I have 5 kids.
That’s a lot of work.
It’s a lot of correcting, teaching and disciplining…
No matter what approach you take in raising your children, one thing is for sure - they need lots of instruction, lots of lessons on how to be in this world, treat others and grow into an outstanding member of society.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m constantly saying the same things to my kids
all. the. time.
Not only can it get exhausting, but sometimes I wonder if I’m even making any ground with them. How many times do I need to say, “we have to treat each other with kindness…” or “we need to share our toys/food/space.” As an adult, some of these things seems so obvious to us, so apparent, so fundamental. Yet, I’ve found that some of the most obvious stuff in life is so obvious that it goes overlooked.
I think many of the most popular lessons we teach our children are lessons that we ourselves need to learn. As adults, we’ve simply learned techniques and mechanisms to cover over many of the raw emotions are acting out over. And good thing. We wouldn’t want an entire adult population to act like 4-yr olds. That would be a catastrophe.
Here are a few “obvious” lessons that I feel like we, as the adult segment of society, need to listen to our own advice.
“Share Your Toys”
Underneath the complexities of what are considered “global problems,” there is a simple lesson that has the power to catapult the human race eons forwards. That lesson is to share. According to the UN, nearly 20,000 children die every day from starvation. Starvation. Not an incurable disease, not natural disasters, but a lack of food.
Thousands of children die everyday because they don’t have food to eat. Imagine that. Slowly over time, a child’s belly remains empty to the point where their little body begins to shut down one organ at a time, till they cross the point-of-no-return… and die.
Why is that? Is it because there’s not enough food on the globe to go around? Is there not enough wealth, innovation or technology to ensure that children have food? Absolutely not. Much of the problem begins with our understanding of sharing. Even as big boys and girls, we haven’t mastered the lesson that the best way to live as human, is to share.
I try (and I use that word intentionally) to live with a mindset that nothing I own is actually mine. I foster thoughts of caring for all with everything I’ve been given because my little pile fortune, is there with the intention to share what I have so that others may benefit.
Just take a minute and think to yourself, what if only a small percentage of our race began to live that way? How would that impact our economy, our unemployment rate, poverty, loneliness, the sense of separation and overall fear?
“Don’t Fight With Your Sister”
This one takes nothing less but spiritual mastery. Before I was married with kids I hardly fought with anyone. I thought of myself as a peacemaker and doing pretty good at conflict-resolution, but quickly realized that on the other side of family-life, I had simply developed copying mechanisms where I would avoid or abandon situations that starting stirring conflict. For me, it was more of a cowardly position than being a master of resolving conflict.
My kids bicker constantly. As soon as Zion expresses that she wants the blue bowl, immediately Eden wants it. But Eden and Zion both can’t have the blue bowl because there’s only one blue bowl. Within seconds, we go from a peaceful start of breakfast to WWIII. Some of the most intense energy of attack, bickering and aggression consumes my little, innocent girls. At 5:45am, I quickly jolt into my referee role and break up the cat fight.
As petty as this seems, I have ironically observed this identical behavior within myself. It’s just more sophisticated, more polished and has a lot more logical behind it. I see it rise in me when my wife wants me to cut her some slack or when someone zips into my parking spot that I saw from a distance first or when someone at the store gives me an undeserving attitude.
I want to fight back. I want justice.
Ironically, this type of thinking is what constitutes war on a larger scale. It’s made of the same ingredients and fuels the same kind of aggressive energy — just magnified.
It all hinges on the Golden Rule: love your neighbor as you love yourself. It’s incredible to me how far I’ll go to get something I crave. If I suddenly envision a chocolate blizzard from Dairy Queen, I may drive 15 minutes out of my way to fulfill that craving (loving myself), but he moment my wife asks if I can run back into the store to grab toothpaste for her, I’m at war.
Some of the greatest levels of peace and inner satisfaction in my life were during times of putting the needs of others at the same level as my own needs. There’s a mantra that I roll around in my mind daily, which has helped to keep me in this mindset;
“No one owes me anything, but I owe everyone everything.”
It helps to set my mind on a path of servanthood and compassion instead of one of self-protection or preservation. When I’m able to live by that, I feel an incredible sense of purpose and contentment and those around me are validated in love, acceptance and care.
“It’s Not Fair”
I would be a rich main if I had a dime for every time one of kids said, “but it’s not fair.” After hearing that a few thousand times, I finally found the answer that both aligns and serves my children. I’ve begun to respond with, “you’re right, Judah, it’s not fair because the nature of love isn’t fair.”
Sounds a little strange, doesn’t it? But think about it for a minute. Love forgives. It’s patient in the face of impatience, it’s kind in the midst of injustice, it believes the best, hopes and suffers long.
None of that is fair.
It’s the recognition that we all, as humans, make mistakes. We do things and say things that we regret and if we could do it over again, we would.
When my kid deliberately disobeys, my forgiveness isn’t fair. When I’m stuck in a depression and my wife gives understanding and grace, it isn’t fair. When the bank forgave my mortgage in the midst of the economic crash in 2007, that wasn't fair. The nature of love isn’t fair. That’s why love has the power to cover over all misperceptions, wrongdoing and the injustices that come with living in this existence.
Maybe I’m an optimist.
Maybe I’m idealist.
Maybe I’m naive.
Or maybe…just maybe, those repetitive lessons I keep throwing at my kids are the way of hope, compassion and the way to be human.