Last night, I had to insert myself in the middle of a dispute between two of my kiddos. One (who shall remain nameless) stood in the doorway of the restroom. While his little sister did the potty dance in the hallway and begged to be let into the restroom, he slammed the door in her face.
When I heard this, I had that weird dual momma-personality emerge where I was angry at someone for hurting my kid (I felt my momma bear start to come out)- but then I realized that the offender is also my child, so I scaled it back and took a slightly different approach.
I took the offending child into the bedroom and asked, “Why did you do that? Why didn’t you let your sister in the bathroom first?”
His response was, “Because I was there first.”
There was nothing else to it. It all boiled down to the fact that, because he got there first, it was his right to use the bathroom first. Never mind that they raced all the way down the hallway and his legs are stronger than hers (not to mention his bladder is, too.) In his eyes, he had every right to use the bathroom first- and he couldn’t see it any other way.
I was struck by how callous his heart must’ve been as he watched his sister’s face contort in desperation as she pleaded with him to move so she could pee in the toilet. But how could I convey that what he did wasn’t right when he thought it was his right?
And that’s when it struck me.
Yes, my son got to the restroom first. Yes, in a cutthroat world that values personal rights above personal righteousness, he had every right to close the door in her face and stay in the bathroom for as long as he wanted to. It was his right, daggumit!
But was it right?
No. No, it wasn’t right. To look at someone who is weaker and lesser-than, and to be unmoved by their anguished pleas, is not right.
And if that’s true, then how much more un-right is it to do that to someone who can’t even speak up for themselves? For a person with special needs who cannot advocate for their own needs, is it right to devalue them? For an elderly person with memory-impairment, is it right to ignore them? For a child who has not yet been born, is it right to deny their humanity?
It may be our right. But is it right?
The longer this sat on me- long after my son had been corrected and my kids had gone to bed- the more I realized how devolved a society is when they neglect to challenge themselves with a question and, instead, cut off their challenger by stating, “It’s my right.”
My. Mine. Me. Those are not mature words. They’re some of the first we ever learn to say.
“That’s my toy! Mine! Give it to me!”
When we respond with, “But it’s my right,” we have reverted to humankind’s earliest verbal argument.
It takes years of maturity- decades or more- to instead respond with, “Is it right for me to do this?”
That question, instead of challenging the other person’s fortitude- instead of throwing a fit in the middle of the play room to see if the other kid will finally hand over the coveted toy- it requires an inward look- and, yet, an outward look, too.
“See what I want? But see how it conflicts with what that other person needs? Let me set aside my own rights and see to their needs.”
Arguing, “It’s my right!” can be accomplished by two people whose combined ages do not yet equal ten. But asking, “Is it right?” That takes maturity. And, if you have not yet found it, I challenge you to search for it until you do.