Mostly Enough

I shouldn’t feel this way.  But I do.

In spite of my best efforts, in spite of all I do, all I say and all I strive to be. In spite of how many braids I plait, clothes I fold, rides I provide, meals I make. In spite of how much I take an interest. In spite of how many emails I have sent concerning them, conversations I have struck up because of them. Tears I have shed over them. In spite of the concerts I have attended. Piano lessons I have paid for. Not to mention hockey and skating lessons, soccer and softball fees. In spite of the board games I have played and bike rides I have participated in. In spite of all the times I have lain in bed at night with them in the dark. In spite of every dose of medication I have administered and days I have taken to be home with them.

In spite of everything.

I still don’t always feel I am doing enough.

So I sat with Husband on a Sunday afternoon on the edge of a bridge, lazily watching a river trout jumping in and out of the water, while minnows swam in a school right underneath our toes. I sat watching the breeze gently rustling the river grass while birds flew gracefully overhead. I sat.  On a perfectly beautiful autumn afternoon in the beauty of nature and the perfection of a gorgeous sunny day. And all I could think in those blissful moments that should have brought me peace and tranquility was how inadequate I felt as a mom.

How “not enough” I was as a parent.

No calling to mind of any of the above list could have really convinced me otherwise in that moment and time. I simply felt that I wasn’t doing enough. Being enough. Showing enough.

Felt I wasn’t enough.

And while it seems I have been succumbing to these feelings more and more lately, I don’t always have a reasons for why I do this to myself.  Why this happens. I know the research. I know what this generation is characterized by- indulgence and lenience. It is an age of tolerance and low expectations.  And I know my own story and personality well- I am an overachiever. A perfectionist. And as usual, somewhere deep in my perfectionist psyche, I am punishing myself for inadequacies that I think are there. That I felt others in my family could see and feel as deeply as could I.

My lack of patience. My quick temper. My exhaustion that affects both my mood and my energy level. My frustration. My intolerance. My tendency to speak without thinking carefully through beforehand. All combining to make me feel shame and despair- and added to that, make me even feel less than “not enough”: more like a complete failure.

Since Sunday, I’ve been thinking about these feelings. Ruminating about them in my head, if not even a bit out loud with Husband and my mom in casual conversation. And coincidentally, I happened to come across this little blurb from Jen Hatmaker’s new book tonight as I scanned her blog. Here’s what she had to say about her beliefs about parenting:

Only our overly-critical, overly-involved generation could possibly engineer such carefully curated childhood environments and still declare ourselves failures. We are loving, capable mothers reading the room all wrong.

Can I tell you my goal for my kids? That childhood was mostly good. People, I declare “mostly good” a raging success. If I was mostly patient and they were mostly obedient, great. If we were mostly nurturing and they were mostly well-adjusted, super. Every childhood needs a percentage of lame, boring, aggravating, and tedious. Good grief, life is not a Nickelodeon set. They need something to gripe about one day.

Mostly good is later remembered as “loved and safe.” I know because I now label my childhood “magical” even though my mom slapped me across the face in 7th grade and never bought me Guess jeans and accidentally left me at church numerous times. Mostly is enough.

You are doing a wonderful job. Parenting is mind-numbingly hard and none of us will be perfect at it and all of us will jack a thousand parts of it, and somehow, against all odds, it will still be enough.

Words like cool water on a parched tongue.

Mostly is enough.

And it’s okay to make a few mistakes along the way. In fact, it’s NORMAL.

Tonight, Daughter and I exchanged a few unpleasant words- mostly from my mouth, not hers. And after we got through most of the ugly, the message that cushioned all that had been said was the fact that we both really did love each other.  A lot. I know I sure do, and she tells me the same still, every night. Sometimes we Two have a funny way of showing it, but through it all, that love is constant in spite of the bad bits that tend to color our relationship. It is there, in spite of everything that makes me feel “not enough”.  Not good enough. And thank heavens for that. Because love remains in spite of the misunderstandings, frustrations, clashes and head-butting that sometimes occurs, I can carry on- with the understanding that love will also carry both me and my family through the good, the bad and the ugly. For love is and always will be a constant in this family: even when the storms roll in.  Even when the bullets fly.  It is and will be the foundation on which our family life is built upon. And although we might fight like it is 1999, we still love each other through it all.  We’ve committed to that.

