Tuesday, October 10, 2006
The Moral Compass
I had an AH HAH! moment on Sunday. It was a beautiful fall day, low 70s and a slight breeze, blue sky and no clouds. A rare fall day for early October in the South. We could easily still be wearing shorts at Thanksgiving. Or stubbornly donning our new fall clothes while we sweat over the Turkey and have the AC on high. We decided to take the kids to the Zoo. We have a family membership and go often. But our favorite time is on cool or cold days. The animals are much more active on those days. The first stop is always the Reptile Building. Snakes, Lizards and Turtles. The Giant Gila monster died some time back from an infected retained egg (I know TMI) and they have replaced it with some huge Galapagus tortoises and some other smaller (yet pretty big) species of turtle. We were watching them when we noticed that one turtle was on his back and trying very hard to turn himself over. To no avail. This struggle captivated my two kids. After a few minutes they realized that this turtle could not right himself on his own. They started to become quite concerned about this. By now several other families, and quite a few children joined us at the glass to cheer on this upside down friend. We are all becoming as distressed as the little guy himself was and we are collectively absorbed in his dilema. We notice one of the Giant turtles is making his way towards him. Is he coming to help we wonder out loud? Then we all watch horrified as he actually walks over the upside down one. This was pretty tramatic to watch. But our little under dog is OK. He soon tires and just sorta lays there, arms (are they called arms?) and legs outstretched , head nearly reaching the ground. I hear my daughter and a few other children cry out in a panic, Is he Dead? No, I reassure her , he is just resting.y son is visably upset. A Dad and his son quickly dart off to find a Zookeeper in the building, while the rest of us viligently stand watch. In a few minutes a reptile worker opens the door into the encloser, surveyed the scene and righted the little guy. All to Cheers from the gallery. After we all see that he is OK and back on his merry way, we move on to the next exhibit.
I was a little misty eyed at the compassion and concern everyone had for this small turtle and minor incident. Not a single person had walked on by. We were a diverse group that had gathered at the enclosure, all ages and ethnicity and socio economic levels. Yet we had all banded together instantly over this small inconsequential drama. Not one of the about 20 people that stood watch had left before the victorious ending. I was especially proud to see that my son, who at times is oblivious to certain social endeavors or emotions was just as concerned with the welfare of the little turtle.He totally got what was happening. And equally excited at the happy ending. Through the glass he told the zoo worker "Thank You for Helping" .
This short, 10 minute's out of my day did two things.
First, it restored some faith in my fellow human beings. In this day of Road Rage and the Me generation, it felt good to come together for a cause, even one such as an upside down turtle.
Second, I realized the really important things that I hope I am teaching my children.
There is a book by William Bennett, called "The Moral Compass" . I think every family should own one. It is a collection of stories from all walks of life and through out generations that teach a moral, a lesson, a virtue. My daughter loves for me to read one of them and then have a deep discussion about what it taught us.
The premise of the author is that the most important lessons we can teach our children and the most important ones for us to live by are these
In life's journey these character traits make the journey worth the trip.
If I can teach my children these things ,then they can make their way when they venture oout on their own. It will color how they see the world around them, help them make choices and live life well.
While Reading and Math, Science and Social Studies are certainly important and necessary, I think it is these other skills that truly make you a success. I see so many parents putting gargantuan time and energy into teaching their children to be first or be the best. Blue Ribbons, Trophy's, points scored and Winning teams seem to be top priority. You can always hear the parents lobbying for their kid to be the pitcher or first baseman, rarely bragging that their son is the best outfielder. It may happen but rarely.
Flash Cards for Toddlers, Class ranking on tests, giving your child the edge or the upper hand or the advantage.
The pressure for perfection and being the Leader of the Pack.
And not accepting anything less. That second place is nothing and to not be in the race is unacceptable.
I hear Mom's bragging about Home Runs , Gifted Classes and Beauty Pagents and not so much about thier offspring taking the time to lend a helping hand or offer charity to help a less fortunate or showing Thankfulness for a good deed done towards themselves.
Having a Special Child does force you sometimes to look for areas your child can and does excel in. For my son it will never be Reading or Math.And while he is very gifted athletically, the finer points of team play, the yelling or make that cheering bothers him, and this may prevent him from public or organized venues to show off his skills.I feel lucky in being his mother because he has helped us as a family put stock in other virtues. And I was reminded of the importance of that at the zoo and proud that it seems my two are reaping what I am trying to sow.
It has bothered me that sometimes I do not see the nurturing of the spirit and the soul in homes as much as the drilling of the information into the mind and skills into the body.
Survival of the fittest has taken on a whole new meaning, starting in the cradle.
Life can and will be hard and rough at times.
You may not always get the job or be picked.
Joy can be felt from cheering another on or letting someone else go first or take your place.
Adversity is a part of everyone's life at some point and learning grace and courage in the face of hardships can make all the difference in your life. Or in someone else.
Like all parent's, I welcome a straight A report card or a successful endeavor, but to see my child go out of their way for another, to take action for the sake of someone else, rates slightly higher.
My daughter , at age 5 is naturally competitive in spirit. Be it spelling the most words, reading the hardest book or being in the front at dance class.We gleefully cheer her on, but I hope her good self esteem comes equally from her own pride within when she attains her goals rather than from outside That A Girls or Public Pats on the Back.
And just like spelling or Multiplication tables, compassion takes practice.
As an adoptive parent, I felt a particular responsibility in providing opportunity and the best possible future for my children. To be the best parent I possible can. I think that is what their birthparents hoped for them. To have the love of a family and the chance to be the best they can be.The guidance and support unconditionally from their parents and siblings. I feel that they are such a precious gift and in accepting that gift I feel I made a promise to help them find the answers to questions like
Who am I?
Why am I here?
What should I be doing?
What is my Destiny?
What does it all mean?
They give me more than I could ever give back to them and
they teach me daily lessons about life and love and living.
And that living Happily Ever After can mean many things.
I hope I can guide them on their way to finding it.
And maybe, they will help someone else find theirs along the way too.
Even a Turtle.


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