After having a discussion with a friend last night about accountability, and how when we aren’t held accountable as kids we grow up to be complete jerks, I got thinking about something that happened when I was young. Being a good parent or mentor doesn’t always mean punishing someone for their actions. Sometimes it simply means serving as an example. I’ll tell a bit about what I mean…
When I was ten or so, my mom made a ceramic doll. It was about a foot and half tall, and she spent many days painting it, firing it, and finally presented it to me. It was placed in my bedroom so I could see it. I even had put little flowers in the doll’s apron. I loved it, and loved that my mom spent so much time making it for me.
I kept it for many months until one day when a couple of neighbor kids were over playing at my house. We were running in circles in my bedroom. One friend was twelve, the other only six. After several spins and crazy behaviors, the six year old crashed into the ceramic doll. Shattering it. She was barefoot at the time. At first, I was soooo mad at her. I wanted her punished and hoped my mom would be angry with her for breaking it. After all, it was her who put in all that work to make it. I didn’t even stop to think if the girl was okay. Instead, I yelled for my mom.
She came in the room and saw the shattered doll and I told her what happened. I was prepared for my mom to yell at the neighbor girl and call her parents. But that’s not what happened. Instead, my mom ran to the girl and scooped her up and onto my bed. She asked her several times if she was okay and kept checking to make sure she hadn’t cut her foot. Not once did my mom say anything about the doll being broken. All she cared about was making sure she was okay. Then my mom had us all get on the bed while she cleaned up the glass pieces.
The girl kept apologizing for wrecking what my mom made, and my mom just kept repeating, “I’m just thankful you’re okay.” It was then when I realized the kind of person I wanted to be. My mom taught me, without ever saying anything directly to me. People will always come first. Always. I felt awful once I realized that my friend could have gotten really hurt and all I’d cared about was the ‘thing’.
So, this being said, I think sometimes the best way to reach people is to show them how to be. Still holding them accountable, but with compassion too. There is so much we can teach one another without ever opening our mouths. Just wanted to share.