Ever since I was a kid, I loved making people happy. Mostly by giving them stuff or just talking to them. I talked to everyone when I was a kid. I also spent most of my allowance on things for other people, rather than myself. When on vacation, I used my money to buy souvenirs for others. Whenever I did anything crafty, it was usually to give away to a friend or family member. So what is my why? To make others happy? Pretty much. But it’s more than that. I don’t want to just hand someone a present and see them smile for a few seconds. I want to show someone the path they can take to overcome their demons and get to true, lasting happiness. I’ll even hold their hand while they do it, so they know they have someone supporting and rooting for them. I want to empower people to make that hard change that might be painful at first, but leads to life-long joy. I want to inspire people to take the leap and show them or equip them with everything they need to do it. And yes, if giving a homemade blanket to someone who is cold makes their life a little easier, even if it doesn’t help them achieve lasting happiness, I want to do that too. I want everyone to know that there are people like me who care. I want them to know that they’re not alone. That is my why. What is yours?
Everyone has a cause they care about and pursue. Everyone has a reason for at least some of their actions, purchases, and social media posts. If you don’t, I imagine you have a hard time getting out of bed. But even then, I know there’s something you care about, even if you’re not actively promoting it.
I care about helping others. If a clothing store tells me that their reason for being is to help others, and they do that in the way they obtain materials and provide training, jobs, and education to their local community members, I will buy their clothes even if they are typically out of my price range. Or pink. Or not exactly my style. I’ll buy them for someone else if it means I get to help a cause I believe in.
Likewise, if you care about animals, and a shoe store says that their company was started so the profits could be used to help local animal shelters, you’ll want to buy those shoes. We like to promote our causes by supporting companies that also believe in our causes.
It’s even better when you can get into a career that furthers your cause. My cause is helping others. I tried to do that with engineering. I wanted to innovate and use new designs and technology to make products that would really benefit the community. But that didn’t seem like it was going to happen. When I switched to teaching, it was like sliding a puzzle piece into place. I got to help others in a way that I did not imagine I wanted to. There were lots of reasons I didn’t want to be a teacher and only one reason that I did. My one reason for wanting to be a teacher was to further my cause.
What’s your cause? How do you pursue it?
I don’t know about you, but when I get sick I sleep. A lot. And while I’m awake, I rarely feel like doing more than watch TV. I’ll wish for a rainy day, so I don’t feel bad about sleeping in until noon and lounging on the couch the rest of the day watching tv and sleeping, but it’s always bright and sunny when I’m sick.
I don’t think I’m unique in that I like to be productive. Most of us do. That’s why most of the addictive games have “goals,” “achievements,” or “tasks” for us to do – which is what makes them so addictive to us. It feels like we are accomplishing something and being productive (at least in the game). We love that feeling. But it’s hard to get that feeling when you’re sick and have no energy to be productive. Not even to play the games that give you that feeling.
Needless to say, I’ve been sick. Today is my first productive day in what feels like a week but has really just been 3 days (2.5 really, I was a little productive yesterday afternoon). Fortunately, I have a partner that reminded me that it’s okay to take a break now and then, especially when sick. He reminded me that we had a long, productive, and tiring month with the kids (it was the day after we took them back to their mom that I got sick) and that we both deserved some rest anyway. We took all day Monday to sleep in and watch NCIS (he took the day off work), even though we were quickly running out of clean socks and there were more dirty dishes than clean ones in the kitchen.
Tuesday I was going to get back on it. I didn’t. I slept til noon and every time I tried to do a thing, I felt dizzy and weak and had to lie down. So I watched TV all day and snoozed a little in the afternoon. It really got me down. I felt like I needed to be productive. I felt like a lazy piece of poop because none of the dishes had gotten washed, none of the mess in the kids’ room or living room had gotten picked up, and I hadn’t had the mental capacity to even work on my classroom stuff.
It got me down and made it hard for me to feel motivated to be productive in the future. But finally his words got through to me. It is okay to take a break and take it easy occasionally. It’s okay to watch cartoons and NCIS all day after sleeping in until noon and go to bed at eight. It’s okay to be sick and just relax. It’s okay because that’s not who I am and I’m not going to do it every day. Only as long as I need it.
If you’re sick and feeling useless because dishes aren’t getting done, your hobbies aren’t progressing, and you’re ordering pizza instead of cooking, just remember that it’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to be sick. It’s okay to relax and enjoy doing nothing for a few days. You’ll get back on your feet and when you do it will be with renewed vigor. You are a badass. Don’t ever forget it.
The other day I was late with breakfast, we forgot socks to the bounce house and had to buy some, I ran my just-purchased car into a parked vehicle in the parking lot, and the oven got left on 425 degrees for 5 hours. It seemed like a lot of other little things happened too that wouldn’t have normally bothered me, but just added to the bad day vibe. The worst one was the car. I just bought this car and I did way more damage to my car than the vehicle I hit. Of course my insurance covered their’s and not mine. Why am I paying so much for insurance? I cried – a lot. I felt so stupid. And continued to feel so with every little mistake I made the rest of the day.
