Becoming an adult (Update)

by tamarjacobson


A thought came to mind as I hastily try to complete my book:

Children love their mama and papa. Why do we have to hurt children to teach them? If, when they are very young, and they learn to curse by imitation by trying to be "one of the gang of adults they adore," why do we wash their mouth out with soap, put pepper on their tongue, or other such punishment? What’s the difference between pepper on the tongue to pulling out one’s tongue for lying, as they did in ancient times? Why can’t we hold young children close and seriously, earnestly, tell them that we love them and that when they do that it makes us all feel unsafe? Young children need us to approve of and love them. They need us to guide them with kindness and compassion so that they may learn to be humane. Think of those innocent, trusting, yearning, curious, mischievous, needy eyes. Why do we hurt them to teach them? Why? oh why?

As I was driving to work yesterday listening to music, and looking at the glorious colors of autumn leaves passing by along the roadside, I suddenly had this great feeling of being an adult. Released from blaming others, free of anger, I felt master of my domain, in charge of my choices, and aware that my attitude or how I feel is up to me, and only me. No one can make me feel thus, such or any other. I can choose to feel bad, worthless, undeserving, pathetic, a victim. Or, I can choose to feel that I am A-okay, human with frailties, weaknesses, and, yes, strengths too. Indeed, I am responsible for my actions, feelings and thoughts. No one can make me do or feel anything without my permission. And with these choices comes an awesome responsibility. The responsibility to do good, be kind, forgiving, understanding and compassionate to others – just because – we are all human, celebrating the joy and sorrows of humankind – just because – we are all and all are we – we are connected.

And, this very awesome responsibility is what makes me feel like an adult. This very awesome responsibility is what gives meaning and purpose to my life and, thus, makes me feel worthwhile.

It occurs to me that discipline is all about learning about that awesome responsibility. And the boundaries of compassion are the boundaries we must wrap around our youngest children, so that they might learn to feel worthwhile in this way themselves, forever and ever.

Don’t get me wrong. Boundaries of compassion are not wishy-washy or weak. They are firm, serious, awesome. They stop you in your tracks and hold you tight in their embrace. They mean business and they repeat themselves over and over again until you get it! They don’t neglect or ignore you. They are relentless, constant, consistent and strong, and accompany you wherever you go. They show you how deeply we care about you. Compassion is deep, wide, serious, awesome.

And our youngest children (and our inner, youngest children) need buckets, tubs-full, rivers, mountains, of it.


This just in from my friend Mira. Thanks, Mira. It fits perfectly. Right here:

Anything you do from the soulful self will help lighten the burdens of the world.


You have no idea what the smallest word, the tiniest generosity can cause to be set in motion. Be outrageous in forgiving. Be dramatic in reconciling.


Back up and make them as right as you can, then move on. Be off the charts in kindness. In whatever you are called to, strive to be devoted to it in all aspects large and small. Fall short?

Try again.

Mastery is made in increments, not in leaps. Be brave, be fierce, be visionary. Mend the parts of the world that are within your reach. To strive to live this way is the most dramatic gift you can ever give to the world.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes