Tagged: Courage

The Good Push

Once, when I was upset, a calm, thoughtful person suggested that I imagine a pond.

I didn’t want to imagine a pond. I wanted to push.

I wanted to huff and puff. I wanted to whine and complain. I wanted to kick and shout.

I was upset. I was having trouble seeing past the upset.

I don’t remember if I did it then, but I have done it since, and here’s how it goes:

Imagine a pond.

Imagine that you’re sitting near the pond, possibly on a log or a bench. Maybe with your legs folded on a bed of soft grass.

Imagine that you’re looking across the pond from above.

Imagine the specks of light from a soft morning sun that are dancing playfully on its surface.

Imagine shifting a bit. Imagine leaning over and looking down from above.

Imagine that the surface of the pond is flawlessly still and that the crystal clear gaps between the dancing, playful specks of soft morning sunlight reveal a world of light and life when your eyes adjust away from the reflection of tree branches and cotton clouds above.

Imagine a few carp gliding along in synchronicity.

Imagine some slender, swaying, leafy plants.

Imagine a wise old turtle making his way across the sandy bottom.

Imagine rocks, smooth and jagged, dark and light, big and small.

Imagine a leaf, slowly descending, waterlogged and sinking past the calm action beneath. Let you mind’s eye follow its gentle path.

Now, imagine a raindrop. Imagine a single raindrop breaking the glassy surface of your pond. One at first followed by more.

Imagine the equal and opposite, perfectly symmetrical bowl of a fracture in your calm surface that each drop perpetuates. Imagine the rimmed spray that defines each fractured center and shape. Imagine the impact of each drop and how it alters the surface of the pond, the world beneath, and state of your mind.

Imagine that the soft drops become a spattering.

Imagine that the sky goes dark.

Imagine that the spattering becomes a shower and that the shower becomes a storm.

Imagine that you can no longer see beneath.

Imaging that the surface of your pond is no longer translucent but wild, dark, disturbed, harsh and opaque.

Imagine that the world beneath is no longer available to you.

Imagine that you’ve forgotten all about the synchronicity of the carp, the wisdom of the turtle, the complexity and beauty of the rocks, and the soft, organically purposeful pathway of the descending leaf.

Imagine that you are now only encased in the wild pounding of the dark cold rain, and watching it also pound on the now rough surface of your once calm pond.

Now, do you remember wishing for telekinetic powers as a child? Did you ever sit at a table, staring at a pencil or a playing card, waiting for in to move in response to the incredible powers of your mind? Do you remember believing that it would?

Good news. You have such powers.

When our minds are cloudy, when we’re inside the storm that come with stress, anxiety, anger, and fear, when we can’t see past the hard, cold, pounding rain and dark clouds, we tend to want to push.

We tend to need to.

We tend to push with, and even against our own will.

We tend to push at others.

We tend to communicate less effectively than we otherwise would.

We tend to push our priorities and our best selves aside.

We tend to see increasingly less clearly with each push.

We tend to need to actively release the negative. Ironically, we tend to exacerbate it with our efforts, and we tend to diminish relations with others and with ourselves in the process.

We need to push and we should.

A calm, thoughtful person, by way of suggesting that I imagine a pond, guided me to thinking about the good push and away from the bad, harmful, counterproductive pushing of a clouded mind.

Here you sit, in your imagined storm, over your disrupted pond, under your dark, invented, limiting sky. It’s time for the good push. It’s time to enlist the telekinetic powers you’ve always known you have. It’s time to build the muscle that harnesses your strength and taps your courage and enlists your calm and expands your vision and steadies you mind.

Now head back to the stormy pond-scape you were imagining and try this:

Imagine that the pure power of your will slowly wipes the dark away from the sky.

Imagine that the cotton clouds move in as the dark sky moves out, and that the soft morning sun peeks through once again and scattered, glistening rays along with it.

Imagine the storm slows to a shower, and that the shower slows to sprinkle, and that the sprinkle slows to a misty dew floating above the now calm-again surface of your pond, before it lifts in smooth synchronicity into the sky and dissolves before your eyes.

Take in the feel and the smell of an imagined world renewed, refreshed, and calm.

Imagine bending your head and reconnecting with the surface and the specks of light from a soft morning sun that were once and are now once again dancing playfully upon it.

Imagine shifting again. Imagine leaning over once more and looking down from above.

Imagine, like you did before, that the surface of the pond is flawlessly still and that the crystal clear gaps between the dancing, playful specks of soft morning sunlight reveal the same world of light and life when your eyes again adjust away from the reflection of tree branches and cotton clouds above as it previously had.

