Tagged: curiosity

Ride While Crying: A Focus on Resilience Through Trauma

This is hard.

It’s hard in a strange way.  I don’t always realize how hard it is.

I sometimes find myself engaged in the following reflexive Q and A:

“How are you?”

“Doing good.”

“How are the kids?”

“Great.”

I understand that there are many families challenged in ways that our family can’t even imagine.

I know that we live with privilege , and that experiencing a global health crisis is different for me and my family than it is for many others. I understand that it doesn’t always feel hard for us because we have everything we need, and if we think need something we don’t have, we can either get it or live without it. Joyfully, even.

We’ve spent most of our moments enjoying time together over the past several months, feeing comfortable and secure, and being able to generate strength on the foundation of the “silver linings” lens we’re fortunate to see through and live within. I know that our privilege exists on the foundation of a void of privilege for others. I also know writing that sentiment won’t provide resources, security or health to the others in question, but somehow I felt pulled to write about that recognition of my privilege as a precursor to the following reflection, so I did.

One of my mentors puts our situation like this: same storm, different boats.

To whatever extent, and on whatever level, we are each living through trauma in this moment. We are each wondering when some normalcy will return to our world, for our children and for ourselves, and we are each hoping beyond hope that it will be sooner rather than later.

Our five year old learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels this summer.  One of his favorite British television shows refers to training wheels as “stabilizers” – so of course, we do too.

On the first day of riding without stabilizers he managed to slowly but surely plow head first into the giant cement base of a sign post. I watched in wonderment as his face ran in what seemed to be slow motion across the gritty cylinder. Unable to stop himself, he slid all the way to the ground, bracing himself with his head. It was fascinating and troubling simultaneously. Thankfully, thick skulls run in our family.

As he managed his way back up, untangling his legs from the bike frame along the way, hopping and shifting to gain balance, determined to reset, I noticed a gigantic alligator tear sliding down his reddened cheeks. 

I suspected he’d be ready to throw in the towel. I was wrong.

This kid, my strong-willed wife’s son, our adventurous explorer, the determined fourth child, looked up at me in earnest and asked, “Can I ride while crying?”

“You sure can, brother.”

And ride he did.

And guess what…he wasn’t crying for long.

Again, this is hard. Whoever you are, whatever boat you’re in…this is hard.

None of us have stabilizers for a pandemic.

Cry if you need to.  I have.  I’m sure I will some more.

But, ride while crying. 

We’re strong.  We’re courageous.  Individually and collectively we have the will to overcome, to survive, and to thrive.

We aim for joyful and balanced days, and a bright future for ourselves and our children…and our aim is true.

Have your good days and your bad days. 

Fall apart as frequently as you need to, but always put yourself back together – better than before.

Forgive yourself for stumbling.

Be ok with the mess of it all.

Build resilience.

Ride while crying.

In it together for the kids!

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

I Will Miss You

I was at the park with our youngest son, recently.  We were taking about the farm that we plan to build together, one day.  It will be called, “The Buddy Farm.”  

Among other things, we’ll have cows, we’ll have pigs, we’ll have corn, and we’ll have pumpkins. He and I will be the owners. I’ll manage the work and the workers, and he’ll be the one to show people around when they come to the farm.  

His brothers and his sister, his mother, his aunts and uncles, and his cousins will all work a the farm. This is the plan.

We sat, leaned back on the side of a hill, looking up at the sky through a canopy of trees. It was a beautiful day. A string of moments, essentially standing still. 

As we lay there, soaking it in, he spoke of getting older. He told me he wanted to build “The Buddy Farm” because he wan’t going to get married or have a family.  

He told me that his plan was to live with me forever.  

He told me that he doesn’t want to have a family because he thinks kissing is gross. I suggested that five-year-olds tend to feel that way, and that eventually he might enjoy kissing. I told he might eventually change his mind, fall in love, and decide to have a family, after all.  

He assured me it was unlikely, but even so, even if he were to fall in love and have a family, he was still going to live with me forever. 

He went on to inform me that if he did have kids, his brothers and his sister would be their uncles and their aunt, and that I would be there grandfather. 

Then it happened. As if he realized it just then, as if he was verifying it for himself, he told me that when he becomes a grandfather I will probably have passed.  

While difficult to hear, I could see that it was most likely true.