We love each other. And that love, while imperfect, is never mostly enough.

It’s everything.

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The joy of field trips…

Retrieved from Johnston’s Schools website

I came home tonight after watching a killer last set in my daughter’s volleyball game (please do not ask a whole lot of questions about the first four sets, ‘cause that score was kind of private) to which I heard the following anguished cry from Youngest not even five minutes after lighting the home fires:

“Mooooooooommmmmm….(heave, heave, sob, sob)…..I just….(sobbing) burned down my house on Minecraft…accidentally. And it was my favoritest house ever. And I just had made it…..(sobbing).”

It’s interesting how these funny little things follow me around- just begging for me to write about them. We were at the dentist today about a permanent tooth that Daughter had broken two weekends ago on a Saturday afternoon. How do you tell the inquiring dentist that your child broke said tooth playing “Abduct the Baby” with her little sister? It’s just not the normal excuse. And just for the record, the dentist did ask. (I was very vague). I mentioned this all to a friend at the store and she said that her child had also had a similar catastrophe, only to another part of the body while straddling the black bin in their driveway, singing at the top of her lungs.

I could just totally relate- neither one of us thought either occurrence was less than normal. But I guess the average person does not live this way.

So what this story is REALLY about is our school field trip today. Wow, just wow. Where do I begin…? For the record, the above stories were just my warm-up.

How does one frame a blog article about a field trip adventure in which a bus full of three kindergarten classes of children ages 4-5 is pulled off the road for an hour and a half because its crisis exits are screaming “Emergency! Emergency!” in a language all their own? How do you even start discussing bathroom issues? Or temporary bushes with prickles that can serve as the restroom when all else fails? Thank goodness for Kleenex.

All I have to say is this: to those passer-bys that saw a woman jumping up and down, touching her derriere, rubbing her belly and then doing scissors jumps/jumping jacks, you try entertaining 35 youngsters for an hour and a half on the side of the road. I dare you. It’s a game called Simon Says and kids love it. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Okay, seriously. I am just so thankful for the neighbors who saw me (obscurely, I swear) hiding in the bush with one Little Person and then kindly offered their “facilities” to the rest of the kiddos on the bus. Thank you. Words cannot express… I am sure I looked like a wild woman because at the time I was also trying to protect said child from the dog that kept barking at us from across the road. I was sincerely concerned for everyone’s safety, not the least of which was my own.

Back to the woman across the road. She was simply the best. And what she did was humbling, it was simply just too kind. (Now that I think about it, were we doing them a favor by removing ourselves from the bushes on the sides of their road?) At any rate, that woman deserves a Good Neighbor/Good Citizen award- she was amazing. Simply above and beyond amazing. She turned her television on, offered us her washroom (which we paraded in steadily for the better part of an hour, boots, dirt and all) along with water to drink from her kitchen faucet. And she trusted us enough that she left and drove off with all of us still on her lawn. I mean, really: where but the country would this ever happen. We then continued to enjoy the property, playing numerous games of Duck, Duck Goose and the afore-mentioned Simon Says until the Department of Transportation showed up in all their glory after having got lost a time or two on the back-roads of P.E.I. and generously fixed the bus

It was a time. A TIME I say. I sure had fun.

Needless to say, I had planned a full slate of activities for the day. I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment. I had invited a professional chef to come into the school and bake apple pies with each of my students as a surprise for their parents. Boo hoo, ’cause that unfortunately never happened. But then again: the apples were not ‘all there’, shall we say, by the end of the day anyway (became the snack); even if they had been, cooking pies in a half of an hour would have been even an absolute miracle even for her and she’s one of the most amazing chefs I know.

