It’s no secret that we are in the midst of a crisis in America. The racial divide is difficult to navigate as a parent, a college instructor, and just as a citizen. I believe that we need to start to have honest and serious conversations with ourselves before true change can occur. Continue reading
My history met its future on August 19, 1990. That day it was buried under the reality of moving my things from my parents’ comfy Chicago home to a modest dorm with no air conditioning and a shared payphone in the hallway. Over the next four years, it would come to be a haven for the cultivation of my religious journey, development of my leadership skills, appreciation of lifelong friendships, and protection of my naive and sometimes broken heart.
Simply put, the years from 1990-1994 were epic. They were so epic that I spent the next 18 years of my life trying to create that same type of experience for college students as a college instructor, advisor, administrator, and student services coordinator.
Let’s just title my post-college years as In Search of Epic. I had experienced epic and was now charged with creating epic experiences for others. And while I’m not really sure if any of my students would use that word to describe their experiences, I know that I put in many long days and hard hours to make sure their college years were memorable.
But eventually, the early 90s turned into the late 90s, and the early 2000s. And before we knew it, I became that college employee, still in search of epic for her students, but realizing that what she really wanted to do was impossible. I wanted to teleport myself back to the early 1990s.
Sure, I would watch A Different World reruns in syndication or rent Spike Lee’s School Daze to get my memory fix, but that fix would only last so long. And while I love my life as a 40-something mom of three, I do sometimes wish I could return to the days of old. One weekend not too long ago I did that – with my children – who are now beginning the college search process for themselves.
It was epic. Continue reading
As a mom of bigs, it’s hard to get my kids to talk to me. Sure, they talk when they want to talk, and they often filter what they say. Translation, they tell me what they want me to know, when they want me to know it. There are always two (sometimes three) sides to every story, I eventually hear the 4th side (a side for each person involved, and the 4th side for the truth.). It’s a reality of parenting that I have come to accept over the years.
Even though I make myself available to them, even though I remind myself to listen and not react. There are just some things the adolescent mind does not want to share with parents. This week, The Huffington Post launched a movement to spark conversations between parents and children. Continue reading
You is kind.
You is kind.
Dare I say it again? You. Is. Kind.
This is one of my favorite lines from the book The Help. I love everything about those words, and the accompanying words in the novel of You is Smart and You is Important. Everyone needs to to remember that about themselves daily.
Unless…you aren’t really.
I am not an expert on intelligence and importance in the world, so I don’t feel really qualified to give an indicator of where someone else stands on the scale. Because of that, I’ll let anyone who wants to be smart and important have it. You is smart. You is important.
But truthfully, you is not always kind.
I see it, your friends see it, your teachers see it and experience it probably worse than others. And your siblings….
If asked, could your siblings say you is kind? Is kindness a word the people you share a bathroom with would use to describe you?
As my friend Gillian says when she wants me to dig deeper about my fears, let’s unpack this a bit further.
My kids are very close in age. I don’t think there is a time they remember not having siblings. As the youngest, Jada obviously wouldn’t remember it but when asked, the older two don’t remember the single life (or the twosome life) either.
According to the kids, I am out of touch with sibling dynamics. Or as they say it, sibling code. Because apparently my children believe they can say anything to one another, no matter how rude, insensitive, or inappropriate it is, and its okay because they are siblings. As an only child, that was not my experience.
When they were little, the arguments over toys were expected. I could even mediate the “she said she’s your favorite” discussions. But at the ages of 12, 14, and 15, when the scowling and expressions behind my back resemble that of a fight scene from West Side Story, I have to draw the line. They know better.
And this is what I preach and live and fuss and study and preach some more about every day. I’ve demonstrated kindness, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to allow the children to see me being kind to others and I’ve talked about why kindness matters until I’m blue in the face. We even have a list displayed on the refrigerator of possible random acts of kindness that we could all do for people to make a bigger impact on the world.
However, I’ve found that buying the person’s drink in the Starbuck’s drive through line behind me means nothing if I’m treating the people I say I love like crap.
Last year my phrase was People Over Things. As I can’t seem to remember how that came to be my phrase, I can remember that I wanted to perform more intentional acts of love to the people I love the most. If you need a refresher, I blogged about it here and here.
And this year for Valentine’s Day, I gave each of the kids a set a cards they could hold on to over the next 10-12 months as a reminder of how much I love them. I did this because, well, I’m teaching kindness.
Or so I thought.
Last fall, as a family we committed to performing Random Acts of Kindness. The agreement was that all four of us would do them as often as we could. One of us even wrote a speech about performing Random Acts of Kindness for a school project. That speech won all kinds of praise from teachers and classmates and from me as a proud mom.
When we arrived home from school the very day of the kindness speech, no less than hour after telling the world (or the whole middle school) that we are kind, something no-so-kind happened. The angelic child who was so full of sharing kindness with the world stuck a middle finger up at one sibling and told the other sibling to go to hell not even five minutes later. The reason? Oh, it’s because they were all in the hallway at the same time.
Who does that?
As I witnessed that exchange I realized that I needed to become a participant observer of the habits that occur daily in my house. (Shout out to the sociology classes I took in college.) Y’all, it didn’t get better. It was not an isolated circumstance. I was shocked.
My kids are not kind.
I realized that as a parent my shift and my focus on this whole kindness thing needed to change. Since we’re being honest here, I’m sharing my story, but it’s very possible that yours might need to change as well.
Please, stop teaching your children to perform Random Acts of Kindness. Instead, teach them this:
- Kindness begins at home. I cannot teach my children to be kind to others if we are not kind daily to one another. We have to live kindness in order to be kind.
- Kindness is intentional. Each day I have to remind myself to be kind. It’s a must. If I don’t do it, well, in the midst of laundry and dinner and after-school tutoring and life it’s easy to forget.
- Kindness makes life better for someone else. My kids like to say, “Well I moved the chair for you. Isn’t that enough?” The answer my friends, is “No, it isn’t enough if the chair wasn’t in my way.” Sometimes we think are performing a service or an act because we think it will help a situation. The truth is, it doesn’t always. If your act of kindness doesn’t make like better for someone, it’s null and void.
- Kindness means you are not the center of attention. The intent on being kind is to move the focus to the person receiving the act. It’s not about you.
- Kindness may mean you are temporarily uncomfortable so someone else can be comfortable. Yep.
- Kindness is issuing a sincere apology. You know that children learn very early in life to apologize when they do something wrong. Guess what? We’ve taught them to say sorry almost instinctively, without really thinking about actions and consequences. “Sure I told the guy you have a crush on that you serenade him every night in the shower. Sorry.”
- Kindness is asking to borrow something and returning it timely. For me, this one is pure karma. When I became a teenager, I discovered the wonderment of my mother’s closet and jewelry box. She maintained I could borrow anything I wanted but I needed to 1. Ask first, and 2. Return the item once I finished. I didn’t do any of those. I now have two daughters who have created second homes in my closet. You can have access to my carefully-procured collection of Converse shoes if you follow the two basic rules of ask and return.
- Kindness is saying please and thank you. All the time.
- Kindness is not violent, and does not threaten violence. That is just not acceptable.
- Kindness is doing your chores the right way the first time so the next person doesn’t get stuck with your crap. Namely, your mother.
Kindness says, “I’m glad the universe put us together at this time and in this space.”
And if I could be just a bit more candid here, let’s start practicing these ourselves as adults. It’s not only the children that need to be taught about kindness. I’m just saying.