The Three Gates

When you parent siblings who are close in age, you might find yourself saying the most extraordinary things, like:
“No, family members can’t go and live somewhere far away.”
“Your sister is not a sketch pad.”
“Stop rhyming your brother’s name with insulting things.”
“Nobody is allowed to touch anybody ever again.”
“Nobody is allowed to pretend to touch anybody ever again.”
I’m always looking for some magical to tell them, something wise that they will tell their own children with the preface, “Like my mother always used to say, (something sage and profound).” I’m hoping it’s something that will cause them to forget the times I said “Your face is going to get stuck that way “or “Five second rule! You can totally eat that!”
The other day they were playing some kind of put down game, trying to really burn each other with extreme insults (keeping in mind that the worst they are allowed to say is somewhere north of “stupid”). It was pretty tame, and they were enjoying themselves.
But then they got into a “mom war” and that’s where I put my foot down. I mean, I was sitting RIGHT THERE, for the love of Mike. I carried these people inside a body that has never been the same since. Yo’ mama INDEED.

Indignant, I dredged up a quote I had heard awhile ago. It talks about how, before we speak, we should pass our words through three gates, which are basically three questions we need to ask ourselves. The first gate asks, is it true? The second, is it necessary? And the third, is it kind?
“Yo’ mama is so little, she needs a ladder to climb to the toilet” did not even get a toe through the first gate (Little?). I rested my case, secure in the knowledge that if they wanted to discuss their momma, it would be with a bit more respect and a bit less concentration on my physical shortcomings.
In recent days, we have all had a lot of reason to throw our two cents into the ring of popular opinion. There have been Supreme Court decisions.

There have been mass shootings. There have been all sorts of news on a global scale, good and bad.
So often we sit behind a screen and type our thoughts to thousands of readers who we will probably never meet. And we may not even wait to spell check before we press “comment”, never mind to make a stop at the three gates. True? I’m guessing we are speaking our own truth, but probably not everyone’s. Necessary? I know. I KNOW. What will happen if the whole entire internets never hear your views on gun control?

Kind? Ah yes, and there we have it. Many people are of the belief that somehow to speak the necessary truth cannot be kind. But I don’t agree. I think necessary truths can be such a kindness; we just forget what is really true and really necessary. A lot.

After our little talk, our family was at the grocery store. We were in a hurry. The cashier was not. She was also very busy in a conversation with another cashier, and was not interested in any kind of chit chat like “We also have grapes on sale today!” or “Your total is 350 pesos, please” or “Hi”.
I could feel something bubbling up in me, and it was something very true. But my kids were standing beside me, the recipients of my sage and profound advice not an hour earlier. I suddenly realized that without any idea of what life she was living, I had nothing necessary to tell her. But I could be kind. So I caught her eye, smiled, and thanked her. She stopped for a moment, acknowledged me, and smiled back, a little sheepish.

There’s nothing more true and necessary these days than kindness. Let’s spread some around today.

One comment

  1. Liza, I always enjoy your discussions about family and the little devils under your control. There are several generations between your children, and mine, and between your childhood and mine.

    I will bypass my children here because I spent my time working and attending my advanced studies. However I remember my time as an infant and little adult, and that of my wife, who’s mirrors mine.

    Both of our childhoods were conducted mostly on our own. being born after WWI and just before WWII , mine in California , and my wife’s in Texas. Both of our childhoods were conducted during the day outside roaming the neighborhoods. I remember in Kindergarten or before going up the steep hill outside our house to roam around the sand filled ravine and bushes over the top of the hill.

    My wife in Texas, also had a gully or ravine behind the shack she lived in. The train tracks ran in front of the shack . where she sat on the roof and waved to the train when it went by. I actually went with her to see the shack, ravine with the large pipe that went across , that she would walk on. When she came to San Francisco, my home town, she lived near the Ocean Beach. She would walk across the sand dunes to the beach, and to the Cliff House , Playland at the beach and the Sutro’s indoor baths..

    I would go there also, but mostly to go fishing at Make Merced for trout, or the beach for perch and stripped the surf. We both had to be home before it got dark. So we were very independent and very mature. Her mother lived in a hospital type home, and my wife to be was watched by her older sister. My parents were separated and I lived with my father.

    I left home a 15, and worked several jobs while going to school and supporting myself, and courting my wife to be. We married at 19, and had our first daughter before having built our first home.

    I wonder today, do we spoil or children , and over protect them? Average longevity is bases on how many infants live out their first few years; Longevity individually depends on how mature we as adults are. In the U.S. the longevity tables say that we should live to 80 years of age. We both have some six to eights months to go.

    Married for 60 years, it is longer than any of our recent ancestors , or expected by our children, or our in-laws . We do not think our daughters or grand children will live as long as we or our generation has. Most of our school mates are already gone.

    OK, 36 years of vacationing in Puerto Vallarta has something to do with it. We brought our three girls down with us, and two of my grandsons with us when they were just one year old. The oldest is 27 now, but one of the beach venders still remembers him running up and down the beach being chased by the waves.

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