Raising compassion

butterfly on flower

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

Well, I would like to think that I had just the best Mother’s Day ever. Girlwonder graduated from LAW SCHOOL. Thus culminates 20 years of education — from kindergarten orientation to receiving her Juris Doctor in Law. It all seems to have happened simultaneously in a blink yet also a lifetime ago. Many of you have been reading along all this time. THANK YOU.

On the bright sunny Mother’s Day Sunday, we crowded into a large auditorium at her university and listened to a State Supreme Court Justice give a commencement speech. Those who have the Juris Doctor conferred at their law-school graduations don a purple-velvet-trimmed, bell-sleeved doctoral gown, sport a puffy velvet beret-like cap called a “tam” and are hooded with the longer doctoral hood — all marks of their receiving a doctorate. It’s all very impressive, and the robe isn’t meant for holding snacks. We know that now. The jaunty “tam” atop her head is also very becoming, but I may be biased. Her adorable husband calls it a “chef’s hat.” We can always count on those closest to us to keep us humble, after all.

Amid the accolades, awards and cake (I love cake), there were also messages from people near and far. Messages of love, friendship and congratulations. Among the greatest blessings to my mama heart, however, were the ones that noted that not that our girl was dedicated, hardworking, intelligent and savvy, but that she was KIND.

It is a proud moment when I realize our now grown children are good people, the type of people that peers reach out to for advice and that our fellow villager’s remember as “good kids.” I carefully save the comments and messages that take the time to tell me that “your daughter was SO helpful to our son when he started law school” or that our son is “the friend you can always count on no matter where he might be.”

To experience this milestone on Mother’s Day seems fitting. I reminded myself early and often that we were not “raising children.” We were raising “future adults.” I’ve found that self-absorbed, self-centered and selfish people rarely make good ones.

I also really enjoy the saying that it is our job to “prepare the child for the road, not pave the road for the child.”

Girlwonder recently had an occasion to be present at an event with other spouses and girlfriends. She’s a friendly, outgoing sort of girl, but in this instance, the others were not “feeling it.” She put it succinctly “they just weren’t ‘girls girls’ today.” I get that. You can’t win (over) them all. You CAN be comfortable in your own skin knowing that at the very least you tried.

My sage Mother’s Day advice? Practice and preach kindness. Always. It is not enough to simply NOT be mean. You need whenever possible to go the extra mile. Reach out. Do more. Be kind. Sadly, too many think if they aren’t being actively hurtful then they’re good. I disagree.

As guardians we need to be aware of this, and if we end up with a more “social” child who is graced with friends and leadership positions, team captains, class leaders, club members, remind them to be INCLUDERS. Too many parents think that as long as their child isn’t actively engaged in knocking down other children, their work is done. It is equally as important, I think, to make sure any child who has social clout (for lack of a better word) uses that “power” for good. A true “popular” “leader” should go out of their way to see the lonely people and make room for them in your activity, club, table, or conversation. Friendship should be inclusive, not exclusive. Amid all their academic success I feel happy learning that we seem to have succeeded in raising nice humans.

We are now in the thick of “graduation season” — be it high school, art school, trade school, university, med school, law school, apprenticeship for a skilled trade or something else entirely. Through it all please remember this: your chosen profession surely needs more people (like you) who are smart, passionate, resourceful, resilient and let us not forget, compassionate. Spiraling back the years, my greatest joy were the parents at our child’s high school graduation party who thanked me for all the times she was kind and looked out for others. We always knew we wanted to raise includers, not excluders. At the end of the day, your academic accomplishments are something to be proud of for certain. Never forget, however, that in whatever you do, people WILL remember how you made them feel.

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