“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.” –Marian Wright Edelman
The truth is that being a mother has shaped me into the best version of myself. It was a role that I thrived on. My relationships with my children have become the most intimate and complex that I have cultivated in my life. It is hard for me to imagine who I might feel closer to than them.
I have gone through various phases of loving these children as they have grown, the all-consuming codependent love that allows babies to survive, the over achieving driven mother trying to get everyone to every after school activity, the emotional barometer mother, or checking my adolescents’ well being every day after school. Yet, the only lesson I've managed to stay 100% consistent with throughout the years is that kindness is the greatest wisdom.
When they were little, I paid close attention to how their arguments were fought and resolved. For me, the feelings and connection between the family reigned supreme. Having grown up in a household that was divisive, I made it my single most important mission to create a home of kindness. It provided the foundation for the rest of their lives.
Childhood is a jungle. Becoming yourself both in physical stature and personal character through the tumultuous teen years is nothing short of heroic. My younger children are struggling with the issues that plagued their older siblings years ago, when the biggest concern for them was finding the missing Lego or who had the last string cheese. Moving onto the serious business of first crushes and surging hormones creates emotional drama that no one is quite prepared for.
I have seen all this at least once before, but the younger kids don’t want my advice – not when they have their older siblings to turn to. As I watched them pair off, the brothers together on my older son’s bed, the younger brother in tears, listening for any direction about his breaking heart, I remembered all the days of training, and sometimes yelling: “The only thing I demand of you is to be nice. There will be plenty of people who will point to what is wrong out there, but here in this home, there is nothing wrong with anyone.” Sometimes they had to go to their room until they remembered how to be kind.
I still remember the night that was a living example of what matters most to me at home. Without any prodding on my part, in fact, with a protective arm shielding my gaze, my kids were the big brother and sister that everyone dreams of having. Beyond the tolerance that sometimes squeaks by for kindness at home, that night they all experienced the depth of compassion and tenderness for each other that a mother dreams she will pass on through the daily practice.
When they were little, some of their teachers would pull me aside and say they had never seen siblings so watchful and kind to each other. It is still my greatest achievement – cultivating the kindness that will guide them and hold them together, long after I am gone.