Imagine the carp gliding along in synchronicity.

Imagine the slender, swaying, leafy plants.

Imagine the wise old turtle making his was across the sandy bottom.

Imagine the rocks, smooth and jagged, dark and light, big and small.

Imagine the leaf, still slowly descending, waterlogged and sinking past the calm action beneath. Once again, let you mind’s eye follow its gentle path.

We tend to hold true a misnomer that in order to be productive we must think of the myriad things on our proverbial plates, to organize and attend to them, to focus hard on the clutter rather than the calm.

A calm mind is not an inactive mind. A calm mind is simply one that can see and be seen clearly.

A mind is like a pond in that there is world of light and life inside of it that is difficult to engage with during the storm.

It’s not enough to wait for the calm. It’s not enough know that the storm will eventually pass. We still need to push; it’s a part of who we are. If we simply wait, we tend to push in wounding ways. Hurt people hurt people, right?

We must embrace the storms as they hit. However, we must enlist the good push, even by manufacturing the need and applying it repeatedly.

We each have the power. We must practice. We must forgive ourselves when we fail, which we will, and we must press on with the notion that a foundation of optimism, a commitment to positive tones in thought, voice, and action, and a dedication to calm minds can enhance this world for us, for those we serve, and for those we serve with.

Parents and educators, we must model strength, courage, and calm in this way for our children.

We simply must.

In short, I urge you to take a moment when you can (even if you think you can’t), and imagine a pond.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Love

We were in the car the other night on the way home from a dinner out. We brought two cars because I came straight from work.

The big three decided to ride home with mommy. I was with the little guy (who’s actually not so little – our three-year-old outweighs his four-year-old sister by a few more than a couple pounds at this point).

Just into the drive I heard a sleepy voice from the back seat asking, “Daddy, are we on a height?”

“On a height?” I clarified.

“Yes,” he told me, and then he went on to request and inform, “Please tell me when we’re on a height because I’m afraid of heights.”

I assured him that we were not on a height and that I would let him know if we happened upon one. He thanked me.

Then I asked him if he knew about the thing inside of him, and inside of all of us that can help us when we’re afraid. I was fishing for “courage.”

With great confidence this old-souled munchkin chinned-up, perpetrated a wide smile and a raised eyebrow, and he told me in no uncertain terms, “I do know about the thing inside that can help us when we’re afraid!”

I peeked in the rear view mirror, suggesting, “Go on, “ to which he enlightened me (as kids so frequently do).

“Love.”

Of course! Love!

Love’s the thing we can use when we’re afraid. We can use it when we’re sad, when we’re frustrated, when we’re angry, when we’re confused, when we’re down on ourselves, when we feel hurt by others, when we’re not sure where to go next, when we slip and fall off course, and any time we need a boost or a reminder that things are going to be alright.

The Beatles told us, and I almost forgot, “All we need is love…love is all we need.”

For us parents and educators we’re headed into the tail end of the school year. There’s so much to do and so much to think about right now.

If you’re feeling like me you’re not sure how it’s going to get done. You’re not sure that it is.

The challenging news is that it’s not. It never does.

The exciting news is that you’re going to prioritize and make sure the stuff that needs doing does get done. You always do.

Three-year-old wisdom reminded me that I can trust love to help me navigate the challenges and the triumphs of the next couple of months.

If you’re interested, take a moment to make a shortlist of what love does for you.

Here’s my go at it:

Love reminds me that I’m connected to those around me.

Love helps others know that I care about them and that they care about me.

Love puts things in perspective.

Love frames even the most challenging challenges in bright, colorful ways.

Love draws out possibilities.

Love inspires hope.

Love scaffolds optimism.

Love drives confidence.

Love makes it ok to be wrong and to genuinely listen for rightness from others.

Love reminds me that there are perspectives outside of my own, and that even when I struggle to understand them they’re real and critically important.

Love provides opportunities.

Love smashes stubborn pride and supplants it with healing humility.

Love brings me peace.

Love grounds me.

Love makes me know that anything is possible.

Love shows me that light shines even in the darkest corners.

Love feels good.

Love simply feel good, and if the past forty-forty years is a sampling of how fast this life moves, I’d like to feel good as much as possible.

There’s my one-minute shortlist on what love does for me. Writing it was a worthwhile exercise. I recommend it.

