Tagged: Discovery

Taking The Long Cut

I don’t often have the opportunity to pick our kids up from school. Usually I’m at work when they’re dismissed. Yesterday I did have that opportunity. My wife and I were able to pick them up together. It was wonderful.

We were able to pick them up because, along with my sister, we attended a funeral that had us close to school at dismissal time. Strange how life sometimes connects tragic moments with moments of celebration, and even joy. 

Loss seems to be that way in and of itself. We lost a childhood friend this past week. Danny. He was a wonderful, kind, and loving person. 

The funeral service was a celebration, and the afternoon was filled with an outpouring of love. A tragic and joyful series of moments. Confusing, upsetting, peaceful, and comforting all at once. Difficult, while simultaneously inevitable, important and meaningful. 

As our friend was eulogized we were reminded that life is for living, and specifically, that we should each live our lives in precisely the way we want, no matter what anyone says about it. This is how Danny lived. This was the message his family reminded us of as they braced themselves for a life without his physical presence. 

His sister reminded us to dance like no one is watching, because “why not?” 

She remembered her brother with no inhibitions; free, joyful, limitless in love for himself and for those around him. I hadn’t connected with Danny for many years but my heart swelled as she spoke with such longing. If only she could dance with her brother, even just one more time. She was overwhelmed with sadness and beaming with pride. She asked us to think and to speak of him often so that he might live on in our hearts, in our minds, and in the lessons he’s left as gifts for us.

Danny’s brother reminded us that nothing is more important than family as he showered us with anecdotes about Danny always putting those he loved before anything else in this world, specifically and especially his two young sons. Listening to stories relating the deep connections and the indelible bonds Danny built, maintained, and cherished tore at my heart and had me desperate for time with my family, my friends, and most importantly with my wife and children.

We all have to walk out the door. We all have to say goodbye. I sat in that space and racked my brain, trying to piece together a plan for doing it less, and for being more present. Confusing, upsetting, peaceful, and comforting all at once.

As we say, “under better circumstances.” However, it was powerfully moving and incredibly meaningful to connect with the village of people who assembled to celebrate Danny’s miraculous life yesterday. I often miss them in these busy moments that seem to sail by, too quick to truly capture. Yesterday left me deeply reflective and overwhelmed with gratitude for the life I’m blessed to be living. Tragic and joyful.

When Lorelei and I arrived at school we walked together to each of the doors our kids would be pouring out of. One by one we greeted them with hugs and high fives. They were surprised and excited to see us there together, waiting to reconnect after a long day and a long week at school and at work. 

They were all smiles, beaming with joy and enthusiasm. Detailing the excitements of the day too quickly for us to really hear, let alone process. Bouncing around us, grabbing at us, showering us with any and every thought that popped into their heads or even fluttered whimsically through their minds. 

Being together in that moment was sublime. I genuinely forgot to worry about whatever it is I’m usually worried about. I felt all together removed while at the same time inseparably connected. These moments are hard to define. They’re painted with frosted and glistening brushes. They’re saturated with stardust. They’re magical. They’re gifts.  

Our Daughter insisted that her and I walk home while the boys drove with Lorelei. She held my hand and told me, “Come on, Daddy…we’re walking!” It was freezing outside. I wasn’t cold. I was overwhelmed. That moment could have gone on forever and I would have never grown tired of it. I would have never wanted for anything else.

At each turn she asked me, “Is this the short cut or the long cut?” She insisted that we find all the “long cuts” along the way. We did. 

We turned away from home again and again as we walked through the neighborhood hand in hand, jabbering on about everything and nothing at all, smiling, laughing, skipping, eating snow, and sharing the afternoon with one another. 

Time stood still. It really did. These were genuinely pure and perfect moments. They were moments that will be impossible to ever forget, no matter how the journey unfolds. 

She told me that sometimes she takes “short cuts” when she’s trying to get somewhere quickly, and then she told me that sometimes she takes “long cuts” when she’s trying to spend more time with her daddy. She told me that and she smiled. 

I’ve been laden with gifts. 

I don’t know how this happened to me. 

I’m filled with gratitude. 

I’m working hard to be present and realize my right path in as many moments as I can. I’m trying to be ever-aware of what really matters in this life.

In the face of my many stumbles, I’m delighted to be taking the long cut. 

