My two favorite moral commandments as a parent are as follows: As you point one finger at another, notice that three fingers are pointing back at you
and Treat others as you would wish them to treat you.
Essentially, my own abbreviated versions of the Golden Rule which shows up in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sufism, and many others. I’m big on empathy (putting oneself in another’s shoes) and on walking my talk, as I’ve mentioned. My kids ensure that I hold true to my word. Integrity is, after all, matching our words with our actions; and moral courage
is dependent on personal integrity.
A classic tale from my own family’s treasure trove of tales that illustrates my moral commandments in-action involves my son and a very pregnant me.
(Not my pregnant belly, I was MUCH bigger!)
I was some 60+ lbs. heavier than I am today, belly-loaded with baby, rushing home with energetic E. when he was just about three. We’d spent the afternoon at the park. E. climbing the jungle gym, sliding through the loop de loop slides, spraying unknowing passersby with his finger-in-the-water-fountain trick, and me collapsed on a park bench a week before having baby number two. We’d stayed too long and forgotten to use the facilities before our departure. By the time we’d reached the corner near our house, E. was frantic. Despite having pinched his penis for some five blocks, he was pleading “Mommy, Mommy I have to go pee NOW!” “Okay, okay, we’re almost there!”
I waddled as fast as I could, rustling for my ever-elusive keys lost deep in my bag. The more I fumbled for my keys, the more desperate the expressions on both our faces. Just as I retrieved the keys and shoved them into the door, E. whispered “Sorry Mommy, I couldn’ wait.” There stood E. in his own private pool on our front porch step, eyes wide and pleading with me for forgiveness. Just as I reached down to get eye-to-eye, finger poised for pointing, the thought “How could he!?” begging to be the first words out of my mouth, too much pressure resulted and I, too, lost my bladder cool! So there we were, a couple of pals in a pool of pee. How could I judge him? Just as I wanted to point my finger at him, three were pointing back at me! How could I scold and shame him? Just as I crave others to be compassionate with me when I make a mistake or show I’m fallible. My response? “It’s okay sweetie, Mommy just peed too! I think we may have stayed too long at the park. Next time, we’ll leave a little earlier, okay?” He giggled. Nervously at first, hoping I would also find it hilarious. Then, we both burst into laughter. Thank God I had enough social courage to withstand the embarrassment and make my child’s well-being more important.
I love how raising children awakens us to the responsibility and importance of our every action and choice in life. One of my kids doesn’t want to share the last piece of mango, grabs it before the other has time to notice, the mango slips out of the greedy little fingers, flies into the air, and lands somewhere in the distance now buried in carpet fur. When this happened, my then-six year old son said, “Wow, Mom! You’re right. Karma does sure happen fast!”
It’s a gift when karma happens fast: we actually get to glimpse the ripple effect of our actions. It can sometimes take years to know how an unkind word, a forgotten birthday, some gossip passed along, money never repaid, or a vote not cast affects the lives of countless others. Parenting is karma in-action. It takes moral courage to walk, or waddle, our talk with our kids.