Like Water Off a Duck’s Back

water off a duck's back, mallard splashing in water

photo by Toby


Are you a sensitive soul?

I have to admit that I can be. More than once I have been labeled as “a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.”

Let me tell you a quick story from a few months ago:

I’m teaching a handful of kids ranging from first to third grade.  There’s definitely a variety of personalities and skill levels in this group.

One boisterous girl whacks her brother on his shoulder and starts shouting at him after he makes a silly comment about her.  

Across the table, a young boy’s eyes pop wide open when he hears her outburst.  He waves his arm eagerly to get her attention and asks the girl her name.

Glaring at him, she shoots back “Nunya!” (meaning “None of your business!”)

In an earnest voice, he replies,  “Um, Nunya, um, hey, Nunya, we don’t say ‘shut up.'”

This makes me chuckle inside as I remember the days when my daughter was very small and thought that saying “shut up” was cursing.

The girl immediately denies saying any such thing, which I also find amusing since everyone in the room heard her. 

The boy, undaunted, tries to reiterate his point as I redirect the class to the lesson topic.  I have to appreciate his tenacity.

I realize that in this case the boy did not perceive the rudeness directed at him.  But that kept things simpler, didn’t it?  Not acknowledging the verbal barb kept the boy’s focus on communication rather than a two-way battle of egos.

Upon reflection later that evening, I thought if more people could let offenses slide by, without feeling like they had to prove themselves, tense conversations could diffuse more quickly.  If we each could check our egos at the door and remember that we are all unique and imperfect beings, we could bypass the spiteful bravado and try to understand each other — to actually communicate.

Does it have to be a big deal if someone purposefully tries to offend or belittle me?  Their clever (or not so clever) barbs do not change who I really am…unless I allow them to.  I can choose to respond without retaliation.

There are many people who rarely make that choice, however.  So…knowing that this post will not go viral and change the world this weekend, how can I work toward true communication with all the self-absorbed “haters” who challenge me?

I suppose I’ll have to continue to hone my self-control and let hateful comments roll past me the way the title of this post suggests: “like water off a duck’s back.”  I’ll have to remind myself that happiness is not the result of “getting all your ducks in a row;” it can exist despite the imperfections in and around me.

three brown ducks swimming in a row toward the camera

photo by Duck Lover