Rest in peace, Danny. Thank you for your lessons and for your legacy.

Imagine That

In the first week of school our kindergarten teachers put a stuffed animal named “Chester” in my office.  They tell the kids that Chester is somewhere in the building and they spend some time searching for him.  Eventually, they make their way to my office, where they find him comfortably taking a break in a safe place. 

The kids stop by the media center, they see the playgrounds, and they pass bathrooms and drinking fountains. They get a comprehensive tour of the school, chalk full of important information as they search for Chester.  

When they get to my office I let them in on why Chester ended up with me. I tell them that he was feeling a bit sad and that he knew my office was a place he could come to talk, to rest, and to feel safe. I use my imagination. We all have fun pretending.

The teachers and I share some thinking about how kids can also come to me for support, just like Chester did, whenever they need to. We help them understand that our school is filled with trusted adults and we give them suggestions about how they can get the help they need by letting their teacher know how they feel and what they need.  

Most of the kids get pretty excited about Chester. They asked questions, they point and smile, they tell me all about the stuffed animals they have at home and the raccoon they saw in the driveway the night before. Many of them call out, “I found Chester!” 

This year, one little guy stood very still and silent. His eyes were wide. He looked back and forth from Chester’s face to my face. He studies both of us intently. 

Just before following the line of his peers out the door he looked up and asked in earnest, “Is Chester real…did he really come to your office?”

What a great reminder. Kids, especially the youngest among them, tend to believe what we tell them. At least they tend to consider it. 

I told him that Chester was “real” in my imagination. I said I was pretending Chester was “real” so the kids would understand that they can come to my office for help. I shared that our imaginations are very useful and imporatnt, and that pretending can be a great way to learn, especially because all of us have the ability to do it. I smiled and patted Chester on the head. He smiled, and I thought I saw a attempt at a wink.

The Berg kids imagine things all the time. They give me instructions – “You’re the person at the restaurant and I’m the chef,” or “I’m the teacher and your the kid,” or “You’re the brother and I’m the dad.” Then we play, learn, grow, and bond. They use their imaginations to unfold scenarios based on their interests, their curiosities, and their developmental needs. It’s pretty cool, it’s fun, and it’s engaging.

When we think about learning we often visualize something more formal than imagination and pretend play. Undoubtedly, there’s a place for formalities in education. That said, imagination is built-in and easily accessible.  

As parents and educators we have unlimited opportunities to rely on play and imagination, our kids’ and ours, for pathways to growth and well-being with equally unlimited potential.

Imagine that.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. In it together for the kids.

Wait, What The What?

A quote from the 3-year-old – “Wait, what the what?”

This kid says lots of interesting things.  I get it, he’s spent much of this life observing three older siblings, a mom and a dad, and the world around him, quietly, patiently, and with a curious, reflective look on his face.  

Each of our kids have just under a two year gap between them and the next, so they seem to relate on many levels.  They play together well.  They argue, fuss, and fight well.  They share solid and deep love and a bunch of joyful moments with one another. Well.

This one, though, is just young enough that he does a bit more watching than the others.  The others are usually entangled.  He’s in the mix much of the time, but sometimes he’s not.  My wife and I speculate that “out of the mix” watching has given him a unique perspective on things.  We speculate further that it could be at least a part of the foundation of his fascinating, uniquely articulate ways. 

Quiet, thoughtful observation might just lead to joyful learning and growth.  Who knew?

Anyway, as I mentioned, the big fella’s new phrase is, “Wait, what the what?”

He says it when he’s looking to dig deeper.  It’s an exploration catalyst.  

“That cloud looks like a cantaloupe.”

“Wait, what the what?”

“The daddy seahorse has the babies.”

“Wait, what the what?”

“Looks like some ripe, red tomatoes are ready to be picked in the garden!”

“Wait, what the what?”

You get it.  He utters this signature phrase and comes running to question, explore, examine, celebrate, and marvel in the wonders of the world as they unfold before and around him.  It’s build in.  It seems to be built in to all of them.

The 9-year-old is an explorer as well.  He’s an explorer of the world in a bit of a different way.  His explorations fold almost seamlessly into his imagination.

