I was shopping a few weeks ago with the girls and happened upon a trendy pair of distressed American Eagle jeans and a white Dri-Fit Nike shirt I thought my son would like. I bought them then kept the purchases tucked away until I thought they might be of use.
Last night, Son announced that his jeans were too small and wondered when the wash would be done (because apparently the only ones that FIT, happened to be in there right then. And I am Chief Washer, for some reason). I thought to myself, “Perfect timing. I’ll go get the new ones I bought and save myself a job.” And in the process, I thought I would surprise him with a little gift. And so that’s just what I did. I got the items and laid them down on the floor in front of him in our living room, as he packed up his trombone and back-pack for an overnight band trip the following day.
“Here’s a new pair of jeans for you- and a new shirt too,” I said, trying to sound as non-chalant and uneager as is humanly possible for an uncertain mother of a thirteen year-old boy. Not that I am one of those- but IF I WAS, that’s how I’d appear. I waited edgily for the response, knowing that there might not be a welcome reply. I had a funny feeling about what was coming next.
“I don’t need them” he tells me. “I already have too many clothes.”
“Okay,” I countered. “I’ll give them to one of your cousins then, for their birthday.” I looked down at the jeans- willing him to just accept them. I waited for another moment, still hoping that this threat of giving them away would make him change his mind. They were an especially nice outfit together, if I did say so myself. And really- I had no immediate plans to give those jeans away. I just was looking for him to accept them. But son wouldn’t budge on his decision: he didn’t want the outfit even when Husband came out to see what the rigamarole (i.e. whole conversation we two were having) was all about.
After a moment or two, Husband decided to enter the fray.
“What’s going on? What’s with the jeans?” he asks us both.
“We’re giving them to someone for their birthday,” says my son. Pointedly rejecting my gift to him on not-so-subtle terms. “I already have too many clothes.”
I try to make him change his mind, recounting to myself that my threat to give the clothes away was obviously a fail. When that didn’t work, I tried another method- matching his reasons for why he doesn’t need this new outfit with my own equally compelling reasons for why he does need them. I even capitalized on the too-small-jeans in the wash thing. Thinking that might work.
Didn’t matter. He wasn’t moving on this one. And he wasn’t taking the jeans.
I later find the clothes on the floor in the same spot I left them, a signifier that my paltry offering would go unaccepted this night.
And I have to say- it hurt a little.
Sometimes we hurt the ones we love the most. That’s why any discussion on kindness and why it matters must be accompanied by discussions on why sometimes we are not kind. Why sometimes we choose to be abrasive. Hurtful. Rude, even.
Sometimes in our best efforts to be kind to most people we encounter, we forget that the one or two we let off the hook are the very ones that it matters most to. For they are the very ones who need it more. And then, when one is unkind- we on the receiving end must also consider: Why? Why has this one or that one been so unfeeling? So uncaring? Trodden so heavily on our emotions and goodwill?
Why must we be mean to one another? What good does it accomplish?
As a teacher, I am fully aware that even as I preach kindness and love and caring, there are moments that I am none of the above. And those moments when I lose sight of the three- kindness, love and caring- those moments are the very ones that the person on the receiving end of my impatience will use to define me. And they will ask the same questions I have asked above.
Why are you so cruel at times?
And the answer is simply: we are human. We all have our moments of weakness. Moments when we slip into the person we’ve tried to grow out of. The person we see as our less-mature self. All it takes is a moment, and we are back where we’ve begun. Unfortunately, a moment of our day can sometimes break us in two. Taking an otherwise pleasant, enjoyable day and turning it upside down. Both for us and for another.
I had one of those moments today. In fact, I often have those moments. But today, I was cranky at someone for a mistake they made. It was a mistake that ‘put me out’, made more work for me because of it. And I was cranky. Annoyed. And I felt my anger and aggravation rise too quickly to the surface. I felt emotions come to my defense too hastily. And in doing so, I wondered later- what was that like for the One on the receiving end of my quick- temper? And how did they view me- ME? Someone who prides herself on being loving and caring- someone who writes about love every chance she gets. How could I let it all unravel in a moment? What did the person think whom I hurt with my quick temper and sharp words?
One can only hope that the person of whom I speak had some genuine compassion for me. I hope and believe that they would. And I also hope and believe that I would do the same as well- for them. Would do the same for them in the moments that I am slighted. In the moments when I am offended or put off in both small and large ways by the ones I care about. One would only hope that I too could bring myself to quickly forgive and move on. So that the One who has hurt my rather fragile emotions would not have to suffer at the expense of my ego. At the expense of my pride. My sense of my own self and its importance.
We are all in this together.
And there are moments like I described at the beginning of this post in which I am the one who suffers hurt at the hand of Another’s uncaring moment. But there will be many more moments in this life when it will be I inflicting hurt on another. May it always be said of me that I was quick to forgive- as that is what I certainly desire from others.
But I still ask this one question: why do we hurt one another? Why are we unkind? Why must we say and do things that are unloving? Why must we be so often, uncaring?
My son loves me. This I know. And I love him too. This I believe he understands as well. I tell him so every day. But I also know this: I am his comfort zone. And there are times when that line of intimacy allows for less formality, less expectation. As we all know, our guards are often down with those in our immediate family. We don’t try as hard. And we often don’t worry about the people closest to us quite so much- their emotions and feelings are not as closely considered as much as might be those of someone outside our comfort zone. Our immediate circle of influence often have to take the brunt of our emotions.
It’s something to think about. And something to work on. For sure.
And I feel it is also important to be aware of such each and every day. Important that we be aware of why kindness is important- every moment of every day for everyone. And important to be aware of who kindness affects. Prudent to keep in mind the effects of missing kindness on our psyche. Our self-esteem and well-being.
For kindness matters. It does.
And when kindness is gone, we all know it. We all feel it. And when it is there, while we sometimes take it for granted, we really do appreciate it. The key is to truly appreciate and value it. Hold it up as a standard to live by. And then to impress on each other why it matters so much.
Because it does. It really does.
Its never as easy as it appears is it? Especially when a loved one is involved. But like you said, its a perpetually \’human\’ thing. We can just continue to be kind and to fight impulses of unkindness that strike us often. There\’s a saying in my language (Urdu) that boils down to this: \’Do a deed of kindness and then forget\’. Still not easy but this works best I think.
Thanks for that thought- it is one to ponder! And ever being mindful that forgetting is always the hardest part of this process.
Cate Pane: The Clear Parent says
Your son is 13. It is so hard to interpret the behavior of a child in this developmental stage. My 17 year-old just entered our bedroom without knocking and complained that I had a laundry basket with his socks inside. He normally does his own laundry, but somehow I have his socks. Call the cops! He is nervous about an SAT Chemistry test tomorrow, but no excuses. He\’s a self-centered teenager (at times), but I still made him apologize!