Every afternoon when my kids get home from school, I ask them one question.
“Who were you kind to?”
Sometimes they’ll think long and hard, only to eventually tell me they were kind to their teacher because they didn’t get in trouble for talking that day. Other times, the kindness rolls off their tongues in bubbles of happiness:
“I made Joey laugh.”
“Ben looked sad at lunch so I sat next to him.”
“I helped Josie after she dropped her folders.”
“Ryan walked me to the nurse’s office when got I hit in the face during dodgeball.”
Sometimes I ask more questions about their day. Who did you sit with at lunch? Do you have any homework? How did your math test go?
But these questions are of little importance — at least compared to the who-were-you-kind-to question.
Because if I’m really being honest, I don’t give a shit about homework, math, and spelling — at least not like I do about whether they are kind.
Look, growing up is hard. Parenting is hard. Life is freaking hard. The least we can do is be kind to each other. And there are few things that fill me with the kind of blissful joy and parental pride like seeing my child be kind to someone else, or witnessing them on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness.
My kids aren’t stellar students, and I doubt if they’ll ever be in a class with the word “advanced” in it. But you know what? I don’t care. I literally don’t care.
Because last year, when another parent told me about a time my son had been kind to her child, my heart swelled with a pride I can’t quite describe. It filled me up in a way that no grade on a report card or a big hit in a baseball game could ever do. And later that night when I told my son that he was a good friend, the look on his face told me that it made him feel the same way too.
Don’t be an asshole has always been a pretty good motto for many parents, but quite frankly, it’s not enough anymore. It’s going to take a lot more than not being an asshole to neutralize this cesspool of toxicity we seem to be swimming in right now. It’ll take intentional and bold kindness.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my kids are about to walk in the door and I have to ask them one important question.