An Open Letter to Parents

Dear Parents:

First off, let’s start with a clarification. I’m not a parent. I can’t even begin to imagine how HUGELY difficult your job is. You are responsible for the care, nurturing, education, well-being, health, and upbringing of another human being. For the next 20 years or so… you will not stop. You will barely sleep. You will never get to do what you want to do. You will oftentimes be forced to give up your happiness, your interests, and basically, your life, for this little tiny human that you are now tasked with raising. I can’t even begin to imagine the enormity of that responsibility. I mean… I have a cat… and there are days I can’t even remember to feed him. So, I get it. I do. I get to help with your child’s education for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I’ve seen you in the halls… harried, bleary-eyed, and oh-so-tired. I get it. I can’t fully grasp what you’re dealing with, but I appreciate it and respect you oh-so-much for what you are doing.

That being said… I’m seeing a troubling trend from where I stand as an educator. Granted, I’m not in the trenches with you… I’m simply on the sidelines. But as I reflect on this past school year… there were  4 areas that genuinely concerned me with regards to  most children today.

  1. Coping Skills: So few kiddos today have coping skills. They literally fall apart when they’re told no. They will beg, barter, and negotiate until they’re blue in the face rather than be forced to accept a simple, “no”. And when those negotiations fail, they will fall apart. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen kiddos throw themselves prostrate on the floor, kicking and screaming, completely unable to deal with the fact that they did not get their way. They will cry, and scream, and throw things, and hurl insults, and quit the game, and blame others. Why? Because they didn’t get their way. Please. In the name of all that is holy… teach your kiddos to deal with disappointment. PLEASE. Teach them that they won’t always get their way. PLEASE. Teach them that disappointment is a part of every day life. PLEASE. Arm them with the coping mechanisms they need to be able to deal with life’s ups and downs. PLEASE.
  2. Empathy: Once your kiddo has mastered that life skill, maybe… in between soccer practice, scouts, homework, bath time and bed, you can teach them some empathy. So few kids today know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. I have never met so many students confused by the concept of, “How would that make YOU feel if someone were to do that to YOU?” Have you ever asked a child this question? Usually, you’re met with blank stares or looks of complete and utter consternation. “Wait… what? How should I know how the other person feels?! I’m not them!” It’s a foreign concept. Understanding that their actions have consequences and that their words and decisions affect others? Whew! That’s a doozy to teach kiddos. But, if I could feel empathy for the last Cheerio left over in my cereal bowl when I was 8 years old (Okay, maybe I felt a little TOO much…) is it really asking so much that children these days at least consider how other people feel before rushing headlong into a decision that will affect not only them, but those around them? I mean… is it?
  3. Do Unto Others: And then… you know… if it’s not too much to ask… because I get it… you’re busy… You missed an important deadline, your boss is breathing down your neck, and you’re THIS close to getting that promotion, but… IF you can squeeze it in… can you maybe also teach them the whole, “Do unto others” thing? I mean, really… it should go hand-in-hand with the empathy lesson. You can kill two birds with one stone. I mean… the Golden Rule. This should be pretty basic. I mean… do they want to be screamed at, hit, kicked, spit on, mocked, ridiculed, and sworn at? Because… if they don’t… then maybe that will make them stop and think before they do it to someone else. Because they’re doing it to everyone. People they don’t like, people they DO like, their best friends, even their teachers and coaches… and yes… shamefully enough… even you. It’s not okay. They’ve had an off day? That’s where those coping mechanisms come in. They can’t treat people with utter disrespect and expect to get away with it. They need to treat others as they wish to be treated. It’s that simple. Just… BE NICE. It’s not rocket science.
  4. Thankfulness: Lastly, and if it’s at all possible… maybe in between getting them up, showered, dressed, their hair combed, their mouths fed, and their backpacks loaded… can you maybe squeeze in a lesson about how FORTUNATE they are? To maybe stop and think before they throw that perfectly good peanut butter sandwich away because the peanut butter is TOO gooey? Because there are kids even in their own school that don’t have enough food to eat… who will go to bed hungry… who could have really used that peanut butter sandwich. Instead of throwing out their toys, maybe they can donate them. Maybe you can take a Saturday and visit the local Salvation Army, or pack a meal for Feed My Starving Children. And if that’s not possible… teach them that they are HUGELY blessed… just by having a roof over their head and a warm place to call home and a safe place to go to school. Have them list off all the ways in which they are blessed. American children are so used to having whatever they want whenever they want it. This is not the norm in the rest of the world, and it makes the rest of us look like greedy, out of touch, jerks. Which too many of us are. Teach them not to be wasteful. Teach them to be thankful. Teach them that money isn’t everything. And teach them that wants are different than needs. If their needs are met, than that’s enough to be thankful for all by itself.

Listen, I get it. Who am I to give advice to parents on how to parent? I’m no one. Again, I haven’t a clue as to how difficult your job is. But I’m one of the few people responsible for educating your child, and I’m seeing major red flags. This next generation isn’t going to do so well if we don’t get our ducks in a row. I can only do so much. I can teach them these skills, and build on these skills… but if there isn’t reinforcement at home, what’s the point? And I get it… there ISN’T ENOUGH TIME. I know. There’s not.

But there’s time in the car when you drive to the store. And right before bed. And while they’re brushing their teeth. And when you’re tying their shoes. Squeeze in these conversations where ever you can. Your children need them oh-so-much… and they’re depending on you to teach them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t think, just do

Remember when you were a kid, and your mom had all kinds of things to do around the house, so she would send you outside and say, “Go find something to do.”

And so you’d go outside and find something to do.

