My boys are trying to figure out who they are each day at a time. It is an incredible thing to watch a human grow right in front of your eyes. You see them take the first breath, the first bite, the first laugh, the first step, the first failure, the first rebellion, the first love, the first heartbreak, the first success. I am watching my boys become a person. The thing about it is, I am 27 years old and I don’t know if I am even half way to becoming the person I truly am. I learn something new about myself with each new experience, hard trial, beautiful moment, and year that comes my way.
Although “be kind” seems to always be whispered or yelled as my life lesson over and over, I have many days and moments where I am not feeling myself or struggling with some insecurity deep down or hungry or tired or sad. On these days kindness can sometimes fail me. I can be selfish and reactive. These moments haunt my mind, and I worry that the people who have crossed my path in these moments will forever see me as THAT version of myself. I will be defined in their mind by that day or moment when kindness escaped me. If only all the people around me could know that I am still growing and trying and forming, so they could more easily let those small moments pass for what they were….bad days, yelling kids headache, self doubt, hormones, or whatever else seems to make bumps in my “be kind” path.
While my boys live in my home they will be having some of the most formative years of their life. If there is one thing I have learned about having kids so far, it is that they are constantly changing. Each phase only lasts a short while. Some parts of their personalities have stayed the same, but each week brings new battles and developmental hurdles to jump.
I heard my sweet Boston tell somebody that his little brother is shy the other day. I was surprised he even knew what the word shy meant and knew he must have heard me say it about Bennett. It made me realize I have already started to define their personalities. I have begun to classify them and even tell others who they are and how they handle the world around them based on the small moments of their short life. As their mother, it is pretty well believed that I know them better than anyone in the world. So, what I say about them is generally taken as truth.
I started really pondering why I thought Bennett was shy. I have seen him get nervous in social situations. He does not like to be put on the spot when people are looking at him. He will not go to just anybody. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how similar I felt to him. I am pretty sure most people would not call me shy.
I hope and pray that people do not define me based on small moments, and I know that most people who really know me do not. I realized I want to be worthy of my boys’ trust in what I tell the world about them. I don’t even care if he is shy or if people think he is shy. The point is that I had this epiphany of the power I have as his mother to shape his personality by how I define him. I want others to see the best in me and let that define me. Of course I should do that for my boys as well.
Not only will I help to define their personalities in the eyes of others, but more importantly what I say about them will be the vocabulary they learn to describe and define themselves in their own minds.
I can choose to define my toddlers each day by the tantrums they throw and the messes they make. I can tell them they are grumpy or mean, but I wonder what would happen if I defined them each day by their great moments…even on those hard days when there are only a few. With each new tantrum I reminded them not to ACT kind but told them that they ARE kind.
They say the best parents are the best distracters. I wonder if I could distract and divert all the negative energy and bad days and hard moments enough so that they believe and know right down to the deepest part of their hearts that Mom defines them as good. And if Mom remembers that they are good, even in my worst moments… then I really am good.
I know, I know. That is a lot of pressure to put on myself as a Mother. And really, can I be expected to always see the light and goodness in a child that is beating up his little brother for the fourth time that day? Maybe not. I am sure I will mess up plenty. But I am redefining how I define.
I will work on not complaining about their hard moments in front of them. I will try to not tell what or who they are on the bad days. I will remind them of their wonderful moments in the scary ones.
Tim Ferriss recently interviewed Cory Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, on his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show. The interview (here) inspired me and opened my eyes to the potential each of us has for good in this world. Cory told a story about him deciding to start his young political career by living in one of the most underprivileged and drug riddled communities in the country. He went to see the tenant president of the community housing and profess his grand plan to be the man that changes everything and helps everyone. She drug him right into the middle of the community and said, “What do you see?” Cory answered, “Crack houses, drugs, poverty […]” The woman looked angry and simply said, “You can’t help me,” and turned and walked away. Cory chased after her and asked what she meant. This is what she said: “Boy, you need to understand something. The world you see outside of you is a reflection of what you have inside of you. If you look around and all you see is darkness and despair, then that’s all there is ever going to be. But if you are one of those stubborn people who every time you open your eyes you see hope, opportunity, love…if you see the face of God, then you can be somebody who helps me.”
I am not a doctor or a genius or a senator. I do not have a PhD or a long list of accomplishments. I have never been in the Peace Corps or done a service mission. If the only thing I do in this world is learn how to open my eyes and see hope, opportunity, love, and the face of God and teach my boys to see the same I will feel like I have conquered the world. That is how I want to define my boys, and that is how I hope they define themselves. Seers of the good, of God.