That evening, I finally took a deep breath. I realized that in the grand scheme of things, eating breakfast late, paying a few bucks for socks, dinging a new car, and leaving the oven on for 5 hours really isn’t that big of a deal. It’s not going to affect anything in the long run. Yes, our electric bill will be a little higher for one month. And yes, I will have to take money out of my emergency fund to fix my car. But neither of those things are going to affect my future. Neither of them are going to cause long-term pain or affect my long-term happiness. They don’t influence my job, my relationships, my family, or my life.
It’s easy to let small things like these affect our mood and stop us from being happy in the short-term. We have to remember to look at the big picture and realize that they aren’t part of it. They don’t show up in the big picture and they don’t mess up the future. Therefore, there’s no point in letting them ruin so much a day of your life if they’re not going to majorly influence the future. No use wasting time being upset when time could be spent feeling happy and having fun or being productive instead of moping around.
What happened the last time you had an off day? Were you able to turn it around? If so, how?
Image from lamebook.
If you want to test your patience get a child. Seriously. Why do people do this to themselves? Thank goodness they’re cute, or they would not survive long. Just getting them to eat a decent amount of good food and stay away from sugar is a nightmare. Who knew dinner time could be so stressful? Every parent who cares about their child’s health. That’s who.
Kids will definitely test your patience. Or break your patience. I haven’t decided yet. I feel like I used to have a lot more patience before we had the kids over for a month. Now every little thing seems to bother me. But it also seems like we have learned to let the small stuff go. We have learned a lot of things, actually. And we make a great team – even though we don’t plan on having any full-time children unless something happens and he gets full custody of his girls.
Lesson one from having the kids is communication. We have learned to communicate expectations, consequences, and rewards with each other BEFORE communicating them to the kids. Usually. We sometimes slip and have to deal with the outcome, but so far it’s only been on minor things. I think this has helped with communication in general. Since I’ve gotten used to discussing plans with the girls before talking to the girls about it, I’ve also been more communicative about my own plans and goals. It’s nice.
Lesson two is stick to your guns. Always. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you said no the first time, you have to say no the hundredth time – and they will ask 100 times if you let them. If you say there’s going to be a consequence for a thing, you better be ready to enforce that consequence. We almost had to enforce one that we didn’t particularly want to, but we said we would and we were prepared to do it. Ended up not having to, so that was nice. But we TALKED about it and decided that we were going to stick to it. This helps in life too, because if you don’t mean what you say, you’ll lose credibility with your friends and peers. Learning to really stick to what you say – always – helps build the reputation that you are reliable. And everyone likes reliability.
Lesson three is always side with your partner. This is especially important if you don’t agree with your partner about a particular thing. It ties back to the last lesson of stick to your guns. Whatever answer one partner gave, that’s the answer. Period. We will communicate about it after the fact when we can do it without the kids around and make a plan for future occurrences. This has helped us be closer and stronger together because we are always backing each other up, even when we don’t completely agree with it. It’s nice to learn to let go of whether you have the same view as your partner and just focus on supporting your partner. Whether it’s dealing with the kids, making a career change, or working through personal issues.
Lesson four is that children have stealthy ninja skills and they will use them to sneak up on you and scare the piss out of you while you’re sleeping or resting. Seriously. They’re lucky I haven’t accidentally hit either of them. It’s terrifying. They’re not even doing it on purpose. They just see you sleeping or resting, know they shouldn’t disturb you, but decide to do it anyway because they really want to tell you something. Or they have to pee (even though she can do it by herself – why are you telling me??). Or they want to get up now even though it’s 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday and they refuse to get up at 7:30 during the week to go to school! Patience tested and destroyed.
Less five, and probably the biggest one, is always think before you speak. Anything you say to a child can and will be held against you. Always. Anything mean, dumb, silly, or misinformation that comes out of your mouth will be remembered and commented upon, either immediately or later. It will be regretted. This is a great lesson because sometimes we fight with our friends, family, or partners and we say things we don’t mean because we get caught in the moment and don’t think our words through. When a kid wakes you up at 2:30 in the morning because the other kid wants to tell you something, but turns out that other kid is asleep – it’s really difficult to choose your words or just not say anything at all. With enough practice, you learn to think before you speak in difficult situations – saving you relationships that you’ve spent time and effort building up.
Overall, I suppose kids make us better. Still a pain in the butt and I don’t know why so many people want them, but to each their own. I do feel like I’ve grown over the past month and the kids have also benefited. I’ll end with a quote I have seen on the internet that really ring true.
“Raising a child is like taking care of someone who’s on way too many shrooms, while you yourself are on a moderate amount of shrooms. I am not confident in my decisions, but I know you should not be eating a mouse-pad.” – Ron Funches
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from interacting with children?
I realized that several of my posts lately have gotten off what is the original purpose of this blog. I have this blog so I can record and share my journey as I navigate the ins and outs of life, including depression, relationships, family, social, and career. That does not include the nitty-gritty of my latest career: teaching. Which is what many of my recent posts have been about. While navigating career is part of navigating life, that doesn’t mean the day-to-day details. Many of my posts will still include things about teaching and education, but I will keep them to a more broad sense.
