Ron gave me an Auburn Nutcracker for our 17th wedding anniversary. This completes our collegiate collection and the teams are set to meet in the Outback Bowl New Year's Day. (For all you football fans, Auburn and Wisconsin have met 4 times (3 times since we were married) and the current score is 45-45.) Hard to believe 17 years have passed; yet I look at my kids and know these "home-training" days are fleeting. Today I volunteered with our MOPS program in West Bend. MOPS is Mothers of Preschoolers and although it is a national program, locally in West Bend it is coordinated by Kettlebrook Church. We had 34 kids between the ages of 1-5 running wild in the Boys and Girls Club gym. It wasn't totally "wild," they were supervised..."organized chaos" as us seasoned moms like to call it. Regardless, while I am neurotically doing the Hokey Pokey and frantically gluing cotton balls on a snowman; mothers in the room next door are calmly led by wise women on the virtues of meaningful relationships, intentional family activities, and strategies for raising calm,disciplined, kind children. I participated in the program when my own kids were still preschoolers and benefited from the guidance, assurance, and teachings. Now that my kids are older, it felt natural to volunteer Friday mornings for these young moms who often feel alone and isolated, in need of adult conversation. While I appreciate being able to serve in the child care department I can't help but chuckle at my assignment. It is probably fortunate, based on my own parenting efforts, that I am not leading the teaching and discussion groups.
One of my favorite games as a kid was The Last Straw, or what I called, "Break the Camel's Back." It was literally a plastic camel that one by one we would place toothpicks on the camel's satchel/backpack until the camel's legs extended in 4 directions and he collapsed from the weight of the toothpicks! I get the impression my kids are playing this game with me everyday, me, the hospitable camel. How much more will I serve, clean, drive, feed, prepare, launder until I finally collapse? How many more complaints can I take about our meals, missing socks, homework assignments, sibling fights, general ingratitude or attitudes of entitlement?
These feelings had been building and Ron and I agreed we needed to implement a strategy to curb these undesirable behaviors that occasionally overtake our kids. Rather than focus on the negative we decided to count and acknowledge acts of kindness. At dinner Monday evening we had a family meeting while eating our potato chowder. This soup was supposed to have been Chick Fil A as I had an appointment in Brookfield and promised I would bring it home for dinner. Unfortunately that was the morning the camel's back broke. As the kids left for school aggravating and harassing each other I knew I could not enable their poor behavior by treating them to Chick Fil A. Thus I would cook! It was apparent that our kids needed assistance qualifying "acts of kindness." (Trey thinks taking his gym clothes to school is an act of kindness.) That evening we gave them suggestions of doing their laundry without being asked, noticing dirty dishes and washing them, cleaning the litter box, general household chores. Essentially, anything done with kind intention, without being asked, would be regarded as an act of kindness. I found this kindness chart at a preschool site ziggityzoom.com. Clearly my parenting skills have not progressed beyond our years at MOPS. Frustrating as it is to resort to a preschool behavior chart to monitor family interactions, I refuse to underestimate the importance of being kind. If they did not have a minimum of 10 kind deeds by the end of the week then cell-phone/I-touch would be off limits on the weekend. (Auburn was quick to point out that I can't see how kind she is at school. I don't doubt her kindness at school...my concern was simply how we treat our own family...kindness should be our default behavior...if in doubt...be kind...especially to your family....thus the chart).
Monday after dinner I did notice efforts from both kids to extend at least a better attitude. Auburn held the door open for me patiently as I accompanied her to volleyball. Trey was tired after his basketball practice, ready to watch the Packers and Monday Night Football, when I requested he postpone the game to watch an Ellen segment featuring a boy from Los Angeles. (This is an inspiring story attached at the end of the blog.) So although we were not oozing kindness and doing back-flips to fold laundry at least positive action was on their mind. Tuesday was clearly a highlight. Auburn rinsed out Dad's soup bowl, told mom she's a great singer, said thank-you for breakfast and for taking her to the doctor, complimented my hair, and finally, kindest of all, laughed at Dad's bad joke. All this made it to the chart in case there was a sudden drought of kindness opportunities; which evidently Wednesday posed that exact forecast. Not only was Wednesday a dry desert of kindness, points were actually deducted. It pains me to say, but Trey lost points as he "farted on Auburn," and Auburn lost points as she "scratched and slapped Trey." I left to teach an evening Pilates class aware my good chart intentions were disintegrating into gaseous vapor,
There must have been a subtle rebound in behavior Wednesday evening, as when I returned a few corrections had been placed over that challenging hump-day, Wednesday, It was as if the scratching, slapping, and gassing never happened. Thursday was inadvertently overlooked according to the kids. Of course they were kind...they just neglected to record the details. This evening Auburn is at Enchantment in the Park with friends and Trey and Ron are at a high school basketball game. That leaves me here quietly contemplating our kindness. The kids know while I appreciate their great grades, involvement in sports, positive remarks from their teachers and friends; that family should matter most. Caring for our brothers and sisters, expressing gratitude to our parents, initiating compassion, gratitude, helpfulness are life skills. My hope is that kindness toward our family and toward others will be our default. We will definitely be implementing GoodieTwoShoes' Kindness Chart again this week, based upon the above data collection, there is more kindness to be done!
Thank you for reading...and as Ellen would say...Be Kind to Each Other