Loading the dishwasher has never been an inspired task for me, but today it was. As a kid, I was taught to respect the after-dinner dishwasher teachings of Dad-guru. As I’m sure is common amongst many dads, he has a knack for getting all the dishes into the dishwasher in an efficient, precise way so that none will come out dirty. Not surprisingly, his Tetris skills are also waaay up there. I still haven’t mastered it; I’m not allowed to load the dishwasher at his house for that reason (and I’m rarely the one who loads it at mine, for that matter; maybe that’s the problem). My dad used to ALWAYS load cutlery business-end up, handle down. If we loaded it the other way, he’d tell us that cutlery doesn’t get clean that way and we need to do it his way. So that’s how I’ve always done it.

Anyway, this little bit of dishwasher nostalgia got me thinking about respect. Now would be a good time for me to mention that my parents divorced when I was 19 (for reasons entirely unrelated to dishwashing practices). Anyway, imagine my surprise when I visit my dad and his new wife for the first time and he loads the cutlery into the dishwasher handle-end up! Clearly, he had become more flexible in his hitherto obstinate ways, or changed his position on dishwashing completely. I can only reason that this was under the influence of his new wife. And I can only reason that this is because he respects her opinion about dishwasher loading practices. And why does he respect her? Because he loves her. Or, more accurately, he loves her because he respects her.

Try this thought on for size: you cannot love someone without respecting them. Platonic or romantic love, whatever. It doesn’t matter if that person is your child, your partner, your parent, your sibling, your coworker or your dog. And it’s a one-way entailment (oh, linguistics, sneaking into my blog again). You can have respect without love, but I just don’t believe there is such thing as love without respect. Lust, of course, yes. And that can get people into trouble sometimes if they’re not aware of it. But not love. I’m no therapist or anything, but I think it’s pretty obvious that any loving relationship is built on a foundation of respect that is so important for longevity. Respect allows us to have interesting discussions with diverging viewpoints, and it allows us to give each other space when those discussions go sideways! Respect is the linchpin that ensures that the intimacy in our relationships has staying power, because it keeps us curious about each other’s lives.

Empathy, then, is the key to helping us respect one another. (Sheesh, so many virtues in this blog post. It’s like a labyrinth of good values.) ‘Cause when we honestly put ourselves in the shoes of another person, it’s easier to see where their thoughts/feelings/opinions are coming from and then we can start a conversation, rather than just judge their experience.

And how does this all relate to pregnancy, birth, and/or taking care of babies? Um, excuse me, how does it not?! Birth is our first experience of true love and, not to get too deep here or anything, but it’s pretty much the genesis of, like, everything. (I’m aware that I sound like I just ate some special Saltspring Island brownies or something. I promise I didn’t). I like to think that most of us came into the world in some form or fashion surrounded by love. And our mother’s love is supported by the respect she has for many things, including but not limited to: the power of her own body and ability to grow life, give birth (regardless of the type of birth), and provide nutrition for her baby, her respect for her partner, and her respect of the miracle of life. That love also comes from our mother’s partner, if she has one, which is supported by his/her respect for Mum and what she went through to bring us into being, and respect for their bond. And then of course our extended family, friends who support our family, and all the different reasons they respect our tiny little baby selves and the people who made us.

So, I think the take-away I’m trying to communicate here in a rather round-about way, is that if we want to bring more love into our lives on a smaller level (and improve the world on a larger level), we have to start with respecting one another. And if we can work more on respecting the needs of mothers, we’re going to go far.