Sometimes he seems lost in thought.  I’ll ask how he’s doing.  He’ll tell me he’s fine, and that he’s imagining that dinosaurs exist.  It’s fun for me to see him lost in the world of his imagination.  I’m a dreamer, too.

I was at his curriculum night this week.  Each kid posted a display of places they had been during the summer.  They labeled sticky notes with a location and drew landscapes on a grid under the sticky notes.  Each sticky note could be lifted up to reveal the landscape.  There were about ten spaces in the grid.  Most of his were current, existing places.  He listed Mackinac Island, Kalahrai, The Adventure Park, The Sleeping Bear Dunes, etc.  

Then, I came across the sticky note that read, “Pangea.”  I lifted it.  Dinosaurs. He drew and colored a likeness of his exploration of a place in which dinosaurs exist.  He did so as a representation of a place he’d visited this summer.  Dreamer.

Imaginative envisioning of the world might just lead to joyful learning and growth.  Who knew?

Quiet, thoughtful observation.  Imaginative envisioning of the world.  Kids are well equipped to learn.  As parents and educators it’s critical that we give them space, time, support, and encouragement.  They are each unique.  It’s critically important that we celebrate that uniqueness.  It’s critically important that we get to know them well, and that we facilitate a process by which they can safely explore and be proud the pathways they envision for themselves, which are sometimes not exactly the ones we envision for them.  It’s critically important.

When I met the 9-year-old’s teacher this week she greeted me with her arms tucked in and her hands wiggling around.  She told me she was practicing her T-Rex arms so that she could communicate with my kid.  She only just met him.  I almost cried.  He is going to spend this school year learning and growing with a teacher who’s genuinely interested in knowing him and supporting his unique pathway.  He’s spending his days with a person who’s excited that he’s a dreamer.  She seems like one, too.  My heart is filled with gratitude.

After one week we are reminded in no uncertain terms that educating children is a fast-paced, challenging, and often stressful charge.  However, even in our exhaustion we are also reminded in no uncertain terms that it’s infinitely joyful and unimaginably rewarding as well.

Let’s find the balance.  Let’s go with the flow.  Let’s always remember the joy.  Let’s rely on one another to accept every challenge as a chance on behalf of our students we serve.

In it together for the kids!

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

The End Of Beginnings

We visited lake Huron this past weekend.  It was a really cool place on Michigan’s east coast called Sturgeon Point.  There’s a one room school house, a lighthouse, and an awesome, rocky beach.  We’ve been all over the mitten this summer.  Sturgeon Point is quite different from the more tourist-populated, built-up destinations we spent most of our time at on the west side of the state.  That said it was among my favorites.  

The rocks were smooth and colorful.  Many fossils for the kids to discover and collect.  The wind was blowing perfectly. Not to hard but steady enough for each blade of dune grass to stand a bit slanted and wiggling in unison with each of the others.  The waves capped off in white foam as they crawled toward the shoreline.  

The kids’ kites lifted up out of their hands to dance above us with such little effort. On that day, and in those moments, they were all world class kite pilots; youngest to oldest.  The cheap wood and plastic apparatuses were dipping, weaving, diving and soaring at their will. Our three dollar kites would have thrilled even the Wright Brothers with their grace and utility.

I was in the waves.  It’s one of my favorite places to be.  A Michigan kid all the way.  The water was warm so a few of the others took the plunge with me, body surfing and horsing around a bit.  

When they finished I still wanted to play, so I jogged through the whitecaps to the shore where the nine-year-old was fastidiously selecting rocks for his bucket.  I asked if he wanted to take a break and splash around for a bit.  He replied, “Do I have to?”

“No,” I said, “not if you don’t want to.”

He smiled and said, “Maybe another time,” before dutifully returning to his task.

Ouch.  Maybe another time.  Ok.  I had no option but to grab the seven-year-old from a few yards away toss him back in the water.  Unlike his big brother, he had to.

I wondered about the line.  When does a kid change from someone who appreciates being forcibly (and lovingly) tossed into the lake to someone who doesn’t.  Different for each I suppose.  

Regardless, in that moment it struck me that this kid could be experiencing the end of a beginning.  He’s certainly not done being a kid.  He’s not at the end of the end of it.  I hope he’s not at the end of the middle of it, or even the middle of the middle.  Just maybe at the end of the beginning.

