What Matters In This Election

LittleBrother decided to run for Student Council.

I only ran once. I think fifth grade marked the year I decided to go for it. I made posters on construction paper. I wrote a speech that in no way promised giving away candy or changing the lunch menu as I knew I couldn’t do those things. I stood up in front of the class with glasses, crooked teeth, and a shoulder length perm that I brushed—no, reallyand gave my speech.

I lost.

I don’t remember who won, but they opted for the “promises we can’t keep” route of candy and longer recess and all that jazz. I’m not even sure I told my parents I lost. I felt kind of stupid for not doing what the other kids did, for not passing out candy or making empty promises. I’d chosen the honest route, followed my moral compass.

And it got me nothing.

To this day, I still choose that path. I follow the rules. I don’t promise what I can’t deliver. I don’t even like when my current bout of insomnia makes me flake on my friends because I simply cannot will my body to move after a night of 45 minutes of broken, interrupted sleep. I kick it old school, I suppose, and I feel like my word, how I conduct myself in business, and how I treat others are all part of my honor. Sometimes I screw up, because we all screw up. But I try my hardest to live a life I’m proud of, one without much doubt that I chose the right path.

My husband took Booey shopping last night for brightly colored small poster board. LittleBrother designed his own poster on a piece of paper first and then transferred it to his poster. This morning, after both boys ate breakfast and got ready for school, LittleBrother asked if he could make another poster. He added a big-smiling emoji face to that one. I told him they looked great.

After school today, he asked if I would help him write his speech. So he sat with my iPad while I finished up some work for the day, and he wrote that speech. My input remained minimal. I told him the basics of speech writing, instructed him on how to introduce himself and give a statement of purpose.

I then asked him, “Why do you want to run for student council?”

“I like helping people,” he replied.

This is why we parent the way we parent. This is why we live our lives the way we live our lives. We want to model kindness, empathy, compassion, dedication, service, determination, loyalty, honesty, and other important characteristics. We want our sons to know that how they treat others matter, that their word matters.

That they matter.

I don’t know if he’ll win or if he’ll lose. We’ll support him either way. He decided to stick himself out there and do something laced with a little bit of risk. I hope he comes away from the experience feeling as though he’s worth that kind of risk—worth so much more than that kind of risk.

What Matters In This Election

When Others Aren’t Kind

Driving home via the Pennsylvania Turnpike yesterday, the blue sky and sun highlighted the beauty of the trees lining our route home from my daughter’s house. Reds, yellows, and oranges all shone brightly. Semis kicked up already fallen leaves, creating mini-leaf tornadoes in between our vehicles.

The boys slept for awhile, partly due to the fact they lost privileges for their phones before we even pulled away from the curb. But mostly because exhaustion washed over their sleepy little bodies after spending three days playing non-stop with their sister and her brothers. And all those dogs.

The sleeping left my brain to do what my brain does on a drive home from a visit with my daughter and her family: overthink, over-analyze, over-everything. Also over-singing, because apparently when the boys get their sleep on, not even my most boisterous rendition of Adele’s “Hello” will wake them from their slumber.

This weekend I watched as the Big Kids interacted with each other in all sorts of ways. My daughter’s Mom pointed out the ways in which they seem similar as well as the many ways their quirks present differently. Most of the time they get along just fine. Sometimes their personalities rub up against each other in the wrong way, creating friction the way static zaps you when you drag your feet along the carpet as fall turns into winter. Someone is bound to get shocked, and it changes from interaction to interaction.

A few arguments, hurt feelings, and overtired kids happened throughout the weekend. Every time something seemed amiss, they’d either work it out solely on their own or we’d offer some calming input and send them on their way. And it was over. Just like that. They’d go back to playing or Minecrafting or whatever else they do when they’re together.

Meanwhile, every single day I witness grown adults acting like complete nitwits. They spout unkind things, rant about people who look or act or talk or believe differently than they do, and generally piss all over humanity. And I’m not even talking about politics right now. The nastiness I’ve witnessed over the past few months makes me glad I can hole up in my house with my people and ignore society by and large.

I don’t understand what’s going on with people. I don’t understand the overwhelming negativity and desire to hurt others with words. I don’t understand why some people get their jollies by making other people feel less than, inferior, or unworthy. I certainly don’t want to model that for my children. I certainly don’t want that kind of negativity festering in my life.

At dinner every night, I ask the boys all about their day. The last two questions I ask them are: “Was everybody kind to you today? Were you kind to everyone?” This is when the real stories come out, the hurt feelings or happy moments. Of course, sometimes the questions are met with a double yes, because that’s the way talking to kids goes.

If they ever flipped the question back at me, I hope I could answer that, yes, I was kind to everyone that day. But I don’t know how I’d answer as to whether or not everyone was kind to me. The way things have been going lately, I’d probably answer, “No. No, boys. Not everyone was kind to me today. Someone said unkind things about me behind my back. Someone else vague-tweeted-booked-grammed-snapped about me. Somebody else thought it would be funny to make me look stupid in front of others. And someone else was just plain rude. Right to my face.” In like a two hour span.

Maybe I should tell them these things, offer up the fact that I preach kindness not just as some far-fetched do-gooder idea but because people aren’t kind to me. AND STILL I want to be kind to people, even those who lie to me, lie about me, laugh at me, make fun of me, spread rumors, or just act in mean-spirited ways. I want to be kind to THOSE people because they need it the most.

It’s funny when you think you’re teaching your kids life lessons, but they’re really helping you learn things you might have missed the first time. Maybe their generation will understand kindness just a bit better. We can hope.