There is a jewish saying “Charity awaits the cry of distress. Benevolence anticipates the cry of distress.” Gemilut Chasadim is a mitzvoth…a commandment… in the Jewish tradition. It is a call to act with benevolence toward any and everyone. A call to kindness.
Here are some great images of folks anticipating cries of distress and doing what they can to be kind:
Giving drink to the thirsty, shelter to weary, comfort to the stranger, companionship to the lonely, safety to the endangered. This is just the sort of phrase that I love. All the great religious traditions call on their communities to something similar. Lots of us work on the call to gemilut chasadim…even thought we don’t use those words.
Parenting pulls out lots and lots of opportunities for bestowing kindness. Anticipating cries of distress and meeting them with benevolance is the name of the game for years and years of guiding little beings safely through their stages of development.
My kids here me say to ‘Err on the side of kindness and then you will never make a mistake’ more often than they would like. This is subjective, of course. From my perspective, enforcing bedtimes, limiting screen-time, requiring chores, brokering peace, teaching manners, etc are all acts of kindness. I am anticipating the cries of distress which would come from young adults who don’t know how to share, can’t get along with others, who have not been set up for success in life. My kids’ perspective can easily pin these same acts as acts of unkindness. Usually, the line between kindness and unkindness is pretty clear to me. Today was not one of those days.
Two of my kids are technically adults. They can dip in and out of my world as they please. They are self sufficient, responsible, full-functioning members of society and that affords them the freedom to live out of their own perspective. I have spent 22 years honing my philosophy of parenting and raising my kids in that. My perspective (and my hubby’s even though he doesn’t always think he has as much influence as he might want) dictates rules, privileges, responsibilities…all the in’s and out’s of my kids’ world. My-way is the highway, so to speak. That can’t go on forever.
It is an interesting process that I am going through now, as I unhook from always driving things with these two adult women that I birthed. I have to shift into a passenger-seat. 22 years of habits and reflexes and gut-reactions have to be slowed down and examined. I have to remind myself that I am not the only adult in the room when I am with them. My-way was rooted in kindness (in its best moments) but it really is not so kind any more. I don’t necessarily know if they are thirsty, tired, in danger, making the right choice, doing the right thing…I can’t anticipate with as much certainty.
It is hard. It is wonderful. It is gratifying. It is challenging. Some days, I really suck at it.
Today, I hit all the marks of a newbie-mom-0f-adult-chilren.
- Spent money I shouldn’t have to try to please
- Put aside things I needed to be doing which would bite me in the butt later
- Tried too hard
- Stuffed my feelings instead of unhooking from them
- Felt really sure that I was doing all the wrong things
- Felt really sure that I was doing all the right things
- Got resentful
- Fell apart in the end because of all the straining and stuffing and trying and resenting…
Poor child #2 did not know what hit her. She apologized…and yeah, she was a little snappy and less-than-effusive and a little self-focused…but my meltdown was definitely not her fault.
Someone needs to have mommy-and-me classes for the 20-somethings and us middle-aged mamas. I remember learning about startle-responses, tongue-thrusts, swaddling, burping….all the quirky things that infants bring as a part of their being that young-mamas and dads don’t always expect.
Where is the class that will clue me into the doings of a typical well-launched-kid? How can I balance wanting to help and support them without telling them what to do and prying more than I really should into their choices? How can I name that I miss seeing them in the every-day without making them feel guilty for having their own life? Where is the line between respect for me as an elder and squashing their rights to their own opinions? How do I keep them safe and give them room to make their own mistakes?
I guess that this is a spot in life where I need to offer some benevolence to myself. I need to anticipate my own distress as I have some growing pains and treat myself kindly. I want to do this at the same time as anticipating where they (the new adults in my life) may encounter some distress and offering them kindnesses along the way. Erring on the side of kindness needs to go both ways.
Whew! This growing up thing is hard at 45….its a different kind of hard than it was when I was 20…still, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks…not that I am old…just sort of set in some of my ways. I need buckets of grace!
Here is a shot of those amazing women that are helping me to grow up. They are pretty fabulous. Maybe I am biased….no…they just are….