For a moment I had succumb to a whirlwind of reflective thinking about this seemingly horrible prospect.  If this ridiculous thing is happening to the nine-year-old what might be happening to his siblings?  

Earlier in the day I told the three-year-old that we were going to go on a glass bottom boat, only to be confronted with, “Is it a secure glass bottom boat?”  Three-year-olds don’t ask that.  Is he at the end of the beginning of tiny tot-ness?  

The seven-year-old is stretching out.  There’s no more meat on his bones at all.  Where did it go?  All of his pajama bottoms are floods.  I could swear they fit him last weekend.  Is he at the end of the beginning of little kidish-ness.

The five-year-old doesn’t give me a hug and kiss anymore when I drop her off to play with friends.  Instead, she extends her tiny hand and insist, “Just go, Daddy!”  Doesn’t even look back.  I know because I do.  A lot. What beginning could she she be at the end of?

I don’t know what kind of fortitude I’m supposed to have, but thinking about all these ends of beginnings was really starting to get tough on me.  The previously enjoyable waves of Sturgeon Point, once calmly lapping at our beautiful rocky lighthouse shore had transformed into pulsating waves of mocking, taunting laughter that almost had me holding on for dear life.  “Time waits for no man!” They laughed.  “Your grip is slipping!” They provoked. 

Until it hit me.  Things came a into focus and I quickly settle back into the great joy of my lot.

I’m a husband, a parent, and an educator.  It’s not for me to want for stillness, but rather revel in the movement that drives all I’m supposed to be doing.  I’m supposed to appreciate growth.  I’m supposed to look on independence with gratitude and find the courage to step ever-back as they move ever-forward and even away.  I’m supposed to find the strength to continue showering those I love with that love while I loosen my grip on their hands.  

Sigh.  Joy.  Sigh.

There are ends to my beginnings too.  Good ones.  Headed into my fifth year as the principal of a warm and welcoming school community in a progressive, cohesive district I feel that a beginning may be at its end for me.  To be clear, I have light years to go in my capacity for service and in my leadership practice.  It’s just that I know a bit more than I did before.  I have a bit more skill on the foundation of a few more mistakes I’ve been gifted to make in the bit more time I’ve had to practice my job, craft, my art.

As we think about moving into another energized and exciting school year I say we consider intentionally relishing the end of beginnings as it comes to us, to each other, and to the kids we serve.

We’re built for growth.  We’re made for movement.  Even when it’s tough, which it is sometimes, we should find strength to celebrate the end of beginnings in the same fashion we would celebrate our most triumphant moments.  Then, we should breath deeply, reflect clearly, smile and move along.  

Cherished memories in our minds and our hearts and the conviction that our collective learning will guide us ever-closer to wherever it is we’re going…we should smile and move along.

In it together for the kids.

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

A Chance For Her to Learn

We were at the Detroit Historical Museum.  It’s nestled between the DIA, the Michigan Science Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Detroit Public Library.  Given its proximity to these gems we often skip it in favor of some combination of the others when we’re in Midtown (who am I kidding, the Science Center is our haunt 99% of the time at this stage of the game:).  Every time we do end up at the Historical Museum I remember why skipping it is a mistake.  

It was me and the four (two bigs and two littles).  If you haven’t been I highly recommend it.  If you have, I highly recommend a return trip.  So engaging, so relevant to young Michiganders, so much fun for all!  From the massive train set in the “Streets of Detroit” exhibit on the lower level to the life size assembly line display and the Kid Rock History of Music in Detroit showcase on level one, the kids loved it all!  

If your kids are ready for the content and you’re ready for processing with them, there’s also an moving and meaningful Underground Railroad exhibit on the top floor.  Be ready for a deep, reflective, and emotional experience.  My little ones are too little, but soon enough.

One of the stops upstairs is a simulation of the invention of Vernors, a Detroit-based ginger ale brand created in 1866 by the pharmacist James Vernor.  The kids get to put ingredients together and submit their bubbly invention to a digital Mr. Vernor for tase testing.  He either likes it or he doesn’t, and then he gives a critique…too bitter, not bubbly enough, etc.  Our 9-year-old acted as advisor to his 5-year-old sister for her turn. The concoction she made ended up being too bitter.  She was furious!

