Lately I have been thinking a lot about kindness. I’ve found myself telling my children to ‘be nice’ frequently in the last month or so. Being 5 has Boss all discombobulated, trapped between baby and big kid while Huckleberry is firmly planted in the mine phase. Big brother takes care of his toys, little brother likes to throw them. You can see where the conflict comes in.
Be nice! I tell Boss firmly and probably not sounding very nice myself. Huck! No hitting! Be nice!
What I really mean is be kind. Nice somehow has a negative, inauthentic connotation. I want my boys to be kind. There is a difference. Nice is sometimes at our own expense, kind is…kind is different. More understanding. I’m trying to teach Huck not to hit or throw by redirecting his behaviour but he is hitting and throwing because he is frustrated, both by his inability to do everything his little heart desires and my inability to understand what he is saying. I need to be kind to him. (Not that I am mean, you understand.) Boss takes so much on the chin, stolen toys, broken toys, a baby brother who is into everything. All while dealing with his own things. His natural state IS kindness. And when he gets frustrated and upset I need to be kind to him. Take a moment before time outs, before punishments, before any of that…and see if I can find out WHY he is behaving as he is, to understand, to show empathy.
I want him to continue on that path of kindness, I want to encourage and nurture it. I see it in Huckleberry as well. You can’t give a treat to that kid without him wanting to take one to big brother and all his friends. Huck may be two with a vengeance but he is happiest when everyone is happy. Aren’t most kids born into a state of kindness? Until the world beats it out of them? So, my small resolution as it were is to stop telling them to be nice. Be kind, is what I will say, reminding myself as well as my little ones. Be kind.
So it was an interesting coincidence that my mother in law brought home a book and said emphatically “You have to read this!” Today I did, from start to finish and just, wow. How’s that for an endorsement? It’s just so interesting when you are ruminating on something and then things seem to appear everywhere on that same subject. The book was Wonder by R.J.Palacio and while it is a riveting tale about growing up, learning who you are and all the pitfalls of middle school; it is mainly about kindness and how kindness can be like an avalanche. The main protagonist of the story is August “I won’t describe to you what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” a young boy who has been homeschooled his whole life due to surgeries for his facial abnormalities. That’s putting it mildly, actually. It could be preachy and heavy-handed and yet, it’s not. It’s funny, smart, sweet, heartbreaking, wonderful and life affirming. And not one bit schlocky at all.
In the book the author quote the often quoted JM Barrie “Shall we make a new rule of life…always to try to be a little kinder than neccessary?” I think that might go right one one of those wonderful typography signs when I have my home. Kinder than neccessary. I love that. And I will try to follow that new rule.
Except for snarky pop-culture blog posts. Obviously.