Parents and educators, when you’re feeling like it can all get done, when you’re worried about how the next moment, the next day, the next week, or the next month can possibly unfold in right ways, when there’s too much to do and not nearly enough time, when you’re worried, flustered, and super-stressed, try to remember about love.

If you can do nothing else in any given moment, try to shower yourself and those around you with love.

You might not be able to teach them everything you wanted to, you might not be able to see each of them mastering every standard by June 15th, you might not have unfolded every plan or fulfilled your vision of how this school year would unfold, you might be light years off, but you do have the power to shower those kids with love.

Start with yourself, be ok with it being ok, and then no matter where you are along the journey, no matter what you’ve accomplished or not, you can make love the priority from this point forward.

We all need it. We need it from ourselves and from each other.

Easier said than done? Maybe.

Possible? I think so.

You?

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

The Doing…Possibly Even Better Than The Done!

People periodically ask me when I’ll be done with my PhD. I suppose it’s a reasonable question. Even so, I have no answer.

I’m relatively confident that there’s a chance I might defend my dissertation sometime in the vicinity of between two and twenty two years from now. It’s a really difficult thing to pin down at this point.

Are you ready for a bit of what might seem like complaining?

I wake up really early in the morning. I’m no spring chicken, so I have to swim for a bit before I go to work. It get’s my blood flowing and makes me able to move in the ways I think I was intended to be able to move. Specifically in the ways I’m not able to do when I roll out of bed. Ever pull a muscle adjusting a pillow? No spring chicken.          After swimming I head to work.

I have a wonderful job. I really can’t imagine a more joyful way to spend my workdays than doing the things I’m charged with doing as an elementary school principal. Sure, some of it’s more fun and some of it’s less fun, but whose job doesn’t have ups and downs, challenges and triumphs?

Actually, some of the more challenging moments end up being some of the ones that offer some of the best growth opportunities.

Regardless, there’s lot’s going on. Occasionally, even the most well-planned days slip away without the well-planned plans unfolding, and when I say occasionally what I mean is frequently. Lots of meaningful and productive things typically happen, just sometime not the things I intended.

After work I either continue to work until I no longer can, or I do something like take my kids to swim lessons, piano, soccer, pillow polo, etc. To be clear, my wife is usually in on the taking of kids to places. Sometimes, if my wife has a meeting or some other commitment in the evening I head home to play with, feed, bath, read to, and put the kids to bed. Our kids are 8, 6, 4, and 3 years old. Evening routines are wonderfully loud and energized with lots of wonderful noise and remarkable motion. Tiring. Did I mention I’m no spring chicken?

Weekends are half work and half play unless certain ones require more of either.

Again, I know the previous couple of paragraphs might sound like a complaining rant. Thank you for your tolerance. The truth is I have no complaints. I sincerely enjoy all of that stuff. I’m a very lucky guy, blessed in so many ways. The point is not that I have too much to do. Don’t we all? The point is that I very infrequently find myself done with much of anything.

I am a bit of a Self Determination Theory wonk, and I lean toward believing that the three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are a relatively important foundation of well-being. All of the stuff listed above sometimes leaves me feeling behind, and if I let it, that feeling can dig into the competence part of my basic psychological needs. It sometimes feels like a whole lot of “doing” and not a whole lot of “done.”

I imagine it’s that way for many of us.

Parents and educators are constantly running, pouring everything we have into every moment, getting it “right” occasionally and getting it “wrong” a good bit too, feeling exhausted much of the time, pushing through, caring deeply, moving quickly, and regularly being told (by others and by ourselves) that we’re off the mark in one way or another.

Good news, I found a solution! It’s not an easy one to implement, but those often turn out to be the best ones, with the most meaningful outcomes.

Here it is: appreciate, celebrate, and focus on the doing rather than the done. After all, are we really ever “done” with anything? Should we be? Done is darn final.

Done is dull.

Done is uninteresting.

Done is kind of bleak.

Doing is exciting!

Doing is mysterious!

Doing is electrifying!

I officially have no clue about when I’ll be done with my PhD. No clue. Officially. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. However, I’m quite certain that when I am done I won’t be doing it anymore, and doing it is really meaningful. Maybe I should intentionally never be done (my dissertation chair probably got heart burn just as I wrote that. Sorry).

Friends, I assure you, I’m doing the best I can, which includes learning and doing better each day, and I still simply ain’t getting it all done.

So, in an effort to honor my well-being I’m going all in on this “doing” thing. I’m going to appreciate and celebrate “the doing” and see how that goes.

