I was talking this morning with a patient (my favorite part of the job), and she was telling me about her childhood. She came from a big family, and by the time she was born, her older sisters were having children of their own. There was never a dull moment around that house!
She told me how her mother could always be counted upon to put a big meal on the table, regardless of the hour. If four more dropped by, they’d get fed too. The interesting part was how her mother never sat with the family, preferring rather to take that chance for a quite moment knitting mittens for the kids in town.
Every late summer, her father would take his brood to pick blueberries, so that they could raise enough money to buy new clothes for school. She was brought up in a house where hard work, service, and hospitality were not just preached, they were practiced. She attributes her “get up and go” spirit to her parents, who always “got up and went.”
It makes me realize that sometimes the lessons we teach our kids aren’t the ones we teach with our words, but our actions. We try to live lives of service at our house, and our kids are always looking to help others when they’re able. It’s important to remember that teaching isn’t the exclusive job of the parents, sometimes it’s the kids’ job, too.
Here are the lessons shared I shared with my kids yesterday.
Jake and I built six pyramids out of sugar cubes for his class project. I had learned earlier that his projects have to be reasonably simple (not easy, simple) to be effective, and that he had to have some vested interest. I found pictures of the pyramids, we found them using Google Earth, and we saw some Youtube clips of people climbing and exploring them. We even watched a three minute clip of a lady building pyramids from sugar cubes. As we labored, I was reminded at how quickly his mind works when it’s things he grasps. We started our largest pyramid with a 10×10 base. He knew that was 100 cubes. After we’d glued together 2 rows, he knew we needed 80 to finish the bottom. We kept playing math facts throughout – mostly to keep his attention, but partly to entertain myself. After we got them all built, and spray-painted, and glued in place, he got to label them and put on the finishing touches. I got a lesson in patience and the just-right challenge. He got a lesson in math and pyramid construction.
One of our gubernatorial candidates came out of the closet recently. His name is Mike Michaud. The rumors Liv had heard were confirmed when her friend’s mother asserted that yes, Mike’s gay. Mike just happens to come from our home town. One of Olivia’s favorite teachers is a Mrs. Michaud. She made the natural leap to the idea that Mrs. Michaud’s husband was gay. How could this be? What exactly does this mean? What an excellent opportunity to have a talk. She was so thankful to realize that Mrs. Michaud’s husband is in love with Mrs. Michaud, and that Mike is not her husband. Olivia shared that now that boys can marry boys, and girls can marry girls, can’t she still marry a boy, or does it mean she has to marry a girl? It was a nice opportunity to share with her some ideology, respect and tolerance, but still quell her fears. Yes, it’s OK if she says her girlfriend is cute, it doesn’t mean she thinks she’s CUTE. Yes, it’s OK if girlfriends in elementary school hold hands sometimes when walking in the hallways; it doesn’t mean any more than that they’re friends. My favorite part of the conversation was her approach to it – it wasn’t hate mongering, and it wasn’t really judgey – it was with a childlike innocence and desire for understanding. She can entertain a thought without defensiveness. I like that. I learned how innocent she still is, and hopefully she learned something about the world we live in.
Gabriel is a simple man. He’s seven, and his world is still pretty black and white. His big concern of the day was that he couldn’t beat the Wii swordplay game. His biggest competition in the game so far was a character named Haru. Haru has as many hearts as he does (which I think means they’re equally tough). Try as he might, he simply cannot conquer Haru. He even had me watch him a few times. He told me he was amazed that Haru is a woman, because men are usually so much tougher than women. When I finally stopped laughing and regained my composure, I got the chance to tell him that women are just as tough as men, and he’d better learn that lesson fast before some girl knocks him on his chauvinist butt. It was a nice little discussion about equality and not judging a book by ‘her’ cover. He seemed to get it, but he’s still not the swordsman Haru is. I learned that a good man is bred, not born. Hopefully he learned to respect women a little more.
At the end of the day, did anyone learn anything besides dear old Dad? I don’t know, but I hope so.