Posted in connections, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Don’t be that uncle

I have a student who has been playing an instrument for a week.

He came to class completely disheartened and said, “My uncle said I’m never going to be able to play this.”

Don’t be that uncle.

Of course the kid is struggling and sounds terrible right now. He’s been playing for a week. Instruments are hard.

Build them up instead of putting them down.

(And deal with whatever baggage you’re carrying that makes putting down your automatic response.)

Posted in differences, hope, know better do better, mindset

Breaking barriers

I get an email every weekday morning from “the universe.” Some of them say just the right thing on just the right day. Some … meh.

Today’s tied in to a post that I had a skeleton for already and decided to use the inspiration to fill it in.

“Performing miracles, Heat, isn’t a matter of doing the impossible, it’s a matter of redefining the possible.”

Running a mile in four minutes is an easy example. It was impossible, but once it was done, it was replicated hundreds of times. It’s not easy (and man, that’s fast!), but over 1400 men have done it so far. They just needed permission.

Another that comes to mind for me is climbing the Dawn Wall. In the last year, I saw the movie by the same name (on Netflix—watch it!) and read Tommy Caldwell’s book (The Push) about it. It’s a 3000-foot rock face in Yosemite, a place renowned for climbing. This particular bit of rock had never been free climbed and was considered unclimbable.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climbed it in 19 days (after years of working on it). Not long after, it was climbed in eight days. It went from unclimbable to climbed to climbed in less than half the time in under a year.

Of course, this has application all over life, not just in elite athletics.

Women, people of color, queers are breaking barriers all over the place, which on one hand, is excellent! It’s about time!

On the other hand, it’s not cool or neat or fun that there are so many firsts for women, people of color, non-Christians, queer people. Because it’s 20 freaking 19.

But it does ask the question: what are we “not able” to do just because it hasn’t been done yet?

Posted in differences, mindset, parenting

Kids, birthdays, parties, gifts

Most parents I know lament the amount of stuff their kids have. (Some lament their own as well.)

Most parents I know specifically say that there’s no need to bring a gift to their kid’s birthday party. (This is extra nice when we don’t really know the birthday kid very well and aren’t sure what would be good. And if “they’re really into dinosaurs” (or whatever), it’s still hard to know what won’t duplicate something they already have.)

When the kids were younger, they didn’t typically open gifts at the party.

In addition to all of the drama avoided, gifts opened at home later means that all of the potential negative reactions to having given a card are publicly avoided.

It’s a little trickier now. Gifts are more often opened at the party.

So what to do?

If clutterstuff is a problem and it’s genuinely OK just to bring a card, then it seems that would be the way to go.

In theory, I’d like to have a get-together with The Kid and the birthday kid at a later date, treat them to that as their gift (if there’s an entrance fee, or if they get food). No clutter, no guessing what they like, still something gifted, time spent together. But I’ve found that much of the time, the get-together never happens.

I saw a suggestion for a “fiver party,” where each child brings $5 in a card to go towards a larger thing that the birthday boy wants to buy. It’s billed as being inexpensive and convenient for parents, since $5 is easier and typically cheaper than buying a gift.

But that feels funny. Not entirely sure why.

I saw a post yesterday with a suggestion for a wedding gift: a wallet with gift cards for places to go on dates. Good for applications beyond weddings, really, especially if you want to go a group gift for someone(s) and know places they like to go/eat/shop.

Which got me to thinking that maybe setting up playdates intentionally as a gift might work. (The connection was the collection of future outings as a gift.)

I’m still in the “thinking out loud” phase of this idea. For ease of pronouns, I’m going to create an example for The Kid’s birthday.

We invite who he wants to invite and suggest that in lieu of physical gifts, we’re creating a playdate series. We (both kids’ parents, with kid input) schedule a date and a location, and go from there. They could be to anywhere locally—parks, museums, other activities—and then he gets 1-on-1 time built in with his friends. And maybe tries out a new thing or goes to a new place.

There are logistics in there that I haven’t worked out.

Maybe have a coupon or something in each card, saying where the playdate will be.(Not sure kids care about the date.) But if it’s scheduled, it’s more likely to happen. Or let them pick a where and we can schedule the when at the party.

