As of today, I have 402 school children and 2 biological children… it’s a busy life.
I was looking over my blog and considering making some changes/updates/tweeks to the layout, but my three goals totally derailed that project. Last week our city mentoring program Mentor Me Petaluma hosted a speaker, Charlie Appelstein, youth care specialist and author of No Such Thing as a Bad Kid.
His audience was mainly the adult mentors who serve children in many of our Petaluma schools but teachers and administrators were in attendance as well. Thursday night, got home, fixed dinner for my fam, listened to hubby grumble, Where are you going tonight? Almost didn’t get in the car. So glad I did.
Two huge takeaways for me:
1) Welcome every child with a smile, a greeting and excitement that they’re at school today.
2) Positively plan for the future… not IF x, y or z happens but WHEN x, y or z happens…
Boiling it down even further: It’s all about attitude. I believe it 100%.
The mentors in the room, takeaway #1 was critical. Mentees often have a lot of life’s baggage, a challenging attitude or general distrust of adults. Mentors must maintain that I have been waiting all week to hang out with you!-attitude.
Is that any different from my 404 children at school and home? Nope. Not at all. Even the cheeriest, school-loving kid is jazzed to be greeted with a smile. You can see it in their gait as they skip or gallop (thinking kinder-2nd grade) into school. What about the more mature of our children (5th & 6th grade)? I notice the change in their posture–a heavy walk gets lighter, a set shoulder gets rearranged, a smile sneaks out at the corners. Even the kids who are difficult to reach, who we feel we are sometimes failing, who do not reciprocate the love and enthusiasm of teachers and adults. Even them. Especially them. As my friend, Linda, would say: It’s a small deposit in a child’s life. Always be a builder-upper.
What about takeaway #2: Positively plan for the future. Charlie says a lot of mentees can’t think or function beyond the here and now. His analogy was that of elephants defending their young in a circle. As long as the threat remains, they will forsake food and water to protect the babies. Some of our mentees are in this survival mode and can’t see beyond the circle. I would argue that it doesn’t take severe trauma or dysfunction to make a kid circle-up in this way. So ALL our kids need help positively planning for the future. When you finish that story, let’s share it with our buddies. When you improve your mile run time by 5 seconds, let’s high five and do the chicken dance in the middle of the field. When you ace that science test, let’s go for ice cream. Never if… if is uncertain, full of doubt, allows space for a waivering of spirit and determination. Always when.
To bring it home for a minute, I definitely need to work on this with my own 2 children. We have a lovely morning routine that’s just awesome. I wake them, we chat about a dream they had last night, a goal for the day and I make a pretty dramatic announcement about what’s for breakfast (my favorite part). But at the end of my day, I walk in the door already halfway through a thought, a reminder, a chore check-in… What about the smile, the greeting? Something to work on.
Again, so glad I attended the talk with Charlie. Thank you Mentor Me Petaluma. He was just pumped about these kids and the impact adults can have on their lives. I agree. But my scope is not just the mentees but all my children. It’s a tough spot to be both validated and convicted by a speaker. Not a total pat-on-the-back but a work in progress. Isn’t it always?