So, it’s been a slice. A slice of every kind of apple I know, including Honeycrisp (which the bus driver ended up finding and picking for me after I had run all over the orchard looking for them during my five minute break (or I could call it my ‘break your neck’ as that’s my kind of luck), I spent my time aimlessly running around the orchard only to find these beauties were growing in the row marked “Jona Gold”. So that’s how they keep ‘em a secret. Who knew.

Can’t wait for the next field trip.

On Being Better…

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It’s been a day of unraveling from the core.

Woke up before the crack of dawn and then watched the sun rise an hour and a half later, all blush pink and orangey-red tones. A rising bulb of glowing fire emerging from a gently waking earth.

We Six drive to a teacher’s conference in Charlottetown (where Husband and I will spend the next two days in session, while my exhausted mother, who has not slept a solid seven-hour stretch since May, literally- will watch our four children by day). We teachers Two will take the baton in passing at the supper time hour, when all eight of our worlds collide- converting our hats from professional ones to the more intimate personal. And those world colliding?  That would be Husband’s, mine, the Fantastic Four, my mother’s and my dad’s. Should be rather interesting. But right now, I am thinking ahead to when we all plan to go in for a family swim at the university’s Cari Complex later on this evening. This, something Daughter and I have planned, to be an annual event. And I am still unaware of the intervening variables that will come into play later on today making this dream dissolve as if a curl of smoke in mid air.  A disappointment and contribution to the unravelling, no doubt.

The events which complicate: our two Oldest will have already swam at this same pool in the afternoon with their childhood buddies- children who moved into town recently due to their father’s work-related move, a visit rendering our plans to swim as a happy family null and void. By no fault of the children’s nor the hospitable family, I might add. It’s just the way things happen.

That’s how it goes.

We eat supper and linger over my sister-in-law’s apple tarts, a delicacy with flaky golden crust that melts in your mouth. I wish I had room to savour more, but as it is, I cannot find an inch in my stomach for Son’s spicy gingerbread with whipped cream which he has made with my mother just this afternoon. I won’t mention in detail the chocolate-chip pumpkin muffin I scarfed down prior to supper- a lone remainder from Sister’s generous offerings that just begged to be ingested. The food offerings at my Mother’s house make me weak in the knees. There is always lots to choose from and all are absolutely delicious possibilities.  She is the best baker I have ever known- part of the delight in visiting is the absolute joy it is to sit at her table.

So with all this goodness and light behind us, it is difficult to reason at what point the unraveling truly began. Perhaps it was in my own mind as I tried to figure out who would go with whom and when- not an easy task when involving four children with varying options and interests. Perhaps it began even earlier than this, at the break of the day when I was caught up in a reverie and happened to mention to Husband the absolute pleasure it would be to take a Mediterranean cruise next year in celebration of our 20th anniversary- to which I later reasoned would be an absolute impossibility considering the circumstance of our crazy life right now, at this given point in time. A realization which brought my hopes and dreams crashing back down to realistic playing fields. So there you go. Perhaps the unraveling was due to these- perhaps to something else far deeper.

Was it disappointment? Stress? Worry? Fear? Anxiety?

At any rate, the Two Youngest, Husband and I all swam together, while the two others sat, waited, fumed and wiled away the time. And then as we the swimmers froze in the dressing room under intermittent showers, we finally emerged only to realize that no one had known to take a token from the front desk, leaving us in our van stuck inside the parking lot behind the exit gate. Stuck with some Cranky passengers, I might add (one of which was me- I will not lie). And then, after inserting the toonie and then walking back to the complex to retrieve the two attendees, I found myself walking the parking lot just to escape the van and all its commotion.  So needless to say, it was a time.  And we also came to discover that toonies which are invalid in parking meters sometimes go missing.  An annoyance. But thank goodness, we were still able to find that the gate would rise in spite of this grave consequence, allowing us to all finally end the day.

It was a very quiet, contemplative ride back to my Mother’s house. Might I add, emotions were also very close to the surface.

