Be Easily Forgotten or a Hero?

Have you ever been embarrassed by a sibling or family member?

My oldest has reached an age where he is becoming embarrassed by his younger brother. While he loves his brother, they get along quite well together, he is starting to be influenced by what his friends think.

We were having dinner and my oldest decided he needed to share with us that his friends make fun of his younger brother because he gets excited over little kid things — mind you he’s a few years younger than his brother, so it’s normal for him to be into the things he’s into, but his older brother was embarrassed none-the-less.

My youngest son was at the table, made a frown and said, “that hurts my feelings and kind of makes me feel bad.” I agreed. I was pretty unhappy my oldest had shared his opinion so openly with disregard for how it might make his brother feel.

My husband and I began to talk to our oldest. My husband reminded our son of a  segment we’d listened to on the radio where a man recalled an experience from his childhood where he’d followed an assignment given by the teacher to write down something you like and then asked the kids to give their assignment to a peer to read aloud. The boy hadn’t realized the assignment would be read aloud and immediately became embarrassed when he knew it would. As he suspected, the kids started to laugh at what he’d written. He wanted to disappear, until one of his peers, a girl in the class asked, “What’s the point of this assignment? To embarrass each other?” It stopped the class, it stopped the teacher, it ended the assignment. He never forgot that girl and how she stood up and ended his humiliation. He ends the story by challenging the listener to consider who you want to be in life — one that flies under the radar and is easily forgotten, or be the hero and remembered forever? We challenged our son to think about who he wanted to be — we’d hope he’d want to (and have the courage to) be the hero. “You stand up for your brother. You don’t ever tolerate someone else making fun of him,” I said. I looked at his younger brother and said, “And you do the same for him. You guys both need to look out for one another.”

We ended the conversation after getting the boys to confirm they understood us and would work to stand up for each other, even in uncomfortable situations. I’m hoping to raise heroes, not those easily forgotten.

How are you raising your child to stand up for their siblings or peers? How are you teaching them to be someone’s hero?

Check-up Check-in

On a recent trip to the dentist office to get a cleaning, I had a memorable conversation with the receptionist. I have known Lauren for almost a decade. She has been the receptionist at my dentist office since I started going there. She is always pleasant, smiling and genuinely seems interested in how I am.  I brought each of my boys with me to the dentist when they were very young. Each visit since, she has asked me about them, how old they are and what they are up to.

On this most recent visit, she inquired about my boys as usual. I mentioned my youngest was getting ready to enter kindergarten and she reminded me that they will be grown in what will seem like a blink of an eye. Instead of stopping there, she shared that her children were now grown. She shared without any prompting on my part, that while you can help guide them when they are young, you sometimes have to stand by and watch them struggle, possibly fail, as an adult. She said, “You sometimes can see what’s going to happen before it happens, but you need to let them experience it on their own.” She continued, “You want to protect them, but realize they don’t appreciate it, or want your insight or suggestions. They just want you to be there for them. It can be hard, especially when a choice they’ve made ends up with a bad result, but what can you do? They’re adults.”

I thought about this for a moment, and replied, “You’re right. I know as an adult, I really only want my parents support and encouragement. If I want their advice, I let them know.”

Boundaries are an interesting thing.  As parents of young children, we are tasked with teaching our children, showing them right from wrong, helping them with their education, and exposing them to values, morals, and beliefs. We can convince ourselves it is our life long mission to be our children’s teachers, but in reality, they will only want to be taught for some long. Then they will want to learn for themselves. If we keep a healthy boundary and let them make decisions for themselves as they enter adulthood, we show our confidence in their skills. It is hard to keep you mouth shut and opinions to yourself when you see someone making a choice you wouldn’t make, or a choice you believe will end badly. You want to help your child avoid pain or disappointment, but everyone needs the chance to grow and experience life in their own way.

Lauren reminded me of something important on this dentist visit. That my role with my children will not always be what it is now. I will need to maintain boundaries, not only for my own sake, but more importantly for my children. I am not looking forward to seeing my children grown and making decisions that I might not agree with, but I do want to maintain a healthy relationship with them, and do hope that they will occasionally ask me for advice after they leave our home. I want them to flourish, and more importantly want them to know my husband and I believe in them and will be there to support and encourage them.

I never expected for my dental check-up to contain such sage advice.

How are you preparing for your role to change as your child enters adulthood? Are you thinking about it now, or holding off until you have to think about it? What will you do differently?