Kids - It’s tricky to go on record with my thoughts on how we do kindness. It feels like I’m just inviting the call from the school telling me that the lover has become a fighter, or the kid who’s created a seating chart for the lunch table belongs to me, and I will be exposed as a fraud and the last to know and a terrible parent after all.
I'm wading in anyway.
These should sound pretty familiar:
The Kindness Commandments
If you see something, say (or do) something. Remember last year, when the game at recess involved snatching some kid’s hat and then playing keep-away? Remember how I asked you if the kid was okay with the game and you didn’t know.
I first asked you not to join in or to try and stop the game. But I know I could never have found the words to step in and stand up to a group of friends at your age. Heck, I still have a hard time finding my voice (and my courage) now.
Instead, we decided that you could take off your own hat and add it to the game so your buddy would know he wasn’t alone.
Please, if you see something, always figure out a way, however small, to do something.
Know that I am watching. When the ninja-in-training tried out his rad moves on an unsuspecting friend, the swing hog ignored the line of kids waiting their turn (why oh why are there never enough swings?) or the awesome pics from the party you weren’t invited to got posted online? Yeah, I saw all that.
When you stopped what you were doing to help your little sister? And took a struggling friend under your wing? I saw that too.
I might not say anything in the moment so I don’t embarrass you or look like the wacko on the playground. But you can be sure we’ll talk about it later. I want to hear what you have to say, but also, I have a few years of perspective and I want to honor, or finesse your impressions. In general though, if you believe someone is being cruel or insensitive or reckless, they probably are. If you think that someone is you, stop.
Please, always trust your intuition and instincts.
You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you have to be nice to everyone. I know that you are not going to be friends with every single kid you meet. And that’s okay. It’s important that you discover the personality traits you value. But everyone, friend or acquaintance, deserves your courtesy. You do owe everyone a greeting when you pass them in the hallway or in the street.
Please, make being nice an imperative.
Say “Hello”. We have heard stories about this kid or that kid who was having a hard time in school. They were being singled out and teased, or felt isolated and alone. You have probably been that kid too, although you’ve never told me about it.
I’ve asked you to make sure that when you see that kid, you give them a smile and a “Hello”. We’ve talked about the fact that it costs you nothing and you might be the first friendly face they’ve seen. We've discussed the fact that we may never understand the impact we have on the people who pass through our lives.
Please know that you have the power to change someone’s day.
You accept the first invitation or you sit at home. You can thank (blame?) your grandmother for this one. She created this rule once her girls were old enough to go on dates. It wasn’t something she ever had to employ with me as I spent my high school career babysitting through almost every Homecoming Dance, but here’s what it means:
You don’t get to hold out for a better offer. And you don’t get to change your mind once you’ve said yes to someone. In a broader sense, it means that when you have plans with someone, you don’t back out unless you are puking or bleeding from the head. If you've told someone you will do something or you will be somewhere, you go with a smile on your face.
Please, always honor your (first) commitments.
Believe that you are awesome. The cruelest people are always the most insecure. They seem to feel that they can only make themselves taller by standing on the backs of others. I have been this person and I can assure you it is an uncomfortable, small place to be.
You do not have to be that person. You don’t need to compete with, or be better than anyone. You just need to play your own game and follow your own path.
If you are the victim of that person, understand their problem is with themselves, not with you. They are probably having a hard time being in their skin.
As for you, please always be generous and know that offering praise and support to your friends does nothing to diminish you or your accomplishments.
Tell me something good. I ask you every night to tell me something good about your day. And I know that some nights it’s easier to answer enthusiastically than others. But even on the crappiest day, there has to be something, just one little thing that went well. It takes thankfulness and humility to be kind.
So please, practice gratitude every day.
Move Your Caboose. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t only work out so that I can eat dessert. I just feel better after. You do too. I know this because on bad weather days, or when you’ve been injured, you are far more irritable and likely to combust than usual. Recognize this in yourself and,
Please, don’t ever underestimate the impact of exercise on your state of mind.
Try again tomorrow. There are far more nights than I would like when I sneak into your rooms after you’ve gone to bed and kiss you and promise that I will do better. I have broken each of these commandments with you and with others more days than I have kept them, and you will too. It just means we have to try harder tomorrow.
Please know that I will never stop trying to be kind and respectful and considerate, especially to you. Please know that I expect you to do the same.