You Don’t Have to Understand


Compassion doesn’t always come from knowledge.

In a strange and irrelevant confluence of events, including cats and weird architecture from the 70s, our daughters are engaged in a war of the wills.

It’s unclear at this point who will win, they are both extending their fiercest efforts. Yelling. Door slamming. Exaggerated sighing. Passive aggressive “kindness.” Texting Mom in the wee hours with important updates on how they’re feeling.

It’s been fantastic.

The stakes are high: Middle wants Eldest to Close Her Bedroom Door after she passes through it. (In order for Eldest to enter her own room, she must pass through Middle’s.)

Closing a door is not hard, for adults. For anyone under 18, however, closing a door takes a Herculean effort requiring both attention and finesse so as to first remember to close the door and to gently pull the door shut rather than shattering the house foundations with a mighty yank.

Who of us doesn’t remember a parent yelling, “Close the door!” When we were kids, we were in too much of a hurry to care about mundane old people things like closed doors. Or this fine gem: “Don’t slam the door!” Make up your mind, Pops. It’s closed. Now you care how I close it?

And so. We are in the throes of Doorgate.

With coffee in hand, I went before the High Throne of Eldest seeking an audience.

“Honey, look. It’s important to her. Ok? Can you make an effort? For her? ”

“But I don’t understand it!”

And we arrived at the crux of human community. Right here amidst the laundry and the clutter.

And I was thankful, because for once, as a mom, I had the answer! I knew this one! Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! I have this wisdom!

“Ah.” I said, relief and understanding washing over me like a warm embrace. It could have been the coffee. “You don’t have to understand.

You don’t have to understand:

Why she wants the door closed
Why he makes “dumb” video game decisions
Why she likes the knives pointing down in the dishwasher
Why he likes collecting hats
Why it hurt her feelings

Sometimes, I think that people who have walked in my shoes are better able to empathize. Experience bears that out; but I wonder if compassion must always be borne of knowledge.

Compassion comes from that sometimes small place inside us that urges us, pushes us, to do right, to care, even when we don’t understand, or we’re too busy or we think it’s stupid. Understanding is fantastic, but/and it’s not essential.