He looked at me with inquisitive eyes, as if to clarify.  

I agreed with a smile and a nod.

I told him that would probably one the case, and I did my best to conceal the pang of pain that ran through every molecule of my essence, though I’m guessing it showed in some form, somewhere on my face.  

He looked at me for another moment before leaning back and turning his eyes to the sky. In a patience, contemplative tone, he declared, “I will miss you.”

I thought, I will miss you too, Buddy, and my heart did something so profound and powerful that I can’t exactly explain it. I was uplifted and deeply sorrowful at exactly the same time. 

I left myself for an instant. Thinking of my boy every having to miss me is among the most intense images I can produce.  

He shifted over to rest his head in the crook of my arm, and there we lay, together, for some time, not having to miss one another yet.

It got me thinking. There are people in my life who I am not near to at this moment. They haven’t passed, but I am simply not in proximity to them. I don’t miss them. Instead, I feel their presence.  

Maybe that’s because I know I could see them, talk to them, and touch them if I wanted to. Or maybe it’s because when our connectedness isn’t based on a physical, but an emotional plane. I’d like to believe that. I do believe that. 

I believe, whether we’re present, far from one another, or even passed, we can use our minds and our heart to connected with one another. 

As I think about “lost” loved ones on this Memorial Day weekend, I take comfort in the feelings of connectedness I have.

Something inside of me believes that the connectedness exists for them, too.

Whatever you believe, I would suggest that using our minds and our hearts to perpetuate bonds with those we love can be healing. 

At the very least, I believe it isn’t hurtful to try. Sometimes uplifting and sorrowful at exactly the same time, but not hurtful. 

In it together for the kids. 

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

Finding the Good Ain’t Bad

Our experiences impact how we feel and how we function.  

Positive experiences tend to uplifted and energized us. Negative experiences can produce a range of responses that cause us to feel a range of emotions, from contemplative to drained of energy and upset.  

All of our experiences are important. None are without value.  

Even feeling pain, sadness and fear can help us learn and grow. Challenging emotions support the building of resilience. 

I’ve heard it said that kids learn to grapple when they have things to grapple with. I believe that’s true for all of us, kids and adults. We need to grapple in order to grow. We need to do so in thoughtful, safe and intentional ways. 

With focus and strength we can lift and shift the experiences of our days, and we can maximize the value of each. We can do it by compartmentalizing.  

When we make note of, and seek to understand our experiences, we can deign an energy flow that promotes positivity, productivity, and health. In this way, we can enhance our ability to process experiences, both positive and negative. 

Imagine each experience you have as a dash in a long, broken but cohesive line. A chain of events. Indelibly interwoven, but not connected physically. Imagine each experience as one piece of your day that eventually becomes a completed puzzle. 

Some experiences practically process themselves while some are more difficult to process.  

If we lift the more difficult dashes, or pieces, above the imaginary line of our daily experiences, and separate them from those that flow easily, we can put them aside for later reflection.

We can’t attend to everything in the moment it happens. There’s simply too much. If we want to remain present we can’t get wrapped up in every challenging emotion that comes our way. When we lift and shift, we can breath, regroup, focus, and go back to experiences with intentionality.

It’s not easy and it takes practice, however, when I’m able to achieve the lift and shift, I find it extremely worthwhile. 

For example, when someone treats me in an unkind way, and I’m able to lift that treatment out of my immediate timeline rather than attaching myself to negative emotions, I can stay present with the game of tag I’m playing, the book I’m reading, or the joyful experience of laying on a hammock with my daughter, counting leaves and imagining that clouds are dragons and bunnies.  

When I’m ready and have some time, I can re-engage with the challenging experience and it’s connected learning in a more productive way. When I do that, the lessons seem to take hold more deeply, with meaning rather than emotion as the foundation.  

Another piece of the experiential puzzle has to do with the narratives we write about our experiences. 

Narratives are important, and they come in multiple forms. There are the narratives we write instinctively, the ones that pop into our minds as experiences are unfolding, and then there are the ones we write reflectively, given some time and space. 

If someone treats me in an unkind way my instinct might be to consider that person unkind, when actually, they are more likely upset or frustrated. 

Most often, the initial narrative from a negative experience is not the one I want to stick with, in large part because it’s typically driven by emotion. 

