I don’t remember what started it. I think it was when Jessica, my oldest, came home from kindergarten crying. I wasn’t expecting the cliques, clubs and cruelty to start so soon, yet, there I was, listening to my 6 year old explain that she couldn’t play on the slide that day because her name didn’t start with an “M”. I listened to her patiently. I held her tightly. I asked her how she felt, what she did, and what she was going to do tomorrow. We talked about strategies and options. We guessed about why those little girls might have acted that way; “Maybe their mommy’s haven’t taught them how to be nice to everyone”, I offered. “Maybe they’re just mean”, she replied. When Jessica was calm, and all was temporarily well, it happened; “remember how this feels honey, and don’t ever make anyone else feel that way”; it was the first of many life lessons.
I don’t know if I was trying to find the good in the bad, or just filling the silence and hurt with something more positive, but it caught on. When we moved to a new town the summer before Jessica’s second grade, we had hopes for a new start with a new group of classmates. But the life lessons continued. “Maybe those girls have all been friends for a long time, and just don’t know how to meet new kids”. Followed closely with, “remember how this feels and be sure to sit by the next new student at lunch, and smile at her in the hall”. We shared lessons about the lunchroom, recess, parties, ballgames, clothes, sleepovers, attitudes, and friendships.
When Jack started kindergarten a few years later, I listened as Jessica told him about school “…be nice to everyone because it feels bad when kids are mean”. I was so proud of her! All my kiddos have been privy to listening to my views of what’s important in life. When no one wanted to race Max at recess, we talked about how fun it is to win…for the winner, not necessarily for the loser. I questioned him as to whether he would want to keep racing someone if he lost every single time. Max quit begging kids to race him, and even tripped a time or two and lost. “I wanted my friends to feel good mom.” Now, I don’t advocate losing on purpose, or not trying your best, but his action was about the other boy’s feelings, and self-esteem. You can’t argue with that motive!
I will admit that there have been down-sides to my lesson sharing. Sometimes the kids felt like I didn’t support them “You always stick up for the other kid”, they would say, “Can’t you just listen without adding in a lesson. Can’t you just be mad?” I had to explain that it wasn’t about taking sides, it was about growing and learning and looking at situations from different perspectives. Believe it or not, our world isn’t always about us – it’s about all the people with whom we come in contact, it’s about all the things we think and hear and say; it’s about who we are when making tough decisions, it’s about what we do in the face of pressure; and we have to be prepared. My sharing of life lessons is one way of preparing my kids for taking their place in the world. And, I think it’s turned out pretty well.
I’ll admit that I do get upset about events that affect my children. I don’t like when kids are mean and feelings get hurt. I know that oftentimes things are unfair and kids get targeted. I get mad about coaches decisions, rude comments, and mean girls. I dwell on hurtful words uttered in haste, tearful cries of inequality, and unnecessary hateful glares. I understand that teachers sometimes pick on students and classmates cheat and kids lie, but I choose not to share those feelings with my children. I save my complaints and vent to my husband in the privacy of our bedroom. I believe that negativity breeds negativity, and I don’t want to be part of that. I want my kids to hear the proactive side of frustration. I listen to them, love them and accept them. And share life lessons with them…what more could they ask for?