Recently I wrote about the wondrous reasoning powers of my 3-year-old — which, far from being ‘Cybele-specific,’ are actually typical of your run of the mill young ‘un.

But what I didn’t delve into was the ethical reasoning prowess of this age group.

Yesterday I had occasion to come to a greater appreciation of it than ever.

There is a hotel we stay at with such frequency that they treat us like royalty (which of course my princesses are but I am not, I don’t think).  Last time we were there, the lot of us Phillipses, the marvelous hotel staff left had in our room to greet us some apples, perched on a green piece of plastic shaped like a leaf.  Estimated cost of the leaf, maybe a penny?

Cybele and I used the leaf later that night when I gave her a bath.  She was deliriously happy when I poured water onto her from it.

So…. I took the leaf home.

Cybele was not a happy camper when I tried to bathe her with it there.

“Daddy, that leaf’s home is the hotel,” she said.

No remonstration in her voice, just matter-of-factness. The joy from the leaf that she derived was inseparable from her experiencing it at the hotel.

But also, she made clear to me, the leaf was the hotel’s property, whether they missed it or not, whether they could care less (and they couldn’t) that I’d spirited it away.

And she of course is right as rain.

And so, when I returned to said hotel last night, I returned toting said leaf. And I sent a picture to Cybele so she could rest assured that all was right with the world. She was happy with her daddy. We’ll soon reunite at the hotel (when I’m done with business travels), and the leaf, and she already is excited.

Thanks to my 3-year-old, I’m turning over a new leaf (pun intended, but seriously so). No more spiriting away things that are not mine, no matter my ‘reasoning’ in doing so.  I of all people should be particularly sensitive to this, given the tragedy I recently wrote about involving my beloved late father and also involving someone I once was close to and even looked up to but who willfully and abhorrently abandoned any semblance of a moral compass for monetary gain. Bottom line: whether you’re stealing millions of dollars in assets that weren’t intended for you, or whether you’re appropriating a one-cent leaf, it’s not yours, so leave it alone.

Thank you precious Cybele. I am a far better person for your presence in my orbit.

Thank you 3-year-olds. We adults are far better people for your existence — those of us who have the privilege to have your presence in our orbits. If we’d only fully open ourselves up to your gifts, including your talents for ethical reasoning, we’d more fully flourish.