Lately I’ve been seeing this quote on Facebook and Pinterest:
“Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.” Glennon Melton, momastery.com.
I didn’t give the quote much thought when I repinned it to my own “Inspiration” board. I see things like this on the internet all the time, after all. But this one came back to me a day or two later, as my son illustrated its truth right in front of me.
I already knew I had a good kid, but as I watched him participate in his gymnastics class this past Wednesday I had a moment to reflect on his goodness. He struggled across the monkey bars, his most difficult challenge in class, and dropped to the ground in the middle. Then he went back to the beginning and waited in line to start again. I had watched the previous week as a child pushed the Bean out of the way to restart the monkey bars. I’m not saying that was a “bad” kid – that kid was doing something perfectly normal and I wouldn’t be surprised to see my own child do the same. But the more I pay attention to what the Bean does on his own, without being told, the more I realize that all this worry I have over character building might be misplaced. Character seems to come naturally to him. He waits in line, he steps back and lets others take the lead when necessary (but not always; he does assert himself when needed), and he works hard. After class, one of his coaches took a moment to tell me that the Bean is doing great because he works hard, does what he’s told, and always tries to please. Something inside me cringed at that last part, because I don’t want him to pursue excellence just to please someone else, but I don’t think that’s what is happening here. He wants to do what his coaches ask, and he’s having fun doing it at the same time. I’ll keep a close eye, however, to make sure it stays fun.
Yesterday morning was Valentine’s Day, so I woke the Bean up with a couple of presents. “Mommy, I still love you even if you don’t give me presents,” he said, quelling my fears that all of his stuff is making him into a spoiled consumer.
Yesterday afternoon he played at the park with a crowd of rowdy boys, and he was as rowdy as the rest of them. But when an altercation started, he hung back a bit. He told me not to look at what they were doing, which admittedly is not ideal, but then he proceeded to tell me exactly what happened. Frequently, the Bean has been in a situation where his friend has wanted to do something he’s not supposed to (at four, this is never anything really bad), and I’ve watched as he said, “I’m not going to do that. You’re not supposed to.”
I want my child to be assertive and bold and to take risks. I want him to rush forward sometimes instead of always hanging back. But I’m thankful that he’s cautious, that he thinks about things before jumping in and doing whatever his friends are doing. I can’t say he always thinks first. He’s four, after all. But I’m starting to notice that all the qualities I’ve been hoping my child will develop are already there.
What I like about that quote is its implication that all kids are good; we just have to recognize their goodness. Even the rowdy boys who would lead my kid into trouble – they’re good, too. I’ve always hated calling a child “good” or “bad,” anyway. “Is he a good baby?” people asked when the Bean was new. If they were asking if he slept through the night, the answer was and still is no. If they were asking if he never cried, the answer was and still is no. If they were asking if he never had tantrums or big feelings that were tough for both of us to deal with, the answer was and still is no. But he is good by any definition.