My dear child…please learn this as soon as possible

Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if things went how you imagine them?  In your ideal world, every dog would be friendly, everyone would want to be your friend and dinner would always be chicken – served up hot and exactly when you want it.  The fridge would always have your favorites and you’d never spill on your best shirt right before leaving for school.  Sigh.  Let’s muse on that for a moment.  Done now?  Good.  I have something to tell you.

Here’s a little secret you need to know:  you will be inconvenienced.  It’s true.  Know how I know that?  Because it happens all the time.  Lately, you seem to buck more than usual at it but it’s quite important that I help you lean into it now.  Not that you pout when you don’t get your way.  Thankfully, you’ve never been like that; but you’re the more subtle type.  You like to propose something different; something more to your liking.  I get it. That’s not so terrible.  But sometimes, being inconvenienced is just unavoidable.

We adults have become inured.  When something goes smoothly, we celebrate and offer up a thanks; when they don’t, we’re not terribly surprised.  Kids, on the other hand, gripe and snort a little more.  So I thought I’d give you a heads-up.  The truth is, you’ll be inconvenienced a lot. That roommate in college might be tough to live with; the baby you adore won’t sleep as much as you’d like her to (I know this in advance because she has your genetic make-up), you and your girlfriend will cross communication wires sometimes.  The movie will be sold out, the cookies will flop and someone will need a ride at the worst time.  It happens. What I care about is what happens with you when it happens.

See, sometimes when life throws you a curve ball, it’s a great opportunity.  At the moment, it doesn’t feel good and you are tempted to go another way, maybe a grumpy way, but choosing a peaceful stance is wise.  Let things ride.  Don’t freak out.  Look for another option.   I only know this because I’ve tried the freak-out way.  It doesn’t get you anywhere. I’ve also tried the ‘Okay, Lord, what do you have for me in this?’ way and it’s always better.

So when I was up at night, walking the floor with you, your smile made it worth it.  When you had to take another bus home, you made a 2nd grader’s day.  Someone gave us a rain check and we had a blast hanging out with someone who needed a place to go.  Were we initially inconvenienced?  Yes, but the alternatives were equally lovely.  So, dear child, don’t set your mind too firmly on your first plan….there might be something even better right around the corner.



For pity’s sake….say you’re sorry!!

Growing up, I was taught to say “I’m sorry.”  And say it I did.  When I was dating Fred, he had to tell me to stop saying it all the time, because at the first hint of annoying or inconveniencing anyone, I’ll say it.  But I was so genuine!  So I’ve toned it down but sometimes I feel like the only one who will cough up the words.

Where has that practice gone?  Just this week, two occasions stood out to me that clearly needed an apology.  These aren’t relationship-killing events, but obviously, someone gaffed and should have said something.  The first happened just today.  I was at a luncheon, having a lovely time.  The host came up to talk to me just after I’d sat down with my plate of food so I nibbled a bit but quit eating so I could focus on what he was saying.  Discreetly, I just put my napkin over the bulk of the meal and then stood up after a bit because the conversation became lengthy.  A good-hearted soul was cleaning up and outside of my eye shot, swept up my plate and threw it away.  I saw her nearby and went over to her and asked if she indeed had my lunch.  She looked in the bag, said an eloquent, “Oh….yeah.”  and moved on.  Uh, excuse me?    A simple, “Oh, I’m sorry about that!”  would have been nice.  I felt a little disregarded but an acknowledgement of the Oops would have made it a little softer.

I was an observer for this next example.  Some folks were sent an email from their employer saying they needed to do A in order to get B.  Time passed and they did not respond.  When the time came for them to need B, they were told….well, you needed to do A.  ‘Oh, yeah, I saw that but just didn’t do it.’  Uh, what?  When they were told again, that the parameters were clearly defined and they are capable of doing it, they just shrugged and muttered, “well….”

I don’t get it.  How can people so frequently express apathy?  Especially to the face of someone who is clearly invested or cares?  Why not say, “Oh, I’m sorry.  I’ll do that right away.”  When one can see another is inconvenienced, irked or just downright flabbergasted with their bumble, just say a simple “I’m sorry.”  It does so much to assuage.  (Look it up.  It’s a great word.)

Beyond just having good manners, when you say you’re sorry, a tendril of kindness connects two people.  It’s simple civility and it sure seems as if our world could use a little more of it.  I’m sorry.  That’s just what I think.