And that is how I found myself, upon arriving home, making an error of the most grave proportions- one that I immediately regretted but could not undo. And for which I mourned that hasty decision to act in the moment: rashly, harshly and impudently.  In the words of Paul, why do we do what we don’t want to do?  And the good that we want seems to only elude us?

Sometimes a mother will find herself saying sorry only to realize that the word ‘sorry’ is not enough to undo a wrong that only time, and patience and love can heal. But that same mother can beat herself up continuously- over and over again, for all that she has done and all that it means in the larger context.  She can punish herself severely.  And she can tell herself that she is undeserving, unfit, unloving, incapable and incompetent. And she can believe those words.

Until a little girl comes to her after work and tells her about her day and reaches up to sit on that same mother’s lap once again. Showing her that even her very children can lead the way to love when all other doors have been slammed shut. Even a child can mend an unsteady bridge that has been badly damaged.

I hold that Little Girl tightly to me tonight even as I promise myself: I will be better next time.

When we know better, we live better.

And through it all, we will come to be better.

The Thing About Toddlers…

Toddlers, pre-schoolers and kindergartners are so amazingly cute and adorable. Wise and witty. They are funny and insightful and precocious and downright wonderful, really. But when it comes to some things, I just have to shake my head in absolute perplexity. For one thing: why are toddlers/kindergartners/kids so distracted when you want them to do something (like eat their supper); but when they want you to do something, they cannot think about anything else for the next four hours, talking about that one thing INCESSANTLY so that you want to pull every strand of hair from your head and wind it around your ears to form makeshift ear plugs. WHY IS THIS (this unfair reality of life with a toddler)?

For another thing: why do these Delights of our Hearts have such selective hearing… when their young eardrums are at the prime of their life?  It doesn’t seemingly get any better with age, right?  So why in tarnation can’t they hear anything? WHY???  Let’s get real: I know they hear everything, I am positive they do. But I still must say everything at least TEN TIMES so as to get the desired result.  WHY, WHY, WHY???

And why in the name of time do toddlers/kindergarteners/kids up to age 7 know how to ask a bazillion questions at the absolute worst time- to which you have no answer and to which there may BE no answer (but to give them your i-phone and tell them to ask Siri); but when it comes time to pose a question to someone in a formal way, under pressure and on-the-spot, they draw a blank?
WHY IS THAT???? What is up with all this confusion, I ask you? WHAT???!!

The thing about kids and kindergarteners (and toddlers, for that matter) BLESS THEIR PRECIOUS HEARTS is they don’t yet know the rules.  They haven’t learned how to do things formally. They know how to do things informally- when the pressures is off. But when pressed to perform, everything breaks down.

Case in point.

So, we had a meet-the-new-RCMP-liasion PLUS Hallowe’en safety talk the other day in the library.  One month before the big day (don’t ask- it’s just when it was scheduled, okay?). Right off the get-go, one little girl took a quick first-glance at the “6’ plus many other inches” constable and promptly started crying. Shaky start. I don’t think the uniform/gun holster helped matters any, but everyone was really starting to warm up after we got Little Miss moved to the back. Phew. So, we got that all under control and started in on the safety talk.

Everything was going along swimmingly until the question and answer time. We explained that the children could now ask a question- which is to say, it was now OKAY for them to continue waving their hands like flags at a Canada Day celebration (which they had already been doing for the last 15 minutes anyway). So, the first little hand got picked to ask a question and she promptly said, “Don’t run across the road.”

Nice safety rule, but not a question.

So we tried another little waving hand.  Hand was up- that hand was picked…and then this (in a sweet little voice):

“Hold your mother’s hand.”

Okay…this isn’t working.


So, after a few of these more-than-valid insights, I stopped the show and explained what a question was, along with help from my cohort of other kindergarten teachers. We explained ‘who, what, when and where…” Gave examples. And then picked another hand.

“Always look both ways before crossing the road.”

So that was the end of that. No more question and answer with Constable Dave.  No more hand-picking.

Bless that poor man’s heart, I hope he will come back again in time for our Christmas safety lesson.