With red cheeks and clinched fists she turned to me and said, “He made me lose on purpose!”

Surprisingly, he admitted it.

“Dad,” he exclaimed in earnest, “it was a chance for her to learn!”

We spend so much time wanting them to get things “right.”  We hope for it, we wish for it, sometimes we even make it happen by manipulating situations that are beyond their ability to navigate.

Once again I have a kid to thank for reminding me of the backward nature of some of the adult-ish stuff we do!

Parents and educators, let’s let them fail.  Let’s embrace it.  Let’s let them fight through frustration and into learning and growth.  Let’s let it be a paradigm we live in during all the moments we’re gifted as the stewards of their development, from their youngest days on into their adult lives.  

If we’re going to manufacture moment, let’s consider manufacturing moments for mistake making.  They’ve got to get to know how it feels on both ends and all the way through the making of mistakes, the processing of frustrations, the pulling oneself up by bootstraps, and the learning toward “back to the old drawing board” grit, determination, faith, hope, and persistence.

Big brothers.  Great parenting resources!  Thanks, Bud!

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. 

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.

Why Not Now?

I was walking to the library with the kids. Lorelei was out, so it was just the five of us. It was a cold but sunny day. A fusion of snow and ice covered the ground with some glazed over, shiny grass peeking through.

Our eight-year-old led the way. They marched like the seven dwarfs, jolly hopping and jumping intermittently interrupted by some bumping and pushing. Laughing and talking mixed with whining, crying, and shouting.

It was a heck of a day for a walk and we were all enjoying getting out of the house after several bitterly cold days in a row.

Instead of going inside when we arrived, the crew set up shop outside the library in the frozen garden area where they had many sticks to crack ice with, some sculptures to climb on, a couple of snow banks to kick, a tree to push, and some rocks to smash and throw.

They found a painted rock. They took turns suggesting places to hide it, just within view of the next passers-by, so that they could find it too.

Kids have an amazing capacity for finding joy in just about anything. If you can find joy in smashing rocks, kicking snow banks, pushing on trees, and climbing on sculptures you should never be bored. I pretty sure that’s a law of physics.

Anyway, our oldest got an idea. I knew it popped suddenly into his head with extreme force because his eye widened, his body shook, and he bounced around as if he was riding on Tigger’s tail.

“We could do a show!” He cried out. He was elated!

The little ones agreed. He immediately set in describing the first episode.

The show would be called, “Mini Missions.”

He would be the leader and the little ones would be the “Mini’s.”

Each episode would be a mix of funny and educational. They would go on adventures and teach about facts.

In this episode they would dig into ice for rocks. He would check out some library books about ice and rocks for the educational parts. They would get silly for the funny parts.

I interrupted his description to suggest that this was starting to sounds like a real TV show. I told him, “I won’t be surprised if you actually produce this show when you grow up!”

He schooled me by asking (without hesitation), “Why not now?”

Why not now?

I pulled out my phone, showed him how to open iMovie, gave him a few basic tips, and about four hours later episode one was born, complete with music and titles. Funny and educational.

It’s a great show! I can’t wait for episode two. He tells me it’s going to be about flowers.

Guess what, kids believe they can do anything.

Guess what else, when we support that belief and share some tools and strategies with them amazing stuff happens.

Why not now?

A good question for parents and educators to consider as we support the kids we serve in exploring their world.

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.

Re-frame & Celebrate Your Competency

I’ve come across a thing called Self-Determination Theory (SDT) in my research. Basically, SDT suggests that people are best served when the have three basic needs fulfilled: autonomy, relatedness, and competency. It got me thinking about being a parent and an educator.

SDT is set on the foundation that any one of the basic needs unfulfilled has the power to turn out our lesser characters; bring up anxiety, anger, frustration; cause us to think and act in ways we would otherwise not, or rather not.

I blew past autonomy and relatedness for this reflection, and went straight for competency.

SDT proposes that if you don’t feel competent you don’t feel good.

When I read that, I thought about how frequently parents and educators have opportunities to feel not competent, they’re arguably unlimited!

There’s so much going on in every single moment. There are always forms to fill out, sandwiches to make & cut in triangles, baths to run, teeth to brush, homework to do (I mean help with), plans to make, papers to review, assessments to administer, data to process, progress to monitor, and so on.