I’m glad my mom showed me…

be neat, efficient, & take care with your appearance.  I mentioned the spotless house I grew up in.  I’m glad she showed me that it takes consistency to keep things clean and it’s very possible to do so.  Also, take time to deal with mail, phone calls and putting things away, right away.  It takes less time than searching later, which I only learned after I left home.  And there’s almost no good reason to leave a house without having your hair and face done.  Wearing sweats in public?  Never!  “You  never know who you’ll run into,” she’d say.  Always look your best and do your best.

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her love to work.  This is where I get it from.  I love to work; my son and daughter that have these genes do too.  Give us something to do and we’re all over it.  When Son One was mowing the lawn at age 11, he just had a lightness in his step that revealed his contentment.  My daughter has it and I believe I do too.  When I have a classroom to be in, I’m happy; papers to grade, great; lessons to plan, cakes to bake, closet to clean….let’s go.  It’s all good.   It’s just a part of what makes us tick.

...that she had confidence in us.  On the last day of 6th grade in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we began our journey to Orlando, FL.  Long before GPS, we relied on the giant paper road maps (which I love).  With no hesitation, they handed the map to me just south of Kalamazoo and said, “Get us there.”  I did, with not one wrong turn.  I couldn’t articulate it then, but I felt pretty good about it – mostly because they gave such an important job to an 11 year old kid.

while you’re at it, have fun with your kids.  In Michigan, it snowed.  A lot.  After she’d pick us up from elementary school, she’d go to an empty parking lot and spin donuts on the icy asphalt.  Pre-seat belts, we flew from side to the side in the big back seat of the Chevy boat she drove.  We laughed and she chuckled, like she knew she was probably setting a bad example, but she loved to drive fast and this was as close as she’d get to driving recklessly.

honor other people’s preferences.  A few years ago we had a family over for Thanksgiving.  The wife pre-apologized for being a picky eater and said she probably wouldn’t eat much because of it.  Well I knew she liked potatoes but not onions.  So, I made the potato dish with onions but made a small serving for her without onions.  I used a tiny cassarole dish my mom had used for such occasions.  The look on her face when she saw that I had done that for her was priceless.  She felt so special.  My mom had also done for that us.  Once when I said that in a group of people, a gal harrumphed and said, “If they don’t like it, they can go without.”  My immediate thought: That’s not love and that’s not being a gracious host.   So mom, I like your way better.  Honor your guest.

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….how to serve your family.  My mom loved to sleep…it was one of her favorite activities and all the better if others slept too.  Sadly for her, she had an early-riser (me) by choice and one by necessity (dad).  Every morning he worked, she got up and made him a hot breakfast and made his lunch, at 5 AM.  She didn’t like being up that early at all, but never said or did anything otherwise.  Once he was settled, she went back to bed.  That’s selfless.

Thanks, Mom. You showed me more than you thought you did.  I’ll take it from here.

I wish my mom had shown me…

….many things, actually, like how grandma made the most amazing pie crust I’ve ever tasted but mom’s been gone for almost seven years and grandma even longer.  Sigh.  Beyond the secret to the pie crust, I ache for many other things that I wish she had shown me.  Since my mom was not very articulate, she probably still wouldn’t have much to say, but I find myself wondering about how she felt in the stage that I am in my life.  So I’m left to ponder.

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I wish she had shown me that….housecleaning’s a lot of work.  Clearly, I’ve discovered that.  For better or worse, I was raised in one of the cleanest houses I’ve ever encountered.  In fact, it wasn’t until I went to someone else’s house in high school that I realized that not everyone was living like this.  We never lost anything, were never late and never saw a mess.  (I’m not exaggerating.)  We opened drawers and clean clothes appeared.  We opened cupboards and everything had space and was neatly arrayed.  Martha Stewart would have been impressed.  However, I honestly would have preferred to have a more realistic idea of how much she did to keep a peerless house.

I wish she had shown me that …. mom’s don’t have to be home all the time.  All three of my kids are teenagers and I’m just getting around to the idea that it’s okay if they’re home and I’m not.  It didn’t reach manic stage or anything, but if my kids were home, so was I.  It was/is important to me.  But it’s also important for them to see their mom prioritizing something other than their schedules.   I have a life, for sure, but I want to spend as much time with them as possible, too.

