Compassion With A Big "C"

"Stop crying!"
"Stop crying!"
"Damn it," he was upset he spilled his orange juice!
"Damn it," he was upset he spilled his orange juice!
Our children learn compassion through our compassion.
Our children learn compassion through our compassion.
Our children's tears trigger a very sad place inside of us.
Our children's tears trigger a very sad place inside of us.

The Gift of Tears


“Don’t cry over spilt milk!”

How many times did we hear that growing up?

I say, “ Why not cry over spilt milk?”

Heaven knows it's hell to clean up, unless you have a dog that can lap it up, and even then, the floor remains sticky.

I was reminded of this age old proverb while embarking on my daily stroll. I walk in a little section of my town called the Tower District. The streets are lined with mom and pop restaurants, coffee shops and a tea house, a smoking lounge, rowdy bars, tattoo parlors and numerous vintage clothing stores. The combination of sleeping in and a spring-like winter Sunday morning allowed me to people watch today, a contrast to the empty streets I usually encounter on my early morning walks.

The outdoor patio of Irene’s was filled with the brunch bunch. Laughter and the aroma of pancakes and sausage accompanied me on my 2-mile jaunt. I like this route so well that I walk it twice. It was on my final lap that I encountered a young mother and her son. Turning the corner of Wishon and Olive Avenues, home to the historical Tower Theater, is my usual signal to pick up my pace. Instead, I stopped dead in my tracks! My eyes met a large puddle of orange juice streaming towards my blue and gray tennis shoes. I quickly moved to the right and continued my walk. The mom, who was still a few feet in front of me, bent down to pick up a now empty paper cup and lid. The blonde haired boy stared wide-eyed at his lost breakfast beverage. Tall and slender, the little boy mimicked his mother's build as well as her delicate features. He was all of six years old.

“It’s okay, not a problem," his mother kept repeating in a cheerful voice.

The sad faced boy began to cry.

“We have more orange juice at home," the mom responded.

With that, the boy began to grieve for his spilled orange juice. His “straight and tall” posture gave way to near collapse. Moaning and groaning noises escaped from his mouth.

“Ooooooh, oooooooh,” the little guy cried as he followed his mom, his gait now plagued with spastic leg and arm disease.

In a very stern voice his once reassuring mother commanded, “Don’t cry over this.”

And then I passed them. I wanted to stop. I wanted to kneel down and look the little boy in the eye.

I wanted to say, “Oh gosh, that is so disappointing when that happens.”

I wanted to tell him a spilt milk story about me when I was a little kid, but I couldn’t think fast enough! I could still hear him crying; I really wanted to make it all better. No, I did not want to run back to Irene's and grab him an orange juice to go; I wanted to acknowledge that he lost his precious treasure between the cracks of the sidewalk! I wanted to yell out, "I get it, damn it! I'm upset too!"

He had probably gone out to breakfast with his mom and was so excited to get his very own orange juice. His eyes were probably bigger than his stomach and he had probably begged his mom to order a large. He probably wasn’t able to finish it, and probably asked if he could take it home. His mom probably thought she really didn’t want to take the orange juice home, but said okay anyway. Once the orange juice spilled she probably thought, See,we shouldn’t have taken it to go, and I shouldn’t have wasted my money on a large. When her 6 year old began to cry she probably thought, This is the last time I am getting him orange juice at a restaurant, and if he is going to act like this I’m not taking him out to breakfast again for a very long time.

Sound familiar? Why is it that we just aren’t comfortable with people grieving, whether it’s over the death of a loved one, spilt milk or orange juice? Now for some reason when Flipper dies, (the pet guppy) we get it! We shed a few tears ourselves AND deliver a eulogy over the toilet!

Crying over spilt milk is practice for crying over other losses in our lives. Watching our children cry over split milk is practice too, for us being okay while watching our children grieve. When we say, “Don’t cry over spilt milk” we set a precedence for NO TEARS, which leads to NO GRIEVING! This kind of thinking leads to people who don’t know how to show compassion, who don’t know how to just be while others grieve their losses, and leads to people who don’t have permission to grieve their own losses. Our society is filled with people who are sick, physically and emotionally, from stuffing their feelings of sadness, disappointment, and grief.

There is always something behind our tears, something more than meets the eye. My guess for the little crying boy I met on my Sunday outing is this: tears for a wonderful breakfast ruined by the loss of his orange juice, the lingering reminder of a special time with his mom. He just wasn’t ready for the time to be over, and the spilled juice ended his morning adventure abruptly. He had wanted to savor the memories and reminisce later that day as he drank the last of his large O.J.

Allowing our kids to grieve, even over orange juice, allows us to give the compassion to our children that they naturally expect from us, their parents whom they love so much. It is a shock to our child's system, combined with a sudden lack of feeling safe, when we insist: “Stop now! Don’t cry, it's no big deal!” Allowing our kids to grieve also becomes an opportunity to teach our children to be compassionate with others.

