“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.” — From the poem, If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking, by Emily Dickinson
Such heart-stirring words . . . inspiring us to live nobly and meaningfully.
And yet, how many of us still read poems like this amid our fast-evolving world? How many young people these days are spending time to learn genuine wisdom that’s been distilled by the ages?
In a sense, these questions are similar to the thoughtful comment of one Redditor to a dad’s viral post on Reddit’s r/AmItheA–hole forum with the title: “AITA for telling my daughter her brother doesn’t have to share with her?”
TurbulentWeek897 wrote, “These comments are so confusing to me, do people not read their kids fables anymore? Or like any story that teaches lessons/morals? Have none of these people read ‘The Little Red Hen?’ It’s a story for toddlers where a hen wants to bake bread so she asks all the farm animals for help in planting and harvesting the wheat, milling the flour, and baking the bread. None of the animals help so she does it all herself, and once she bakes the bread, she doesn’t share with any of the animals who didn’t help her. That’s exactly what’s going on in this story. Brother is working and too tired to do his chores, but sister didn’t want to help her brother. Now, brother doesn’t have to share with her the reward he gets from his work. It’s a really basic lesson that toddlers can understand; I don’t think it’s so complicated that it would completely go over an 11-year-old’s head like people are saying here.”
Let’s take some moments to find out why this commenter felt the need to ask if parents still read fables to their kids. The comment was inspired by a father who wrote about a particular family experience involving their three children.
With the username u/ShareAndShareLike, he related the following: “My oldest recently started a job as a busboy at a local restaurant after school. He frequently comes home with leftover food and shares with us and his siblings. Sunday he worked a longer shift for extra pay because he didn’t have school. He came home and didn’t want to do his Sunday chores. He asked his younger siblings to do his chores for him because he was tired. His younger sister said no, that him being tired wasn’t her problem. His younger brother agreed to do it.”
Now, it’s easy to tell the difference in the attitude of the two younger siblings. You can also imagine how the eldest must have felt upon hearing his sister’s uncaring answer…and how his heart must have soared when his younger brother agreed to do the chores for him. Even though the young girl’s insensitivity and tactlessness must have deeply disappointed him, the eldest must have felt elated by his younger brother’s appreciation and love for him.
What happened next? Their dad continued the post, “Last night, when he came home, he would only share with his younger brother. His younger sister said that wasn’t fair, because she likes the restaurant food. My wife started to tell him to share, but before she could, I told him we need to let the kids work out their own conflicts (as long as everyone is safe) and not get involved.”
This dad said that their oldest son decided not to share his leftover food with his younger sister in the end. And it did upset the 11-year-old girl, to the point of her calling the meal that her parents prepared “gross.” This made OP’s wife accuse him of being a jerk, for allowing their son to “dangle the privileges of his age over his sibling’s heads.”
But OP disagreed. To him, it was a good lesson for their young daughter to learn about how being kind to others reaps its own good reward.
Of course, many of the members of the AITA community agreed with the father and even praised him for good parenting. But there were also debates among commenters about “expecting kindness to be repaid with kindness,” how “it was wrong for the oldest son to use his food to punish his younger sister,” and “how petty the issue was for the oldest son to want to get even.”
But there are more comments that are worth reading and pondering, especially for parents:
From Material-Paint6281: “I’d like to add to this to tell OP that while it’s good of him to teach this lesson, he should make sure the lesson was learnt by the daughter too. Maybe sit down with her and ask her if she has any idea why her brother didn’t share his food with him, and take it from there to say when you do small favours that doesn’t inconvenience you much might result in some reward.”
From xiaozi06: “Or maybe the little brother didn’t expect anything in return and just did his brother a favor cause he’s nice. Maybe he thought ‘big brother is nice and has been sharing his food with us. He just had a long shift; I don’t mind helping him. So yeah, I’ll help him with chores.’ With how little sister’s responded, she could have just said no politely. Her saying ‘it’s not my problem’…well, makes it sound like she doesn’t care at all and was rude.”
From munkymu: “If the older kid can’t expect the younger kids to occasionally do his chores ‘for free,’ then the younger kids can’t expect the older kid to give away his leftovers ‘for free.’ Part of growing up is learning that everything is a trade-off and you can’t have it all. If you choose to benefit yourself to someone else’s detriment, that’s a valid choice, but then those people in turn may choose things that don’t benefit you because you lost their goodwill. That sounds pretty darn fair to me.”
From CesareSmith: “That’s how relationships work. I do favours for friends, and they do favours for me. But if a friend suddenly decides they don’t want to do me favours anymore, then we won’t be friends anymore. Sister is learning that she can’t just take without giving too.”
In the end, it really is about love within a family. The oldest son takes home his leftover food to share with his parents and siblings – that’s love. The younger brother agreed to help his older brother because he clearly loves him and appreciates what he’s been doing for them.
On the other hand, was there love in the younger sister’s response? Especially when she said that her oldest brother’s tiredness was his problem, not hers?
This young girl didn’t seem to realize that she was lacking not only love and empathy, but she also has a disrespectful attitude and an ungrateful heart. Calling the food that her parents prepared “gross” was another warning that she’s developing the wrong moral values.
Since she’s 11 years old, her parents – especially her mom – should strive harder to correct her daughter’s path. Being lenient is not love. In fact, discipline is another expression of love.
This dad’s desire for his daughter to learn her lesson was righteous. So was the older brother’s wanting to teach his younger sister about the importance of love, appreciation, gratitude, and compassion for her to develop better relationships and lead a happier, more meaningful life.