Sometime late last year, I began regularly tweeting a two word statement. “Be kind” showed up at least once per week, if not more. Sometimes I wrote it when I witnessed people being unkind to one another. Sometimes I tweeted it when I felt myself wanting to type something that definitely didn’t qualify as kind. Sometimes I wrote it as a reminder to stop being unkind to myself. Sometimes I shared it for no reason other than “be kind” is a good message to share.
Last month, with Valentine’s Day shoved down our collective throats, I wanted to share something more than just a lesson about “love” with my boys. I have all kinds of feelings about the love our society pushes on women and demands of men, but I didn’t feel like a long lecture regarding Princess Culture and fake fairy tale love stories really meshed with what I wanted to teach them in that moment.
Besides, they never, ever going to school. Ever. (Today is Snow Day 14.)
And so I took my online habit of tweeting “be kind” and applied it to my daily “real” life.
When the boys argued unnecessarily, I told them, “Be kind.”
When the boys called each other names, I asked them, “Are you being kind?”
When they got tired of being in the presence of one another, I reminded them to be kind.
And on and on and on. I said “be kind” aloud approximately eight trillion times last month. And into this month. And likely for the rest of my life. This lesson is not one I want them to forget. I feel being kind puts most lessons in perspective. Kind people don’t steal or murder, if we’re getting all Biblical and basic citizen etiquette-y. Kind people respect other peoples’ space and bodies. Kind people care about the greater good by helping others and giving of their time and resources.
Kind people don’t purposefully hurt peoples’ feelings; they apologize when they do so accidentally.
Which is what happened this week.
After I tucked the boys into bed one night, I started my workout. About five minutes into it and with weights over my head, I heard a knock on the door.
“Mommy, when you’re all done, can you come to my room? I need to tell you something,” BigBrother said in his saddest of voices.
I told him I would come straight in after my workout. Usually these post-bedtime confessions revolve around something that happened at school, something he wanted to get off his chest. I thought hard about what it could be, wondering if he said something off-color to a teacher about the standardized testing they’ve been enduring. I don’t know where he might have heard such a thing. (#lies, but kind people don’t lie, so it was me.)
I filled up a glass of water and made my way back to his room. I sat down on his bed and listened to his heartfelt confession.
It revolved around Pokemon, misunderstandings, unnecessarily harsh words, taking his ball (er, cards) and going home (or away). The teacher overheard the hub-bub and the words my son chose to use about a fellow classmate. She talked to him about what she heard, saying she didn’t like it.
And neither did I. So I asked, “Was it kind of you to act and speak in that manner?”
He shook his head no with great big tears in his eyes—the lesson already felt deep in his being before I sat down on the bed. He explained how he had to tell me because he had that “guilty feeling” in his belly. “I really thought I was going to puke.” Lessons, lessons.
We talked for a good 15 minutes about how he might handle the situation differently next time. I talked to him about misunderstandings and better ways to handle the situation than with unkind words and huffing off. I shared examples of how I’ve made the same mistakes, even as an adult; I think he liked that part the best.
I then asked him how he might make the situation better, even though he seemingly made up with the other child before the end of recess. He decided to make cards the next morning, complete with an apology and Pokemon drawings. I told him his idea was a good one and kissed the top of his head. I reminded him how much I loved him, even when he makes mistakes. We all make mistakes; it’s part of living.
Sometimes being kind feels hard. When someone is unkind to me, my initial response is to be just as nasty in return. I’m working on it. I also have hope by working on my own kindness, I’ll model what “be kind” means to my sons. I also hope when I make a mistake, they will witness my attempts to right the wrong and kindness I need to offer myself in the wake of a mistake; self-forgiveness still remains a big struggle for me.
Part of being kind is being kind to yourself, and I have a long way to go in that department. I’ll be working more on that—for the rest of my life. I hope they learn that lesson way before I do.