As I walk around the house picking up shoes, I have to ask myself; where did I go wrong? Because for 16 years I have asked, pleaded, begged even, for the minors in my home to pick up their shoes and put them away. Yet here I am, three sets of flip-flops in hand, doing it for them. Why on earth won’t my kids pick up their shoes?
The answer: because I do. I’d really like to blame them. Rake them over the coals for leaving their shoes/socks/keys/ice cream bowls scattered across the family room. I’d like to pretend my kids are horrible slobs. But they are not. The truth is, I am the one to blame (really hoping they don’t read this, because it would surely be used against me).
I am the one who is asking, but not requiring. And I know better. I learned long ago the only way to get my offspring to do anything is to insist upon it. Require it. Be on their back day in and day out, over and over again until they: Get. It. Done. I don’t know how other people parent but this is what’s worked for me (no judgement please!). It’s how I taught my kids to share/mind/do homework/wear deodorant. If I am consistent, they eventually get the message: I have to do this or mom will be all over me. Or: It’s so much easier to just do this than to deal with my crazy mother.
But when it comes to my kids putting their things away, I am weak. Unorganized. I lack follow through. But at least its just shoes we’re talking about.
I think we teach people how to treat us. Our actions and reactions are cues to others as to how much we will….Put up with. If my significant other is unkind and I don’t call him out on it, I have an unkind significant other. If my friend gossips about me and yet I say or do nothing, I continue to have a friend who gossips about me. If I say yes to volunteer opportunities I don’t have time for, people will learn to count on me in a pinch (ouch-this one hits home!). If I want the respect of others, I have to require it.
I also believe this rule works in reverse; our actions and reactions to others are also cues as to how much we will…Care for them. If I treat my children and husband with respect, they will return that respect (okay, most of the time). If I hold my friend’s hand or heart through her time of struggle, she will help me through my own darkness. And most importantly, when I give of myself with a genuine heart, the world gives back to me.
I read a story today that really made me think: how much do I give of myself? Anytime I begin to think I’m pretty good at this, reality comes along and blows a hole in my self-righteous armor. Today this very thing happened. I read a heartwarming story and realized two things: a) small kindnesses are not small at all, and b) I miss many opportunities to give of myself.
The story, which you can read in full here, is about a twenty-something man who showed extreme kindness to a young boy sitting behind him at a Milwaukee Brewers game. He talked to him, walked with him, gave him a baseball. I’m pretty sure I would have just smiled at the boy and that would have been it. What strikes me about the story is that his actions were so…Unusual. Unheard of almost. And I’m left wondering: did this wonderful young man pick up his shoes as a kid? (I sure hope not, I want there to be hope for my own kids!).
So today I have come to realize these universal truths: I need to make an effort. To give more to others. Not financially, not time wise, but in my thoughts, in my care for those I love, and in my interactions with strangers. And as I do, the world will return my kindness.
And, unless I improve my efforts on the home front, I have about 8 more years of picking up shoes.