Kids Rock!

I often post about the innocence and brutal honesty of children and how we as Parents, learn some of the greatest life lessons from them. But there are also times, when something they say or do just knocks you off your game and you cannot help but think to yourself, wow, what a kid! I try to not do this too often, but since I am the one writing the blog, you’ll just have to indulge me a little bit while I tell you about how my little princess recently blew my mind.

My long standing joke about my daughter, whenever someone asks me how old she is, I am quick to say, “She’s 5 going on 16!”. I usually say this to convey several different messages about my daughter, without having to actually having to say it. She behaves more maturely than one would imagine and believe me, I recognize this could be a good or a bad thing. I tend to follow my joke up with examples of some of the crazy stuff she has either said or done. Of course I am not suggesting she is perfect – far from it but the purity of her logic suggest to me a maturity that exceeds that of even some adults.

Case in point, after picking her up from school the other day, we began our ritual of me trying to pull out information from her on how her day was. Eventually, we get into the drama of the day: who got time out, what so and so wore and so on. On this particular day she seemed a tad more somber than she usually does. She wasn’t coming out and saying what was bothering her. I began to think the worst – did something happen to her at school and who shall I give an earful to at the school for making my baby sad. But then she proceeds to tell me about her day – and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She explained to me that the boys in her class were taunting another boy, all because he happens to share the same name as a Disney character. And as you can imagine, the more upset the boy became, the more he was taunted. Seeing what was happening and seeing that the little boy was on the verge of crying, my daughter tells me, “I just went over there.” Wanting to know more, I ask her what happened next. She proceeds to tell me how she told the other boys to “stop it” and that “it wasn’t nice” and she would tell the teacher if they would not stop! And that the boys stopped what they were doing and went on to playing with something else. Who is this kid, right? Now, I wouldn’t sit here and try to convince you that we should receive some sort of Parent of the Year award for my daughter’s actions, but it warm my soul to no end, to see my daughter exercise her sense between right and wrong and stand up for others.

But if that wasn’t enough, the other morning as we are walking to her classroom, another Parent asks to speak with me. Fearing the unknown, I step aside to discuss whatever is on their mind. She says to me, “I just wanted you to know how special your little girl is. My daughter doesn’t really talk to the other kids but I always see your daughter go up to her and ask her to play – that’s a really great thing – thank you.” I melt right there into a puddle.

I was taught from an early age that integrity consisted of doing what was right when no one was watching. It seems to me that parenting is a lot like this: We can tell how good of a job we are doing by how well our children interact with society, when we are not around. And ultimately, shouldn’t that be our ultimate goal as Parents – that our children make the right choices? It goes without saying how precious our children are – sure they need to be disciplined, and sometimes they get on our nerves but sometimes they serve as the perfect reminder of what truly should matter when raising them.

I am convinced that our children are very aware of the world around them. They recognize what makes sense and question what doesn’t They see and experience the differences between right and wrong and justice and injustice – they are well in tuned. But least we forget that they are still impressionable children, who are more compliant with what we do rather than what we say. It all comes down to us to guide our children in understanding what they see and experience. For as smart as we think our children are or as mature as we think they behave, there is still a wealth of knowledge for them to absorb – and how well we do will eventually be reflected in how our little ones treat other – let’s not mess this up!

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I want my children to be entitled – yeah, you read that right!

At my daughter’s school, they have a rather efficient way of ensuring that kids are dropped off for school in the quickest and safest way possible –all before the dreaded tardy bell rings. The drop off zone consists of three lanes that run alongside the school and there are also about 50 parking spaces available. The lane that is closest to the school is for temporary parking of no more than 15 minutes  and is reserved mostly for overprotective (although I choose to call it loving) parents who want to walk their kids to their classroom or participate in the morning flag activities. The second, or middle lane, is more of a traditional drop off lane where parents can come to a California stop before their kids jump out of the minivan, ala A-Team style. And the third lane is simply for thru-traffic. It’s clear this system was constructed in a way that provides order to a usually chaotic environment. So naturally, any small disruption, can have disastrous consequences – which is what my daughter and I witnessed the other day.

Parking in one of the available parking spaces and thereby avoiding the morning rush of the lanes – which, by the way, can be very intimidating to a Kindergartner and her Dad – I noticed that the traffic seemed to be backed up, which was odd for such a well-oiled operation. Looking for the most opportune time to cross the street, I see the cause of the disruption, a late model SUV who is parked in the middle lane – which is reserved for the rolling stop-push your kids out-and keep going, cars. What a violation of all that is holy when getting your kid to school! I remember thinking to myself, “oh no, I hope the car didn’t break down – what unfortunate timing!” But to my surprise and horror, we watched with shock and utter bewilderment as a Parent got out of the parked SUV and walked around to the passenger side to get his child out of the car – oh no he didn’t! You could feel the tension mounting as the scene was unfolding. Traffic is getting worse and confusion turns to anger and disgust when suddenly, one of Parents, who was stuck between the temporary parking and the thru-traffic lane, yells out their window, “What, did you take a class on Entitlement 101?!?” The stuck Parent was obviously making reference to the fact that the parked SUV had lots of stickers of a certain University located in Southern California, that shall remain nameless. But, without missing a beat, the offending Parent, looks over his shoulder and says, “Yeah and I got an A!”

After the angry mob of stressed out Parents subsided, I got to thinking about what I just witnessed. Normally, this would be the point where I hop on my soapbox and talk about how this Parent’s poor behavior is not only a detriment to his child but also to my child and how we as Parents need to strive to be better, and so on and so on – but I am not going to do that. Instead, what stuck in my mind was the word “entitled”. For most people, the word entitled has become somewhat of a four letter word and when used in conjunction with a child – whoa, avoid that kid! But then I thought, do I even know what the word actually means? I decided to consult the wise old oracle, Google, for her wisdom and guidance and she defines being entitled as, “[verb] give (someone) a legal right or just claim to receive or do something.” Nothing egregious here, so why do we use this word to convey such animosity about people’s behavior? Then it hit me, the Parent who parked their car and disrupted traffic for everyone else wasn’t acting entitled at all – he was just being a jerk! Admittedly, you can be an entitled-jerk but therein lies the distinction – how do I differentiate between being a jerk, being entitled and ensuring the two never combine?  This took me a little longer to contemplate, but then I finally had it!

My Parents sacrificed tremendously so that my siblings and I could have a childhood that they could only dream of; so am I entitled? I believe I am! My Parents worked 100+ hour weeks so that we could go to great schools and afford the things that made life comfortable and allowed us to thrive, without us doing a darn thing to deserve any of it – it was simply our right provided to us by our Parents. And what prevents me from becoming a jerk, or worse yet, an entitled-jerk? I believe the answer is humility. You see, my Parents made sure we were all aware of the cost (both figuratively and monetarily) of living the way we did and having the things we had. We understood that all of this was not just given to us and that we all bared some responsibility in making something of ourselves. Likewise, I want the same for my children – I want them to be ENTITLED. I want them to have the right to do whatever they want, but to also be humble and cognizant of the sacrifices that were made on their behalf. So there you have it, entitlement, in the absence of humility = a recipe for disaster. Who’s with me in raising children that are entitled, but in the right way?