A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. ~ Forest E. Witcraft
I want to share a powerful story with you as part of my series of tips on parenting. It is an example of how important it is to be involved in your children’s lives, even as they become tweens and teens. It also shows how important it is to be involved in their schools, other organizations or find other ways to connect with their friends and peers.
When my kids entered middle school, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go in the classroom much, but I wanted a way to connect with them and see how they were doing. So I volunteered at the breakfast program. At first I thought it was silly that in an affluent community we were feeding kids breakfast! Then I realized that not only do many of the kids not eat breakfast at home, even though they could, but that this was a powerful attachment ritual. The school has almost no bullying incidents, and a lot of that is because of the amazing culture there which the breakfast club is a crucial part of.
This morning I was reflecting on how powerful the breakfast program is. I had a conversation with a boy that brought tears to my eyes. A boy in Grade 7 who I have known for a few years came up to me and said hi, as so many of the kids do. The kids know that I love them because I beam when I see the kids I know well, and I smile at all of the kids. I like to station myself at the milk table and say, “Good morning,” to everyone.
After saying hi, the boy shared that he knows now how useful duct tape is. I said, “Oh, that’s interesting, why?”. He said that he has been duct taping his mouth because he talks too much. Tears pricked the corner of my eyes but I worked to keep them from showing in case that startled him.
Talk about a kid who needs to hear that he is valued and that people want to hear what he has to say. I shared with him that I used to get the strong message that I talked too much, and that I was there to tell him that he may sometimes talk at the wrong time perhaps, or the people around him may not be able to listen for some reason, but that neither is an indication that he talks too much. Another boy came along to talk to him so we drifted apart.
I will make a point of engaging him from now on. I know his family so he is very comfortable with me, although many of the kids there are comfortable even if I don’t know their families. He said that no one wants to hear him talk so much. I told him to come and talk to me more. I have always listened to him before so he has not got that message from me.
When I was running to become the local public school board trustee, and I came to speak to all the grade sixes, he was very active asking questions. I will point out to him that my gift for talking lead to me being comfortable with the speaking that is required as a trustee. Yet I had to overcome the thought that I talked too much in order to be willing to speak out. I am sure if a caring adult I liked had told me that I had a gift, albeit one that is not always treasured at his age, even though it should be, I would have suffered much less than I did.
I am sure that I will be one of those old crones still volunteering at the breakfast programs in my community. It is one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever had. On the side I get to see who my kids are hanging out with, find out their names and interact with the wonderful staff. I usually learn about upcoming events that my kids would probably not remember to tell me about. However knowing that I am part of supporting some of these wonderful, precious but sometimes struggling kids is a gift that makes it worthwhile even if I had no self-interest in being there.
As I say when I end my interviews for my Great Parenting Show, I believe that raising happy, resilient and successful children is how we create the world that we want to live in. This is one of the best tips on parenting that I can share; connect with the kids in your children’s lives and you will not only help raise your child better by that interaction, but you will become part of the loving web that raises them. You will be doing your part by being the change you want to see in the world.
Ironically, you will not be giving, but receiving in the process, for we all want to know that we matter and that we are making a difference.
Share your stories of being the change you want to be in the world. Was there a caring adult in your life who reached out? Share those stories too with our community. Please share this with your friends and family and help support and inspire them too!