I do like the idea of one gift from everyone. I don’t know why I feel like that is less comfortable to set up than the thing I was just thinking about.

What do you think?

Posted in mindset

Take what you need

After going through a handful of ideas, I put up the display shown in the picture in both of my classrooms.

In case you can’t see the photo, there’s a poster in the middle that says “take what you need,” surrounded by sticky-notes with messages.

You got this!

I can do it!

Mistakes are opportunities

I am a problem solver

You are a problem solver

I’m going to be OK

Try

Breathe

Focus

Listen

I am in control

It’s hard but it’s worth it

I belong here

You belong here

Better than yesterday

I have grit

Each one is written once on each of five colors of paper and stuck randomly around the center poster.

I introduced this to my students–5th and 6th graders–on Monday at one school and on Thursday at my other school.

They seemed interested. Monday, a few kids grabbed one.

Thursday, most of the kids grabbed one. I didn’t see what everyone took (that wasn’t what we were working on!), but I did go look after they left to see what needed to be replenished. (Eyeball estimate–with random placement, I’m not going to count every single one of those to keep the counts even.)

One or two of many were missing: I’m a problem solver, I can do it, You got this, Breathe (though I think their intention is a reminder to take a good breath when they play).

But this is what struck me (and why I’m writing about it).

Every “I’m going to be OK” was taken.

It gave me pause.

Many of those kids are dealing with problems that I certainly didn’t deal with as a kid. (Some of them have problems I can relate to.) But most of them, I don’t really know their story.

I’m going to be OK.

I made more and stuck them up there. I may start circulating to see who is taking those, if it’s consistently the same kids, and check in, either with them directly or with their homeroom teacher or the counselor.

If that’s what they needed, I’m glad it was there.

Posted in audience participation, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Can you go a month without complaining?

A while back, I read a few articles about complaining and how it rewires your brain. Not in a good way.

Also a while back, I used to run 30-day challenges on Facebook.

Two of those challenges have been “life-changing” as per feedback from people in the group.

One was no added sugars (which we ended up doing for 45 days, because we started mid-month) and the other was no complaining.

The no complaining challenge was inspired by a meme challenging the reader to go 24 hours without complaining and “see how your life changes.”

Why not expand 24 hours into a month?

It made us all aware of how much we complain. Several people over the course of the month said it significantly improved their marriages, whether because they had a habit of complaining to or about their spouses.

We had interesting conversations about the differences between talking about negative things and complaining. (How would you distinguish between the two?)

I wrote a bit about my experience at the mid-month mark:

Talking about my no-complaining challenge last night, I was asked if I genuinely feel good, or if I’m just stuffing all the bad stuff. Thought about it, and 95% of the time, I genuinely feel good. The rest of the time, the feeling good does come later. I don’t, after two weeks, feel like I’m accumulating crappiness and am at some point going to explode.

I was thinking about this more, and I think it’s a simple shift in what gets attention. (Simple does not necessarily equal easy, though it’s not been as difficult as I expected. Especially because it positively reinforces itself constantly.)

For example, yesterday, I felt like crap. I’ve been fighting off a cold, and the cold was slowly starting to win. I was slightly stuffy and had absolutely no energy. Something I’d eaten or drunk made my stomach hurt every time I ate or drank (severely bloated), and I just felt miserable.

Any time prior to these two weeks, yesterday, I would have complained to people about not feeling well. I would have complained to myself about not feeling well. Instead, I just did what I needed to do and just didn’t talk about how my body felt. (Not lying, just not bringing it up.)

And you know what? I had a good day. It wasn’t a great day—I felt like crap—but it was definitely a good day. And I don’t think it would have been if I’d been complain-y all day. (I did slip twice, but both short-lived.)

Today? I feel better. Energy is back. Most congestion is gone. Tummy feels better (and I don’t look like I swallowed a balloon).

Happy Friday, everyone!

Recently, I’ve made this adjustment again. Not avoiding complaining altogether, necessarily, but minimizing.

I don’t run the 30-day challenges any more, but I am going to take this opportunity to challenge you to eliminate complaining today. And tomorrow. Maybe the whole weekend? Then see how long you can go.

See what differences you notice.

Report back.