When our feelings are validated with love and compassion it allows us to bring the spilled orange juice into perspective, and to eventually skip home and realize our memories of a wonderful morning with mom are in our hearts and not in the orange juice.

Sometimes what takes the smallest amount of effort just doesn’t happen. Why is that? Because our children’s tears trigger a very sad place inside of us. I suggest that the next time you and I encounter what appears to be just spilt milk, that we look beyond the white mess on the floor and the sticky residue. Let's have gratitude for the opportunity to BE COMPASSION in our world for the sake of our children, ourselves and others.




Comments 12 comments

vrbmft profile image

vrbmft 3 years ago from Yucaipa, California

wOW! My favorite topic. ABSOLUTELY MAWvelous, Marianne. I remember when I was 12 and was able not to cry for the first time when Dad yelled at me. I felt so victorious, but did not realize the price I was paying as I was not able to cry then for a VERY long time, a very long time, and could not let others have their tears as well. I remember my therapist sobbing over the pending death of his dog and I remember wondering what is wrong with this guy? But I respected him so much that I quickly realized that the problem was mine and that I could not cry and that began a turn around for me. Yes, I cried once while eating Rocky Road Ice Cream!! but that was rare. So I now cry at the drop of a hat, so hold onto your hat!

THANKS FOR AN AWESOME HUB

vERN


Marianne Byers profile image

Marianne Byers 3 years ago from Central California Author

thanks Vern. I can always count on you to cheer me on! I love you and miss you!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Very nicely done. Being compassionate is a skill we need to teach and nurture in our children and I like the way you've explained it here. (Change compassion to compassionate, in bold, last paragraph.)

This whole things starts out like a story and walks us through to the moral at the end.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


leftbehindinca 3 years ago

It is without question that we need to teach our kids compassion. That is absolutely true. That said, I take huge issue with how you judged that mother and assumed that she was not being compassionate towards her child. It sounds to me like she handled it quite well.

The only disturbing part of this story is how you assumed that she must have never wanted to waste money on the OJ in the first place, how she must have not wanted to bring it with, and how she must have been lamenting bringing the OJ with because she just knew that this was going to happen. Nothing in what you wrote about the mom's reaction gives any indication that she was annoyed with him or what had happened. Nothing. It sounds to me like she probably knew that her son gets really upset over little issues and she was trying to show him that it's okay, that accidents happen. That little accidents like these are nothing to worry about, because hey, he can have more OJ at home. Teaching kids to not sweat the small stuff is just as important as teaching compassion! If kids don't learn to not sweat the little bumps in the road during life, which there are a lot of for all of us, then they could grow to become adults who are unable to cope with the most minor of events.

Last, it frankly makes you look like a huge jerk that you'd just assume that the mom was having all of these uncharitable, mean thoughts about her son and the OJ accident. I think that you need to learn a lesson about compassion yourself!


Liz 3 years ago

To leftbehindinca:

I disagree. I do think the mom was handling it great until she got to the "stern voice" part and told her kid "Do not cry over this"....as if his spilled OJ (and all that it may have represented to him) is not important enough to cry over.

"Don't sweat the small stuff" is an important lesson, but who's to say that this was "small stuff" to that little guy? Why does his mother get to decide that it's small stuff? If I dropped the crystal vase I received for my wedding, the one I put the all the flowers my husband has brought me throughout the years, the one that was given to us by someone special, the one that I vividly remember finding with my then-fiancee when we were registering...that would be "small stuff" to my kids or a friend or maybe even to my own mom, but I would hope that any of those people would see that I was hugely disappointed and sad that my precious vase was broken and would not tell me "Do not cry over this." That's compassion: joining the person suffering where they are and commiserating and sympathizing with him or her.

The mom could still have taught her son about not sweating the small stuff while remaining compassionate. ...And what a better lesson it could have been! She could have proceeded with compassion and w/o the sternness in the moment. Then later after the kiddo was settled and calm, she could have then helped him to figure out how to not sweat the small stuff. OR...she could have acknowledged to herself that it wasn't small stuff to him in the first place!!! I don't think the author was suggesting that the mom get down on the ground with the son and sob right along side him. I think she was pointing out that the mom could have and should have shown more compassion for his experience, which would in turn help him learn to be compassionate to others.

I would imagine that the author of this Hub felt compassion for the mother as well...any parent knows that it's not easy to have a kid melt down in public, but the premise of this Hub was about "spilt milk".

What about the person who steps on the dried oj later in the day and has sticky shoes, what about the shop owner who will have to wash up the spilled oj...let's not get hung up on all the people that could use compassion in the orange juice example.

Clearly this author is a compassionate person as I don't think an article like this could be written by a person who is not compassionate!


