I find myself talking to The Big Kids quite a bit these days. At 10 and 8 years old, they’re in my favorite stage so far–willing to ask me anything about anything. Topics range from Why Hair Grows There to How Systemic Racism Began & Continues.
Strange body odors? Check.
American politics? Check.
Atomic wedgies? Check.
Adoption and different abilities? Check. Check.
Jesus and healing and death? Check. Check. Check.
I’ve looked into their innocent brown eyes and assured them that no question is off-limits, even when I have to contort my face to keep from laughing at times.
I’m a big fan of this stage of parenting my pre-tween and tween. Their endless wonder leads to so many interesting conversations and I’m grateful to be present in the dialogue, to help them find the answers, or to simply say, “I don’t know” when they ask me things like, “Will Sam have Down syndrome in heaven?”
Sometimes I worry that my answers are too detailed, that I’m offering too many words, overloading their growing minds in my earnest attempts to educate or inform or encourage.
But they seem undeterred, eager for more.
My hope is that they absorb all the good words that I endeavor to use: the red letters of Jesus, the truths of Scripture, the reality of history, the meaningful song lyrics, the beautiful stories, and profound poems written by countless men and women all over the world. I want their tender hearts and minds to be so full of the truth that lies can’t find any space to burrow inside. I want to protect their impressionable ears from the hateful and divisive words that seem to greet each of us more frequently in our polarized society.
While I believe that the words my kids are absorbing here at home are good and meaningful and true, I don’t want these humans entrusted to me to be tight-fisted consumers. I want them to take what they’re learning here and share it with their neighbors and classmates and teachers and yes, even (perhaps, especially those most difficult to love.)
I want them to tell the truth and treat others with respect.
I want them to stand with the bullied and include the ones who wonder if they matter.
I want them to encourage others and make at least one true friend.
I want them to work hard and listen well and make the most of their educational opportunities.
With all of the possibilities, I found it a bit challenging to choose just one phrase for them to consider and apply this year. But I finally did and it’s this:
That’s it. Nothing new or deeply profound.
When you meet a new classmate: Be kind.
When you see a kid quietly upset: Be kind.
When a student appears left out on the playground: Be kind.
When a student forgets her lunch: Be kind.
When a teacher seems in a bad mood: Be kind.
When a kid on the bus is being teased: Be kind.
When a kid seems different from the cultural norm: Be kind.
When you disagree with a classmate: Be kind.
When another student is rude: Be kind.
There are countless scenarios both in and out of the classroom where my kiddos can apply these two simple words with potentially powerful implications. Choosing to be kind will require different responses, depending on the need of the moment and the people present. Of course, I want them to learn and excel in school but I also want them to be aware of how they can include and encourage others, even when the easier choice would be to ignore, retreat, or retaliate.
And sometimes, these two kiddos are the ones who most need a good dose of their own kindness.
The Big Kids have a strong tendency to be self-critical. When they don’t meet their own expectations in some way, they tend to think negatively about themselves and once they move in that direction, they struggle to find their way back to the truth. I’m learning to give them ample time to process life, while offering heaps of encouragement and grace and love notes under their pillows to help chase away the dark thoughts. So, in their efforts to be kind to others, I also want them to remember to be kind to themselves–to extend grace to themselves, to rest in the love of God.
There’s a song by Andrew Peterson that speaks to this–one that I’ve played for them on the really rough days when music and lyrics offer more than I can. You can click here to listen.
Be kind, Kids. To others. To yourselves. That’s it.
How about you? What is one idea/phrase/truth you want your kid(s) to hold on to for this school year?