It had been really hot that summer day and the kids were salty and tired. Mom went into the yellow bedroom to settle the two youngest before they went to sleep.
“OK, kiddos, time for bed. I need to remind you about tomorrow—tomorrow is a little different. I am going to fly to Washington, D.C., in the morning and…”
“When do you come home, Mama?” the 8-year-old boy asked urgently.
“I’ll be back at suppertime and your auntie will be with you,” she offered and the kids smiled.
“Whatchagonnado, Mom?” asked the girl. Her eyes were already half-closed after a rigorous afternoon of running under the sprinkler, jumping rope in the driveway, and soaking up sunshine.
Mom gathered and sorted the kids’ stuff from around the room. “I have to talk to some people about a thing with a journal and …”
The boy interrupted, “What’s a journal, Mom?”
Mom sighed, gave up tidying up, and sat next to the kids on the bed.
“Tomorrow I’m going to talk with some people about a magazine. It is a very special magazine and Mama works with them. It is a magazine that helps all the doctors who are learning about becoming doctors to be really good doctors, especially for people with brain diseases and who are dealing with hard things in life. It also helps all the people who teach young doctors how to be really good doctors and it helps all the people who make medicines and who learn about the body and about being healthy to do the best job they can. It helps all the places where doctors work take really, really good care of people who are sick.”
“Say ‘hi’ to them, Mama,” offered the girl. “You should always say ‘hi’ to people and be nice to them. It is good to do that.”
“That’s right, babe. I’ll do that.” Mom smiled.
Pausing, the boy asked, “Mama, you should tell them something.”
Shaking his head and wagging his index finger back and forth like a metronome, he said, “You should tell them something, but they may not have heard of it. No. They may not have heard of it, Mama, because it is a kid rule.”
“Hmm. What’s that, honey?” asked Mom, again feeling pulled to the kids’ clutter and distracted by the next day.
“It is a kid rule called the golden rule,” the boy said with great emphasis.
Mom listened carefully now. She asked, “Oh? The golden rule?”
“Yes, Mama,” the boy said quickly. “The golden rule. It is a kid rule. Mama, tell them the best way to take care of people, esp-e-e-e-e-e-cially someone who is sick, Mama, is to think of the golden rule. It says that you should take care of people how you’d like to be taken care of. You should treat people like you want to be treated too. You have to think of that. That is what the golden rule says, but the grownups at that magazine may not have heard of it … you know, Mama?”
The woman looked at her children, a combined age of 17 years on the planet. The boy was wearing a maroon t-shirt that said, “Will Trade Sister for Videogames” in bold print along with pajama bottoms decorated with aqua blue penguins, the least-matching possibility of his collection. The girl was a riot of freckles and curls. She was now snuggled up with her brother and mom and was nearly asleep on her leopard pillow.
“OK, guys. I’ll do that. I’ll do exactly what you told me. Exactly.” The mom smiled, feeling very hopeful.
Laura Weiss Roberts, M.D., M.A.
Editor-in-Chief, Academic Psychiatry