The World Needs More Kind People.

I’m an imperfect, mess of a person who married an imperfect, mess of a person. Together we have spawned three imperfect, messy people.

Robbie and I recognized early on that we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. That became clear 7 years ago in our Intro To Parenting class when the instructor said “Raise your hand if you’ve never changed a diaper!” and we were the only two people in the room with our hands in the air.

Our unborn child was screwed. We knew it, the instructor knew it, and the 15 other couples in the class knew it.

Because of our apparent lack of knowledge, we have made it our practice to set the bar of achievement at a reasonable level. We encourage our children to do their best and we are proud when they succeed, but more than that, it is important to us that we raise them to be kind.

I don’t just want my kids to be kind to people who look and act like they do. I want them to be kind to everyone. Yes, black people. Yes, brown people. Yes, yellow people. Yes, gay people. Yes, strange people — and don’t call them strange, because we’re strange too.

Yes, homeless people. Yes, punk rock people. Yes, baby people. Yes, old church people.

Yes, even your own brother and sister.

PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. BE KIND TO THEM. This is our family motto.

The thing about parenting is that you never really know if what you’re doing is working. You just do the best you can, and as days stretch into weeks you keep trudging along until something happens that lets you know that you have either failed miserably or done something right. Recently something happened that let me know we’re doing something right.

My 6-year-old’s teacher sent me a text letting me know that she selected him to receive the “Good Citizenship” award because of how kind, helpful, and patient he’s been with a boy named Gabriel in their class.

“Who is Gabriel?” I asked. She replied that Gabriel is a little boy with autism.

“Maverick is so patient with him,” she said. “He’s made such a huge difference.”

Maverick has mentioned to us a handful of times that there is a really funny boy who does silly things and I had no idea what he was talking about. We have friends who have kids with autism, so Maverick may not even realize there is anything different going on with his friend.

The next morning at breakfast, we asked about Gabriel. “OH!” he said, “Gabriel is my friend. He has a disability. I know all about disabilities. Gabriel’s disability is that he just can’t stop being funny!”

As I turned away to hide my face, because I was doing that ugly cry thing that moms do when they are moved by something, I heard Maverick say “His favorite color is rainbow! Isn’t that awesome?!” before shoveling more cereal into his mouth.

Several days later, I found myself standing in a sea of other proud parents. My son sat quietly through the awards ceremony; he had no idea that his name was going to be called, and certainly didn’t know the reason why.

I watched him, feeling the condensation drip from my iced coffee, wondering when the transformation happened. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, he’s changed. A year ago he would have had trouble sitting there quietly. And now, just look at him.

Raising a kind child.

Me and my kid.

Later, I arrived at his classroom for the end of year party. “HI, MOMMY!” he yelled, in typical exuberant fashion. He was sitting outside next to a little boy I’d never seen before.

“Hi! Who’s your friend?” I asked.

“Oh! This is Gabriel!”

“Hi, Gabriel! I’m Maverick’s mom.”

Gabriel smiled. I liked him already.

The world doesn’t need three more assholes. The world needs three more kind people.

I hope my children can be those three kind people.

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Being Kind Is Not For The Weak.

Yesterday I read a piece that one of my very favorite writers, Glennon Melton of Momastery, posted on her Facebook page.

I don’t typically love wordy, scholarly-type pieces, but I loved the SHIT out of this. Perhaps it says something about me that I considered this article “scholarly,” but I’ll own that. Part of why I love social media is that other people can filter through publications like the New York Times or The Atlantic and pick out interesting articles for me. Facebook is kind of like my personal concierge of reading material. So thank you, everyone who takes the time to read through various articles and then post it for people like me who don’t have time to peruse or chop vegetables because I’m too busy looking for the green blanket or finding batteries for the magic elephant that makes the baby sleep. I don’t do much without a toddler attached to my leg.

This is 34.

The article says that happily married couples share one common denominator: they’re kind to each other. I immediately commented, because I’m a big nerd.

Screenshot_2014-07-09-09-23-17-1 Kindness. It’s so simple. But it’s so, so hard. I know this because I read that article that Glennon posted while riding in a car with screaming, tired children. I don’t think Robbie and I ever had a problem being kind to each other before we procreated. We are well-matched, enjoy each other’s company and call each other out on unacceptable behavior. I think we used to think the other person was hilarious and smart and hot and all of the things you think about someone when you’re madly in love with them. All was relatively smooth, easy, even — for a solid 5 years. And then we became parents.

All of the sudden, nothing he did was right. Nothing he said was right. There were times when I was convinced I married some asshole and I made a huge mistake and I’m sure he thought the same of me. Some of it was hormonal, some of it was just the reality of operating on very little sleep under very stressful conditions.

I saw every flaw, in both of us. It was hard to be kind. But we persisted, and we fought through that valley, came out on the other side and did it all over again two more times. It takes work and practice to be kind when you don’t want to be. When I’m trying to talk to him and kids are running and screaming, I get mad at them all, Robbie included. I want to yell at everyone, SHUT UP AND ACT RIGHT. Sometimes I do.

When Robbie forgets to take out the garbage, it takes work for me to be kind. I really just want to yell, WHAT THE HELL, MAN. THE KITCHEN SMELLS LIKE ASS AND IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT. Sometimes I do.

This is why they say kids are hard on a marriage. Children add a level of stress that is unmatched, and you just have to figure out how to deal with it and still be kind to the person who helped you create them.

Last week we took a family trip to the beach, and I was reminded once again that a vacation with small children is not a vacation at all — it is a TRIP and it is EXHAUSTING. We were on our way down I-10 and I was holding Robbie’s hand. No one needed anything. No one was crying. I let my thoughts drift, thinking how nice it was that we were all together and everyone was happy, when we heard a rush of air and realized that Asher had somehow opened the car door with his foot and was working on getting out of his carseat. “Lemme out,” he said.

Oh my God. These children.

I found myself yelling at Robbie, fuming at him for not PULLING THE CAR OVER RIGHT THIS MINUTE so I could tighten Asher’s carseat straps and put the child lock on. But we were on a bridge, and he was worried about me getting hit by a semi, so he kept going while I clung to Asher’s feet (to make sure he didn’t do it again) and yelled at him to stay put.

He responded by repeating, “Lemme out.”

Robbie drove to the nearest exit and pulled over, indignant over why I was so angry at him. He was not the one who caused the problem. He was just trying to keep us all safe. I wasn’t thinking about my own safety; I was only concerned about my child. The stress of the situation made me lash out at my partner, and I was not kind. I imagine this is what most couples go through, children or not. Life is stressful. Kids open car doors with their feet. Weird things happen.

It takes effort, real work, to be kind to the person that you love the most. I hope that when the kids are older and have a better understanding of things like gravity and the possibility of drowning, Robbie and I will have more time to hold hands and let our minds wander. It’s a good thing our kids are cute and my husband is hilarious, smart, and hot. Otherwise, I’m not sure I could handle any of them.