Philosophy, Families, and Kindness

 

Last week, while reading a history book with my son, we saw a sidebar about Confucius stating that he advocated family loyalty and kindness.

This confused my son. He asked about unkindness within families.

I debated what to say.ThoughtBubble

I don’t put rose-colored glasses on my children. The world is not pink.

However, there is only so much information they need. When one of my boys asks me something, there is a split second where my mind quickly determines how to answer by factoring in his chronological age, his emotional age, and his sensitivity. I go from there.

So, with my 8-yr-old, I simply said, “Some families treat each other badly. They are…not very nice to each other.”

To which he cried and said, “Like if you don’t get a birthday card from your parents? Because that would be awful. Cards are a wish for good things and, I don’t know, it means ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m thinking of you’.”

I stared.

He continued, “So ‘unkind’ like if your father never wrote you a card?”

Yes. Just like that.

Can I bottle this innocent beauty? Just for a few more years…

 

Handwritten Notes

A typical note for my kids.

If, for my son, not ever receiving a handwritten note is what it means for family to be cruel,
I’m not going to correct him. Not right now.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

The Places You’ll Go

 

I just returned from vacation during which I witnessed a lot of ugliness.

With all the talk about compassion saturating the blogosphere, I’m still wondering what world my children will live in. I don’t know if anything has changed. ThoughtBubble

I hope much has changed. I hope people who are compassionate have discovered they are not alone. I hope people who are not compassionate read something that helps them act with more kindness.

When I think of compassion, I think of all living things. Of all parts of the world. Of my friends and family.

And, yes, especially my own children.

Although my thoughts reach across the globe, I live here. With my children. While they are no more or less deserving of compassion than others, they are closer to me in all ways. (Also, I am a mother. Our lot can be a wildly protective one.)

As we celebrate Read Across America today, I look at my children’s copies of Oh, the Places You’ll Go. This book describes the world as wonderful and confusing and beautiful and scary. This is all true. But if there is more compassion, I will worry less about what places my children will go.

 

The Places You'll Go

Dr. Seuss Day

 

There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Defining Compassion vs. Compassion in Action

 

I am inspired by all the bloggers who posted in support of compassion. It was fascinating to see the different ideas, anecdotes, and topics people wrote about. ThoughtBubble

My #1000speak post, about an experience I had a year ago, reminded me how many times I’ve brought my children to homeless shelters, safehouses, schools, and libraries to donate clothing, toiletries, and books. What, if anything, had they learned from this?

I decided to ask them what compassion meant.

Neither one of them could answer me. They shifted in their seats and looked at the wall and floor with their I-don’t-know-the-answer faces.

Gah! Really? “Think about it.”

My 10-yr-old said, “Uh…love?”

My 8-yr-old said, “Friendship. I think it’s how you feel about a friend.”

Hmm.

I asked them for an example of something compassionate.

My 10-yr-old said, “Helping someone with a math problem if they can’t do it.”

My 8-yr-old answered, “Giving someone a stuffed animal if they’re sick so they feel better.”

They started sharing ideas: donating to homeless shelters, hugging someone if they’re sad, bringing an animal to the vet if it’s hurt…

Both my kids struggled to define the word compassion, but they know how to be compassionate people.

 

Rainbow

You don’t need to be able to define compassion to be compassionate.

 

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Sugar Mountains

 

Yesterday, I got a text at 8 AM.

It said:

Do you remember making me a sugar mountain in college for my twentieth birthday? Doesn’t seem that long ago.

To which I responded:

Oh my gosh! I forgot about that!

I didn’t. I loved it. It’s a very clear memory.

I can’t believe your baby will be twenty today.

I know. I’m going to make him a sugar mountain.

This is making me cry.

Weird what things in life end up special memories. A paper cone with sugar packets stuck on it is forever in my memory and now (maybe) his. See what you did? You started a tradition. I’ll never forget that. Thank you.

I did, indeed, tape a piece of paper together to make a cone and staple sugar packets on it. Why? Because you can’t be twenty on sugar mountain. (Also, we loved Neil Young.) My best friend was leaving sugar mountain and I wasn’t. I wanted her to have a place she could return to if she wanted. That sculpture stayed up in our dorm room like a trophy for months.

I also unintentionally started a tradition. Yesterday, twenty-three years later, she made a sugar mountain for her son.

It isn’t always the big things (weddings, funerals, et al.) that make memories. You never know what will stay with someone, what will become a cherished memory. Sometimes it’s the smallest acts, the simple stapling of sugar packets to a paper cone.

Her last text message said:

Your boys are still there. I’ll remember to send them sugar mountains.

 

My random thoughts in 200 words or less.
(Excluding the texts—which I’m not counting. Yes, I’m cheating.)

 

To Thine Own Self Be True

 

“The most important thing is to always be true to what we like.”