Actually, I’m doing it right this moment and it feels good, which is good. When we feel food we’re better for ourselves and for those we serve. The doing. It’s good, and it’s a really easy thing to focus on. After all, you’re doing it anyway.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Forgiving For Giving

Life ain’t easy.

People are complex.

I happen to believe that the great majority of us are well meaning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about communication lately. I’ve been thinking about how during busy, challenging times communication is difficult. It’s hard to get effective messaging across when were moving really fast and there’s a lot at stake.

Educators and parents are moving really fast much of the time, and there’s always a lot at stake because it’s our job to care for kids.

Whether we’re communicating with one another or with the kids we serve, whether we’re writing or speaking, we really do need to be careful to communicate in positive, optimistic, encouraging, hopeful, and compassionate ways.

Possibly even more importantly, when we don’t (which happens), I think we need to forgive. I think we need to forgive one another and I think we need to forgive ourselves.

Do you know someone whose aim isn’t true? If so, how do you know it’s not? Does that person communicate in unkind, sharp, curt, and/or suggestive ways? Is that how you know his/her aim isn’t true? It’s not easy to receive unkind, sharp, curt, and/or suggestive communication. It’s not easy once, and it’s certainly not easy regularly.

Maybe you know someone who communicates in ways that frustrate you all the time. Maybe you know multiple people who do. Maybe you think those people’s aim is not true.

However, what if it’s that those people are simply moving to fast with too much at stake? What if they’re overwhelmed? What if they simply don’t know, or don’t know how to operationalize tools and strategies for communicating through overwhelming times?

What it their aim is actually true but they don’t know how to demonstrate that? What if their unkind, sharp, curt, and/or suggestive communication is a shroud, masking a true aim and thereby diminishing positive, collaborative energy?

What if you could get to a collaborative core through assumptions and forgiveness? What if it wasn’t easy, but still possible? Would you try? Would you keep trying?

I think it might be a good idea to assume good intentions in this type of situation, and then to forgive, and if the person communicating in deteriorative ways is you, you can remember good intentions instead of assuming them, and then you can still forgive.

Not easy, strangely complex, but maybe a something to consider.

Life ain’t easy.

People are complex.

When we give we gain, immeasurably some might say.

When we’re frustrated with ourselves or with others it’s difficult to genuinely give. It’s difficult to give chances, to give input, to give kindness and caring, to give love.

Ironically, all of those things and so much more that we can give when were focused on positive pathways and assuming best intentions are just the things that relationships need to thrive, especially in times when it’s most difficult to communicate effectively, in positive ways, and with hope and optimism.

As we navigate the challenging waters of parenting and education with hope in our hearts and true aims, we might consider enlisting forgiving for giving.

We might think about forgiving one another and ourselves around every turn so that we can give to one another in ways that promote positive progress and address the many complex needs of those we all see as the foundation of that potential progress, the kids we serve.

Forgiving for giving, just a thought.

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks!

Leading The Way

I was working with the “little ones.” That’s what Lorelei and I call our four and our three-year-olds.

For some reason we have our kids categorized into two sets. The “big ones” and the “little ones.” Oddly, the “big ones” aren’t actually that big and the “little ones” aren’t actually that little anymore.

Regardless, we were selecting cloths for an afternoon out with a couple of their grandparents. After settling on snappy casual and gathering what we needed we turned to leave the room. Before we did, our three-year-old son made his intentions clear by holding up a hand and shouting, “I am leading the way!”

In our house, “I am leading the way,” is a decree that speaks to line positions along any particular path. Going to the dinner table, heading into the basement playroom, caravanning upstairs to take baths and brush teeth, every destination has someone “leading the way” in the Berg house.

This time, our four-year-old daughter and I were relegated to the back of the three-person line to stutter-step it through the hallway and down the stairs (you can guess who was at the stern).

Little brother clarified at least five more times as we walked. Every couple of steps he twirled his head around, extended his arm and declared, “I am leading the way!”

Each time did it, big sister looked back at me, smiled, winked, and then turned to him, patted him on the back, and reassuringly agreed, “That’s right, Buddy, you are leading the way.”

It was cute. Big sisters rock! This one in particular.

Moreover, it was a great example of Self Determination in play.

To be fair, nowadays my nose is so frequently buried in literature about or related to Self Determination Theory that connections between it and my learning and leadership journey are never far out of hand. When I think of parenting and/or education the tenets of Self Determination Theory typically set the backdrop.