OR, you’d moan and groan and whine in that annoying high-pitched wail that all adults abhor and say something to the effect of, “But there’s nothing to DOOOOOOO…”

No? You don’t remember that? That only happened to me? Wow, you guys were weird kids. Or you’re just big, fat adult liars. But who am I to judge?

Either way, “Keeping Busy” was a concept that was drilled into us at an early age. If you don’t have anything to do, you FIND something to do. There’s always something to do. If boredom ever sets in, then clearly you’re doing something wrong.

I do the same thing with the kiddos in my classroom. “Seriously? You have nothing to do? Here, let me give you something to do.”

In fact, I hated having that conversation with my students so much that I plastered my classroom with little signs of suggestions of what one could do when one had “nothing” to do.

“Keeping Busy” is part of the American way. You just… DO. And when you’re done doing, you move onto the next thing that needs to be done until you fall into bed feeling exhausted but accomplished and then you get up the next day and do the exact same thing.

Keep going, keep doing, don’t think, just do.

But if I’m being honest, the constancy of “Keeping Busy” is a bit of a foreign concept. Mainly because I’m a thinker, and if a thinker doesn’t have space to think and is constantly forced to do without thinking, they get burnt out awfully quickly.

Last summer, I was continually being asked, “What are you doing this summer?” And I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that because I knew that the expectation was that I would spout off a long list of all the things I was getting accomplished during my down time so I could impress the person speaking to me. But I never knew what they wanted to hear.

  • I’m starting a garden to help feed our inner city youth?
  • I’m organizing the 4th of July parade?
  • I’m remodeling my kitchen?
  • I’m refinishing my living room furniture?
  • I’m launching a campaign to help fight childhood obesity?

I could never quite figure out what it was that these people wanted to hear that would satisfy them and convince them that even though I get summers off as a teacher, I’m not a lazy, non-contributing member of society. It was a ridiculously stressful situation because I would stand there like a deer in headlights, desperately trying to come up with something… anything… that I had been doing that summer that would make the people happy. But in all honesty… I hadn’t been doing anything that would prove to these people that I was using my time wisely. Because all summer, I had been reading and studying and getting my nerd on. And that’s just… well… that’s not doing anything… that’s just… weird.

Because last summer was the summer I spent studying the Catholic faith, delving deeper into God’s word, and trying to discern where the Lord was leading me. But that’s not “doing”. In order to justify one’s existence, one must be “doing”… not thinking… or studying… or discerning. And in order for the “doing” of the thing to truly be considered worthy of “doing”, there must be an end result like, “Oh… look at the beautiful gazebo I built for my backyard. THAT’S what I’ve been DOING all summer.” But thinking and studying and discerning doesn’t necessarily bear fruit that one can immediately see and therefore many people don’t view it as “doing” anything.

But that’s a shame, isn’t it? We’ve become such a busy culture – a society of “doers” – that we don’t spend the time we need to think… and think about the deeper issues and bigger questions of life… because really, what’s the use in that? If you’re not actively “doing”… then what are you doing here?

 

 

Teeny-tiny humans

Teaching is hard.

Being a nanny to three very active kiddos all summer long is even harder.

I’m only one week into it… and I’m not even kidding, you guys… I’m ready for bed by 8:30.

No wonder parents are so lame and go to bed so early.

Teeny-tiny humans are exhausting.

I mean, teaching can be pretty tiring. You’re on your feet all day… talking… teaching… explaining… mentoring… and mediating… for 15 to 30 little people all with varying levels of understanding, maturity, and capabilities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents come up to me and say, “How do you DO it all day?!” To which I laugh and say, “Well, I only have them for 7 to 8 hours a day. You get them for the rest of their lives.”

I never realized how honest I was being by speaking those words.

Because, yes, teaching is tiring… but nannying? In which one needs to care for, feed, clean up after, mediate for, enforce rules to, and assist in building up the academic achievement and character of teeny-tiny humans?

Oh. My. Word.

Where do your dishes go?

No, you cannot drop your pants and leave them on the living room floor. Put them away.

Don’t fart in your brother’s face.

Please stop singing the Diarrhea Song.

No, you still have 15 minutes of reading time left.

Yes, you have to turn off the TV.

No, you cannot have a candy bar for lunch.

Yes, you have to put on your bike helmet.

Stop poking the cat.

Stop fighting.

No, you do not need to scream in your sister’s face because she gave you a funny look.

Are you honoring God with that behavior?

Where do your Legos go?

Stop sitting on your brother.

Stop dragging your sister across the yard.

Well, if you can’t play according to the rules, maybe we shouldn’t be playing.

No, we are not going to the store so you can look at cell phones. You’re 9.

If you don’t hurry, we’re going to be late. Again.

Yes, you do have to lift up the toilet seat when you use the bathroom.

No, I’m not going to clean up your pee from all over the floor. That is not my pee. That is your pee. You need to aim for the toilet.

I’m sorry it took us 75 minutes to get you dressed for your sports practice, but if you would put things where they belong and stop freaking out about the Velcro straps, we could have left an hour ago.

 

If I’m being honest… I was pretty naive about what I was getting myself into. I sort of thought nannying would be a lot like teaching… only you have to feed them and drive them around. No biggie.

giphy

I was lying to myself this entire time. I had no idea I would be getting a crash-course in parenting.

God bless you, parents, for the work you do all day, every day, without a break in between.

God. Bless. You.

I had no idea.

But, on the upside… There’s never a dull moment…. It’s impossible to be bored… and it is pretty entertaining. Even when they’re screaming and fighting, it’s totally worth it.

Because teeny-tiny humans are pretty cool.