Flavors of Empathy

August 10, 2010

Recently, Mama (our daughter) and Mommy (her out of law partner) celebrated their 18th sort of being married anniversary.

As we are the nearest grandparents (geographically speaking), we were invited to the celebration. We celebrated with lunch and dinner. At lunch, Mommy served vegetable frittatas. Random Granddaughter made faces. Mommy insisted she eat it. She ate it slowly, continuing to make faces, but eat it she did. RG is slowly joining the land of adult life, where we do things we don’t want to do, politely.

Mommy told me that my daughter had not passed her exam in graduate level statistics. (I checked with Mommy because I figured my daughter did not want to talk about it.) She has to retake the year of graduate work. However, there is another Masters degree program, with a slightly different name, she can probably complete if she does not succeed with the one she is in at present. My daughter is getting older, but I think she can still land on her feet.

RG has been taking piano lessons. Mommy, her birth mother, studied violin at Oberlin, with the intention of becoming a concert violinist, but decided to get a life instead of becoming a musician. RG, currently planning on becoming a painter, has decided to study violin instead of becoming a pianist. Undoubtedly, she will have many lives.

Mommy also told me that RG is having trouble developing consideration and empathy for the feelings of others. She described a visit from a friend which turned into arguments, door-slamming, and sulking in her room.

At dinner, the mommies served salmon. Food fusser RG likes salmon. However, half way through her meal, she began asking about the life cycle of salmon. Then she said, “It bothers me that we eat the salmon we catch as they return to lay their eggs.” Apparently, RG is developing empathy, but for fish instead of human beings.

However, when I told the story to Mrs. Friendly Neighbor, she said (as always an optimist and always a person who looks for the best in others) she said, “She is working on her priorities, and getting it all sorted out. She will get there.”

As we were talking about this, the Friendly Neighbors had a guest, Wayne, the team leader of the “wood ministry” from their church. Wayne is a former Marine and fairly expert on fire arms.

Wayne and Mrs. Friendly Neighbor discussed raccoons and their depredations on chickens. “We were driving by the beach and we saw FIVE raccoons,” she said in disgust. She and Wayne then discussed the best weapons and ammunition to use in shooting raccoons. Raccoons lack empathy for chickens. Mrs. Friendly Neighbor said, about chickens, “They are so curious, they will walk up to a raccoon, apparently to say, “Here I am. Eat me.” Mrs. Friendly Neighbor does not have much empathy for raccoons.

In some places and times, the world is divided up into paupers and aristocrats. RG, while not quite a pauper, is closer to the paupers than the artistocrats, but getting closer and closer to the aristocrats. As it is dangerous to talk about aristocrats where their  guards might hear, I will continue in email with some trivial and boring gossip about the aristocrats of her world and my world.

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4 Responses to “Flavors of Empathy”

  1. Karen O Says:

    Sorry about your daughter’s troubles with her course. Must have been very disappointing to her.

    As for empathy, I guess empathy for a salmon is a start in the right direction!

  2. modestypress Says:

    Hard to say. Although RG behaved pretty well during our visit, recently Mommy said that when visiting another grandmother (mother of dad) RG behaved very badly indeed. She is a young lady of strong emotions and sudden impulses she does not understand herself. Although she is coming along pretty well, her life will be one of great commotion and difficulty.

  3. Norwichrocks Says:

    Echoing Karen’s empathy for your daughter’s struggle with her course. Wishing her well on the retake or the other course.

    As for RG, its a fact that as our brain’s develop, our limbic system which controls our emotions is able to generate emotional responses to situations long before the brain is able to generate rational controls on those emotions. Hence tantrums. RG will be fine, and I don’t see any reason to suspect that her life will be more full of commotion and difficulty than anyone else’s – less likely, in fact, since she is so loved and has such strong family around her. I predict that she’ll become a well-adjusted and loving woman… who will probably even eat salmon without a qualm!

  4. Norwichrocks Says:

    ‘as our brains develop’ – apologies, my brain clearly hasn’t developed enough to spot an errant apostrophe…


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