A Case of Misplaced Empathy

It’s funny. My boys don’t think twice about hurting one another. They call names. They hit. They say things that (I hope!) they don’t mean. And they always get over it.

But hurt Squidward Tentacles? And you’ve gone too far.

According to Boy #3, that is.

We were in this car this morning listening to the radio and discussing nothing SpongeBob-ish, when out of the blue Boy #3 piped up from the backseat: “I feel sorry for Squidward.”

Trying to figure out how the conversation went from how mail is delivered (we had just come from the post office) to a surly cartoon squid, I asked, “What? Why?”

“Because SpongeBob yelled at him, ‘Get out!’ And Squidward was sad.”

I finally remembered that last week we had watched an episode where Squidward got electrocuted, thus reversing his usual personality traits. He became such a nice guy and hard worker that he won Employee of the Month at the Krusty Krab, causing SpongeBob to become jealous and angry. This finally culminated with him yelling “Get out!” to Squidward at his Employee of the Month Party at Patrick’s house. (Yes, I realize how disturbing it is that I remember this episode in such detail. It may also explain why my house isn’t clean.)

“I can’t get it out of my head,” Boy #3 continued, visibly upset.

Wow. Since this episode aired, Boy #3 has probably been called an idiot, been pushed and shoved, and possibly even been told “I hate you.” And likely he has heaped the same abuses on one of his older brothers. But somehow this doesn’t affect him as much as when it’s happening to an arguably deserving cartoon character.

I don’t know whether to be touched that he’s so empathetic—or disturbed that it’s bothering him so much!

So we talked about why that wasn’t nice for SpongeBob to do. And then I suggested we watch another episode of SpongeBob so he maybe he can replace his bad SpongeBob memory with a better one. (Yeah, pretty obvious that I’m not a child psychologist, isn’t it?) Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long this morning for one of the many SpongeBob episodes to air.

And we watched Squidward being his usual meanie self to SpongeBob, who had a huge chunk of wood lodged in his thumb.

The good news is that Boy #3 no longer seems disturbed at Squidward’s sadness.

The bad news is that I now have images of SpongeBob’s red, festering, pus-filled thumb oozing infection that I can’t get out of my head.

Here’s hoping you have a less disturbing Friday!

Image copyright Nickleodeon
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