from: The Girl Who Drank the Moon
written by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin Young Readers, 2016
I met someone recently who told me her 6-year-old grandson’s definition of apathy: I don’t know and I don’t care. I said, "Astute! Concise! Profound!"
Apathy and responsibility are opposites.
As responsible people, we know about our world and we care, too. But knowing and caring are only two legs of responsibility's triangle. Without the third leg, doing, balance is tricky to say the least. The doing leg is the leg I have the most trouble with. Doing puts me “out there,” makes me accountable, requires more than lip service.
But what I really hear when I think about responsibility is my mom’s voice reminding me (over and over): First you do what you have to do and then you do what you want to do. It sounded a little sing-songy in my 5-year-old brain. It sounded especially sing-songy in my 15-year-old brain, even my 35-year-old brain didn’t like it much.
I was so bothered by that nagging refrain, I promised myself I would NEVER use it on my own kids. I think I may have re-phrased, but I kept my promise, sort of. Because, now at an age that I used to think of as old, I know my mom gave me the best advise anyone could give anyone else any time. Now it makes sense.
It has to do with setting priorities. It has to do with nurturing the next generation. It has to do with being responsible.
It’s the difference between being child-like and childish. The difference between being confident and arrogant. The difference between being helpful and intrusive.
My mom took her responsibilities seriously. She taught me how to set priorities, how to stay child-like, how to be helpful. I’m still working on the confidence thing.
Her sing-song phrase sounds like in harmony, now. Mom and I are singing together and it sounds pretty good to my inner ear.