I’m standing in front of the laundromat on the main drag here in town today, getting ready to go across the street for some orange juice. This family is walking by, a mother, father and two kids. One kid is in a stroller. The other, a boy who appears to be about 7, is walking backwards down the street. He’s laughing, getting a kick out of himself, having some fun, it seems.

“I can’t believe I’m walking backwards all this way!” he says.

“Good. You’re gonna fall and break your neck,” mom responds. Dad is oblivious to the whole exchange.

Granted, many of us have heard this a million times growing up. Is it a Jersey thing? All I know is I must have softened with age because it stopped me in my tracks.

Let’s examine this. The kid is very pleased with himself, doing something he finds fun and maybe adventurous. He shares it with mom. Not only does she tell him something completely false and scary (because truly what are the odds he will break his neck?), but she tells him she’ll be happy about it by starting out her retort with “good.”

I get it. She didn’t mean it literally. It was a throwaway line. I’m sure she loves her kid and all that jazz. But it’s still a really nasty thing to say. What is it teaching him? What does it say about her?

Is it any wonder so many of us don’t know how to be kind?