Day 260/365 The Lessons We Don’t Teach

After I picked the girls up at the bus stop this afternoon, I had to bring them back to work with me. This happens from time to time, and they actually don’t mind it. Afterward I treated them to a dinner out.

{Side story – One night the girls and I had just finished up a meal at a restaurant. On our way out we walked by an older couple who had been seated at a table near us. The woman stopped me and said, “My children never would have behaved so well at a restaurant when they were that age. Well done, you should be very proud.”

I beamed and said, “Thank you!”

Juuuust as we were nearly out of ear shot Beau says to me, “Boy, it’s a good thing she’s never seen how we behave at home!”}

So, back to tonight –

There we were, out at dinner. It really was the highlight of my day – hearing about school, playing tic-tac-toe…just being together in a relaxed way after a long day (which for us had started with some sibling squabbling, a missed bus, and me with a lap full of coffee).

The waitress came over to the table and introduced herself as Sarah. Ruby (8) would always prefer to have me dictate her order. For some reason she gets uncomfortable, but I encouraged her to speak up for herself. She nearly inaudibly, but politely, submitted her requests.

After I paid the bill, I got up and walked a few yards before turning to stop and wait for Ruby, who had gone back to collect her crayons from the table. Beau was ahead of us, needing to use the restroom. I saw our waitress approach the table and begin clearing it. It was then that I heard Ruby, in a sweet, clear voice, say to her  –

“Thank you, Sarah! Have a nice night.”

I have to say I was so proud in that moment. Yes, it was very sweet and polite, but also she had listened to and remembered Sarah’s name. She was grateful for what Sarah had done for us….bringing us our dinner, cleaning it up for us…

Yes, this is Sarah’s job, but...

Ruby appreciated it, and said so. 

Frankly, being kind to others – to everyone – whether they are serving you or you are serving them – to me that is a lesson that will be of more value in my daughters’ lives than anything they may learn at school.

It made me feel really good about how the girls see me (and I hope, their dad) operating in the world. There are lessons they are learning every day that don’t need to be spelled out – in fact, perhaps they are all the more meaningful when they aren’t. 

Day 214/365 How ARE you?

Yesterday afternoon I ducked into a clothing & housewares store for a bit.  I was looking for a dog bed, actually, but I ended up with an armful of clothes to try on. I approached the fitting room and there was a woman monitoring it, her job of course being to make sure no one tries to steal any clothes. She counts the clothes going in, and counts the clothes coming out.

“Hi,” she said, not making eye contact, but motioning for me to extended my arm so she could count the items I was carrying.

“Hi. How are you?” I asked.

“Tired,”she replied, sighing.

“Oh…it’s toward the end of your shift, I hope?” I said, sympathetically.

This seemed to catch her completely off guard…that I cared enough to continue the conversation about how she was doing.

“No, I have five hours to go,” she said.

“Oh…sorry.”

“That’s okay.  I don’t know why I am so tired.”

“Hang in there,” I said.

“I will, thanks.” She smiled.

How many times a day do we ask, or are we asked, “How are you?”

How often is it conveyed with a sense that the answer is of any significance?

This woman had probably exchanged the words, “How are you?” a hundred times already on her shift. Yet it seemed like a complete anomaly that I would actually listen to her response or ask a follow up question.

I am always polite, but I don’t always feel like chatting up strangers. I have always marveled at people who do this consistently. My friend, Monica, and my Uncle Ed come to mind when I think of this quality. Either of them could talk to anyone, anytime…and they have the ability to make people feel good everywhere they go.

They listen, they smile, they sympathize and crack jokes. They know how to connect, how to make people feel good. I admire them so much  for this quality.

I have been trying more and more to exercise this muscle. Don’t misunderstand – I am not a rude person. I have always been polite and kind (I hope), but lately I have been making more of an effort to be more gregarious as I interact with people whom I don’t know (and may very well never cross paths with again) while out in the world.

It feels good...making eye contact and smiling at strangers as they pass, saying “How are you?” in such a way that the other person feels that I actually care to hear the response.

Why this sudden desire to connect?

There is so much negativity in the world right now.

So much pain.

So much divisiveness.

So much “Us vs Them”.

So much stress.

It seems more important than ever to propagate the feeling that we are all connected – that we all belong to one another.

One warm exchange may lead to another, and another…having a ripple effect of warmth and kindness in the world...just when we seem to need it most.

Anyway…it’s worth a try. Right?

Day 199/365 The Best Version of Us

Imagine if people always presented to you the best version of themselves. Imagine that’s who you assumed would arrive.

I’ve been taking an online course through Lifeways North America for caregivers of children from birth through seven years old. I have enjoyed it thoroughly and today’s discussion really impacted me.

We were discussing children who may challenge us, and how we approach these children each day. Rather than bracing for the worst behavior, maybe we could spin things by meeting that child each morning with the assumption that we will be greeted by their best selves.

How much do our expectations about a child’s behavior actually impact their behavior?

Which begged the question – how much of what we see when we interact with other adults is based upon assumptions we have made about how those interactions will go?

I consider myself to be a compassionate person. Whenever I have someone in my life whose behavior (or general demeanor) is unpleasant, I usually wonder – What’s it like to be her/him? I think about how uncomfortable it must be to carry so much stress, anxiety or anger…and it usually softens me to them. That being said, I still may not look forward to interacting with that person.

But…

What if, rather than assuming that a person will behave the same way they always have…and bracing myself for it…

What if I assume that I will be greeted by that person’s highest self? The best possible version of them? What if I carry that assumption instead?

Could my expectation of their behavior actually change their behavior?

