What is the most important message we want to give to our kids, students, or grandkids? What is it that you want to leave with them? What wisdom can you impart that will aid in threading together the patchwork of who they are? These are tough questions and if we aren’t entirely aware of the depth of these questions, we can miss the mark that could leave a lasting mark. We are self-absorbed adults who have the tendency to move through life without enough self-awareness to take into account the opinion or more importantly the entire child entrusted to our care within whatever capacity.
I am a firm believer that all circumstances and relationships are not a mistake. We are drawn to them and they are drawn to us. It’s the nature of human experience. Connection, relation, and forward building of relationships and self. However, we get stuck. We get stuck in the routine of doing, moving through life in our comfortable 9-5 jobs and fast food preferences. Our days blend together, the similarity of weeks passing brings comfort, but not change. What if we begin to challenge our own stubborn boundaries? What if we look beyond what’s easy and work towards something a bit more uncomfortable?
Eyes watch, always. Especially the eyes of the child. They know, they can feel, they can assess in ways that we as adults are detached from. They are mindfully aware because they are far less tainted by the ways of the world and it’s expectations to perform and to fall into daily patterns of mindless behavior. And it’s ironic that at this age and stage of human development we fail as adults to encourage the child to grow to his/her full capacity. We limit them. We don’t realize it, but we do. And yes, I’ll take heat for saying we don’t give them enough credit and don’t respect their intellect enough. But it’s true. They are wise and there’s lots to learn from these pint size humans. Humble yourself, listen, and I promise you that you will leave with some new snippet of knowledge.
My message, my only message to all kids I encounter is simple. “You matter.” You matter because you are YOU! You are fearfully and wonderfully made. YOU have a right to be here and you belong. Who you are is unique to this world.
Recently I was granted the opportunity to present this message to 300 8th graders in North Jersey. Throughout the day I shared mindfulness with grades K-7. The last session of the day were the 8th graders. I was scared. Bottom line, just scared. I knew they would place me in a file folder in their brain the moment I started talking. The folder labeled, “boring lady”, “lady who’s trying to be funny, but isn’t”, “lady here only because she’s getting paid”, etc., etc. As I watched the mostly taller than me 8th graders walk into the gymnasium acting too cool to follow directions upon where to stand and how to stay on the blue or yellow lines of the gymnasium floor, it dawned on me that they are still just kids. Kids who need direction, but not willing to admit it. Kids who struggle with self-esteem daily, and not able to process what that means. Kids who come from broken homes, working through previous or current trauma, kids who seem okay, but upon peeling back layers really just aren’t.
Microphone handed to me, all eyes on me, principal included. Here I was. My doing. My stage. My words will matter in these next 45 minutes. I am not one to boast, I often choose the mode of humble awareness. I am not one to say that I am right and what I believe in is correct. I am one to accept myself as a daily mess of a mom who’s just trying to hold on and do the best she can. However, in this moment something came over me. One word…just one. The word was “truth.” Self talk deep within me threw out the agenda I had prepared. Instead, I went with truth. In yoga land, the Sanskrit word for truth is Satya. This is a cornerstone of yoga and a foundational piece that every yoga teacher understands. And in this initial moment of being handed the powerful microphone, I embraced it with sweaty palms and spoke truth to these students.
The message was simple. “These years, they’re tough. What you guys are up against in terms of social media and processing not only all that information as well as school work and relationships is a lot for any adult. You all need to understand that it’s okay not to be okay. And in that same breath, you MUST recognize that no matter how you feel, who you are matters greatly to your peers, parents, community, and world. Own who you are. Speak your truth. Stand in knowing that your gifts and talents are unique and a blessing to those around you.”
I scan the room, I look for acknowledgment. I don’t see much head nodding or smiles as adults will do. Instead, I see eyes. I see all eyes watching, eyes that are listening and eyes that are wide. And though, behind these eyes are a scared 14 year old nervous about their upcoming freshman year in high school, I see relief by simply hearing my message. And in hindsight I am sure not every student listened or agreed with me. But I do know in the core of my being that the off-the-beaten-path message I shared gave some the power they needed to just keep going.
So what is it that we want to leave with our kids, grandkids, and students? It’s simple. You matter, you belong, you have the right to be here and the words you speak are important. Every human from age one and on wants to be noticed and seen for who they are. They want to connect, it’s the human condition. DO NOT be afraid to connect with the children in your life. You will learn something, you will teach something, and you will mean something to them.