The Roots of Empathy

I was a jerk. Not to say I'm not still a jerk, but I'm now at least aware of one specific way I was a jerk and  have ceased doing it.

I was that person who was intolerant of babies on the plane. If I so much as heard the pre-cry squawks of our youngest people I'd roll my eyes wayward and think "I hope they're not seated near me." When those parents had the actual misfortune of sitting next to me, there may have been a time when I helpfully offered in the most jerkified voice I could muster: "Have you tried a pacifier?"

And now, as I sit with a full bladder afraid to move a muscle lest I jostle my baby from her blissfully silent sleep, I finally get it.

Families have earned vacations. People of all ages have places to go for all reasons. Loved ones need visiting, regardless of whether I can bear an untamed cry. I am not entitled to the precise conditions that I prefer.

My tiny person, who cannot communicate whether she is hungry or sitting in poo, certainly cannot control her squawks and shrieks. Nor can I.

And then the empathy takes root. It's a shame it took being buckled in that same airplane seat to get it, but I finally do. It seems those experiences that are most mysterious, like parenting, that we have the fewest words to fully describe, are those that are most difficult to find empathy for.

Which leaves me to wonder how much of a jerk I'm being in other ways when I cannot picture myself in that situation.

Am I the lone jerk, or do you relate? What situations do you empathize with now that you're a parent? (Please) Tell me I'm not alone below.

Andrea Lee is a mom who's winging it (and trying not to be a jerk about it).

Andrea Lee is a mom who’s winging it, just like everyone else. 

Tags: Mom, Mommy, Mother, Mothers, parenting, advice, baby, babies, child, Children, Kids, Kid, raising the Y, YMCA, respect, values

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