Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I've done really well with my temper this summer. I guess I can thank slow mornings, an entirely different work schedule, and no school for that. I'm more relaxed, and my children have noticed. Sure I'm still a "yeller", and sometimes I do have to use my outside voice, especially when my girls are fighting over "Shopkins" or "Barbie" shoes. Aside from that, it's been a pretty drama free summer...
Until last week.
The back story is that my oldest daughter has a mouth like her mother (poor kid) and the attitude of a fifteen year old. She's eight going on teenager most days. Recently she has been picking on the little guy who lives next door. He's four and she's eight and she is bossy as all get out and the combo rarely works. I've noticed from time to time that she singles him out, takes things out on him, and leaves him out of games and play time. When I catch it, I speak to her about it, explaining that she is the oldest and needs to set the example. In our neighborhood all the kids play together, and nine times out of ten she is usually the leader because for the most part she is the oldest. I've told her more than once that if she can't play something that includes everyone, then that game/toy/whatever can't be played when we are all outside. Period.
Last week as the adults were all huddled in one of our yards, talking, scrolling our phones, and making jokes, the little guy next door's mom, picked up on some interactions with Caitlin. She just shook her head and made the comment that Caitlin is always mean to him. This bites my ass in a way nothing else does. I can't stand when someone else catches the shortcomings. I hate when another parent has to show or tell me about my kids behavior. Maybe it's because I want perfect kids, or maybe it's because I'm mad I didn't catch it myself. Either way, I used my outside voice a little too aggressively. I asked her at least three times what happened, and when she wouldn't answer me I told her she was to go to her room. She refused. I repeated myself. She refused. I repeated myself. And after about the fourth time...
I used my scary mommy voice and demanded she go into the house NOW. Thus breaking up the neighbor party, embarrassing my husband, scaring my youngest, breaking the heart of my eight year old, and pissing myself off to no end. Yeah. That was me. The asshole.
Here is the thing. I'm trying to raise nice, kind, compassionate humans. I'm trying to raise humans that aren't going to go into the world and be complete assholes. I'm trying to raise good humans for the next generation.
I'm not trying to raise a kid who is mean to the little guy.
Once we got into the house I sat on her floor while she cried on her bed in Scarlett O'Hara fashion. I talked to her about why she was bullying the little guy next door. Why was she constantly picking on him? Why did he push her buttons? She gave me a few reasons that the Hubbs and I listened to, but seriously, she didn't have many. All I could gather was that she wanted to be the "boss" and he didn't always follow her instructions. To which I replied, "Well honey, that's life".
We had a really long conversation about how there will be people in life who will not always follow our lead. Just as there will be people in life who we won't want to follow either. I explained that there will be people in her life that she may not like the best, who won't necessarily be her best friend, but that doesn't mean that she shouldn't be kind to those people. No matter who we come in contact with, our default and reception should always be kindness. Even when it's hard and that person may be mean, that person probably needs kindness more than the rest of us.
At eight years old, she kind of understood this. We used examples of boys in her class last year that had been disruptive or may have said mean things, and we talked about how we were kind anyway. We talked about how sometimes we had to walk away when they were throwing mud or sand or whatever they were doing that wasn't in line with the rules. I told her it was okay to walk away from someone who was mean, to take herself out of that situation if she felt like she couldn't be kind. Walking away is better than being mean.
In her defense, she kept repeating that she was treating the little guy next door the way he was treating her. Using a louder voice, not wanting to play the things he wanted to play. She said, "Mom isn't that what you do? You treat people the way they treat you?". I stifled a laugh and told her she was half right. The actual rule is to always treat people they way you want to be treated. She cried a little harder and said, "But what about them? Why do they get to do it the other way?". This was just the beginning of a conversation that went in circles for about twenty minutes. Why should she be kind if the other guy wasn't? Why should she always treat people the way she wanted to be treated if they wouldn't do the same? Why did she have to be the kinder and bigger person? It went on and on with me explaining that it was just the way of the world. I was almost to the end of my patience again when I just ended by saying, Because I'm your mother.
I said, "I'm your mother and raising you as a good and kind human is my job. I'm not their mother. I'm not raising them. But you, you are mine and I want to raise you to be kind and loving. And when you are anything but kind, I feel like I'm not doing my job". What I wanted to do was to quote Izzy Stevens (Grey's Anatomy) and say, "Because it's what Jesus would fricken do!". It's the first time in this phase of my parenting life that I really feel like we needed some Jesus around here. I mentioned that to the Hubbs. He said that was another conversation for another time (another blog post too). But isn't it. Isn't it what Jesus wants us to do? He wants us to be kind. To embrace others for all their faults even when they are mean. Even when they are the little guy next door who would rather have the My Little Ponies crash into each other like monster trucks than have them host a tea party? The answer is yes.
By this time, Caitlin and I were both exhausted. Mac was crying because sissy was crying, and the Hubbs was giving me serious side eye about where the conversation was going to go at this point. I repeated the golden rule a few more times. We talked about being kind even when it's hard. Then I asked her to help me out a little when it came to my job as her mom. I asked her to help me raise her to be a good human. Because at eight, she is old enough to know better. She is old enough to make good choices and set a good example. And she is old enough to understand that I'm doing my best. That we are all doing our best, and that we are far, so far from perfect. It didn't seem too much to ask for her to follow the golden rule and just be kind. It's something that we can do together.
Can you imagine if we all offered each other just a little more kindness every day? What would that world look like? Sure, there will always be people who aren't exactly the nicest or our favorites, but maybe they deserve it more. I'm no expert, but I'm on a mission to raise good humans. Kind and loving humans. I don't want to be the parent with the kids that are total and complete assholes. Sure they need to have a backbone, but kindness isn't about being passive. Kindness is about being strong. Strong enough to know when to fight and when to walk away. Kindness is something that is free, but more valuable than diamonds. We could all benefit from a little more kindness in our lives.
Plus it's exactly what "Jesus would fricken do".