Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The world is a classroom

As I was writing the Mama Drama column this week, I noticed a thread related to taking advantage of the opportunities life presents. I have used the world, our community, and the people in it to teach my children lessons and morals since they were old enough to listen. I am so grateful for all the people in the world who make both smart choices and the occassional mistakes in public that I can use as teaching moments for my children. Driving is prime time for teaching in our family.

Before my boys even sat on a bike they were made fully aware of the importance of helmets as we drove through the city. I would say things like, "I'm so glad that boy is wearing his helmet. That will keep him safe." Or, "I hope he gets home safely. It is dangerous to ride without a helmet." Mistakes give me a bonus to model compassion along with noting the correct behavior expected. I knew it was working when those same statements came out of my boys' mouths as we traveled around.

As I drove the boys to school this snowy morning on the icy roads, I had several opportunities to plant seeds for future behaviors. We talked about starting out slowly to see how icy the roads were, taking our time because it was more important to get there safely even if we were late, and appreciatively noticing the safe steps other drivers were taking to keep themselves and us safe. I hope these lessons will stay in their thoughts as they grow up and become drivers themselves.

It is all too easy, however, to miss the opportunity for positive modeling and to fall into traps of impatience or frustration. I work to keep these moments far fewer than the others, but I am human so am also working on being compassionate with myself when they do occur.  Additionally, recognizing my own mistakes and talking with my children about them, is just as important as modeling the better choices. Can't having them thinking I'm perfect or that they need to be.  So when I get impatient and cranky with the driver ahead of me, I try to step back, admit that I'm overreacting and have no control over their choices, take some breaths, and get back to being present where I am.

The world provides countless learning opportunities for my children and also for me.

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