When I lift and shift I still write the instinctive narrative, however, I give myself an opportunity to write multiple other narratives until I find the one that’s best for my learning and growth.

What else might be happening in any give scenario, other than the reactive, emotional possibilities that can enter our minds in moments of frustration?  

After writing multiple narratives, we can connect them to the most succinct understanding of reality that we know. We can’t read minds or understand all of the finite nuances of the world in which we live, but we can find the good in most things.

This strategy can help us decrease worry about things that are outside of our control.

Lifting and shifting, in conjunction with extended and thoughtful narrative writing, helps us assume positive intentions, which in my experience most people seem to have. 

Refining out ability to process in healthy and thoughtful ways increases well-being and perpetuates positive progress for everyone involved.

In it together for the kids.

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

Sometimes I Kick Myself (And I’m Ok With It)

I often feel that I’m much better principal than I am a dad.  I never (and would never) shout at school, and to be clear, I don’t go around the house shouting all the time, but over the course of ten year and four kids I’ve been there.

I kick myself when I shout at our kids.  When my frustrations bubble over and burst through it feels like I’m failing.  

The reality is that there are times I need to step away from being Dad and be alone for bit.  There I times I just need to be me, quietly, calmly, and in isolation.  I need time outs.  

In those moment, those thoughts, actions, feelings and words are tough to process and I’m really hard on myself.  The fact is, I love our kids dearly and I show them that love each day, even when I’m not at my best.  I couldn’t live without them and I wouldn’t trade my life with them for anything.  Parent tend to be really hard on themselves for being human.  I’m no exception. 

I don’t think raising kids is about stifling our emotions or energy.  Instead, I think it’s about continuously working to enhance our ability to regulate and restore, and maybe even more importantly, I think it’s about being open, honest, transparent, and compassionate about who and what we are.  

I think our kids benefit from experiencing our humanity if we’re intentional about providing them a comprehensive and developmentally appropriate view, with the communication and support for processing it.

I read an article this weekend that highlights Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills in a way that really connects with the core values that Lorelei and I share.  The author starts with, “Social and emotional learning (SEL) skills aren’t core content but they’re the core of all content.”

We’ve had, and continue to have lots of dialogue around SEL in our home.  The consistent theme is that there’s nothing more important to than giving our kids tools and strategies for managing their emotions and their relationships, and providing them with modeling and opportunities to practice regulating and restoring as we celebrate the triumphs and face the challenges together.

We use the Zones of Regulation (http://www.zonesofregulation.com). Being a Hero at school (or being your best self at home) in every Zone is the baseline for everything else we do.  The reality that all of us, kids and adults alike, sometimes find ourselves in each of the four Zones of Regulation (BLUE – sad with low energy, GREEN – focused and ready to learn, YELLOW – worried or silly, and RED – angry with “out of control” energy) binds us with common threads and makes it possible for us to connect with our kids as we tread the SEL path together.

Transparency is critical along the path.  As we shift through the Zones throughout each day we talk with kids about our practice.  We work hard to demonstrate the difference between being a frustrated person and simply being frustrated, being an angry person and being just angry, being a sad person and being sad in the moment. 

When we share our stories with our kids, and with one another we make visible, and open minds and hearts to tools and strategies that have the potential to enhance lives.  When kids and others can see that our energy and emotions fluctuate and are influenced buy our circumstances and experiences, just like theirs do and are, bonds of genuine trust and compassion are developed and resilience is built. 

We tend to remember moments of discovery in visceral ways.  Revelation moves us.  One of the great challenges we have as parents and educators is that it’s really tough to measure growth in some areas.  There’s no straight forward assessment that monitors the development of SEL skills.  We see kids shift and change over long periods of time, we witness the ebbs the flows, and we share stories with colleagues and parents around our amazement about how Billy “has grown” or what a “mature attitude” Susan has developed about her learning, but the real-time impact of our efforts are often undetectable. 

Kids simply don’t blossom on our watch.  Even so, our work with them, our dedication to them, and our love for them are all incredibly impactful.  What we do and how we act catalyzes discovery.  They’re watching.  They’re listening to everything we say.  They’re learning from their experiences with us.  

We need to consistently demonstrate what it is to be human, warts and all.  We need to be open and honest about our successes and our failures.  We need to make sure they understand the great benefit of missteps for those of us genuinely functioning with growth mindsets.  

