“Remember to always stand up for what is right, even if your standing alone.”
– Me every single day when dropping my oldest off at school.
Like many other parents on the planet, it’s important to me to raise kids that are kind and caring to those around them. I don’t care if they get the best grades, are all stars in sports or are a part of the popular crowd. I simply want them to make a positive impact on this planet in some way.
Or simply not be jerks-I’m okay with that too.
A few weeks ago I found myself sitting in the waiting room of the dentists office. Austen, my four-year-old, was screaming at the top of her lungs and had been doing so for a good 15 minutes. Everyone in the waiting room was staring at me. Elderly people, secretary staff, even the parents of the baby who was happily toddling about the waiting room while eating her goldfish crackers.
I was so embarrassed, and all I could do was sit there and stare blankly at the clock on the wall. Watching the seconds tick by and pray that the dental assistant would call her name soon.
At that moment I felt
How in the world was I failing this hard? As dramatic as it sounds, at that moment I could feel my heart breaking into a million pieces.
Desperate, anxiety-ridden thoughts spread through my brain-
“Is this it? Is my daughter a ‘mean girl’?
“Is she now going to be branded by her teachers and fellow students as a bully?”
“Is my son going to get kicked out of kindergarten next year for dropping another grown-up word?”
“Will Austen ever just be a happy kid?”
Okay, so I might have a flair for the dramatic, but these are my actual thoughts. And it took everything in me not to cry at that moment. And as I sat there, waiting in that dentist’s office, I thought back to the things I’ve tried to teach my kids and want them to be in life: kindness, generosity, diligence, integrity… and I also thought of my memories with my kids thus far.
Last year at school a kid fell on the playground. Addi cradle the kids arm, offered to walk them to the nurses office, and sat with them until they stopped crying and the swelling started to go down. I got a call from her school secretary that day, informing me my child had the biggest heart of an elementary school kid she had ever seen.
I want my kids to be kind to their peers, to have the heart to care for the poor and needy. And to look to others just as much as they care for themselves. Addi does that, not only for her special-needs sister but also for every single person she meets.
Let me be honest, Austen has a problem with taking other kids things. Just the other day we met another Austin, who also has dravet syndrome, and my child went into his room and stole his tatertot lovey right away. We’re working on it, it’s just taking some time.
But while I say that my child is also generous, especially if she thinks someone is hurting. If you are crying she is the first to give you a hug and hold your hand. If you are sad she will bring you one of her loveys to make you feel better. She has even been known to offer you a sassy (her pacifiers) if she thinks you need a bit of comfort.
Hard work is something everyone wants their children to learn, it’s a key point in being a productive member of society. It was a key thing that my parents taught me, and I am trying hard to teach it to my kids.
So far I see it best in Atlas, if he knows he has to clean his room or finish his chores before he can have screentime, he does the job and he does it right. He has learned, without me having to remind him, that the job has to be done right before it is considered done. And he doesn’t even ask me to check his work until he knows I will approve.
Now, don’t get me wrong. At five-years-old, ‘complete’ does not mean a swept floor, or even organized toy bins. But all the toys are put up and there are not any bits of trash on the floor. His shoes are tidied in his closet, and his bed is made to the best of his ability.
Atlas has a funny habit, he tends to tattle on himself. He will still do something he knows he’s not supposed to (like turn on the water hose to make puddles outside), but within minutes the guilt gets to him and he comes in and confesses to me or his dad.
Integrity is tough, but it is at the core of what I tell my children when I drop them off each day. I want them to put society before themselves. To know what is right or wrong, not just on the surface, but in their souls. To be honest, to have self-control. Atlas is still developing integrity, but there is something inside him that lets him know what he is doing is wrong. And not only does it let him know, but it makes him feel bad and apologetic.
Little by little, block by block, he is building a quality of integrity inside of himself. It’s an amazing thing to see.
Looking through the examples above I can see that I am not failing as a parent. My kids make mistakes, so do I, but each day they are growing and forming into the adults they will one day be. Yes, there are moments in parenting that absolutely suck (if you don’t agree I’ll go out on a ledge and guess you’ve never actually been a parent), but there are also moments of absolute bliss. Moments when I look at my kids and am so proud my heart burst, everyday moments that I would miss if only I blinked. These moments make it all worth it.