Or…

Could it change what I choose to notice about their behavior?

Certainly something to ponder.

 PS – 200 Days! Can you believe I’m still doing this?

Day 129/365 Baring One’s Pincers

Sometimes you start your day with a spring in your step, and the next thing you know you’re falling on your face. Or you settle in to a warm, dark, cozy spot and wind up nearly crushed to death by a giant toe.

Wait, what?

I got a great night sleep last night. This is the girls’ one and only week of summer camp, so I hit the ground ready to get a lot done at work. Only after I dropped them at camp did I realize I had missed an important text. When I tried to remedy the situation I discovered that my phone service had been shut off.

So I was 45 minutes from work (but on my way!) knowing that I would be arriving to some unhappy folks there, and there was nothing I could do it to fix it, because I hadn’t paid my phone bill.

(Except I had paid my phone bill).

I got to work and righted the ship, then spent two hours back and forth with calls between my bank and verizon, because apparently my bank “upgraded” their online banking and in the process they sent my last two cell phone payments to some unknown faction of verizon.

All the while I’m reminding myself that this is not the middle man’s (or in most cases today, the middle-woman’s) fault.

Don’t get mad at her, I thought. It’s not her fault that they have no idea where my $400 went!

I was a telemarketer in my twenties, briefly. I was decent at it, I think because I sounded like a little kid, and people at least waited until I was done with my shbiel about refinancing before they told me to go to hell.  In my opinion, that job was one step up from the payment resolution center at verizon.

At least as a telemarketer, I would sometimes stumble across the random friendly (and most likely super-lonely) cold call recipient who was glad to have someone to talk to at night…even if it was about mortgage rates.

Whereas, the payment resolution center employee is hearing from two types of people – the ones begging to not have their phones turned off even though they can’t pay, and the ones who are pissed because they paid the damn bill and somebody somewhere messed up.

Not a good time.

I honestly think as frustrating as the experience was, it went a lot more smoothly because I was kind…and calm. People want to help you when you’re not blaming them.

Two hours later…and I was moving on with my day!

This evening when we got home, Ruby sweetly went upstairs to get my slippers for me. She stuck her foot into one of them and was pinched on the toe by this thing…

She freaked out of course, and screamed bloody murder. I totally thought she was exaggerating until I saw the thing sticking its head out from my slipper like some prehistoric jack-in-the-box.  Beau yelled, “What the fuuuuu….” and I didn’t even correct her because damn, at least she was (almost) using the expression under worthy circumstances!

“Should we squish it?!” they yelled.

“Nooooo, we will put it outside where it belongs,” I said. “He only pinched your toe because you were about the squish him!”

I am not sure what my point is here, exactly, nor who the beetle is in this analogy – me or the verizon lady.  Both of us ended up having to deal with an unpleasant situation that wasn’t our fault…

I guess sometimes one has to decide whether or not to bare one’s pincers – and then hope if they do that it doesn’t just get them squished.

 

Day 115/365 Doing Our Best

In my line of work as a childcare/preschool Administrator, I work with many parents of young children. As a parent of two myself, I can completely relate to their struggles.

This was not always the case.

Years ago, before I had my own children (which is of course when one possesses the most kick-ass parenting skills) I was a caregiver for a group of toddlers at a local preschool. I can remember having a good laugh one day when my coworkers and I looked in a child’s bag for spare clothing and found nothing but a tutu.  His parents were good natured, and later they had a good laugh along with us, but I know there was a certain amount of judgement on my part.  I’m sure I was thinking something like…

“A tutu?  Really?  That’s all this poor kid has for spare clothes?”  

Because, after all, what is so hard about sending your child to school every day with everything you’re asked to bring?  How hard could this parenting (or this parenting plus career) thing be?

To those parents, and to all parents that I, in my ignorant bliss, judged, I sincerely apologize.

Here’s a quick list of things I thought I’d never do…

Forget my child’s lunchbox at home.

Check.

Send my child with her lunch in a huge cooler because I ordered the pretty flowered lunchboxes too late.

Check.

Arrive at school with no spare clothing for my child (not even a tutu).

Check.

Carry my child into daycare kicking and screaming.

Check.

Carry my child out of daycare kicking and screaming.

Check.

Send the wrong lunch with the wrong child, inadvertently smuggling a peanut butter grenade into a nut free zone.

Check.

Remember the store bought Christmas gifts for my children’s teachers, but misplace the gifts that were actually made for them by my daughters.

Check.

Find aforementioned handmade gifts in February and enthusiastically present them to my daughters to give to their teachers as Valentine’s Day gifts.

Check.

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So many times I have had parents apologize to me in some form or another for something they perceive as a parenting fail.

To them I say –

No parent I know is aiming to fail at parenting. We all love our children. They are our hearts and souls. So, repeat after me…

I am doing my best.

We are all doing our best.

I know, sometimes our best feels shitty. We feel like we have phoned it in, lost the plot, dropped the ball…

We don’t live up to our own expectations.

I have a couple of things to say about that –

First of all, if you care enough to feel like a failure, chances are your kids feel really loved.

Seriously.

Think about it. You obviously love them a whole heck of a lot to be putting so much pressure on yourself. Stop apologizing for being a human being, doing the very hard work of raising other tiny human beings.

Second, if you’re lucky you’ll get to do it all over again tomorrow.

Let’s face it, for many years parenting is kind of like Groundhog Day – you’ll have another opportunity to do things differently tomorrow…and the next day…and the next.

Every day you’ll do the best you can do that day. 

That’s all you can do.

That, and…

Be kind to yourself. It’s contagious.