Author J.D. Estrada said this to me. We were chatting on Twitter about book genres and reading whatever you want regardless of what others say. This statement stuck with me for two reasons.ThoughtBubble

  1. It can be applied to many situations.
  1. Most of the time you see a quote beginning with “We should always be true to…”, you expect it to end with “who we are”. But he said “what we like”. I find that interesting.

Being true to yourself is crucial and something we tell our children to do. But how often do we ask them what they like and if they stay true to that? I understand this could be considered part of being true to who you are but the words are not the same. They’re more specific and have an entirely different focus.

“Be true to who you are” is a bit abstract for children. Asking them what they like gets you an answer. Asking them if they care what other people think of those things gets you an answer. This leads to a conversation—a way to engage them in a discussion of being true to who they are using concrete examples of what they like.

 

Be True to What You Like

Both my boys (8 and 10 years old) still love their picture books.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Mother of the Year Award Goes To…

 

I’ve been tagged by Irene Waters to tell some secrets. I don’t gossip so these will be about me. And since I’ve already written a things-you-don’t-know-about-me post last year, I’m going to make this a confessions post. Because people love to read confessions. They do.

So, as mother of the year, I’ll start with the fact that I have never baked cookies with my children. In fact, I have never baked anything with them. My poor little boys. I’ve never let them roll dough with that neat wooden rolling thingy with the handles on the side or squish dough with their hands. Do I think they’ll make a mess? Is my OCD acting up imagining flour on the floor and egg yolks on the counter? Um. Maybe. The point is, I’ve never baked anything that wasn’t from an Easy-Bake Oven.

Since we’re on food and kitchens and stoves and stuff, I’ll let you all know another secret that helped me win this prestigious award: I don’t cook meals for my children. My children do eat and I do spend a lot of time in the kitchen but I’m usually cleaning, not cooking. It would be more accurate to say that I prepare meals. You know, washing fruit, cutting fruit, opening jars of peanut butter, containers of yogurt, and boxes of graham crackers, making sandwiches, microwaving, that sort of thing. I have no excuse. Well, I have lots of excuses but I won’t bore you with them. You’re welcome. I will say that I cooked more for my cat (he loved salmon and rice the best) than I have for my kids.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Let’s scoot out of the kitchen and head over to the living room where my family loves playing games—board games, cards, dice, whatever. After a game, I trick my kids into counting my points claiming it’s a “teaching moment”. In reality, at six and eight years old, my kids counted faster (and more accurately) than I did. Sometimes I won, though, so there’s that.

Speaking of winning… Actually this has nothing to do with winning. It’s about sharing. I have sharing issues. I like books. I love books. My books. My precious… And I read a lot of MG and YA novels so, sometimes, my children ask to *gulp* borrow my books. I don’t let my children read my books. My younger son could read a book three times and it would look like we just bought it so I’m a little more likely to let him borrow. My older son will take a beautiful copy of Harry Potter and return it with torn pages, the spine broken in seven places, and goodness-knows-what (I don’t want to know) smeared on the front cover. The back cover may or may not still be there. If it’s a special book, one that belonged to my grandmother or that I wrote a message in for them as babies, I make them lend the book from the library—the exact one that is already right here in my hot little hands.

Moving on to the last, but certainly not least, secret that I believe put me over the top. I can’t stand the sound of my children laughing. After a day of bickering, complaining, whining, and arguing, I’m done. Also, my boys are fond of making random noises for some reason. Just…noises. All. Day. Long. Around four in the afternoon, I’m ready for some giant, fluffy earmuffs. Then it is dinner and bedtime. At this point, giggles, guffaws, and laughter simply sound like more noise. And for some reason, kids feel the need to laugh loudly. Just more noise to add to the echoes of all the other noise bouncing around my skull and making me want to run screaming (very quietly) from the house.

And those are five reasons I won this award. That I gave to myself. Now. I will mention five other people here who will, if you’re lucky, spill some secrets of their own. But, whether they do or not, you should check them out. Because they’re awesome.

To the five marvelous bloggy people I am tagging: time to tell some secrets. Or not. I am giving you a compliment, not the flu.

 

Georgia Bell

Author of Unbound, the first book in her YA trilogy All Good Things. Amazing flasher (writer of amazing flash fiction—because flashing might be chilly in Canada). Wine-drinker. Scotch-drinker. Chocolate-eater. Doppelgänger with a damn good sense of humor. Or is it humour?

Robin Flanigan

Author, blogger, award-winning freelance writer. Yoga-loving inspiration. (I know you cringed at my aforementioned eating habits but do remember I’m with you on the meditation, yoga, balance, mindfulness. I am but a young grasshopper. Old-ish grasshopper.)

Amy Good

Author of Rooted. Creator of Friday Phrases (microfiction on Twitter), Story Bandit (writing dares), co-creator of Rewriting MarySue, how-does-she-do-it-all beauteous red-haired remarkable woman.

