Don’t misunderstand, I do not have this parenting thing all figured out. In fact, there are many days when I’m certain I am failing miserably - I’ve forgotten to pack a lunch for one (or both) of my small people, there are NO clean socks, the shirts are not ironed (EVER – as I don’t believe in ironing – if it is wrinkle free, I steamed it at the last second), I likely yell too often and need my OWN time out, my house is a mess, my small people DO argue over the silliest things, I haven’t showered since 1998, I’m overwhelmed and understaffed and I would prefer to crawl back into bed.
But then I see a moment like the one above and I remember I’m doing something right. Because that moment right there? That one LASTS. The nit-picking, the tattling, the ‘he-said’/'she-said’? They will grow out of that. But if I am teaching them to love each other, to protect each other and to be KIND to each other, it will last them a lifetime.
This is my hope, my goal.
And it comes from this: I have one sibling; a younger brother. We aren’t close – never have been. Family stories center around how we ALWAYS fought, how we NEVER got along, how DIFFERENT we have always been.
I am choosing an alternative narrative for my children. And it is framed around a few central thoughts:
Am I Being Kind?
I repeat this phrase all the time. This is how we resolve arguments and squabbles. In the midst of tattling or even yelling, I will say, “Am I being kind?” and it will be up to them to determine…are they making the right decisions? Are they treating each other with respect? Would they want their sibling to treat THEM this way? I rarely have to referee arguments anymore as they can now answer the question for themelves with a bit of reflection.
My number one job is to protect my little brother/big sister.
This is an idea we have reinforced since they were itty-bitty. Since we can’t always be around, we want them to know it is important they stick together. As brother and sister, they share a bond. She may be older, but he is happy to protect her. He’s the ‘little guy’, but she won’t allow anyone to hurt him. Nothing makes my heart sing more than knowing they are looking out for each other when I can’t be there to do it. If it is a helping hand when one of them falls, a kind word if they are nervous, a ‘great job’ after a game or a partner when they are walking in to a room full of strangers – I know they ‘have each other’s back’.
Learn from each other. Be willing to teach each other.
Coop has wanted to be just like Delaney since the moment he could see her. Walking, talking, reading – he is always scrambling to catch up. But there are so many ways she learns from him each day as well. Sure, she is learning multiplication first. Yes, she can help him to pronounce the ‘hard words’, but on more than one occasion he has been the one to encourage her to try something new or to embrace her silly side. They are constantly looking ahead and behind to see if they can help each other.
I’m smart enough to know I will have to continue to encourage these traits as they get older. They will have days of slamming doors, bitter arguments and teenage angst, but I am hopeful, by laying a foundation – especially one rooted in kindness and loyalty, they will always be able to rely on each other.
Also – I do truly hope ‘Am I being kind?’ will be a guide to them as they grow up….