The kids and I talk about kindness over breakfast.
We talk about what it means to be gentle, to be fair, to be tender, even when the world is not. We talk about the importance of words, practicing peaceful language, loving language, we talk about not saying poop so much (even if it makes your brother laugh) and about the power of word choice and how what we say reflects what’s inside. We talk about how everyone has feelings.
Even the bad guys? Asher asks.
Even the bad guys.
He’s thinking of Disney movie or comic book bad guys.
I’m thinking of the people who come across so callous that I wonder sometimes if an emotional chip is missing in their genetic code. The people who can cut you off, who tell you flatly that they don’t care, when you are trying to make the best of a bad situation. Or worse, the people who harm children, the people who choose to do the worst possible thing to those who are left vulnerable and in their care.
News clips from places in the world where girls have been missing for months, where parents are dying of heartbreak and disease, in a world where, some days, the bad seems to outweigh the good…all of this, and Asher’s innocent question this morning, they have me wondering about the distance between “us” and “them” and if the differences are closer than we are comfortable thinking.
I’m doing a heart check myself, because how many times can we bump up against hardness before we learn to become hard ourselves?
I tell my children, we all make choices and our choices have consequences. We all move toward something, and we choose our steps, we choose our words, we make our paths as easy or as hard as we want.
The difference is the space between.
It’s the choices made between the moments.
It’s Lila sitting down to dinner and complaining about the meal on the table, which I made especially for her, per her request just hours earlier when she announced vehemently that my plan to make stir-fry was repulsive. And so I’ve made her chicken and vegetables and pasta, without the sticky-sweet stir-fry sauce. But now she sees her brothers with chop sticks and long, shiny, lo mein noodles, and she is disappointed.
The difference between satisfaction and disappointment is the direction of our eyes.
It’s the direction of our hearts.
It’s Vinnie, coming to our bedroom and closing the door, hands over his head, in defeat. The difference between a good night and a bad night, is made here, in his walking away from loud, messy, disobedient children. It’s in his admission that he needs space…or else.
The difference between good and bad, right and wrong, better or worse, sometimes it’s as simple as breathing in, rather than speaking out.
It’s stepping away or stepping toward or standing still.
It’s the moment you can look back to and know, things would have been different, but for that moment.
And, hopefully, for our family, for my children, for their generation of friends growing up in this wide world of light and dark, hopefully conversations like this one, here over breakfast and before beginning a daily routine of playing and cleaning and struggling not to yell or to fight (too hard) as we live together…hopefully words like these and the moments thereafter, can be the difference.