SEL isn’t about getting it “right” all the time or walking through this world with a smile on our faces at every turn.  SEL is about having the wherewithal to weather the storms.  None of us are perfect at it.  Kids should know that we don’t expect them to be either.  They should know that, in fact, we expect just the opposite.  They should understand that we expect their roads to be long and winding, just like ours are, and that we’re here to help as they learn to navigate.  Let’s stay focused on the core of what it takes to teach the core.  SEL first.

In it together for the kids!

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

I Could Show You This All day

The Story 

Our five year old learned a magic trick. His brother got the box set from a show we went to at school.  It had all the classics.  There was a sliding wand, some gimmick playing cards, the cups that multiply, and the plastic yellow sliding mechanism that makes a plastic coin disappear and reappear right before your very eyes!  He was fascinated with the disappearing coin trick.  I remember that one being particularly fascinating as a kid, too.  

It’s awesome to witness young ones discover things for the first time.  When he saw what this thing could do it was like he was on to something that no one else knew about.  He couldn’t wait to show the world, and he wouldn’t give away the secret (because magicians simply don’t do that). 

He approached me with a gigantic smile on his face.  Even though he was covering it up with the hand that didn’t have the disappearing coin trick in it, I could tell it was a smile.  This kid smiles with his eyes.

He prepped me with a wonderfully professional intro, demonstrating that the coin was real.  Then he pushed the sliding mechanism in the casing, he gave it a magic wave with his hand, and he slid it back out.  When it came out, the coin was gone.  Amazing!  

His smile grew and his hand moved quickly back in front of his face.  I could still tell.  The eyes.

He turned the sliding mechanism over and slid it back into the casing.  This time, when he pulled it out the coin was there again.  How could this be possible!  My eyes lit up, his smile was evermore transfixed to his rosy, enthusiastic face, and we both reveled in the magic of the moment.  

Before I could even ask about his mystical, magical secrets, he performed the trick a second time, then a third, then a fourth and a fifth, and so on.  He didn’t stop, or even pause.  He just kept going. He was a master magician.  He made that coin appear and disappear at will.  It got stuck a few times, and a few times he lost track of the orientation of the sliding mechanism and put it in the wrong way, but he quickly recovered each time.  It was a sight to behold.

After a few dozen reenactments I began wondering when it would end.  It was thrilling to be sure, but still, I might have benefitted from a bit of a break.  Before I could ask, he looked up at me (still with the smiling eyes) and said, “I could show you this all day!” 

The Learning

Kids have only had the lived experiences they’ve had.  Redundant but true.  The fact is, kids are making discoveries at every turn.

Think about how it feels to discover something new. 

I’m forty five year old (and almost forty six, if you can believe that).  I certainly don’t know everything there is to know, but I have the basics down pretty good.

Sometimes, I make a discovery, even when I’m not trying or expecting to.  Those are my favorites.  Surprise discoveries.  Good stuff. 

When a surprise discovery comes along I feel like my world has shifted.  Now a days it tends to be something about calming my mind or finding ways to balance and simplify my life. Sometimes I’m reading when it happens, I could be listening to music, or even interacting with a friend or colleague who’s discovered some secret I’ve been waiting to know. 

When it happens, it feels kind of mind blowing to me.  It’s exhilarating.  I want to shout it from the mountaintops.  I want to share, I want to practice, I want to remember, and I wan to refine.  I’m in it.  I’m engaged and excited.  Just the way we want kids to be as they learn.

The thing is, kids are constantly making mind blowing discoveries because so much is new to them.  On top of that, they love sharing.  As parents and educators we need to remember how much it matters that they have opportunities to share as much as possible. 

Ask anyone, it’s the connections we make with kids that make the difference, even over the information we teach them.  In fact, it seems to me if we spend more time listening than we do talking, more time learning from them instead of trying to impart our wisdom, and more time simply focused on connections when they demonstrate interest and engagement, we may may all be well served. 

Connections before anything.  Spending our time celebrating the things kids are excited about and sharing in that excitement paves pathways to positive process, achievement, and wellbeing for all.

In it together for the kids!

