Little sister: Can I play with your Nintendo DS? And your guitar? And your crayons?
Big sister: Get out of my room. It’s off limits to you…forbidden. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Pretend I don’t exist. I’m just a figment of your imagination.
Little sister: But I want to play with you!
Big sister: Get OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NOW!!!!!!!!!!
Little sister: *Hysterical wailing and gnashing of teeth, because this is clearly hell*
After this, the little one usually wades through her tears and tries not to trip over her bottom lip as she marches downstairs and files charges against her big sister for this heinous act that’s been committed against her. She most always exaggerates and accuses her sister of things like attempted murder and bodily harm and assault with a deadly weapon when really, her big sister is at worst guilty of being a real jerk.
It’s at times like these when I thank the Lord above that I do not have brothers and sisters. Siblings are clearly put on this early with the sole purpose of ruining each other’s lives. They boss each other around. They take each other’s toys. They tell on each other. At breakfast, they finish all of the good cereal with colored, puffed marshmallows in it so that all that’s left is the high-fiber cardboard stuff dad loves.
My kids are getting to an age where they generally annoy each other at every turn. There’s a lot of fighting and yelling and door slamming going on around here.
The main problem is that we are running low on kindness at our house. There is a shortage, not enough to go around, and this makes for some stressful situations. There seems to be a town-wide, state-wide, worldwide shortness of kindness these days. Forget the high cost of gas, there seems to be a high price on kindness, too, so high that we often think that we can’t afford it.
It does come at a high price sometimes. We have to set aside our egos and our immediate wants and desires. We have to put others first at our own expense and that can leave us feeling depleted.
Thing is, kindness is a worthwhile investment we can all afford. Sure, it requires sacrifice but just like any good investment, over time it accumulates great returns. And it goes a long way! This is something our family really needs to focus on right now. We need to show each other more kindness, more compassion and more love.
By the way, love is not a mushy feeling that gives you goose bumps. It’s the conscious decision to be kind, forgiving, patient and not self-seeking. This means that love is a choice and we can make it every single day. We choose whether we love our spouses or children or families every day. And if you’re like me, you oftentimes fail at it.
In our attempt to spread the kindness (and love) in our family we started something called “Putting on our kindness boots.” I wish I could take credit for this but I can’t. I’ve heard this idea from many different places but it’s the first time that I’ve actually put it into practice.
The concept is easy. It’s the deliberate attempt to remember to be kind every day by doing the physical action of “putting on” pretend kindness boots every day. These boots remind us to be patient and courteous and helpful. They remind us that even when someone is not kind to us, we have a choice to do the right thing and come back with kindness instead of anger.
So every morning I started reminding my kids to “put on their kindness boots” before they go to school. This is a reminder that today they are making the decision to be kind to me and to each other and their classmates and everyone else that they come into contact with that day.
And if they have an off moment when they start down that mean path and let’s face it, we all have those moments, they can easily be reminded that they are wearing those boots.
For goodness sake, just this morning I got frustrated with my son who just couldn’t seem to understand that “brush your teeth” actually meant “brush your teeth” and not “harass the dog by farting in her face.” I lost it for a split second and yelled at him. He of course reminded me that I was not wearing my kindness boots and the truth is he was right. Even us moms need a reminder that kindness is king and that everything we do sets and example.
I’m not always the best example when I see who is calling and tell everyone in the house not to answer the phone because I don’t want to talk to that person right now. Or when I lose my patience with their father (for example, my husband that is sexy and sweet) who can remember every phone number he’s ever had his entire life but can’t seem to remember where we keep the ketchup.
We can all easily stray down the wrong path so it’s a good reminder to my kids when they start to beat each other silly. Somebody took off their kindness boots, they better put them back on. Someone didn’t put their kindness boots on today, better go find them. Someone is having a really hard time getting their kindness boots on today, we should all help put them on. This is when we tackle the grumpy culprit to the floor, hold him/her down while someone tickles them and someone else pretends to put those pesky boots on them. Works like a charm every time.
I sometimes fight harder than a normal person when they put them on me. Because mine are high heeled boots and they are sometimes a real bitch to wear!