This morning was a shit show. Max was singing loudly on purpose just to piss off Evan. Evan was chasing Max just to make him squeal. The noise level was off the charts and my head was pounding by 7am. I said “Brush your teeth” at least seven times and I’m not sure if anyone actually did. Neither of them had packed their backpacks and the clock was rapidly ticking towards Departure Time. Max looked me in the eye and pushed play on my iPhone after I said, “Take out the headphones. You can listen to more music after school.” Evan, with a blanket over his head, jumped out at Molly, scaring the shit out of her, melting her into a puddle of Hold Me Mommy tears. Meanwhile, his library books were nowhere to be found...because no one was looking for them.
After much nagging, voice-raising, and threat-making, I kissed the tops of their heads and shooed them out the door, zipped, packed, and ready for school, more or less on time. I closed the door behind them and, had it not been for the 3-year old standing beside me, I may have added, “Have a great day at school, assholes!”
Kids can be jerks.
I know this is true because I have them. My friends do, too, and they agree. My kids are good kids. They are kind to their friends, they are respectful toward their teachers, they are hard-workers. But still, they’re kids. They don’t always listen, they aren’t always kind to their siblings, and they don’t always have a respectful tone or attitude with us, their parents. I know that we’re lucky that our kids save their most obnoxious behavior for us, but it can be exhausting and disheartening to see the worst of my kids’ behaviors.
Sam and I have had a lot of conversations lately about the People we are rearing. The days of night-waking, potty-training, and toddler tantrums may be (mostly) over, but as our Little Kids morph into Bigger Kids, this parenting gig is getting harder. People tried to tell me this when I would struggle with weaning or nap schedules: Little kids, little problems; Big kids, big problems. They would say. I would roll my eyes and ignore them because, in the moment, getting my little baby to sleep was a Big Problem.
But I get it now. My concerns for my kids are no longer about this moment right now...they’re Big Picture concerns: Will my children grow up to be compassionate and positive contributors to their communities? Will my children be Good People?
When I see the way my kids can argue and fight with each other, when I hear the way they can speak to me and Sam, when I notice the selective hearing they seem to possess, it doesn’t always feel like we’re doing a good enough job as their parents.
A few hours after our shit show of a morning (and after a few phone conversations with Sam about how we can Do Mornings Better), a friend of mine wrote on my Facebook wall.
“Today, I was volunteering in art class. Addie couldn’t see the teacher and your sweet, sweet Max gently took her by the shoulder and gave her his spot. Inclusion at its finest! I may just never stop crying these tears of joy!”
Addie is in Max’s kindergarten class. Addie has Down’s Syndrome. Addie’s mom had Big hopes and dreams before sending her daughter to kindergarten: That Addie would be included as one of the group in her classroom. That Addie would make friends. That children would be kind to Addie. In short, Addie’s mom had the same hopes and dreams that all parents have before sending their kids out into the world.
Today, she witnessed her dreams coming true.
Today, she shared with me a beautiful story about the gentle, kind nature of my child. Today, she publicly complimented my child on a behavior I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. She didn’t know how hellish our morning had been. She didn’t know how my husband and I had been saying to each other, just moments before, “What the hell is wrong with our kids? Why can’t they just be helpful in the mornings? Why can’t they just Be Nice?!”
It’s because they’re kids. They’re not perfect. They’re certainly not perfect in the safety and comfort of their own home. But when it counts, they are Good People. I’m so thankful that my friend thought to remind me of what I knew deep down in my heart to be true.
That Facebook post struck a nerve with me; a proud, Mama Bear nerve. I watched the number of Likes the post received climb. Good News travels fast and my heart swelled because my kid was at the center of that Good News. It’s a feeling I want to share with other parents.
Spreading Good News: This should be our new Parenting Trend.
When I see a child do something nice for someone else, when a child is polite and respectful in my home, when I see a kid kick ass at a performance or a classroom project while I’m in school volunteering, when I know a mom has been struggling with her child’s attitude and he smiles at me and says “Hi, Mrs. Harris!” I’m going to tell her.
My compliments may not always be public, they may not always be on Facebook, but they will be when it’s appropriate. To hell with public-shaming, let’s start public-praising. I want to be a spreader of Good News. I want to remind parents who may have the same self-defeating thoughts that I have that they are doing a good job, that their kids are Good People.
There’s a parenting article that has been circulating among my moms’ groups lately. It’s called If My Kid is Being An Asshole, I Want You To Tell Me and I’m sure you’ve read it. If you haven’t, you should because it’s perfect. It’s perfect because it acknowledges the likelihood that at some point, my friends (or their kids) will see my kids acting in a jerky, reckless, or dangerous way. It’s perfect because it acknowledges that none of us is perfect and we parents need to stick together...with no judgement, only support.
I want you to tell me if my kid is acting like an asshole. I also want you to tell me when my kid shows you his Best. It may be a side of him I don’t always get to see...even though my Mama Heart knows that it’s there.
Look for the positive. When you find it, share it.