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

Everyone Will Think I’m Just a Painter

We were headed out the door to an event at the synagogue.  Of course, our five year old was wearing his pirate outfit.  It’s a good one.  There’s the lengthy, leathery foundational top coat laden with the silky, frilly accouterments you might see on the uniform of a real fake pirate.  Also, there was a right-sized sword hanging from the loop in his velvety belt.  To his credit, the sword was the centerpiece of the outfit.  Unfortunately, we simply don’t wear swords to the synagogue.  It’s just not done. 

I reminded him.  He brushed past me without acknowledging the reminder.  I called his name.  He didn’t look back.  He marched to the car grasping the sword hilt with one hand, bound and determine to keep the outfit intact.  I smiled in the light of his determination.  He’s strong-willed like his mother (and possibly his father, too).  It could serve him well some day. Off we went.

When we arrived at our destination I told him that the sword wasn’t leaving the truck with us.  He took a deep breath, he executed a precise and overt slumping of the shoulders, and then he sighed.  After an especially moving dramatic pause, and with a distant, forlorn look in his eyes, he said, “Everyone will think I’m just a painter.” 

I smiled again, trying unsuccessfully to hide it from him.  He broke the fourth wall and reflexively smiled back before quickly regaining his footing. 

Despite his best efforts, the possibly misconceived sword-less pirate and would-be a painter, his giggling sister and I walked into the synagogue. 

The idea of “what everyone thinks” is complicate.  It’s difficult to decipher, it seems really important until we understand that it’s not, and it’s almost always relatively concrete until it falls apart under the weight of self-realization.  

That is to say, we don’t really know “what every thinks” or is going to think, “everyone’s” thinking is typically set on a foundation of our own thinking (and projecting), and what others think of us (real or imagined) doesn’t change who we are or set our course in nearly as profound a way as does our own thinking.  Sometimes we think it does, but it doesn’t.  

In other words, it really didn’t matter if  everyone thought the kid was “just a painter?”  He was a pirate. He knew it.  The trick was convincing him of that “father knows best” nonsense. 

At first I thought to espouse the high qualities of painters, thinking I could initiate a paradigm shift that might comfort and instill a sense of pride in him.  Painters are creative, they have sensitivities that connect them to the world in wonderful ways, they generate beautiful works that drive imagination and spur innovation from those inspired by their shared thinking, and so on.  

I stopped short of enacting that reflexive societal instinct.  I wasn’t going to ask the pirate to pretend he was painter.  I shouldn’t.  I couldn’t. 

Fight yourself to work at becoming a thing you think “everyone else” sees you as or want’s you to be.  Try it.  Actually, I’m guessing that at one time or another you have. I would contend the core of a person is simply too strong to refuse, at least while keeping the person intact.  Whenever I’ve attempted to veer from my truest path I’ve been turned back, as if by gravity itself. 

There are many kids of painters and also assortment of pirates, I would guess.  We can certainly learn and we can undoubtedly grow.  We shift and we change in many ways over time.  However, I would suggest that we are each something at the center.  A pirate, a painter, or possibly something else.  

Children should be allowed and encouraged to get messy figuring out what’s at the heart of the matter for them.  They should try things on and see how they fit.  We should help them understand that a full and balanced life comes along with some seemingly limiting expectations (like no swords in the synagogue), but that they must push forward from a foundation of self awareness, resilience, power and pride. They should know that we expect them to go for it…whatever it is.

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.

Literacy Learning The “Fastway”

When we drive on the expressway my children close their windows. It’s been a longstanding guideline in our family. The basis is a perception that rocks and other small objects have the potential of being scooped up by tires attached to the cars and trucks in front of us, and consequently that these rocks and other small objects have the additional potential of flying into our open windows, were they open.

Thankfully, due to this longstanding guideline, they’re not.

While it’s fun and even kind of exciting to watch flying rocks fly, none of us want to be hit on the nose by a scooped up one (or any other scooped up, flying object for that matter). We think that might hurt.

The kids take the initiative.

When they think there’s a chance we’re headed there, they ask, “Daddy, are we going on the expressway?”

If the answer is “yes” they roll the windows up.

Yesterday, on our way downtown, my six-year-old asked, “Are we going on the expressway?”

The answer was “yes.”

The window closed. Then something else happened.

He asked, “Why?”

He wasn’t asking why we were going on the expressway, of even why the window needed to be closed, but rather, he was asking about language. He was asking why this particular road is called the “expressway.”