Specifically, I consistently wonder how I’m doing at promoting an autonomy-supportive culture within which those I serve are confident in their strengths, excited to growth through challenges with optimism, and feeling connected to me and one another as positive partners in progress, be they adults or kids.

When our youngest repeatedly declared himself the leader of the way, autonomy, competence, and relatedness rang in my mind.

He seemed to feel equal to the task, he demonstrated comfort in naming himself to the post, and the partnerships he had build over the three years of life with me and with his sister allowed for some flexibility regarding who would take the lead on this leg of the journey.

Incidentally, I rarely get to lead the way at home, but I digress.

Dr. King said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dr. King was a young man when he began his leadership journey. Unfortunately, he was young man when he ended it as well.

As parents and educators, we can extrapolate a bit as we reflect on his famous quote, and I’d guess that Dr. King would be ok with it.

We can honor Dr. King along with one another and all those we serve by not judging people by the color of their skin, and if we’d like, we can further honor Dr. King along with one another and all those we serve by also not judging people by the number of years they’ve been alive, whether that number is three, thirteen, thirty-seven, or eighty-four.

In particular, let’s honor Dr. King and one another by seeking out and supporting opportunities for the youngest among us to lead the way.

Every time I do it seems to result in bountiful treasures of connected, meaningful, empowering and joyful learning and growth for all involved.

If we are truly going to judge people by the content of their character, let’s eliminate as many other factors as possible. At the very least, let’s try, and let’s continue to try indefinitely, facing each connected challenge with courage and resolve as modeled by Dr. King himself and celebrating each connected triumph with the brand of passion Dr. King projected in the very words he spoke.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Something Not Of My Business

Just after dinner our four-year-old daughter walked into the living room where I was sitting, talking with my sister-in-law.

On Friday nights we eat at my mother’s house with as many aunts, uncles, and cousins who are around. It’s a wonderful weekly tradition and a loud one. There’s a lot going on.

Our kids are the youngest of the lot so they do a bit of showing out, as it were.

They get silly and wild, they demand attention for their stories and dances, and they run around with heightened energy and heightened emotions.

It’s nighttime too. Potential for eight, six, four, and three-year-old breakdowns is relatively high.

We manage, and I have to admit that they’re pretty cute even in heightened states, so we all enjoy the show to some extend. We feel fortunate, even through intermittent frustration.

A highlight for me is when one of the kids needs a break, a problem-solving partner, or a consolatory hug, and they come running to me for it. It’s good to be the go-to break spot, problem solving hugger.

Yesterday, something changed.

Did I mention she’s four?

This time, she ambled into the room as usual, shoulders slumped, arms dangling, lip curled and pouty, eyes upturned and half exposed just under her signature “one of my brothers wronged me” partly closed lids, and brow furrowed. I was ready for a full, fall into me with all thirty pounds hug and some extended comforting.

I opened my arms and offered my best sympathetic look as I queried, “What’s wrong baby?”

As she walked directly past me into the arms of her aunt, shifting her pout to a scowl for just a moment, she lifted her eyes and turned her head just enough to growl, “Something not of your business!” Harrumph.

Ouch, something not of my business.

Ladies and gentlemen, guess what, there are things in the minds, the hearts, and the lives of our children that are not of our business, even in the minds, the hearts, and the lives of our four-year-old daughters.

Also, I suspect the shift over time won’t be that more of it is some of my business.

The kid is teaching me that in order to be trusted in the ways I hope to be as she navigates the trials and tribulations of growing up (which evidently happens really quickly), I’ve got to respect and even appreciate that she’s an individual, categorically separate from me, with her own hopes, dreams, and feelings that I might actually not understand, who will sometimes need me to listen and sometimes need me to back off.

I’m genuinely working to be able to do both with grace.

That said…ouch.

I sure do love her.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Show Up & Shine

Our kids were playing.

My wife Lorelei and I were watching and working.

She looked up from her work and asked if I’d heard of “Moon Beams for Sweet Dreams.”

I hadn’t.

She told me that our local hospital had organized an event by which people got together on ground level outside of the pediatric wing every night in December to show support for the kids being treated in the rooms above.

She got teary as she told me. It moved her.

We have four kids. I would guess she internalized what it might feel like for the families of those kids; the moms in particular. I would guess that her heart went out for them.

An opportunity. It was freezing cold last night.

Regardless, Lorelei suggested we go.

She decided that the Berg crew would be best served standing in that freezing cold, ushering in a new year with lights shining into the windows of kids we didn’t know, kids who needed strangers to be standing in the freezing cold, shining lights into their window.