And in the meanwhile, we’ll be working on the 5 W’s.  Just in time for our next Q & A.

For All The Nights I’m Not…

A very thoughtful reader wrote me a comment for my helicopter parenting article which made me think once again: the minute we think we know SOMETHING, we come to realize we don’t know anything.

If you haven’t read the article, I write about a near miss for two children on bikes, a story in which I describe myself as a bit of a helicopter parent when it comes to some aspects of our children’s upbringing.  However, that is not me ALL of the time.  I wouldn’t have you to believe I am a saint or some kind of perfect mother.  So just for the record, for all the other nights I am not the helicopter parent, here’s what I’ve been known to be:

Monday evening, September 29th, 2014:

In our house, if Husband is the voice of reason, I am the voice of hysteria.

It is 6:00 p.m., and I am simultaneously cleaning up from supper, emptying the dishwasher and refereeing children’s disputes/meltdowns. Apparently, there is not enough technological bandwidth power to suitably fire up the Save Our Sanity effort in our house tonight (i.e. the computers are not working and too many people are trying to access the limited supply.) All this while I am having my own epic meltdown.

In fact, mine is ten times worse than anyone else’s about five minutes in. If there was a club of Hysterical People Anonymous, I would be president RIGHT NOW. If there were a meeting of that club anywhere- ANYWHERE- within a 500 mile radius right now, I would gladly vacate the premises and walk barefoot to that meeting on a road of hot volcanic gravel, just to escape the fresh torture that is our after-supper witching hour sans Husband.

Ah supper hour. How I oft despise thee!

If there were a meal I would gratefully skip, it would be supper. I know, I know I KNOW- there are so many idyllic ideals surrounding this mealtime that I have read about, pondered upon and dreamed about in my sleep. But PEOPLE. Suppertime was actually made for the simple purpose of tormenting and afflicting otherwise exhausted mothers so that they could quickly lose their minds. Zero to sixty, baby. Honest, cross my heart- this is the really, truly, truthiest truth. I wouldn’t lie.

But just to be sure, let’s play a fun game. True or false… Supper time is a peaceful, relaxing hour when all is well in the world (and children eat all their food and then empty the dishwasher). Ding, ding, ding: FALSE!!!!!! Suppertime is actually an hour of psychosis when mothers (and quite possibly at times FATHERS) haven’t quite lost all their marbles in the long and endless battle to get their kids to come to the supper table- because that’s what supper is for. To finish them off and kill them slowly. Supper is quite simply for the birds. Literally. Or the cats. I ended up giving the cats two platefuls tonight. The birds got some crusts earlier on today. Whatevs.

Husband, bless his heart, (while all this chaos is underway), is driving blissfully unaware in a van without children (AND HOW DID THIS PUZZLING REALITY HAPPEN???), oblivious to his wife’s complete and utter loss of her mental faculties. Ignorance is bliss they say. I’ll fix that. Luckily, he took the cell phone so he will soon be in the loop regarding all things psychotic that his wife has been fully aware of for the exactly two point three seconds that she has LOST HER FLIPPIN’MIND.
I love me some speed dial.

He answers me because he has to. We’ve got BlueTooth- no excuses. It must feel good to say, “Hunny, I am in Summerside right now…what do you want me to do?” when your wife is about ready to crawl through the phone wires. All I have to say is this: thank goodness for that forty-five minute stretch of highway. It gave Someone enough time to take a Sober Second breath before nailing the last spike into her own coffin.

All crazy things must come to an eventual, frantic end. So I eventually calmed down. What goes up must come down. I met Husband coming in the driveway as I was on my way out, (where upon I was sidetracked into investigating the back of the truck where Children had left a bunch of stuff they forgot to take in the house which I found and grumpily carted in myself). I guess the steam must have still been flying out my ears because he cleared a wide berth for me as I marched out the driveway and up the road.

This is my version of running away from home. And you have no idea how many times the after supper walk has saved our marriage. Thirty minutes of sweet, sweet solitude that brings Mother Dearest back to her senses, restores her sense of inner calm and reminds her of all she has and all her family means to her.