I also wish she had shown me that ….hospitality should cast a wide net.  Maybe she wasn’t confident in this area, but I rarely remember having anyone over.  We’d have my aunts and uncles and occasionally one of us kids would bring a friend over for a bit, but that was it.  I wish she could have known the joy of other people’s laughter, their ideas, their points of view.  Slowly, I invite more and more people over and I realize that the girl missed out.  So, I enjoy them on her behalf.

I wish she had shown me that ….it’s possible to return to joy after experiencing hurt or disappointment.  She never mastered that, or frankly, came close.  I needed to learn that one and would have been a happy witness.  My arms are open wide to the one who can teach me this.

Usually, parents want for their kids what they themselves never had.  Though my mom certainly had her share of goodness, she deserved more.  I wish I was more mature when she was alive so I could tell her that.  Next post: what I’m glad she showed me!

My fourth child

By now you all know I have three children.  I’m head-over-heels in love with them, each adding to my life more than I could have ever expected.  For Christmas a  few years ago, I received this lovely necklace with a charm representing each of them.  However, you’ll notice there’s a fourth charm there.  That’s for my fourth child.

blogThat charm represents all of the students who I have loved fervently over the years and in many cases, get to love them long after they’ve left my classroom.  They’ve each taught me something I needed to learn; they’ve added immense joy to my days; they’ve made me laugh; they’ve made me think about them before falling asleep, puzzle over them when I wake up.  I’ve prayed for, written to, recommended them and overall, invested my life into them….with deep gratitude for the privilege.

Most recently, I’ve learned these lessons from my wonderful students:

  • we are ALL God’s people – not just those who look like we do
  • when you don’t think you’ll like something, at least say, “I’m willing to try it.”
  • when you hear someone mention something they’re interested, in ask them more about it.
  • invite someone when you’re involved in something fun
  • be friendly to and interested in all people!
  • work hard for what you want
  • believe you can do more than even those closest to you say you can
  • accept yourself, joyfully proclaiming This is who I am!
  • tell someone when they’ve inspired you
  • give your gift to someone

I could go on and on.  The coolest thing is that this list is inspired by KIDS!  Those teenagers that too many adults cringe at.   Each point had a student behind it that makes me think, ‘wow, I GET to be your teacher.’  Not only are these kids great, but their parents are too.  My last post revealed a mom who has sketchy mom-credentials.  But all of these kids (and the hundreds more I could site) are being parented with wisdom and love.  So I proudly wear a charm that represents them, any one of whom I’d be proud to say is my kid.

The most important thing you and I will ever do…


…will be within the walls of our own homes.  I have that quote from H.B. Lee  posted on my fridge because as much as I love to work, what I’m doing at home is more important than anything I could do in a classroom.  I too frequently assume that because my kids are being raised in a home where they are encouraged and loved and challenged appropriately, that other kids are too.  However, that isn’t the case.

Over the weekend I was in a dressing room and had the misfortune of over-hearing a mother berate her daughter repeatedly.  I deeply regret not saying anything, although between comments like, “You know you’re fat, right?” and “why do you even bother trying on clothes if you look this terrible in them?” I was crafting my response.    I peeked out when I heard their door open and there was a very normal-sized 14 year old girl, sweet as can be.  She was probably 5’3 and 110 lbs. yet the mother kept on with her gaining weight and being ugly and then this whopper: “You know that most girls who are fat and ugly end up committing suicide, right?”

Why didn’t I stop it right there?  This girl’s spirit was being murdered by her own mother.  I wanted to offer to take her home and care for her, to build her up and feed her all the words her soul needs to hear, but I hesitated, waiting for a good opportunity and then it, and they, were gone.

However, while I was standing at the check-out counter, my 13 year-old daughter said, “I’ll be right back.”  She had seen the mother/daughter pair walking around a corner and she went up to the daughter and told her she was pretty.  Both the girl and her mom were taken aback but good for my girl, she said the words.  Even a child knew that abuse of that magnitude mustn’t go unchecked.

One of my favorite roles is being an advocate for teens and it bugs me that I missed my chance back there in Macy’s.  But I’m determined not to let it happen again.  At home and in my classroom, my kids hear that they’re wonderful and know much they’re cherished.  Clearly, I need to broaden my scope a bit and tell a few kids I don’t know yet.  You never know who’s not hearing it at home, one of the most important places you and I will ever work.