To be clear, I understand that these kids needed much more than our shining lights.

However, to be clear again, the shining light of a stranger who cares is a powerful thing.

Lorelei saw this program as an opportunity to take that time in modeling this type of giving to our kids.

She understood that through this program we could drive an ongoing expectation of compassionate living, contributing, and the sharing kindness with strangers.

She knew that our kids, as young as they are, would benefit from the interactions they would have with a community of people gathered to shine their lights on others in need.

She knew they would take it in and understand the healing power that exists within them, that they would build the muscle that makes strong people stronger in their resolve to share kindness and compassion, and she knew that they would take another step along the learning pathway that demonstrates a sometimes shrouded truth about tangible energy that flows between people who open their hearts and their minds to that energy, and who fall into it as it flows freely between and among them.

All we had to do was show up and shine.

A challenge. Not too long after we got going the cold penetrated our gear and seeped into our bones. Our four-year-old daughter doesn’t have much meat on those bones.

She was shivering something good. Her teeth were chattering. She expressed concern about her frozen thumbs. Her face told the story of genuine discomfort if not pain.

I was worried that it was too much for her, even a few minutes in.

She got the idea. She was enmeshed with the crowd of light shiners.

She saw the kids shining their flashlights in response from the hospital window above.

She made the connection and would have this image to reflect on over time.

I scooped her up and told Lorelei I was taking her to the car to warm up.

Before I could even pivot to go she shook herself loose from by arms and shouted, “No!”

She was staying. I smiled and stepped back. She turned her shining light again on the kids in the hospital windows.

A message. It wasn’t much for me to stand out in the cold for a few minutes shining my light on some kids who needed to know they weren’t alone. I’m an adult. The cold was cold but I’ve stood out in worse.

For the kids, however…for our four-year-old daughter and her three brothers, for their chattering teeth and frozen thumbs, it was a least a push; a good push…a wonderful push.

It reminded me that sometime we do have to push ourselves even just to show up and shine.

I reminded me that sometimes our lights are dim, and that sometimes we’re facing things that seek to slow us down.

It reminds me that we can’t let that happen, and that when we do (which we do at times), we’ve got to recharge, warm back up, and try again.

My kids, standing in the freezing cold on new year’s eve, through chapped lips and bitterly cold cheeks, shining their lights on others in an effort to help them heal, reminded me that we’re so very much in this together.

It reminded me that if we want this world to be a better, more loving, more sincerely kind, and a more restorative place with each passing moment we must stand together, willingly leaned into and even swept away by the positive energy flow binding us all in compassionate oneness.

It reminded me that so many of us do.

Our world is good.

I’m so very grateful that Lorelei found and provided this opportunity for our family and our kids last night.

It was a wonderful way to usher in this new year.

A task. So here we go, into the next moments, days, months, and years.

As parents, educators, leaders, learners, and partners in life on this planet, it is our task to take each simple message delivered to us through the words and actions of our kids and challenge ourselves to use them on their behalf.

I recently heard someone say that we do not inherit the earth from our parents, but rather, we borrow it from our children. That makes sense to me.

Our task is to hand it off in better shape than when we borrowed it.

Let’s show up and shine, every day, in every moment, and even when it’s tough.

Let’s show up and shine.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Don’t Be Silly (unless you want to have fun, relieve stress, and maintain a positive outlook)

Have you ever tried to sneeze with your eyes open? Can’t be done.

How about tickling yourself? Ain’t gonna happen!

Similarly, you can’t be silly and frustrated at the same time. I dare you to try. I double dog dare you.

Next time you feel yourself getting upset, get silly instead – genuinely silly.

You don’t have to jump around flailing your arms, just think about silly things and allow them to surface. Let loose and allow the silly thoughts manifest in real-time, right there, in whatever space you’re in at that very moment.

Let the silly thoughts make you smile. Let them make you laugh.

If people are around that’s okay too. If the silly thoughts do make you laugh witnesses might look at you sideways and tell you you’re being silly, and if that happens smile more. If that happens you know you’ve done it! You’ve been noticeably silly through frustration. Being silly around people makes the silliness measurable, and sometimes it help the people you’re around feel good.

Granted, sometimes it doesn’t. For whatever reason, some people don’t want to be silly and some people don’t want to have silliness around them, so do be thoughtful about gauging the impact and appropriateness of your silliness whenever you take this leap. However, some people do, so I suggest you error on the side of impulsiveness. Throw silly caution to the wind. It’s risky, but to maximize the healing benefits of silly thinking and action one must take reasonable risks. You can always dial it down and others can always walk away.

