I have finally figured out why we have had such terrible political gridlock, with the art of the compromise having been completely lost, or, if not lost, forsaken. Families aren’t having enough kids.
Whoa, you say, but let me explain. I come from a family of eight – two parents, six kids. When you come from a family of eight, you have to learn the art of compromise. If you are lucky enough to be born in the middle of that pack, you’d better learn it pretty damn quick. It is the only way to survive, much less prosper.
As one of six, you learn early on that not everything is going to go your way. In fact, a good bit of the time things are going to go in the opposite direction. What you also learn – a most valuable lesson – is that it does no good to “piss and moan” about it, as my father used to say. You learn not to whine, ‘cause nobody likes a whiner. When things don’t go your way, you buck up and take it. Because being stubborn and whining will only get you teased, or ignored, or leave you nursing a nasty “Indian burn.” (I do beg the forgiveness of all Native Americans for the use of that term, but those things hurt.)
As part of a loving six, eight including Mom and Daddy, what you learn about “compromise” is not only how to do it, but the benefits of doing it. If you wanted to go for a Sunday picnic at the river bottom and a sibling preferred a visit to a nearby battlefield, and the compromise was a picnic at a local Civil War monument, you both won rather than one of you losing. You got the basket of wonderful picnic food and a little lesson on the Civil War and why that monument was there in the first place. You see, not everything is a zero sum game.
The give and the take of familial compromise helps to build strong character. I could agree not to mess with an older sister’s lipstick if she agreed to slap some on a nine-year-old me every now and then. Nothing wrong with that and a lot right with it. Learning to compromise has the added benefit of encouraging empathy – something we seem to be in short supply of these days. I could come to understand why it upset my sister when I ruined a lipstick of hers and she could come to understand just how much it meant to me when she gave me a smidgen of her attention. We both came out happier and wiser. We compromised and reached a desirable end: her lipstick stayed intact in its tube and I got to look in her eyes as her smile told she was glad that I was her sister.