Ellie asked:

“Do you have pets?”


“Do you have pet peeves?”

I grew up with a dog, various cats, gerbils and fish. I can’t say I was the most caring boy in the world. Others in the family did most of the work, I just played. LL was a bit more diligent and had cats, guinea pigs and rabbits. However, she’s quite seriously allergic to most small animals (the dandruff gets right up her nose, to coin a phrase). So, though we live in the country, we chose not to have pets.

Children change all things, so we did recently add a guinea pig to the family. Pirate Pete grumbles about having to clean and feed him, but at the same time really enjoys getting him out to play. It works. We may graduate to something larger soon, but this is an easy starter. The trick is finding something that doesn’t make LL sneeze.

As to pet peeves, where oh where to start. There are so many! I am a man who has huge tolerance for his fellow man, just no tolerance for his fellow man’s failings… My grief with my brothers and sisters probably falls neatly into two main categories.

Firstly, parenting. I feel quite strongly that a lot of the failing in our current society lays at the feet of laissez faire parenting. In general, children are born neither good, nor bad. They have innate personalities, but I think there is a pretty equal balancing between nature and nurture. Right now, people seem to love their children, but seem to think discipline is an evil word.

I don’t mean spare the rod and spoil the child type things. Discipline just means setting boundaries and sticking to them. Punishment can mean as little as a harsh look, or removal of privilege like the telly. It also doesn’t mean draconian parenting. Children need to play, need to feel the wind in their faces and dirt under their toes. They need their parents to be around, to play and interact with them. They need encouragement to good behaviour, praise when they get things right, and laughter when they do something funny.

This all seems to be a little bit lost. I don’t mean universally. In general I think most parents are mostly good. Its impossible to be a perfect parent. However, you just see behaviour that leaves you shaking your head. A father pushing his eight year old in a push chair, a child left running around a store while the mother looks passively on, a father who laughs and pats their child on the head when he’s just whacked another child on the face. They don’t know what the limits are, they need to be told.

This is made worse by our current interfering government who’s liberal agenda is changing the face of parenting. We seem to be removing the responsibility of parents, forcing schools and social care to shoulder burdens that should be in the home. We actively encourage single parenting. I am not against single parents, many are there not of their own choosing, and I personally know a few who do exemplary jobs. Yet kids need role models and protectors of both sexes. That doesn’t necessarily mean a traditional nuclear family, but it does mean at least one man and one women putting significant time into raising children.

I’m rambling, suffice to say I believe a large part of the current failings in our society can be laid at the feet of poor parenting.

My second major peeve is rudeness, or perhaps a lack of kindness. Good manors are the grease that keeps society oiled, keeps us from running amuck and killing each other. It costs so little, yet increasingly seems to be a coin few people want to spend. I don’t just mean please and thank you’s, I mean an honest care and attention to other people.

My mother once said that if every person did one random act of kindness a day, the world would be changed. Its true. Little things like looking a clerk in the super market in the eye when you say “thank you” often brings surprised and pleased grins in response. You make one person’s life a little lighter, and they in turn tend to pass it on.

I know I sound very Polianish, but its quite true. And in the opposite, when people are rude, I can get really riled. I hate seeing someone not say “thank you”, or push in front of a queue, or don’t acknowledge something that’s been done for them. More kindness and politeness would transform the world.

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