I’m an imperfect mess of a person who married an imperfect mess of a person. Together we have spawned three imperfect, messy people.
Robbie and I recognized early on that we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. That became clear 7 years ago in our Intro To Parenting class, when the instructor said, “Raise your hand if you’ve never changed a diaper!” and we were the only two people in the room with our hands in the air.
Our unborn child was screwed. We knew it, the instructor knew it, and the 15 other couples in the class knew it.
Because of our apparent lack of knowledge, we have made it our practice to set the bar of achievement at a reasonable level. We encourage our children to do their best and we are proud when they succeed, but more than that, it is important to us that we raise them to be kind.
I don’t just want my kids to be kind to people who look and act like they do. I want them to be kind to everyone. Yes, black people. Yes, brown people. Yes, yellow people. Yes, gay people. Yes, strange people — and don’t call them strange, because we’re strange too.
Yes, homeless people. Yes, punk rock people. Yes, baby people. Yes, old church people.
Yes, even your own brother and sister.
PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. BE KIND TO THEM. This is our family motto.
The thing about parenting is that you never really know if what you’re doing is working. You just do the best you can, and as days stretch into weeks you keep trudging along until something happens that lets you know that you have either failed miserably or done something right. Recently something happened that let me know we’re doing something right.
My 6-year-old’s teacher sent me a text letting me know that she selected him to receive the “Good Citizenship” award because of how kind, helpful, and patient he’s been with a boy named Gabriel in their class.
“Who is Gabriel?” I asked. She replied that Gabriel is a little boy with autism.
“Maverick is so patient with him,” she said. “He’s made such a huge difference.”
Maverick has mentioned to us a handful of times that there is a really funny boy who does silly things and I had no idea what he was talking about. We have friends who have kids with autism, so Maverick may not even realize there is anything different going on with his friend.
The next morning at breakfast, we asked about Gabriel. “OH!” he said,“Gabriel is my friend. He has a disability. I know all about disabilities. Gabriel’s disability is that he just can’t stop being funny!”
As I turned away to hide my face, because I was doing that ugly cry thing that moms do when they are moved by something, I heard Maverick say, “His favorite color is rainbow! Isn’t that awesome?!” before shoveling more cereal into his mouth.
Several days later, I found myself standing in a sea of other proud parents. My son sat quietly through the awards ceremony; he had no idea that his name was going to be called, and certainly didn’t know the reason why.
I watched him, feeling the condensation drip from my iced coffee, wondering when the transformation happened. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, he’s changed. A year ago he would have had trouble sitting there quietly. And now, just look at him.
Later, I arrived at his classroom for the end of year party. “HI, MOMMY!” he yelled, in typical exuberant fashion. He was sitting outside next to a little boy I’d never seen before.
“Hi! Who’s your friend?” I asked.
“Oh! This is Gabriel!”
“Hi, Gabriel! I’m Maverick’s mom.”
Gabriel smiled. I liked him already.
The world doesn’t need three more assholes. The world needs three more kind people.
I hope my children can be those three kind people.