I told him that the word “express” has the same meaning as the word “fast.” I told him that people drive on the expressway so that they can get to the pace they’re going faster than they otherwise could.

He thought for a minute, and then told me that is should be called the “fastway.” Decent point.

He suggested that more people are likely to know about the word “fast” than the word “express.” I suppose he’s right.

Regardless, his expression of curiosity and reasoning made me think. It made me think about language and about speed.

We (adults) might be using language that kids don’t completely understand. In fact, it’s likely we are. Part of what kids are doing all the time is learning (like us, but even faster). Part of what they’re learning about is language. It’s one aspect of literacy learning. One that is ever present, no books, worksheets, or multi-media presentations required.

When I talk about the expressway with my kids they understand that I’m talking about a road on which cars move faster than they do on other roads. Until now, however, this one didn’t get why it’s called that.

That’s ok. In fact, it’s natural. Kids don’t know as many words as we do. Ironically, this experience has me visualizing words like the rocks and other small object that have the potential to be scooped up and fly into open windows on the expressway. Words come at kids really fast, and they have to learn about them bit by bit, with intentionality.

If we’re genuinely attentive to language learning, and thoughtful about our communication with kids, we can give them cause to think carefully about language, and when people think carefully about language their communication tends to be enhanced.

If we pay attention to our interactions with kids around language, we can act as windows, keeping fast flying language from hitting kids in the nose while allowing it to be seen and considered by them as it leaps, dances, and even sometimes flies by them.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem terribly significant that kids know specific details about words that they get the general idea of. However, let’s consider the possibility that communication, and even literacy at its very core might be heightened with every layer of depth we add to their understanding.

My kid can now contemplate “express” lanes, “express” washes, and even explanations that are given “expressly.”

He can practice making connections with the word “express,” and making connections sometimes feels like solving puzzles, which is fun.

He can use the word “express” in the stories he writes or tells.

He can share his newfound knowledge and sophistication around language with his siblings and his friends.

When he reads the word “express,” a light bulb can go of over his head, he can shutter with excitement, and he can exclaim, “’Express’ means fast!”

He can take pride in being somewhat of a linguist.

Let’s not talk to the kids we serve about language because we want them to be able to use fancy words, but rather because we want them to enjoy, and be excited about words in general.

Let’s dig in with them and take time to fulfill their language curiosities because it’s fun and exciting.

Let’s take every opportunity as initiated by them, and let’s also provide opportunities by striking up dialogues and asking questions about language that we find interesting, or that we think might be interesting to them.

Let’s model curiosity and care around and about language.

Language doesn’t cost a thing and there’s plenty of it to go around.

Let’s make it as fun and exciting as it actually is to those who discover its innate influence on our lives, and let’s make sure that the kids we serve have every opportunity to maximize their potential to use it for good.

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

Ready Position

This afternoon I was at baseball practice with my seven-year-old. This one reminds me a bit of myself when it comes to baseball. I remember my own excitement over being regularly assigned to right field.

I remember feeling that it was unlikely that balls would come my way, and that I would have plenty of time for pulling dandelions, spinning around, finding shapes in clouds, making up stories, laughing to myself about the stories, and occasionally jumping up and down in place while counting to a hundred (or so).

Coach kept shouting, “ready position!”

He wanted my kid to bend his knees slightly, put his hand on them, and look toward home plate.

Granted, that is the correct “ready position” for what coach is responsible for teaching my kid to do. However, it isn’t the correct “ready position” for what my kid was actually up to.

My kid was pulling dandelions, spinning around, finding shapes in clouds, making up stories, laughing to himself about the stories, and occasionally jumping up and down in place while counting to a hundred (or so).

I have to imagine it’s some pretty basic apple and tree type stuff. I like to, anyway.

I tried not to smile too big or laugh too loud as I watched the kid do his thing. I didn’t want coach to think I was encouraging him in wrong directions or enjoying myself too much, even thought I was actually doing both.

I have to say, it is truly a joy for me to watch this kid blossoming into a world-class dreamer. I forgot that he was practicing baseball for a minute (or two).

Anyway, my wife asked me to stop by the drug store on the way home from practice. When I told the kid, he shuttered with excitement.

“I need a new journal!” he exclaimed. “One with lines, like ‘The Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ paper.” He clarified.