It’s all good- and dare I say, even worth it. Even if that means I have to go through it all again tomorrow night.

So, for all the nights I am a helicopter parent, I breathe a prayer of thanks.  And for all the nights I’m not, I’m thankful too.  Every life needs a state of balance in it to remind us of our fragility- to remind us of our humanity.  So for tonight, I will say this prayer of serenity…

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

…because that’s all we can be accountable for in a given day.

On Helicopter Parenting

I am paying a bill for quesadillas and Greek salad. Along with the ‘so-worth-it’ charges for that sweet slice of heavenly bliss in the form of luscious raspberry pie. It is 6:00 in the evening, and I think to myself, as I close the restaurant door behind me- of all I have to do, all I have waiting for me at home. This supper with two friends was a welcome reprieve from the busyness of my life. From the hectic chaos that is our home at suppertime.  But my thoughts are now on home and those precious five that await me.

I head out toward my van and make my way toward the corner, taking a right onto the main street in our little town. I drive about two minutes down the road when I happen to see on the left two young bikers waiting to cross the road. Mentally, I judge them to be about my two youngest daughter’s ages while I simultaneously wonder to myself why they are out on their own without a parent. As I pass by, I can see the youngest of the two starting to move out into the street. I watch as he does indeed leave the curb and then makes his way onto the street. I am just passing by as he is doing this, so I do not immediately notice that a truck directly behind me is heading straight into his path.  All I am thinking is about is the relief that this child is still waiting by the curbside. The Young Biker doesn’t seem to be noticing a whole lot and appears to fail to notice this detail of the oncoming truck as well. As I move ahead, I continue to watch in my side-view mirror this oblivious child- hoping beyond hope that he will stop and do what I have taught my children and still reinforce almost every time we ride bikes together: to look both ways and do so TWICE before crossing. He does neither. And I am horrified to see that not only is he continuing to move into the busy street, but furthermore that the truck which was approaching is nearly upon him. And then, I see it. A squeal of tires and a child- nearly sideswiped. The little boy is just in front of the truck which has slammed on its brakes and come to a sudden and diagonal stop in the middle of the road.

“Oh Jesus, Jesus…” I start to pray. I watch helplessly as the truck remains motionless for what seems like an eternity as the boy crosses over to the other side. Narrowly missing what he might never fully understand could have been a fatal end. And I wonder what private hell that truck driver has just missed enduring as well. What panic he is experiencing even at this moment, having just avoided the most tragic of possibilities.

This one moment in many moments: it is a defining one. A make or break point in time where eternity pauses for the briefest of seconds to take stock and then breathe again. Do we ever fully understand how much we’ve been given?  Does it make any difference at all?

As a mother, I have had some moments lately. Some which have been challenging and trying, to say the least. We are navigating the waters of adolescence, the waters of sibling rivalry, the waters of struggles for independence and its accompanying challenging arguments. We are constantly teaching and mentoring and coaching and loving.  Constantly called on to exercise limited and short-supplied patience.  And at times, we might come across as helicopter parents: maybe to our off-spring and maybe to others looking in. But these children: they are all we’ve got. They are our one shot at this parenting gig. We are never going to get to do this over again; these four- they’re all we’ve got. And whether or not it is easy to stay the course, hanging in there when life gets tough and frustrating is not the point. This is our life. These are our kids. And we have no other alternative than to give them our very best.

Our hearts demand this.  This is the path we’re on.

So when I see children out on a busy street without a parent to keep a watchful eye- protecting and mentoring and modelling and guiding children in safe bike practices, I think of my own four who sometimes find their old mom a little over-bearing. And I think- “thank Heavens you’ve got a mom like that. She might be annoying and embarrassing and too involved, but her heart is in the right place. And she loves you very much”; and this I know for sure: she would travel for her kids to the sky and beyond if that was needed.

Maybe that’s why they call it helicopter parenting.