Sherri Matthews

Blogger, memoirist, poet, photographer, robin-inspired lover-of-life and one of the loveliest ladies you eva shall meet. Truly.

Loni Townsend

Author of Thanmir War and newly-released fantasy This World Bites, the first book in her Cera Chronicles series.
Funny, witty, wonderful gal. Loni is made of awesome. That is all.

 

Mommy Math

 

Mommy math goes something like this:
(Stick with me. Word problems are wicked fun.)

Question 1: Five appointments need to be made. There is one person making these appointments and one week in which to do it. How many hours are spent trying to find a pen, some scrap paper, and the phone? ThoughtBubble

Did you get it? Awesome. Here’s another one. This time it’s a multiple choice:

Question 2: There are seven days in one week. Three weeks have gone by. How many days is that? (Oh, you’re good.) Fifteen more appointments need to be made, including the five that were not made three weeks ago. Where is the person who was supposed to make these appointments?

A) Helping someone else find his shoes
B) Blowing someone else’s nose
C) Answering work emails
D) Rocking in a corner
E) All of the above

When answering a multiple choice question, it is a fallacy that, should you not know the answer, choose C. What you should do, in a case like this especially, is back away slowly. You never know when someone might spring from a corner.

 

I’m a wee bit overwhelmed at the moment.
And not very good at math.

Sarah Brentyn Parenting Posts

© Peter Le Pard

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Old Lesson for a New Year

 

I feel like I should write some awe-inspiring, thought-provoking, poetic post that recaps my past year or invites my new year.

I’m going to go ahead and not do that.

I don’t need that kind of pressure. And, honestly, I just don’t want to. But here’s something I would like to share.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year. I’ve had wonderful days. I’ve had horrible days. *yawn* Who hasn’t? I’ve also learned a lot from my experiences throughout the year.

Of all the things I’ve learned, however, the greatest was unintentional. That’s my favorite kind.

My 8-yr-old son, who is beautiful and kind, thoughtful and sensitive, smart and funny, is also a bit quirky. He struggles. He has difficulties. Still, he is all of those things I mentioned. He is also strong. Not physically. It’s his inner strength that amazes me. And, somehow, he doesn’t use that strength to shield himself or block out the world.

To others, he may seem weak or unsure or odd or insecure but he is not. He is the strongest person I know.

I will go into the New Year holding a picture in my mind and attempting to keep its message with me. Because, at forty-one years old, I needed to be taught by my 8-yr-old son.

This shirt is the lesson. The fact that my son picked this out himself when he was seven is the lesson. That he wears it with confidence is the lesson. He is my lesson.

 

I am who I am tshirt

 

 

Family Photos: What’s Happening Here?

 

Flipping through our phones, my husband and I look at pictures. There are soccer games, piano recitals, and little boys bundled up in winter jackets building a snowman together. There are adoring parents (that would be us) smiling at the camera. ThoughtBubble

“Aww, how cute! The one of the kids at that holiday festival.”

“Look! I love this one of us at The Nutcracker.”

“Oh, yeah,” we cringe. “That was the time when…”

We have our arms around each other. All of us are smiling. I am beaming. I will not excuse my clichéd word choice here because I am simply beaming, people. My happiness is bursting through the pixels.

Yet I know that I had just barked at one of my boys after he had a meltdown and turned Hulk on the other one after he wandered away from us into a crowd of people (again). And yet there I am all smiles.

Especially during the holidays, when we’re snapping pictures more often, I’m reminded of this.

Sometimes, what we see in a photograph is the honest, beautiful truth. But other times, it is a lucky snapshot of a moment we wish were true.

That’s life – beauty and bullshit.

 

The reality of the family behind the picture isn’t always pretty. Then again, sometimes it’s beautiful.

 

Snowman

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Refusing to Help My Children

 

I write a lot about pushing my kids—about when to step back and let them do things for themselves.

That’s because I am either pushing them, feel like I should push them, wonder if I should have pushed them, or regret pushing them. It’s dizzying, I know.

This is one of the worst parts of parenting. Should I give in and make things easier for my child or should I push him past his comfort zone? I must decide. And I don’t often have a lot of time in these situations. In the moment, I just want to help him. When do I stop “helping”?

I have to make these decisions too often.

It hurts me. It doesn’t always work. I feel like a horrible mother.

Sometimes, though, it hurts me, it does work, and I feel like a horrible mother.

A horrible mother who did some minor thing right. This time. Some minor thing that may or may not help my child in the future.

I was struggling to write this post when I found something online. I remember seeing this but I had forgotten how powerful it was. I cannot bring enough words together in the right way to describe this. Everything I would have said, could possibly have written, to help you understand, is in this clip.

And so, I will go and leave you to watch this poignant performance.