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.