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Doing the Right Thing.

I don’t need Max to get straight A’s in school. Or attend and Ivy League University. Or become President, a doctor, an athlete, or a scientist.

He doesn’t need to follow my footsteps, or Jeff’s, or continue a tradition…

I want him to be happy, of course. All parents want that for their kids (at least all parents I know). But more than that, I want him to be mindful. To be a person who is thoughtful and looks out and thinks of others. Always.

So I started at the playground.

Max has always been a big kid for his age (though he leveled out about a year ago and is about average now). I can usually count on him being one of the biggest kids on the playground. So one of the first things I tell him is:

“Max, look around you, who is the biggest (or one of the biggest) kid here?”

He looks around every time, but knows to point to himself regardless.

“Okay, you’re the big kid. You need to be mindful and aware of everyone else.”

He nods and runs off.

I’m not sure if this ever sinks in. I’m not ever sure what sinks in until a few months later when he brings it up in the car or at dinner and I have no earthly clue what he’s talking about.

Anyway, today we went to one of our favorite kid-friendly hang outs and Max met a boy there about his age. Max has been in a rather petulant mood as of late so I wasn’t entirely surprised to hear him come crying to me after a while of playing.

I held him for a bit before asking what’s wrong — I’ve learned that I’m not getting an explanation immediately anyway so to stop asking right away.

“I was playing with that boy and he wasn’t playing nice with Hudson.  Hudson wanted to play and he told Hudson to go away and that he didn’t want to play with babies.  I said ‘He’s not a baby! He’s three!’ then the boy said he didn’t want to play with me anymore and he pushed my head and I fell on the ground.”

It’s true, I overheard part of the incident.

I thanked him for defending his brother. He confused the word “defend” and corrected me, telling me he was trying to protect him. He sulked a bit before eventually finding something else to do.

I couldn’t help but smile. And while I was upset for Max (and also pretty upset for Hudson who, completely unaware had moved on to another group of kids) I was really proud of him.

He did the right thing.

It would have been easy for him to also shun his little brother to keep playing. 4 isn’t to young to be afraid of rejection. It’s not too young to want to go along with friends so you’ll be liked even if it means being mean to other people, even your siblings. In fact, 4 is the age where teasing seems harmless and even fun, especially when someone else starts it. But, given the choice, he did the right thing. And it sucked. But he did it.

And while I am not exactly sure what I had in mind when I tell him to “be mindful” at the playground, I’d like to think that my repetition had something to do with it. Mostly though, I’m struck by what kind of person he’s becoming. And while it might have been a small thing to do, it was tough,  I’ve never felt so proud of him.

What is one of the things you most hope to pass on to your kids? Have you ever felt like your children weren’t listening and later seen evidence that they have?

Check out more Max here.

2 thoughts on “Doing the Right Thing.

  1. One of the very most important things that I wanted Winter to have in her personality was to know when to lead and know when to follow. Cory and I discussed this before her blessing. I asked him what he would bless our new baby girl with? He replied with the usual I had heard at many blessings before, health, happiness, a kind spirit… then he asked me, what did I want for her? Having always been choosen for a leader role, I easily take it on. My personality steps up into being bossy with little or no trouble. That doesn’t not always make it great to know how to follow. For Winter I wanted her to know how to follow her teachers and good role models. I wanted her to know and trust that sometimes other people know more than she does and that she has a lot to learn from others. When it comes to her being a leader, I hope she will lead herself and others away from bad choices. I want her to know how to lead in a way that is thoughtful, not bossy. I want her to know how to choose between the two.

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  2. Wow you have one hell of a kid Sarah!!

    Still, at age 22, my parents are still telling me things that resonate so strongly with me that I want to carry them with me throughout my life.

    Minus showing me “The Sixth Sense” when I was in fourth grade, my parents have done an incredible job raising me and my siblings. They’ve always taught us compassion, love, and the importance of helping each other out. So far, none of us three kids have been arrested, in a bad fight at school (maybe i had as scuffle or two), and we have all worked very hard at achieving our goals, I’m almost at the graduation point at VCU, Katie (my sister) is completing her first year at Longwood, and Jonathan (my brother) is a junior in high school doing very well and we are incredibly lucky to have had such accepting, open, and loving parents who would do anything for us.

    One day recently, my mother told me a story about how my father’s parents were not doing well, and he would always have to go up and take care of them. Keep in mind my father’s parent’s lived in Albany, New York and as a Newlywed and recent father to me, my mother while understanding, wasn’t thrilled as she felt his siblings (who he was never really close with) were contributing as much as he was to the care of his parents, even though at least one of them lived fairly closer. My dad took my mom aside and said something that still ranks up there with one of the top lessons that I have ever heard. He told her
    “If you’re going to live your life based on the expectations of other people, you’re going to be disappointed; you live your life so that you can go to sleep with yourself every night knowing you did the right thing.”

    That truly stuck, and I do try to do that, but it’s not always easy. And it’s very clear that you and Jeff are teaching your kids that important lesson by this story’s example.

    Well done. ❤ They are very lucky.

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