I do still want to keep writing in-depth posts about teaching and education, which is why I have created a separate blog called “bravinteaching” to house all my teaching posts. One of my top five strengths is intellection, which means I’m a deep thinker. It helps me tremendously to write out my thoughts and analyze them (analytical also being one of my top five strengths). I also want to get more feed back from other teachers, parents, and any individual concerned with or interested in the details of education and teaching. That is a bit of a different audience that I am trying to reach here.
So, if you one of the above mentioned and would like to read and share ideas about specifics in the classroom – please find and follow bravinteaching.
Otherwise, stick around and I will soon get back to posting my regular material soon. 🙂
I clearly do not know how to handle children that have been put into my care. Surly teenagers, that’s my jam. Even pre-pubescent pre-teens I can handle. But young children, I haven’t a clue. I can’t even play Clue with them. I can’t play most games with them and the youngest is nowhere near ready for jigsaw puzzles. Those are my go-to moves and I can’t even use them, but at 6 and 3, there’s not much I can do.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these kids, but I think sometimes it’s hard to tell in the way I show it. They are my boyfriends’ girls and the most important two people in his life, even though we don’t get them often. They are adorable and funny, but also stubborn and annoying. They laugh, they cry, they puke, they sing, they dance, they whine, and they won’t eat the food we put in front of them (which, my sister says is total karma).
I probably come off surly around them, but I don’t mean to be. I don’t feel surly. I just want them to be good kids, and I tend to go over-board controlling on things that I feel responsible for (thank you responsibility strength). So, I end up telling them don’t do this and stop that more than I say good job and keep it up. I don’t mean to. Really I don’t. I just want them to be good kids. But what defines a good kid?
Just like in the classroom, I think what I need is a set of definite expectations and rules for the kids to be successful kids. That can help a lot with using positive language instead of negative language. Instead of saying “don’t complain” I can say “is that being grateful? No? Then let’s try being grateful instead.” I swear I did more of that last time we had them for more than a few days, but I think it may have taken a few days to get there. My boyfriend has even said, “I know you don’t like the girls” to me before, which hurts because it isn’t true at all and I hate that I might come off that way. I swear I don’t mean to. It’s hard for me to try and rationalize with a human or is unable or barely able to rationalize. How else are you supposed to interact with someone?
I think a lot of it is the blatant selfishness of the kids. But it’s not just them. It’s all young children. And they really aren’t that bad compared to other kids I’ve seen. It’s in their nature and enforced in our culture. With this land of plenty, they have room to want things because all their needs are met and then some. So, being a tiny, adorable human that the world clearly revolves around, they want and want and want. Then they are so disappointed when you say no, it makes it seem like they don’t care at all about what they do have and everything that you have given them and done for them. It’s hard to be nice to someone like that. It makes you not want to do things for them. So, I’ve been saying don’t whine and don’t be selfish instead of be grateful, and I come off like I don’t like them.
But they do like me. They shout my name and run when they see me. They give me random hugs that melt my heart. They call mean ‘aunt’ because they want to feel connected to me more than just some girl in their life. And they love for me to do things with them – when I can figure out what to do with them. I suppose they are quick to forget the “don’t do this” and “stop that”s that I feel like I am constantly saying to them. But I don’t. I hate feeling like I have more negative interactions with them than positive ones. In the classroom, it’s good to have a least a 3 to 1 positive to negative comment/interaction ratio. I wan’t to apply that with these kids, too.
Back to needing expectations. Expectations will help me keep the important stuff in mind and let everything else go. They’re still unique humans after all, and I need to let them be them instead of being so controlling. Below I’m going to try and sketch out some expectations and what they mean in order to be successful and happy children.
- I expect them to be respectful. This means saying ma’am and sir.
- I expect them to be polite. This means saying please, thank you, you’re welcome, and bless you.
- I expect them to be grateful. This means showing appreciation for the food they get, the things they get, the people they get to spend time with, and the places they get to go and things they get to do.
- I expect them to want things, but to be graceful about it. This means politely asking for something and then saying yes sir or yes ma’am and moving on when told ‘no.’
- I expect them to be healthy. This means eating a good portion of the vegetables and meat we serve them and staying away from anything with sugar.
- I expect them to be children. This means playing, laughing, singing, blowing snot bubbles, crying, falling, puking, and giving random hugs that melt your heart.
I understand that number 4 may still be unrealistic for the younger one. Maybe even the older one. Or maybe we just haven’t gotten a chance to work on it enough. At least with these expectations in mind, I can use more positive language to steer them towards expected behavior and away from negative behavior, instead of just telling them to stop the negative behavior.
I still have no idea how to handle the younger one when she completely ignores me telling her to do something. But her dad doesn’t seem to fare much better, so maybe there’s not a good way. Or maybe we’re both doing it wrong. Suggestions?
How do you interact with children this young? Do you have any games or activities that an adult could do with a 6 and a 3-year-old? We take them to parks and play places and the pool, but I want something indoors that I or we can do with both of them that doesn’t involve watching TV. Do you have any suggestions or insights for someone who isn’t used to interacting with young children? I clearly need some help in this area and would love to read your input, insight, and suggestions. Thank you.