I Want Her to Be Better than Me

I have three daughters, and of course I love them all equally.

That being said, there is one that I butt heads with more, one that seems to cause my temper to flare faster and bigger.

She happens to be the one just like me.

I had an epiphany moment with her awhile back. I realized she became a trigger for what I didn’t like in myself, and when I am having my own moments of weakness, I was taking it out on her.

I am up on a lovely parenting website today named Her View from Home with my post about trying to get my daughter to become a better version of myself, and how in turn, I became a better version of me.

You can read the full post here.

I Want Her to Be a Better Version of Me

“Why do you not put your school things in your backpack immediately after you finish?” I snapped at my daughter after dinner one night. “You have to be more organized!”

I watched the tears well up like puddles in her dark brown eyes that were exact replicas of mine, yet my anger did not subside. It was the same argument every night.

She hurriedly stuffed a torn yellow folder with papers sticking out in every direction in her purple backpack, and then slowly turned to see if I was watching her.

“What?” I exclaimed in my most exasperated mom voice.

“Why do you not put your school things in your backpack immediately after you finish?” I snapped at my daughter after dinner one night. “You have to be more organized!”

I watched the tears well up like puddles in her dark brown eyes that were exact replicas of mine, yet my anger did not subside. It was the same argument every night.

She hurriedly stuffed a torn yellow folder with papers sticking out in every direction in her purple backpack, and then slowly turned to see if I was watching her.

“What?” I exclaimed in my most exasperated mom voice. (To continue reading click here.)

 

How to Raise “Includers”

The cars in the drop-off line moved exceedingly slow one cold morning, and I tried to keep my patience while silently chanting, “Pull forward!”

My daughters and I were almost to the exit spot when I watched two girls hop out of a minivan. In an instant, I saw a pack of Justice-clad tweens swarm one of the passengers while the other stood off to the side pulling her backpack onto tiny shoulders.

“Who are those girls?” I asked.

“They aren’t in my class, but they just really love each other, I guess. They are always hanging on to each other at recess,” one of my kids said.

“Are they nice?” I questioned, eager to hear what they thought.

“Yeah, they are really nice when you are around them. It’s just when they are in a group, they don’t pay much attention to anyone else. Pull up, Mom!” My daughter said this off-handedly, and I could tell she didn’t think much of it.

I watched the gaggle of girls walk up the sidewalk arm-in-arm while the other young student sidled slowly behind them, her head cast downwards.

I did not stop thinking about the incident for the remainder of the day. On one hand, those girls did not do anything wrong but excitedly greet a friend. On the other, they ruined another child’s morning without even trying — without even being aware.

The more I thought about it, the more upset I became.

Why is it so hard to raise nice kids? Kids who are kind, kids who are considerate, kids who include? How do we teach these impressionable minds to be aware of other people?

The answer is obvious. It comes from us. The parents.

How many times do you walk into a room, search out your friends and talk only to them?

Would you rather stick your nose in your iPhone than meet a new person?

How often do you see someone standing off to the side and do not go over and introduce yourself? Even offer a smile?

I’m guilty.

I get it. As an extrovert, I feed off the attention of others. But sometimes I am just tired, too damn tired to strike up a conversation and keep it going with someone I don’t know.

But then I think about that little girl. The one who no one was mean to, but yet was ignored. Not even a simple hello or a nod of acknowledgment. That could be your kid. It could be mine. It may be you, and I know it’s been me.

I am tired of hearing that girls are just mean.

I am exhausted from the excuses for exclusionary behavior.

I am sick of listening to parents saying their kids didn’t do anything. Because that is the problem. They didn’t do anything. We aren’t doing anything.

We are guilty, but too unaware to notice. Too busy to pick up on the signs.

It may be worse when your son or daughter is the bully and picks on other kids, but when we teach our children they can walk through life without noticing other people, without being aware of anyone else — well, we reap what we sow.

As parents, we do it all the time. We talk about avoiding the PTA because of the cliques while the members forget how to welcome new faces into the fray. We attend a moms’ group once and determine the quality of the women based on a single interaction. We take our kids to the park to encourage them to play with other children, yet we sit off by ourselves.

So, how do we make the change?

+ Teach your kids how to meet new people. Introduce yourself to strangers in front of your child. Show them how easy it is, even if it feels awkward. Practice it at home.

+ Create awareness. Point a child out to your son or daughter that is playing alone. Encourage her to ask the child to join in the activity. It’s so easy.

+Institute friend goals and share experiences. Set a family goal for each member to talk with someone they don’t know well each week. At dinner or another time you are all together, discuss what you learned about the new friend. Hold each person accountable for participating.

+ Watch for unintentional exclusionary behavior. This is the crux of the issue. As parents, we often write behavior off because we know it was not intended to be mean; but how are children supposed to learn if we don’t point it out?

I cringe when one of my children says, “I want to sit next to so-and-so” whenever we are at a gathering, as I know it makes other kids feel bad. I told my daughters that each time they create a stink about sitting next to a person, they are telling someone else that she doesn’t want to sit by them. After one particularly trying birthday party, we made a family rule that we feel grateful whenever we have a seat at the table, but during the event they may play with whomever they want (as long as they include everyone). It avoids a lot of drama caused by seat shuffling.

+ Be brave. The biggest fear most of us have for our children is that they will be ignored — on the playground, in the lunchroom, or at an event. So, we social engineer each activity to ensure they only go to places where they have a friend. But what are we really teaching them?

When we encourage our children to experience new activities by themselves, they develop compassion for others who may be in a similar situation down the road. I find the courage  comes with preparing my kids beforehand with conversation starters or a script to help them introduce themselves.

