my friend is frustrated and annoyed and therefore pull away and stop communicating... or should I remember that exhaustion and a temporarily heavy schedule factor into the equation and be thankful for the rapid response to my question?

Or maybe I'm the only one who plays these silly mind games? I'm thinking not, or the character of Python would have never shown up in a traditional tale. How about you? What do you think? How do you think that the python in this tale could have "biblically" diffused the situation. And what do you tend to do or think when one of your friends doesn't respond to your overtures in the way/ways you expected?

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