Having Kids has brought tremendous change in the way I see the world. I used to feel so jaded--so hardened and separate from the troubles of the world--but I can't anymore.
Not that I ever lived without empathy or charity or awareness, but before I had children all the bad stuff in the world--poverty, homelessness, crime, illness, loneliness, and everything else-- really didn't affect me like it does now.
The Dalai Lama, or "Lama" as I call him, says that this feeling is compassion which is just about as high an achievement as Humans can hope for.
The Lama has said: "True compassion is universal in scope. It is accompanied by a feeling of responsibility. To act altruistically, concerned only for the welfare of others, with no selfish or ulterior motives, is to affirm a sense of universal responsibility."
Well, I'm nowhere close to this kind of selflessness. In fact, not being near the Lama's trancendent status, I think the best we can hope for is what Emerson said:
It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Perhaps Ralph and I won't ever be on the level of the Lama but I do feel a kind of essential responsibility which I never felt before and this is, I think, the effect of children.
Of course, the 4 little creatures who depend on me to be physically strong, mentally away, morally straight, and all those other adult things are more responsibility than I could ever have possibly imagined. It is also a kind of responsibility for which I feel consistently unprepared.
Every time I read, hear, or see something hideous going on the world I think it horrible that children have to grow up in a world which has so many unhappy things in it. Seeing how a children greet the world with such sincere awareness of beauty and an easy expression of joy, it saddens me to think that as time goes by, the awareness of the world's problems increases in direct proportion to one's ability to see beauty or experience joy.
It is then I remember why parenting is so meaningful: revenge.
Yes, as hard as it is to admit, every time I'm puked upon, woken up at 5:00 A.M. on a Saturday, mediate my 42nd dispute over a toy or something equally trivial, change yet another nasty diaper or clean up yet another sticky and disgusting mess, I try to remember that someday my children will grow up and all the joy will also be sucked out of their souls by a cruel world bent on making them miserable. I also fairly revel in the idea that someday they will likely have little monsters of their own leading the pack of their own tormentors.It is at this time I feel better.
Ok, not really. Really this thought only makes me more feel even more overwhelmed and tired than I normally do.
This feeling, I'm sure, is the opposite of compassion.
But, you see, Mr. Lama actually has the time to go off and meditate when he starts feeling somewhat less than compassionate.
I suppose I too have time to meditate, but for me it's called sleep and there's precious little time for that.
But don't those feelings of revenge live in just about every parent's ugly little secret heart of hearts? I've certainly encountered some variation on this them--that oddly pleasant idea that parental satisfaction comes in the idea that someday our children will also experience the "joys" of parenthood
Probably. On the other hand, most of us want our children to have perfect, pain free lives.If I had my druthers, I'd druther keep my children in a nice, save protective bubble in which nothing bad will ever reach them.
But, until I figure out how to do that, we'll all have to continue to go forward and hope for the best.