During a recent family meeting, I was listening to the grudges of 4 of my 5 children. They were upset by some of Maya’s more callous comments. It seems that none of my family are very thick skinned in the insult department – I explained to Maya that it was a good policy to think about what one was going to say before actually saying it. She cleverly countered with, “You always tell me to be honest?!”
“Maya, I do want you to be honest, but now that you are older, I am going to teach you about when honesty might not be such a virtue! Being kind is sometimes better than being honest”
She squinted her eyes and looked at me, very confused. “Be honest, but don’t be honest?”
“Maya, although I am never offended by what you say to me – other people, who maybe might not love you as much as I do – or who might not know that you love them, the way that I do – may be hurt by the things that you say!”
“How I am supposed to know when to tell the truth or when to lie?!”
“I wouldn’t necessarily say – that NOT telling someone something that could be mean or hurtful – is lying! Figuring out the effects of your words, and weighing which is the better choice – to blurt it or to zip it – that process is called discernment.”
She made an exasperated sound and rolled her eyes. Mom’s big words!
This was her first foray into the complicated world of contradiction, but I figured it was time to introduce her to the subtle nuance of mature behavior.
I turned to the rest of the family.
“Girls, this is not saying that I condone Maya for saying hurtful things, but I would like to tell you how her honesty has actually strengthened me, by helping me develop a thicker skin. Learning not to take things personally can give you a lot of freedom in the world. It can be quite limiting to have a thin skin. The world can sometimes be cruel and critical, and where better to practice learning how not to take things personally – than from those closest to you! At least you know that Maya really loves you, underneath it all – which may not be always the case with others. In a sense, Maya is inoculating you!
I am offering you an opportunity to change your perspective – to look for the gift and the teaching from this situation.”
Now all the girls rolled their eyes. I continued, undeterred, with my premise.
“Do you remember when Maya was 4 and she ran upstairs one morning to ask me if I was going to die, and I said, NO! Why?, and she said, ‘cause you look so old?”
They all nodded, because I took great pleasure retelling this story. I thought of that moment as a sort of rite of passage for me. It was the moment that I realized that nothing Maya (or any of my children, for that matter) could ever say, would ever bother me or upset me. In fact, it was the opposite. I was delighted by their view of me, however unflattering! It didn’t matter what they said to me, it was impossible for me to take offense.
And, I wondered why? Why do I respond so differently with my children?
Perhaps it is because I love them unconditionally, and so everything they say is filtered through that love, bathed in that love. I can feel that undercurrent of love at all times, permeating every interaction, in a way that I have not been able to achieve, to the same degree, with the rest of the world.
With them, I could feel the love between the lines.
I had a history of taking offense at mean comments and at criticism from others, and had been, like the rest of my family – fairly thin-skinned. The decades of being in the public eye and at the mercy of the fickle press had not cured me from being hurt by other peoples’ opinions of me – even though I might have understood intellectually that it was only their opinion, and had more to do themselves than with me – it still felt bad.
Only my beautiful children, especially Maya, had been successful in freeing me from the slings and arrows of perceived putdowns.
If I could now translate what I had mastered with my children, to all of my relationships – through a filter of deep love for all humanity, I would be free! This is my goal.
“What other people think of me is none of my business!”Anonymous
10 Replies to “Maya’s inoculation!”
Love it! Nice perspective and a great goal for us all!
I love you Catherine! And I love our unruly children. They are heaven. Thank you for being the most patient Mommy. They are so blessed to have you as their Mother. You are divine!
You’re a very fortunate family to have such a core of love and appreciation. 🙂
I love this story! I have two children (boy aged 9 and daughter aged 5) and recently Carmen asked me if she could have all my jewellery, clothes and car when I am dead. At first I was quite hurt and then I saw the humorous side of it! I actually felt really flattered that she thought my stuff was special and she wanted to be like me 🙂 🙂 What more can a mommy wish for?
Warm greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa
A beautiful story to share…as I like to say out of the mouths of babes. I have 4 children also and they are a handful on a good day but love is all around us and I’m truly blessed.
What a wonderful way to teach your Family and I am sure there are many adults that could learn from this. Thanks
Stormie from Phoenix, Az
Catherine, the way you analyze things always reminds me of C.S. Lewis and, of course, Christ himself. “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
What a timely post! I will display the following text somewhere where my daughter can see it ……………often :
‘Learning not to take things personally can give you a lot of freedom in the world. It can be quite limiting to have a thin skin. The world can sometimes be cruel and critical, and where better to practice learning how not to take things personally – than from those closest to you!’
Have a wonderful day!
That is such a beautiful, funny tale… and that second-last paragraph is something we should all strive for. We’d change the world if we could all reach that state of egoless inner-peace… and we’d find a lot more things to laugh about, too. 🙂
Thanks for the chuckles! My son Ben has helped inoculate me also with some pointed and one might even say tactless remarks! Of course we put up with this from our kids and even appreciate their cleverness.
I was good at this too with my mother, as a girl. When she would get all fixed up, I’d oooh and ahh over her: “Mommy! You look like a movie star!”
“…an AGING movie star!”
Fortunately she had a good sense of humor. 😀