Parents and educators have tons to do, and because we serve kids, we want to do every bit of it really well…we expect ourselves to. We expect ourselves to get it all right all of the time, and when we don’t get it all right we tend to be really hard on ourselves. The thing is, no one could get all that stuff all right, all of the time.

In the light of the really critical nature of our jobs and the fact that we have to move so incredibly quickly, it’s relatively easy for parents and educators to feel less then competent sometimes. Incompetent even, and if SDT holds, and feeling incompetent gets us cranky, maybe we should re-frame what competence looks like in the typhoon of child development.

Maybe it’s relative?

Maybe we’re doing an ok job after all?  Maybe even a good one?

Walking down the hall the other day a first-grader approached me and asked, “Mr. Berg, do you have a daughter?”

“I do, indeed,” I replied.

Her face scrunched up a bit, a tear squeezed our of her eye and slid slowly down her cheek, and in a bit of a shaky voice she followed up with, “Can you help me with my ponytail?”

I could, I did, and it went really well! Competent!

Then, yesterday, two of my four kids wanted to go on a bike ride to 7-Eleven to get a couple of Slurpees and some chips. This is actually one of my core competencies! It turned out awesome!

We stocked up at 7-Eleven and ate our bounty at the local skate park. We rode those bikes like professional BMX racers. We let the wind blow our hair back, we laughed, and we had a blast! Fun with my children, quality time, spoiling dinner with unnecessary treats, and smiles all around…check, check, check, and check! Competent!

My incredibly wise wife caught me overwhelmed recently, feeling like I was missing the mark in every direction, and so she reminded me that there’s lots of good happening all around me, all the time.

There’s so much positive progress to be found in the lives of the kids I serve at school and at home, and even with the bumps along the way, that’s holistically good. When I remember that, I smile.

When we take the time to remind ourselves of things that we’re doing well we give ourselves a boost of energy, one that might have otherwise been zapped, even if only temporarily, by the importance of what we do and the incredible pressure we tend to put on ourselves.

Parents and educators, next time you’re feeling stressed-out or frustrated, you might consider untangling a ponytail, or even a dinner-spoiling bike ride to 7-eleven, and if you do, you might also consider taking time to recognize and celebrate just how incredibly competent you are!

In it together for the kids!

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

Or We Could Just be Storks

We were talking about how babies are born, a parent’s favorite conversation. The consensus among my kids, who are still too young for the actual conversation, was that the doctor delivers the babies by taking them out of the Mamma’s belly. They agreed that becoming doctors could be fun, so that they could deliver babies all day long.

Then our clever four-year-old daughter matter-of-factly declared, “Or we could just be storks.”

One of the most wonderful things about our jobs as parents and educators is that we get to spend so much time experiencing the thoughts and ideas of the kids we serve. Kids’ thoughts and ideas are so unique, interesting, an inspirational!

Kids exist within an “anything is possible” paradigm and the connected “anything is possible” energy pours out of them in the things they say and do.

While working to perpetuate pathways of genuine learning and growth it’s important for us to remember that there are no silly questions, and there are no wrong OR right answers. I understand that storks don’t actually deliver babies, however, is it a bad thing that my four-year-old daughter thinks they do?

In this situation she used that thinking as part of a larger process, a problem solving session with her brothers, an extrapolation of considerations, and an envisioning of the future; all stuff that’s good for her to practice doing.

She was deeply engaged in a collaborative dialogue. She was interested. She was being thoughtful. She outlined a viable alternative course of action, a “kid-viable” alternative course of action, but a viable one none-the-less.

Sharing in imaginative dialogue and play with our kids is critical to their positive progress with regard to communication and problem solving. We should always remember to stay enthusiastically engaged while we encourage them to explore their every thought and idea.

We should provide innumerable opportunities for them to interact with one another and with us in inspired and imaginative ways. We should model and celebrate creative thinking around carving out pathways toward goals, and we should always employ and appreciate the language of possibilities. All things that are easy to do when we simply follow their lead.

Enthusiastically giving kids space and time to think and to dream gives them permission develop an inspired sense of self, and permission to take the world on through very real and reasonable lenses that we might have otherwise not even been able to imagine.

Besides, whose to say she can’t become a stork? If that’s her vision…certainly not me.

In it together for the kids.

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