Impulse Control and the High Holidays

A few months ago, my two-year old son looked up at me very sweetly and said, “Mommy, can I break that lamp?” as he gestured to the corner of the living room.  “No,” I told him, “you cannot break that lamp.” Although a broken-lamp-catastrophe was averted that time around, my son doesn’t usually ask permission before doing most of the crazy things his two-year-old-boy-brain comes up with. He simply acts.

Like the other day, when I needed to go out, and I had just put the baby to bed for the night. I told my kids that I was going to my room to get ready and that they shouldn’t bother their brother. Well, wouldn’t you know, just a few minutes later, my son opened the door to announce. “My baby is crying, Mommy.” “What? Why is he crying?” I asked nervously. (I was already running late.)

“Because I waked him up,” he replied. “What? Why did you wake him up?!” I exclaimed more flustered than ever. “Because I did,” was his response. “Because I did?” I thought. What kind of an explanation is that? What he was really trying to say is, “Because I felt like it.”

It didn’t occur to me until later that when I make mistakes, my excuse is often no better. Like when I feel like being petty, and repeat something negative about someone that I should have kept to myself. Or when I feel like being lazy and don’t snatch the chance to do a mitzvah even as I seeing it passing me by – knowing that it will be gone forever. Or when I don’t feel like holding it together and let my temper get the best of me. What can I say for myself other than, “Because I felt like it”?

And if I know the difference between right and wrong and yet can’t keep myself from doing wrong, am I doing any better than my impulsive toddler? Will I even be as good as him and have the courage to honestly admit to my Parent (in Heaven) all that I’ve done wrong  as I stand before Him on Judgement Day (also known as Rosh Hashannah)?

I hope I will. And if I commit to to being just a little more in control of myself this coming year, then I know I’ll be forgiven, just like I forgave my son, when he, oh wait – gotta run. Sounds like he just had another idea!

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