Friday, September 7, 2012

Mister Rogers' Badass Quote of the Day: Compassion Is More Likely To Be Caught Than Taught

"Like many other values our children get from us, compassion is more likely to be caught than taught." -- Mister Rogers

The three of us had each been sick at some point during the week.  We're proud that our daughter, an only child, is learning to share at school.  We just wish she'd be more selective about what she shares with us, namely, school germs.  My appetite was still abysmal.  Will, as always, rebounded quicker.

"What's for lunch?"  He'd inquired a couple of hours earlier.  

Before he got out the leaf blower and lawn mower and mulched some early September leaves.  Before going to work an eight hour shift lifting fifty pound sacks of nuts and dried fruit and grains that sound like a Phoenix brother.  The natural grocer that has kept Will employed for seven years has the added benefit of increasing his fitness level just by him showing up to work.

The stamina he has gained from these workouts boosts Will's ability to feed his workaholic nature at home too.  He's the kind of guy who likes to keep busy, puttering around the house fixing or cleaning or organizing or improving our home in many ways.  Lucky for me his conversion to workaholicism coincided with my conversion to ass-slackery.  I sit in my comfy chair all day "writing" now that I only work part time at the library and Katie is in school full time, so even though I have vast swaths of time at home alone where I could in theory get a lot of housework done, my blog is exploding, as is the width of my ass, at about the same rate as the dog hair piles up in the corner of the bathroom behind the toilet.   

I know.  Yuck.  Will and I have a rule in our house that I break all the time during my bathroom breaks when I'm in the middle of writing.  The rule states that whoever is the most disgusted by a mess must be the person who cleans it up.  But when I discover I need to pee while my fingers are flying across my laptop keyboard, mid-thought, well, that dog hair isn't going anywhere and with my sporadically useful memory there's always a good chance my thoughts will go poof at any moment.  So the dog hair continues to pile up behind the toilet even though it does nothing to improve the nauseous feeling I already have from Katie's school germs.  I must quickly get back to tapping out my thoughts.

I'm thinking about this as I sit in my comfy chair when Will comes inside from working on the lawn, and asks, "Is lunch ready?"

Oh yeah.

I went into the kitchen and slapped together some half-made sandwiches from a housewifery project I'd ditched before.  I called Katie to the table from her room where she was supposed to be picking up her toys, but I could tell by the quiet she was instead fixated on building something with her Legos.  

Lunch was on the table by the time Will returned from washing his hands.  I looked into his smiling eyes and felt thankful that if he had noticed the pile of dog hair he hadn't made any snide remarks reminding me of another rule I began breaking almost as fast as I had made it up: they are my dogs and since Will hesitatingly married me with a prenuptial understanding that I was in charge of cleaning up after them, it would be my duty.

I got up to get our drinks, and by the time I returned Will was taking the last bite of his sandwich.

"Oh my gosh!  I didn't know you were so hungry or I'd have made you another sandwich," I said, looking down at my plate.  I picked up half my sandwich and handed it over to Will.  "Here, have some of mine."

Will met my offer with the palm of his hand and then he stood.  "No, I can make another one.  That's yours.  Eat it."

I looked over at Katie, who was quietly taking bites of her own sandwich.  I smiled and shrugged like "What am I gonna do with him?  He won't let me take care of him as good as he deserves."     

"Why are you so kind?"  Katie interrupted my internal dialogue.

"Huh?  What do you mean?"  I had begun to take a bite of my sandwich, but my mouth hung open, mid-bite, at her curious question.

"Why are you so kind?"  She repeated, taking another bite despite her mouth already being full.   Dang, these people I'm in charge of get hungry way faster than I can keep up.  Sometimes they actually expect food more than once or twice a day if you can believe it.

"I don't know what you mean?  What am I doing that is so kind?"  I took a bite of my sandwich.  For some reason I didn't feel nauseous anymore.

"You give Daddy your sandwich when you didn't even eat it yet."  She smiled, white bread and mayonnaise stuck between her teeth.

"Oh, that.  Huh.  I didn't even think about it.  I guess I just love him and I don't want him to be hungry."

"You're a very kind person, Mommy."

Mister Rogers is right.  Katie had caught a lesson in compassion I hadn't even been aware I was teaching.  My child is learning by my example whether I'm mindful or not.  I'm lucky this time it was a lesson in compassion.  I have plenty of other stories of lessons Katie has learned from my example that really ought not be shared on a blog.  More like in a confessional.     

After such a validating lunch, newly proud of my domestic engineering abilities, I cleaned up the pile of dog hair from behind the toilet.  How can I ask Katie to clean up her room if I allow my own messes to fester?  I can be kind and clean at the same time.