Forget politics and religion, if you really want to start a fight, attack someone’s mother, their child or the way they raise their children.
The internet has been obsessed recently with a too-strange-for-fiction six-part story in the LA Times about Kent and Jill Easter, a pair of yuppie parents who unsuccessfully attempted to frame Kelli Peters—a beloved volunteer at the school their six-year-old attended—with planted drugs for what they thought were insulting comments she made about their son’s intelligence.
Back in 2010, Peters apparently told Jill Easter that her son had been "slow to line up"—a seemingly innocent comment that the Easters misunderstood as implying that their son was mentally slow, which they clearly saw as an accusation of bad parenting and/or genetic material.
I was tempted to write that I understood the logic behind their actions, but logic has nothing to do with it. No, the Easters’ unforgivable behavior is rooted in the intense, over-sensitivity many people have regarding what they perceive as insults about their children or their parenting.
Of course, Peters didn’t actually insult the Easters or their son, but the couple were obviously so touchy that all it took was the mere suggestion that their child might have intellectual shortcomings to set off the part of their brains that's immune to logic and restraint.
The Easters’ psychotic overreaction to a perceived insult illustrates the dangers of taking criticism of our children or our parenting too personally.
And I can definitely identify with the Easters’ irrational anger. Once, before we had our son, my wife mentioned off-handedly that our dog may be adorable but he clearly wasn’t too bright. I’m not proud to admit this, but some weird, super-defensive part of me recoiled and thought, “NO! You’re wrong! Our dog is genius. You take that back!”
And that was just my dog.
So if an innocent comment about a puppy not being the canine equivalent of a rocket scientist gets under my skin enough for me to remember it vividly years later, I can understand the irrational anger that might flow from thinking someone is disparaging your actual child, and not just your fur baby.
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As befits a story that began at a school and played out in the pages of a major newspaper and in court, there are lessons to be learned from the case. The Easters’ psychotic overreaction to a perceived insult illustrates the dangers of taking criticism of our children or our parenting too personally.
It teaches us to approach our children’s lives with a little healthy distance and perspective, so we don’t end up letting our parental insecurities and massive yet fragile ego turn us into monsters of petty vengeance and insecurity like the Easters.
Also, never, EVER insult someone's child unless you want some psychopathic lawyer couple to try to destroy your life.