Marianne Byers profile image

Marianne Byers 3 years ago from Central California Author

Dear Tillsontinan,

Thank you for reading my story. I am so glad you enjoyed it. My last paragraph "Be Compassion" was meant to be a noun. Compassionate is an adjective. My purpose in saying "Be Compassion" was meant to say that you and I could be that noun- we would be one with compassion, like "Be Hope" Compassion and myself would be one and the same. Make sense? Not sure if I am explaining myself, but I had a purpose in using the word compassion in its noun form. Thank you again for reading, sharing your thoughts and feedback. Sincerely, Marianne


Marianne Byers profile image

Marianne Byers 3 years ago from Central California Author

Hi leftbehindinca! Thank you for reading my story and thanks for being one of my critics! To explain myself a little bit more....I was on my morning walk and walked into a scene from someone's life. Was I judging this mom or judging myself and so many like me? I said "probably" many times in my story purposely because I could not know for sure how their day had gone, but it reminded me of myself, a mother for 34 years and many other mothers who I have known. And so with that knowledge I guessed what might have gone on that morning with that mom and her son. Have you ever gone to breakfast and noticed just how expensive orange juice is? And that is for the small. My kids were never allowed to get the large orange juice. My kids always want to take left overs home even if they amounted to one french fry and 1/8 of a bun and a bite of hamburger meat! I just wanted to leave it there! The mother I was talking about was ME!!!!!! Before we can teach our kids to not sweat the small stuff we gotta teach them to cherish the feelings and emotions that we experience when we ARE sweating the small stuff. There ARE lots of adults who are unable to cope with the most minor of events. Look around- they are everywhere. Had they only been able to sweat the small stuff when they were small, they just might be able to cope as adults. Annoyed or not, the mom did not acknowledge her son's feelings and accept them at face value. I took the opportunity to tell a story about compassion and I thank this mom and her son for the opportunity that they gave me, to remember to be more compassionate. And moms, I love them all and do not judge, but with loving kindness I desire for them to experience their motherhood to the fullest. I love all moms and totally get it however a mom responds to her child. Is it sometimes very painful to watch? Yes because I feel for her and her child. All the parts of my story that you did not like were really meant to make you laugh, because I can bet my bottom dollar many a mom "probably" could identify. I truly am sorry if my story upset you. Lastly, I do not think the thoughts the mom had (if she had them) were uncharitable or mean- they were just the thoughts of a tired mom. The point of my story aside from the gift of compassion- sometimes the hardest thing to do- if we can figure out how to do it- becomes the easiest most rewarding for ourselves and our children- we just need to remind each other to make ever so slight changes each chance we get.


Marianne Byers profile image

Marianne Byers 3 years ago from Central California Author

Dear Liz,

Thank you for visiting hubpages and thanks for reading my hub. Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad my hub could be an opportunity for us to discuss compassion and motherhood. In the right setting we really do want to remember not to sweat the small stuff! I am assuming your vase is not really broken. I hope it isn't. :) Thanks again! Sincerely, Marianne Byers


vrbmft profile image

vrbmft 3 years ago from Yucaipa, California

i WAS CHECKING BACK to see if there were any new comments to this wonderful story and wonderful dialogue between readers. Then I remembered when you could get a three scooper at Thrifty's (now Rite Aid) for 15 cents. I did not want to get David a three scooper (this was just last week!!) because he could barely walk let alone balance three scoops of ice cream, but Oh well! So we are now in the toy aisle and he leans down to look at a toy (yes it was last week!) even at his short stature, he still had to lean over and of course, when he did, the three scoops went over as well. I will always remember his shock!! AND TEARS (Yes, this was just last week!), and so I said, David, we will get another one, no big deal. Of course, David remembers it differently, but I swear, we went to the ice cream counter to get another three scooper, I winked at the clerk, and she said, "sorry, we are closed." No, just kidding. We simply got another three scooper. Of course, I don't know what I might have done if three scoops of ice cream cost as much as a small glass of orange juice or even as much as three scoops costs today. We are all such funny folks when it comes to "giving" our kids experiences that cost us money, whether it is 15 cents or more, and of course, some folks think nothing of getting their teenager a red BMW on their 16th birthday, but would refuse to buy another cone!!! Anywho, I'm writin another hub here. Sorry about that!


Marianne Byers profile image

Marianne Byers 3 years ago from Central California Author

What awesome memories! I can see him holding the ice cream and leaning over in the toy aisle. And just last week- yes! Everything is just last week. When I went to visit my 84 year old mother one day, I walked in the room and she began to cry. I said, "Mom, what's wrong?" She said, "When you walk in the room, I just see my little girl." ( I was 47 years old)

And then she cried some more. I hated to see my mom crying but I have to be honest. I did not get it then, but I do now. My 34 year old is still my baby. My 31 year old daughter is still 9. My 26 year old is still two. My almost 23 year old is still 7. My 19 year old is 4. My 16 year old is 16 and I love him so much that it hurts! My 27 year old daughter is in heaven.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Definitely makes sense Marianne. Sorry I misunderstood. I did that once at work when "grow your mind" was just becoming a saying!


Marianne Byers profile image

Marianne Byers 3 years ago from Central California Author

Dear Tillsontitan,

No problem. I am glad I was able to make sense! I usually don't! Or at least that's what my kids say!!!!

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