Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kids As Morality Check

Many cancer survivors say that cancer has made them better people. I'm not sure I can say the same for myself. But what has made me a better person is having kids.

Kids work as a moral compass. There are things you might do that are less than honest or kind-hearted when it's just you, but in front of your kids, you're bound to behave better.

I might be tempted to get snappy with the waitress who got my order wrong for the third time, but because the kids are with me, I speak kindly or joke about the mistake. I want to hurl expletives at the driver who cut me off on the road, but instead I say, "Whoa! That guy's in a hurry! I sure hope he gets where he's going safely!"

And little by little, I find myself skipping over the anger, and instead, feeling sympathy for the struggling waitress and really hoping that the speeding, reckless driver doesn't hurt himself or others on the road.

I go from acting the person I want my kids to see, to actually being the person my kids can respect.

If you ever find yourself debating whether or not something is passable in the moral sphere, thinking about your kids can help you decide. You might cheat or lie when nobody's looking, but you'd never teach your children that it's okay to cheat or lie.

I was once at a park with Josie when she was just over three years old. There was a charge for kids three and older, but entrance was free for kids under three. I told the attendant Josie was not yet three. Josie piped up, "But Mommy! I am three!"

Not only did I embarrass myself in front of the attendant, but my three-year-old called me on a bold-faced lie. All that to save five dollars. In the end, I lost the five bucks and my self-respect and the moral ground to teach Josie about telling lies.

It's not that big a stretch to say a little lie to get out of paying for park entry could lead to bigger lies like evading taxes. To an adult, it's just a silly little harmless lie. To a kid, a lie is a lie. We could probably do with more childhood simplicity when it comes to morality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

Thanks so much for being open to sharing this part of your experience. It is your openness to share of yourself that draws so many blog readers to share their experiences with you.

Your child or even adult will remember the person within more than the things the person may say. Some people talk a lot. We remember them for the kind of real person they are. Some may moralise; however, under trying situations, their character will show the type of person he/she is. Character is proven under trials and difficulties.