We picked up a pack of four journals (in my world it’s important to get one for each kid).

The big guy spent the rest of the evening drawing and writing stories. The volume and the creative quality of his work tonight amazed his mom and me. We had to peel the journal out of his hands so that we could get him to go to sleep (as we have to do with a journal or a book almost every night).

As I reflect back on baseball practice I realize he had been in “ready position.” If a fly ball happened along in his direction he would most likely not have been ready for that, but that’s not what he was trying to be ready for.

As a parent and an educator it makes me wonder, should we be asking the children we serve to be getting into “ready position” for what we want, or think they should be doing in any given moment, or alternatively, should we be working on genuinely understanding what they are in “ready position” for during those moments, and then supporting them in efforts to “play ball” in whatever way they feel most compelled?

My kid is a real slugger when it comes to creative writing, and he can field a wild idea like a pro!

It strongly feel it’s important to support his interest-based progress as a wonderer, a dreamer, and a creative artist…even as some of it takes the form of absent minded ball playing. With that feeling in mind, I try to stay in “ready positon” to do so.

Sorry coach…thanks for your patience…and batter up!

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

Moxie, It’s Pretty Amazing (And Not so Bad)

So much is so scary. The world can be a relatively difficult place to navigate at times. This is true for people of all ages. At 43 I’m still not immune to hesitation, trepidation, and even fear.

Sometimes those emotional responses to challenging situations can stop me in my tracks. Sometimes, however, I overcome and persevere. Sometime I employ moxie.

Moxie is a word that means: strength of character. It means: determination. It means: courage.

If you’ve got moxie, you’ve got nerve.

If you’ve got moxie, you’ve got grit.

If you’ve got moxie, you have a growth mindset, which means you can’t be stopped, not by an emotional response to a challenging situation, and ultimately, not by anything.

If you’ve got moxie you believe in the will to proceed, a positive attitude, and faith in lots of trying, and when lots of trying doesn’t seem to work, you believe you simply need lots more.  If you’ve got moxie, you’re thrilled to keep towing that line to any end.

People with moxie are happy because they know that “eventually” is better than “now.” They know that the road is long and winding, and they know that the long windy parts can be particularly fun and specifically rewarding.

People with moxie, even as they hesitate from time to time (which we all do), are eager to press on, even and especially when times are tough.  They know that it makes them stronger.

People with moxie shudder with anticipation when they stand at the edge of an adventure, especially the mysterious kind of adventure, during which multiple failures are preeminent.  To people with moxie, that’s the good stuff; the spice.

My two oldest sons and I go downtown to the Detroit river walk every so often. At one point along the walk there’s a stream running parallel. The stream is just wide enough not to present as un-leap-across-able, and just thin enough for kids with moxie to want to try (and to need to).  An exciting dichotomy for my kids, who have loads of moxie (some to spare you might say…no doubt they must get it from their mother).

Anyway, there we were, thinking this would be the year. Sure of it. This would be the year of the dry leap. The stream would be cleared. Last year we walked away with wet shoes (and socks).

The boys were brimming with excitement and anticipation, running back and forth, stopping at the edge, visualizing the jump, building courage, and priming their moxie pumps.

A long-bearded man with coveralls and a fishing pole walked by, saw what was going on,  and told the boys they’d never make it. He said they were too small.

Apparently that was the hammer dropping, because before I could say “wet shoes and socks” the first kid came flying across the great divide, followed closely by the second. They both did it! Just barely, but they did it nonetheless. Adrenaline rushed through their veins, they jumped for joy and hugged one another repeatedly and uncontrollably.  it was blissful.

In a flash of realization my fiver year old shouted, “That was pretty amazing!” and then matter-of-factly added, “and not so bad,” addressing the courage his moxie had him overcome, shaking his head in affirmation, raising his eyebrows, and curling his lower lip.

With out much ado they went back to hugging and jumping around before leaping over the stream at least two-dozen more times each.

People with moxie don’t let the negative infect them, they let it inspire them toward the positive, and they don’t apologize to anyone about it.

That positive bent might be my most favorite thing about moxie, which is saying a lot, because I have a lot of favorite things when it comes to moxie.

That thing, the thing the makes people with moxie believe in positive outcomes through any challenge, that thing truly inspires me, and I sure do appreciate being truly inspired!

Thank you moxie.

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