Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Teaching Kindness

Remember that time when I wrote about how my husband and I went to San Francisco and our rental car got broken into and it was okay because we sat and thought about things to be grateful for?

Well. Apparently we should never go on vacation. I've decided when we go on vacation we either have to have vomiting kids or car trouble of some sort, because or last few vacations have gone as follows: San Diego - clutch goes out on the car on Christmas Eve; Texas - CB gets carsick in the middle of the night and vomits all over twice; San Francisco - the aforementioned car getting broken into; Tucson - CB gets some kind of horrible stomach bug and starts throwing up right as we pull up to a hotel and then throws up all night; Texas again - parts go shooting out of our engine 3 hours from our destination and our car is totally trashed.

This last one was extra special because we'd only just bought the car about six months before, we had two kids in the car, and it was the beginning of our vacation after a year of not seeing my husband's mom. We'd decided to stop for the night just three hours out because we didn't see any point in driving until 4 am, and about two miles down the road the next morning we heard a horrible knocking that rapidly turned into a loud clang and smoke.

I could write another list about all of the things I thought of to be grateful for this time around, because I was shockingly calm about the whole thing and noticed lots of reasons that we were really lucky. (My husband had a harder time getting to that point, since he'd done a TON of research before he bought the car and felt pretty mad about it going out on us, but he got there eventually.) However, what really stuck out to me was how kind people were. At least 5 cars stopped in the hour we were sitting on the side of the road on a highway that wasn't all that busy. Some of them just slowed down to ask if we needed water or snacks until the tow truck came. Some told us they would pray for us. Some offered rides and advice. One family on their way to a funeral stopped and asked if we needed anything, then CAME BACK a few minutes later because they'd noticed there was a truck stop just over the hill and thought it would be a better place to wait with two babies. They totally rearranged everything in their truck to cram us and our car seats and our essentials in, and it was so much better to wait near a bathroom in the truck stop restaurant eating spaghetti and chicken strips and coloring than it would have been to wait by the side of the road for 3 hours for my brother in law to come and get us. (And, by the way, my incredibly kind brother-in-law ended up driving 7 hours for us that day, which I'm sure is not how he was hoping to spend his Saturday.)

When we got back from Texas, my two and a half year old had a few days where she was just royally grumpy and trying, (and this after a week of mixed interactions with her cousins, some wonderful and lovely, some of which resulted in hitting and crying in pursuit of possession of the coolest toys at Grancy's house). She was having potty accidents and wasn't listening and wasn't being very nice (a friend of mine calls it re-entry sickness - that craziness kids get adjusting to normal life after vacation), and I was just at my wit's end. Her favorite thing in the whole world right now is dressing up in princess dresses, and suddenly in the middle of another uncharacteristic fit I had an inspiration. "You know sweetie, princesses are always kind and nice. If you aren't kind, I don't think you can be a princess. It's fun to dress up, but it's more important to be kind and nice to people."

This totally struck a chord with her, and over the two months that we've been home from Texas. I have occasionally taken princess dress privileges away for periods of time until she can show me that she's being kind. My husband and I talk to her about being "nice and kind" daily. Sometimes hourly. As with most things, it seems to be getting easier for her with practice. She routinely points out unkind behavior to me when she sees it in a movie or at the playground and says things like, "[Blank] is being mean! That's not very good!" When I point out to her that her behavior isn't kind she is quick to tell me, "But I am nice and kind!" and then we talk about what we can do that would be better - what would be kinder. I make a big deal about it when she shares with her little sister without being asked, when she shows she is thinking about other people, when she thanks me for the yummy dinner even though she hasn't actually tried it yet and might not.

It's easy to think about yourself. It's especially easy for a preschooler to only think about herself, because her brain just hasn't developed all the way yet and she just hasn't developed that much empathy yet, and it's easy to just ignore children's inability to be kind and assume that they'll just grow out of it - which I suppose to some extent they probably will. But the more I talk to my daughter about kindness, the more I realize that how important it is, and how effective it is even though I know some things will come better with age. She talks better and better each day. She's starting to recognize letters. She's getting stronger and more agile and more beautiful every day. But the thing that matters most to me is that she's also getting better at being kind. I can see a difference already, and she has so much time to learn to be really kind and wonderful. Maybe someday she'll be the one stopping to help someone broken down by the side of the road, reminding them that even though things are bad right now, it will be okay - because people are kind. 

1 comment:

P & J said...

Awe, sweet post. I hope Clara is giving some family a ride to the truck stop! Also your vacation persistence despites these mishaps is AMAZING! I wouldn't leave my house again!