Make a silly face or a silly noise. It can be subtle. Do it repeatedly (sometimes it takes a minute to congeal). Look in the mirror if there’s one around. Stew in it. If you’re doing it with a pure heart and an open mind frustration will begin to melt away. You’ll start to think positive thoughts. Jolts of amusing things will pop into your mind. Let them let you smile and laugh wider and longer. You’ll start to take yourself less seriously. Seriously.

I got a compliment that I really appreciated and enjoyed from a parent just the other day. She told me that her first-grade daughter came home reporting that I’m a silly and kind principal. Incidentally, kind is another antidote to frustration (and various other forms of distress).

I’m lucky. When frustration creeps into my space I can always find someone to be silly with or kind to. At work I can step into a hallway or a classroom where generally awaits opportunities for either and even both. My home is a veritable silly factory populated by the goofballs my wife and I are raising.

Because I serve kids and those who also serve kids, silliness is largely acceptable in the spaces I occupy (and kindness is generally appreciated), and on the same foundation, being silly (and sharing kindness) mostly produces really positive outcomes like shared laughter and genuine, joyful engagement.

If you let it, being silly can be really fun. When done with conviction and without restraint it can relieve stress and foster positive outlook and progressive outcomes. It can show those we serve that joy is a sustainable alternative to frustration, even in deeply frustrating times and through profoundly frustrating challenges.

Silliness is a close cousin to optimism in that it sets the stage for light-hearted solution-based growth through un-blurred and along pathways un-obstructed by self-doubt or skepticism.

If we can be silly when the going gets tough, seriously silly, then anything is possible. If we can consistently model persistent joy and faith in limitless possibly to the kids we serve as educators and parents just think of what a wonderful world they might envision and cultivate for themselves, and how cool that we could have the opportunity to grow old in that same world.

We each only have a certain amount to time to play with. None of us really know how much. If it’s silly to suggest that the more we smile and laugh during that time the better off we all are than I’m a silly guy. That said, I’m working to get better at it each day. Join me if you’d like. Be silly, be kind, and smile…you might like it.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Lellow Hair

My soon-to-be three-year-old and I were being silly together. It happens a good bit. I’m not sure if he gets it from me or I get it from him; or maybe we’re just simply a couple of silly guys kicking around together. Who knows?

Any which way, there we were…silliness abound.

This kid’s smile is contagious. It’s massive, and full, and genuine. His sizable eyes get all but swallowed by his cheeks at its full power. I can’t help but smile back. No one could.

His laughter is among the most gratifying sounds around, if not in fact the most. Its uniquely joyful timbre saturates a space, resonates in seemingly endless perpetuity, and catalyzes uncontrollable laughter in response.

When this kid is functioning at all silly cylinders it’s like attack of the body snatching giggle monster from outer space; an undeniable force; powerful, prodigious, and healing.

My powers of perception at full steam, I blurted out, “You’re pretty silly,” and then in fit of vanity (and a moment of pride) I followed up with, “Just like you’re daddy.”

My self-absorbed and ridiculous claim stopped him in his tracks. His laughter screeched to a sudden and jarring close, his wide open, gigantic, full-faced smile crumpled into a tiny little pursed line, his brow furrowed, and then his stout little pointer finger aimed itself directly at my face in preparation for the dressing-down he was about to deliver, “I’m not just like you, “ he insisted, “my hair is lellow!”

“Lellow, indeed,” I agreed with deep sigh. Then I tickled him back into a silly, smiling, laughing fit…and on we went.

We can’t want particulars for our children bad enough for those particulars to become their realities, and we certainly can’t mistake our children for ourselves. No matter how apple and tree-ish they seem, their journeys are each undeniably, uniquely distinct from ours. Their needs, their wants, their world-views, are each just that much different that it makes a difference.

Sometimes I wonder why my kids seek indulgence in ways that I don’t understand and gratification in corners that I might have never even found. Maybe it’s because they are not me, and for that matter, thankfully so.

I so profoundly hope that my kids are happy in their endeavors.

As parents and educators we might serve our kids best when our minds and hearts are fully open any possibilities they consider along the way.

My default is to envision relatively traditional pathways for my kids; do well in school, go to collage, get a job, meet a spouse, have a family, paint a fence, mow a lawn, jump in leaves, shovel snow, walk some dogs, etc. These are things that make me happy.

