When I was little, there was this story I’d heard over and over, about this kid that was playing on train tracks and was just barely saved by his mother, who happened to alert the boy just before the train passed.
The story goes that the kid hadn’t heard the train coming, but his mother did and only had enough time to blurt out the words “GET DOWN” before the train was about to crash, and the moral of the story was that the unquestioned obedience of that kid was what saved him. If he had questioned her or thought twice, he would have been roadkill.
This was a story told to me and many kids where I’m from, possibly still being told now, on a regular basis, as an example to children of how important listening to your parents are.
There was always something that bugged me about this story, even when I was a kid, I knew something was awfully twisted about this.
A decade and a bit later, I finally figured out how to put it in words.
Our parents had always used this story, and many other, call it proverbs or whatever the fuck, as an educational pretence with the underlying intention to use it to manipulate, and to an extent, brainwash kids into being obedient.
This was emotional manipulation at its finest, on an everyday basis, and adults don’t even realise how toxic and dangerous this is.
Those kids were never taught the context of the story.
They were never told that in a healthy relationship, the boy’s trust towards his mother must first be earned by her.
They were never told that the moral of this story wasn’t a threat for them to be blindly obedient on the price of their life, but to highlight the importance of a healthy and trustworthy relationship.
They were never told that parents are not always right, and not every parent would save them from a train wreck.
They were just taught to not question the story. Like I was, growing up.
You’d be surprised how much burden little guilt-trips like that can amount to, whenever I was told I couldn’t be textbook-perfect on the smallest matters. With the difference that I was lucky enough to only have this proverb thrust at me when I refuse to wear a dress.
When it could’ve been much worse.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’re still young, and you’re getting ‘moral stories’ like this pushed into your face as some sort of leverage from your parents, to make you feel obliged to do things that make you feel uncomfortable - Question it. Question everything.
Look at it from multiple angles. Think about context and circumstances. See the characters as humans with flaws, just as we all are.
There are some nice stories, with nice morals out there. But those stories should not be abused by parents, intentionally or not. Don’t let them.
When life hands you a moral from a guilt-trip story…
Break that story apart and build something new from it for yourself.