By 7AM, I’ve already corrected one of my three kids at least five times.
Did you make your bed?
Are your teeth brushed? Are you sure? DON’T MAKE ME CHECK TO SEE IF YOUR TOOTHBRUSH IS WET. No, dry toothbrushing is not acceptable practice.
Yes, you have to wear socks with your sneakers. That’s the same thing I told you yesterday. No, not one sock. TWO SOCKS.
Is your homework packed? Your lunch? Your snack? Your brain?
So then it’s like 7:10 and I already need another pot of coffee because I am exhausted turning these little people into responsible humans. And so, of course it’s hard to remember that life isn’t just about manners and following directions and basic hygiene. I appreciate these things in my fellow humans but what I really love are kind and gracious and funny people, who don’t take life too seriously and also remember to love someone besides themselves. So, here’s a few things I’m working on remembering to teach my kids:
1. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
If you need me to explain this, you are taking yourself too seriously.
2. When in doubt, be goofy.
Sometimes I kid myself by pretending I can do a pullup, and I hang from this bar in the closet doorway, and sometimes I sort of get my body moving, and every muscle is tense trying to work COMPLETELY AGAINST gravity, and then someone or something makes me laugh and I lose every ounce of strength. Because laughter is the deactivator of tension. You cannot hold your body tense and stressed while you are laughing. And the best way to teach goofy is to be goofy. Dance in the kitchen in the most embarrassing way possible. Attempt a handstand in the yard. Try to get your ten-year-old to give you a piggyback. It works every time. (PS. do not try to teach your kids to lighten up by yelling at them, “LIGHTEN UP.” This took me at least 100 times to learn, but 100% of the time it DOESN’T WORK. You can only teach goofy in vivo.)
3. You are not the sum of your achievements.
I read this great article about kids who are high achievers, who end up being good at lots of things–school, friends, sports. The article said that most of these kids end up being emotional grenades because they believe that the best thing about them is that they are smart and capable and then one day in college with a 10 page paper due in a freshman writing seminar on the policies of the Gulf War Conflict and they break out in a cold sweat BECAUSE THIS IS MOST CERTAINLY WHEN THEY WILL FAIL and then they freak out and digress into preschoolers. Not that I know that from first person experience, I’ve just heard about it…. So. It’s great when they get A’s on their report cards and win the baseball game and win the science fair and win the dance contest…but it’s more important that they know what it means to have character. My favorite book of all time on this (ok disclaimer it’s the only parenting book I ever read) but it helps you find the words to reward their character growth, not just achievements. It helps you find the way to reiterate to their kid things like, “hey, when you held the door to that lady, that was kind. I see that you are becoming a person who values kindness and I love that in you.” YES. We all need more of this.
4. Life is not a competition.
“Just because you lost doesn’t mean you are a loser.” I just heard this on a great NPR/TED Talks podcast about success. Our culture has a hard time with this one. We love winners and we love winning, in all ways. We love success and we are wired for it, but what does success mean when you are eight years old and still trying to tie your shoes? Yeah, that’s right. They have no idea what success is UNLESS YOU TELL THEM. So don’t let the world tell them, because then it will most certainly be about what you can win. We all need to tighten up our definition of success….I try to start with some version of loving God and loving others, but you probably need to help your kids know what that looks like and then reward them when they do it. Also, I need to try the same thing with my husband, who can make almost anything in the whole world into a competition. (Don’t challenge him to anything, anytime. He has the steel will and stealth power of a ninja when it comes to competition).
5. God cares about your heart so much.
Today one of my sweeties told me that they prayed to God to help them win something. (see point #3 and #4, we are works in progress FOR SURE). It led us to a great, gentle conversation about why God might answer that prayer and why he might not. I told this little one that sometimes God’s knowledge is too heavy for us, and just like there are things that the kids can’t carry until they are bigger, there are things that God understands that we can’t carry. Which means sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Sometimes God uses our success for his glory and sometimes he holds us back for our protection. Because more than success or blue skies and easy sailing, God cares about our hearts so much. And through the good, the bad, the challenges and the unexpected turns, He is after our heart and his heart is for us to know him, to love him, to humble ourselves to him. (Disclaimer: I also need to teach myself this every single day).
That’s my list, got any to add?