When We Care for One Another

My two kiddos are playing a game of catch in the small space that is our camping site. We are sandwiched in between two large R.V.’s causing our own hardtop to dwarf in comparison. As I sit by a dwindling campfire chatting with my parents, I watch the baseball they are throwing inch ever closer to the couple sitting out by their fire pit right next to our site. As luck would have it, the ball bounces and flies past Son rolling along until it hits ‘said camper-neighbors’ fire pit. “Thank goodness that is all that was hit” is my first thought immediately followed up by “get that darn ball out of here.” I am instantly horrified, as I am sure is Son (who hates any attention drawn to himself). I get up and make the immediate suggestion (order) that the kids can move their game somewhere else.

They quickly oblige with nary an argument.

Strangely, the couple laugh the whole incident off. “Let the kids play,” says the gentleman, his wife adding the little tidbit that this reminds her of her own children when they were young. While I am comforted by the fact that no offence has been taken to this close call, I still use my good judgement and gently shoo the kids along. Later, I take them to an area at our campground better suited to throwing around baseballs: a wide, open field. We make it a whole family event and no one is left worse for the wear: emotionally or physically.

On my way back from the latter game (which we ended up playing until it was too dark to see the ball), I am walking back on my own down a darkened road when I hear the excited voices of children on bicycles behind me. It becomes immediately clear that I am about to be overtaken by some fast-riding bikers. I don’t dare turn or make any sudden movement lest I am knocked off my feet. Sure enough: three young boys come right up to my back and one after the other, zoom past me coming within inches of my frame. Not a word is spoken by either them or me, no warnings- nothing, and I am a little shaken as I realize: had I stepped over an inch or so in either direction, somebody would have been seriously hurt.

And that ‘someone’ would not just have been me either.

Teaching kids about care means more than just happy-go-lucky feelings on a summer’s afternoon. It’s not just about living life the PollyAnna way. Why caring and its counterparts- compassion, concern, interest and responsibility matter in everyday life is because people like to be treated as if they matter. As if they are worth the while thinking about and considering.

When children, kids and young people are taught and mentored to look out for other people, treating everyone as if they are someone of value, everyone benefits. Not the least of which- them. Because what goes around, comes around eventually. Besides, people who look out for others are just plain easier to live with, kinder, nicer and more thoughtful. It matters that kids learn to care- because lessons of caring spill into their lives at large, influencing little and big decisions they make each and every moment of the day.

I do not tell these stories to point fingers at others nor to gloat about my own offspring. Actually, I tell these stories to myself as proof that teaching the young to care is of utmost importance to me as an adult. Someday my world will be greatly influenced by the very ones I am educating today. How that world ends up- what it will look like- depends largely on the lessons those same little and big people learned today.

I want to share a story that a reader named Shirley wrote recently on my blog:

I had a favorite teacher, Mrs. Stewart 6th grade. There were so many life lessons that year. The greatest one was probably not really a part of the curriculum. Mrs. Stewart taught us about ice safety especially when it came to skating on lakes & ponds. Not really something most teachers would add to the class day. My neighbors did not receive the same lessons. One day the neighbors whole family went ice skating with my family. The girls skated too close to the area where the geese were swimming. The ice broke under my friend, there were no adults close by. They were on the other side of the pond, at least a football field away. What to do, what to do?! Thank you Mrs. Stewart! That day you saved from friend. It was only because you cared enough to teach us about ice safety and how to react. I laid down on the ice like you taught us, than reached out my arms as far as they would go. My friend stopped going under water and started to climb out of the ice water. You see Mrs. Stewart cared about us as people and taught us life lessons.

I share that particular story to illustrate the following point: teaching kids to care about life and the others who are part of those ‘lives’ actually takes the focus off the individual- the “I” (so that they are not always looking out primarily for ‘number one’) and places that attention and concern on the others who inhabit their world. We are not islands; learning to care about others helps us to realize that we need one another. And at times, we need to put our own interests on the back-burner so as to look after each other. So as to protect one another and care for our neighbor. In the end, learning to care for others can accomplish great things- not the least of which is saving a person from small and great injury.

It has actually even be proven to save lives.