We don’t realize this as parents, but kids have an uncanny ability to make friends if we just get out of the way.

+ Model the person you want your child to become. We all know talk is cheap. If you want your child to be inclusive, be inclusive yourself. Lend a hand to someone you don’t know well. Keep your snarky comments to a minimum. Introduce yourself to the new neighbors. Talk to that mom or dad standing alone at pick up.

The worst thing that could happen is you may have to talk to a spitter for five minutes.

The best could be you made a very lonely person’s day.

It all starts with one brave parent.

Be brave today.

Five Women, One Track

Five women looped around the indoor track.

“Ugh, I wish I wasn’t so tall,” the twenty-something says to herself, pointing her nose down to her iPhone. She is studying photos of herself on Instagram while trying to work off the Mocha Frappuccino she downed from Starbucks on the way home from class. An Adele anthem blares through the headphones, as the girl ticks through photo after photo of her friends and starlets in short dresses with tan legs. The young woman walks like she is on a treadmill, navigating the corners of the small indoor track without ever looking up. She scrolls to a picture that slows her pace. Posted the night before, the picture showcases five of her close friends posing happily at a local restaurant. Above 134 heart-shaped likes, the caption reads “Celebrating Ella’s acceptance into grad school!” She purses her lips and doesn’t recall anyone mentioning the dinner to her. As tears well up in her eyes, she keeps walking around and around with her head looking down.

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The thirties-something mom sprints around the corner breathing heavily. She slows to a walk to start her cool-down. She is exhausted from her workout, and from the one-year-old who woke up three times last night. She quickly checks her watch and then looks over the wall to the gym below, where she sees a group of four and five-year-olds playing Duck Duck Goose with their teacher. She waves at a cute little red head and calculates that she has 15 minutes before she needs to pick Emma up from her class, grab the baby from the gym daycare and then race home to get Charlie off the bus and start dinner. And get that report done for work tomorrow.

She is distracted by a young girl with a lengthy, blond ponytail swishing like a pendulum walking in front of her. She studies the her from behind, admiring her long, lean legs and tiny waist.

“I wish I could get rid of this flab,” she thinks to herself, lightly touching her middle as she passes her by on the track. She notices the younger woman’s cute, matching outfit, and suddenly feels frumpy in her t-shirt and Target yoga pants.

“I could never pull that off, but maybe some new workout clothes will make me feel better,” she thinks to herself. If she could only get some sleep.

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A petite woman jogs slowly around a straightaway, lost in a sea of thought. She is thinking of an argument she had earlier that morning with her teenage daughter about her curfew. It didn’t end well, and her strong-willed child left in a huff without saying goodbye. An Adele ballad comes through her iPod speakers, and she tries to distract herself by listing the errands she needs to accomplish before chauffeuring her kids to their various activities after school.

She sees a young mom in front of her waving to a child in the gym below. She hears squeals of laughter despite the music softly playing through her headphones, and a smile creeps onto her face. The young mother’s face lights up as she mouths the words, “Hi Baby,” and waves her hand. She is beautiful. The moment is beautiful.

She trots past the woman as waves of nostalgia, of simpler times, rush through the forty-something woman. She finds herself suddenly holding back tears. She decides to make her daughter’s favorite spaghetti and meatballs for dinner that night as a peace offering. And maybe let her borrow her new boots, like when she used to try on her shoes when she was four.

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The older woman in jeans and a nice sweater looks both ways before entering the track and starting to walk at a brisk pace. She took an early lunch from her job as an office manager at a doctors’ office to get more steps in on the FitBit her son gave her for Christmas. There never was enough time for exercising before, but the youngest of her four children is getting married later this year, and she wants to look her best, even for fifty-something years old.

A small, well-put-together woman prances by her, breathing steady like she does this regularly. She appears younger, but a second glance reveals laugh lines hidden below expensive, well placed make up. She has her hair styled in a bob that remains perfectly positioned despite her movement. As she sidles into the lane in front of her, the older woman sighs and thinks, “I wish I would have taken better care of myself before now. Maybe a new haircut, maybe one like hers, is what I need. And to drop twenty pounds.”

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The 78-year old woman ambles slowly around the track, one hand on the wall, the other hand holding a cane, a much-needed appendage after suffering a small stroke last year. As she does each weekday, she drives to her local community center to circle the track eleven times, just shy of one mile, as per her doctor’s orders. The event takes approximately an hour and a half to complete end to end, but she doesn’t mind. Her husband passed away three years ago, and her two children and their families live out of state. The routine gives her purpose, something to look forward to each day.

As she strolls around and around, she watches women of all ages, shapes and sizes pass her by. She sees her happiest self, her best self, in each of them, a beautiful living scrapbook of a well-lived life.

When she finishes her walk on the hamster-wheel, she meanders over to the coat rack, taking her time to maneuver first one arm, and then the other, into her coat while leaning on a chair. She smiles at the women who enter and exit the door at a frantic pace, the women with jobs, kids and responsibilities, and marvels at how lovely they all look despite their heavy burdens. Like she once looked, like she once was.

She turns to grab her scarf and checks herself in the mirror. Standing beside her is a beautiful, tall girl with a golden ponytail no more than 21 years old placing a knit cap on her head. In the mirror, they look nothing alike, yet they walk the same track every day.

The reflection startles them both for a moment, as one woman sees her past, and the other her future.

The young girl turns towards the elderly woman half a century her senior, and cheerily says, “Did you have a good walk today?”

“Best one yet,” she replies as she walks away from the track.

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