They won't forget it.
Before my daughter ever entered a classroom on her own, I had a few years of one-on-one time to spend with her. It was an important time to me, even if she was too young to remember it all.
Although my domestic skills are a little on the short list of things I love (laundry and mopping, I’m looking at you), I have a very deep root of nurturing and maternal instinct that runs to my very core. My entire perspective in life is as a mother, which has been surprising to discover since I wasn’t sure I was entirely “mother material” until my mid-late 20s.
What I thought motherhood was, before I became a mother, was someone who stays home, overcooks bland chicken meals in a Crock-Pot, and fusses over the quality of the carpets.
Little did I know that you don’t even have to use a Crock-Pot to cook dinner (don’t shoot me), and you can just get hardwood floors, and move on with life (hardwood floors are the bomb).
What I am constantly fussing over is the quality of the words I leave with my kids.
So often, I found myself saying meaningless things that didn’t make any difference to me, let alone to my kids. Filling an entire afternoon with muttering my to-do list isn’t going to strengthen my energetic 6-year-old or encourage my emerging teenager. The words were empty and just filling space in between chores.
I knew I could do better than this.
The truth is, my kids are not going to grow a deeper character thanks to perfect floors. Granted, it will make life easier for me, no doubt: there are few things that make my stomach drop than walking into a room that I just cleaned, and seeing a spoonful of peanut butter just sitting on the floor (I have an accomplished toddler). Peanut butter on the floor, or on the counter, or on the tablecloth — or anywhere other than on a piece of bread — is frustrating. It is a pain in the neck to clean up, and you can’t just let a knife covered in peanut butter soak in a cup full of soapy water and dissolve, like other dirty dishes. You actually have to scrape it off, or smear it to the point that it finally wipes off the windows, and it is gross and slimy, and it gets completely embedded in your sponge, and I hate cleaning peanut butter off things.
But I (kind of) digress...
Clean rooms might make my life easier, for sure. But when my daughter started going to classes, those clean rooms did nothing for her. When she was faced with a hard math problem, or a word she couldn’t pronounce easily, or a group of kids she didn’t get along with, or when she was even thinking about herself — my words are what I left with her.
This year, I am making a point of leaving words with my kids that actually mean something:
1. I love you.
Life isn’t always easy. I think we can all agree on this point. Whether we struggle with school, with people, with society, or with ourselves, it is guaranteed that we are going to find something that sucks. Body image problems? Sexuality questions? Peer pressure? The list is endless. From acne to cancer to death in the family to hating the color orange, being a kid can be rough.
But if I make a point to tell my kids that I love them, and they truly believe that I do, that stability in their life will make the rough patches a little easier to weather.
My BFF just stabbed me in the back, and I’m failing algebra. But, when I go home, Mom is there. And Mom loves me. So, maybe it’ll be OK.
2. How can we think differently about this?
One of the best ways to teach empathy is to change your perspective. I have found the stories from Humans In NewYork to be the simplest, and most amazing tribute to empathy. How can you humanize a group of people who are strangers to you? By talking to them.
Nine times out of 10, the angriest people are the ones who are hurting the most. The quietest child is the one who has the most to say. The happiest cheerleader is nursing the biggest heartache.
I would love if my kids learned how to see the world through a dynamic perspective, where they immediately think, “How can we see this differently? How can we see this from a bigger viewpoint? How can we get off the cultural bandwagon that is tearing people apart and start talking to each other?"
3. What is something good about the situation/the other person?
I have always told my kids that it is completely OK to be angry. Being angry is not the end of the world. It is not something to be ashamed of.
I remember being a young adult with the fires of Hades churning in my soul every time I listened to some idiot tell me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. WTH is wrong with people? I swear. I can’t go to college because my “role in life” is to stay home? My daughter doesn’t need to study past the 8th grade, because she won’t need the advanced education since “she is destined to be a mom”? Who the hell are these people?
OK, calming down. How did I ever find these guys? Ugh, I remember. That’s another story...
I had the great pleasure, and sincere privilege, of leaving all those ignorant, backwards, gullible assholes far, far behind.
Being angry is OK, because it means you stand for something decent, damnit. But the world isn’t going to be a better place if you slash everyone's tires.
I enjoyed having my say with this group of people, and a few others I have had the pleasure of disagreeing with. And while they believed I was a hedonistic bastard hellbent on raising heretic children (idiots), I will say their kids were actually happy kids, from what I could see. They sincerely loved their families, and they provided their children with food, shelter, and education. They were all law-abiding people who were very friendly to the people around them, and that means something.
So, even though I think they are all complete blithering idiots, they aren’t 100% evil people.
(maybe 98%, though)
4. I’ve got your back.
I want my kids to know, beyond a doubt, that I have their back.
When they are toddlers, they can come to me when they fall down and scrape their knee.
When they are kids, they can come to me when they get in a fight with friends.
When they are teens, they can come to me if they are pregnant.
When they are adults, they can come to me if they discover their sexuality isn’t what they thought.
When they have kids, they can come to me when they are trying to potty-train a 2-year-old who only wants to poop in the bath...
I want my children to grow up to be strong, independent, and empathetic people. But I want them to know that, whatever happens in the entirety of their lives, I will always be their Mom and I will always have their back. Always.
5. What do you think?
I want them to have their own opinions.
I hate Nutella. I may be the only person on earth who hates Nutella, but I own this one. It’s gross, and it ruins toast. There. I said it.
I don’t expect anyone to force me to love Nutella, just because everyone else on the face of the earth loves Nutella.
I don’t expect my kids to follow the crowd, either. The words I want to leave with them are, “What do you think?”
6. I am tired right now. I am going to take a break.
Dude, I have five kids and we homeschool.
I have a five-hour “break” today while the kids are in a homeschooling class with some friends. Originally, I was going to take myself out to lunch. Maybe go to a cafe and read. Take a walk in the park. Go back to bed.
But I have so much laundry and dishes to catch up on, I am going to have to schedule all my “lunch” and “cafe” plans for next week. Let me put it this way: the dishes have piled up so much, I can’t find the coffee pot.
Yeah. It is that bad.
Life is busy in my home, and although I love the organized chaos we live in more than life itself...dude, I need a break once in a while.
And this is important for my kids to see. I am not a robot who can work 23 hours a day, with one hour set aside for passing out. That isn’t a healthy way to live, and I don’t want to give my kids the impression that I think it is “normal.”
I want to show my kids that I need some time by myself. I am tired, and I need a break. This is being a good example to them for what it looks like to be human, and how important it is not only to have a good work ethic, but also how important it is to take a break once in a while.
Time with my kids can go by faster than I would like some days, but I would like my words for them to be inspiring...and hopefully timeless.