Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sickness and Kindness


I came down with the stomach bug that both of my girls have had this week. On Wednesday, our youngest called from school and I went and got her just after noon. I stayed home with her while she sat on the couch, watched TV, played on the computer, and rested. It felt good to be of use to her and to my wife whose job doesn't leave her the flexibility to take a day off the way mine does. Then, on Friday, our eldest came down with it and I did the same for her, again feeling useful and good about being able to do something.

Friday evening, last night, I too came down with it and went to bed early hoping to sleep it all off. No such luck. I woke, sort of, and found that I was feeling worse than the night before. Still, there was my daughter's soccer game to coach and so we got up and dressed and she played the game while I roamed the sidelines shouting instructions and feeling tired. Afterward, we got home and I just had nothing left.

My wife was kind to me today. She saw how I was struggling, she arranged everything so that I could just sit on the couch and then go up to bed for the afternoon. It's our wedding anniversary tomorrow and she took the girls out shopping to get something for me. I have not gotten out to get her anything and she keeps telling me not to worry about it, but it's just the sort of thing I do worry about. I'm feeling better this evening and by tomorrow I hope to be fully on the mend. But what to do about this anniversary? I'm not sure.

Still, the real message here isn't about guilt, it's about kindness. My wife is out tonight with her friends and so I was home with my daughters. They are both healthy as can be and know that I'm not. Much in the same way that I let them rest and get better, they did the same for me. Eight and ten years old and they know how to take care of their forty-three year old father already. It's extraordinary to me how they know this sort of thing, how they feel it, how it is hard-wired into them.

I suppose some of it comes down to parenting and at least a portion of that is due to my actions. (I usually take credit for about thirty percent of the parenting. I do this in jest but also with a bit of seriousness since Stephanie is the prime parenting force in their lives. She excels at it and, I am sure, she was born to be a parent. It's just all so natural to her.) These girls have just learned kindness. It's a part of them.

I count that a win and a half.

If we raise two compassionate, kind, thoughtful kids, that might fulfill my wish to change the world. Yeah, that's always been my dream. As a kid I dreamed of having super powers to pull off this feat. (Truth be told, I still wish for super powers, but that's a whole other matter for my therapist and me to talk about.) Then, I hoped to change everything by starting a fantastic school for kids who most need it. I wished I could write something that would affect the world so much that things would change. And now, though I still think about those things (yeah, super powers included), I realize the ways in which most of us hope to revolutionize the world: through our children.

It's a fine line. I'm not trying to make them live a life I've dreamed up for them (though I have had thoughts along those lines, time to time). Instead, I want them to understand the powers of kindness. I teach kids at my school who believe that force and power are the only things that matter. Kindness, all too often, is a thing they see as weakness. My girls get a whole different picture. At least, that's what I'm trying to provide for them.

If today is any indication, things are working. I'm married to a kind woman whose compassion is extraordinary. I have two girls who are filled up with kindness and overflow with it. And, if I look closely at who I am, who I'm becoming, I see that kindness is at the heart of everything I want.

Write on.