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A ticked-off parent hovers nearby, screeching:

One of my neighbors has put up Halloween decorations that I think are just completely inappropriate.  Can I tell him to “tone it down” or “take them down?”  I don’t want to have to explain to my children why there is so much disgusting stuff hanging off his house.


Nope, and too bad.  If you don’t want to explain how the world works to your own offspring, you should look for a different job.

Or hire a nanny.

Which is really a shame, because you’re missing the best part about being a parent – scaring the bahjeezus out of your kids.

The required part, which you’re also missing, is called parenting.

Every day we walk down the street (or drive down it, more likely) exposed to things that some people will find offensive and other people won’t.  Billboards for strip clubs and porn stores on one side, billboards for Jesus and energy companies on the other – someone, somewhere is going to get bent out of shape about any signage one way or another.  All you have to do is walk a graphic designer down a street where all the signs have center-justified fonts and bad kerning and you’ll get a first rate example of what I mean.  That, or PTSD.

Or both.

But the point is, in this great country (I assume you are writing from the United States, at any rate) that unless something is outright pornographic or inciting acts of violence, we have a right to say it, write it down, hang it in our yard and wear it on a t-shirt.  Also, in this great country, you’re allowed, if you don’t like it, to say so, write that down, wear it on your t shirt, what have you.

Etiquette steps in where rights become rudeness, and since you asked, I’m telling you to keep your trap shut when it comes to fucking Halloween decorations.

Did you expect, by virtue of fertility and gestation, that you would be gifted with not just an assuredly adorable baby but the right to tell people what to do?

Because you have been, it’s just the people you get to tell what to do are your children and not your neighbor.

This is the parenting part.  If they’re old enough to understand that something naughty has been displayed to your dismay, then they’re old enough to be told why you think it’s wrong – whether you want to or not.  You should also hint that while you don’t agree with what’s on display, that everyone in this country has the right to free expression.  You can throw in some sanctimonious malarkey about whatever else you think while you’re having your teachable moment, but I suggest you mention something about how manners dictates that if something offends us, the right thing to do is to pretend it isn’t happening.  Just look away, cross the street, focus on the decorations you think are appropriate and set a good example for your children, all at the same time.

That’s a better idea than being the local morality whip, an unelected position with no power and no end of heartbreak.

Believe me, telling people how to behave is hard enough, but explaining why is worse.  You’ll soon find out that “Because I said so” is as good a reason as any.

Now don’t make me tell you again or so help me…


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