It was a long, rough week, both nationally and locally. Near and far brought news where answers or the right words were near impossible. Most of the time I felt frozen in anger, frustration, and sorrow where action and change were far out of reach.
What do you possible say to your children other than the truth and provide as much love and support as you can?
Epictetus said, as you tuck your children in whisper to yourself ‘They may be gone in the morning.’
That feels like a brutal slap in the face but as we’re confronted with almost each day, life is fleeting and the world is cruel. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. So it’s not a slap but a daily and realistic reminder not to waste a single second of our time. It is one small thread of clarity that can come from tragedy: be present, be loving, be forgiving.
It can all go away in a blink. There’s nothing we can do other than be what they need right now. Right this second.
A few weeks ago both girls did their piano guild auditions. In another few weeks, they both have their dance recitals. Both things require practice and commitment. Both girls did fine at their auditions. And I’m sure they will do fine at their recital. But I had the nagging sense, in my mind, that they could have done better. They could have practiced more, worked on those rough spots more. It bothered me that they couldn’t or didn’t see this. They were happy with their performances and shrugged off any mistakes.
Why was I getting upset? Why did I care more than they did?
Which is ridiculous and mostly just me projecting my baggage onto them. I’m sure they will learn to care more as they mature but they are also kids and, I often forget, feel and interpret things differently than me. And my adult way isn’t necessarily right or more correct. A kid’s innocence shouldn’t be corrupted too early.
Maybe I should take that lesson and shrug more things off, too.
Ally came home one day this week a little under the weather and proceeded to swing back and forth between sweet, sick angel and raving psychopath. The mood swings whipped by so fast they hurt my neck.
One thing you get really good at as a parent is seeing past that type of behavior. You know your kid is not a mean person, they’re just tired because they slept on your floor again last night because they are scared of Voldemort. You know that they’re having a tantrum because they’re hungry after only eating plain white starches all day. You sense that the impudent tone in their voice is because something happened at school or with their friends. You get that they love you, that their family does matter to them even if they said their three favorite things in the world are dancing, putty and their dog.
You see past all this because you are giving them the benefit of the doubt. You’re not jumping to the worst conclusion, you’re not attributing a permanent character defect from some single event. It dawned on me (only took 40 years and two kids!) we cut our kids the kind of slack we rarely give everyone else we meet in this life.
What if I assumed the best instead of the worst? Or if I tried to help instead snapping back? I think I’d feel better. Maybe they would feel better. Certainly my kids would see a better example.
[Note: I reserve the right to disavow any of this during Sunday return drives from the Cape or anytime I have to take Route 93.] Continue Reading
Cecilia and Ally have spent many weekend mornings cheering me, or Michelle, on at various finishing lines. They have gone to the Boston Marathon almost every year they’ve been alive. They have been unofficial timers and participants at Thursday track workouts. They are quite used to me referring to Desi, Shalane, and Meb as if they are my personal friends. They are still young enough to think that most other parents get up and run in the dark.
So they really didn’t bat an eye as I’ve been enthusiastically talking about my “friend” Eluid Kipchoge after he destroyed the marathon world record two weeks ago. I was reminded in this article just why he remains a good role model for the girls and how many running lessons translate to good parenting lessons, too:
Overcome challenges – do not let that tricky math problem get the best of you
Keep calm and carry on – no one plays a new piano song right the first time, frustration isn’t going to help anyone
Planning is key – flash cards, piano, reading: a well-documented routine keeps everyone (i.e., Dad) happy
Be humble – even if you do get on the podium, Dad is still making dinner and walking the dog
Maybe one day the girls will grow up to write a musical about runners!