Turns out, my kids are considerable more complex and than I am, one of them even has distinctly lellow hair. If the lellow-haired one is distinct enough from his dad that he doesn’t even seek the simple path I really should support and celebrate that.

Jim Henson wanted to make puppets. Dr. Suess wanted to draw pictures and tell stories. Neil Armstrong wanted to touch the moon. Their dad’s might have been worried for a minute. It all worked out in the end.

We might simply need to listen, learn, guide, support, celebrate, and let kids be anything and everything that works best for them on the way to and through whatever challenging and/or joyful midpoints and ends they head toward.

Colin Hay said (sang), “on a clear day I can see a very long way.” Let’s gift our kids with as much clarity as we can by keeping our hearts and minds open to any possibilities they can imagine, seemingly sensible or glaringly wild.

Let’s let their visions guide. After all, while we do feel the rush in ways they can’t understand (yet), it will be their repeated rise and fall along their way, and not ours.

Even if the lellow-haired one decides to peruse a career as a body snatching giggle monster from outer space, I really should smile. It could be a tremendous contribution to humanity, and after all, he does seem to have a knack.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

I Might Not Love My Favorite Color!

We were in the car on our way to Sunday school. Our oldest asked where our youngest was. I reminded him that his little brother doesn’t go to Sunday school. He gets to stay home with his mommy (or his daddy – depending on the day). The big guy declared, “I wish I was him!”

It’s an interesting thing to wish you were someone else. We often forget, when wishing to be someone else, that if were the “someone else” we’re wishing to be, we would have to be all of them, and not just the desirable part that sounds groovy in the moment.

I told the big guy that if he were his two-year-old brother, not only would he get to stay home during Sunday school, but he would also not know how to read words yet. Instead of finishing the last chapter in his latest Minecraft book, he’d be back to doing “Elephant and Piggie” picture walks, which are fun and exciting, but not the same. His eyes scrunched up, one brow raised, and he gave it some thought.

I told him that if he were the little guy he’d still be scared to go in the basement playroom by himself, he couldn’t ride a two wheeler, he wouldn’t get to go on the water slide at the pool, and “The Lego Movie”…forget about it! Now the wheels were turning.

The three big sibs spiraled into a collective thinking rampage!

“If I were you I couldn’t….”

“If you were me you wouldn’t…”

“You don’t like…”

“She doesn’t think…”

Then, like a meteor crashing into the village square, our uniquely sophisticated four-year-old daughter announced, “Hold on, if I were someone else I might not love my favorite color…orange!

The pigment washed out of each of their little faces. A collective gasp resonated through the back seat of the truck cab. Shockwaves shuddered palpably through them.

Wide eyed and confused, they looked around at one another unable to conceive of a world in which this kid’s favorite color wasn’t orange. It would have completely changed her…to the core.

It wasn’t something any one of them could consider without extreme discomfort. Just the thought of it sent them into a bizarre, kid-world, communal grief state of being.

Slumped over and deflated from the impact of such an outlandish paradigm, our six year old sighed, “I’m sure glad you’re you.”

They all shook their heads in agreement before staring out the windows for a few moments of reflective thinking. It was pretty darn cute. I smiled, but held back the laughter so as not to ruin the moment.

So here it is though, and from the hearts, minds and mouths of babes, a pretty solid and simple truth:

We are each what we each are.

Moreover, that we are each solidly and simply what we each are, might very well be for the best thing, for each of us and for each other.

I’ve been told that genuine serenity results only from true fulfilledness in what we are and what we have, rather than wantfullness around that which we are not and that which we don’t have, and while I’m quite certain that neither “fullfilledness” or “wantfullness” are actual words, I agree with the premise.

How do we, as parents and educators, support the kids we serve in finding the type of serenity that comes from self-appreciation?

How do we refrain from pushing and shoving our kids into directions that their spirits don’t advocate for or enjoy?

How do we set a standard expectation for self-love while modeling humility, providing opportunities for interest and ability-driven growth, engaging in interactions that promote understanding, compassion, and kindness, while creating learning environments that afford our kids safe passage along the sometimes painful, but arguable natural and necessary, oscillating pathways of simultaneous progressive-exploration and static-being that are holistically unique to each of them, and do so in conjunction with rich the collective development needed to thrive in this world of diversity?

Frankly, it beats me…but it’s stuff I find worth some reflective consideration as I seek to serve them well.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to stay on course with some good old fashioned modeling. Given that if I were someone else I might not love my favorite color, I think I’ll simply continue being me.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.