When Anya was little, we taught her a big word: Extinguish. And as new, proud parents, we showed off her verbal skills by having her answer one question around guests –
“Anya, what does a fireman do?” And she would say, without fail, every single time – “Extinguish the fire”.
Yes, we were those parents.
When she grows up, we can’t wait to put that ‘My child is a Honor Student’ sticker on our car!!
I am only kidding.
No really, I am. The only reason I would put that sticker is to cover a bumper dent on my car. Honestly, I just want her to graduate from high school, most days. Academic success isn’t the only path to success. To me, it is the right values that we teach our children that will lead to their success, and ours too.
Anya loves to sing. We have introduced the concept of doing things with all our heart. Sing with all your heart, dance will all your heart, laugh with all your heart, hugs are all about love and care, mean it when you say thank you. This has worked out quite successfully.
We’ve also started talking about expression. She knows that is OK to have an opinion. She doesn’t have to believe in everything that Mom-Dad or her friends believe in. It is OK to say you don’t like something, as long as you have a reason to agree or disagree.
That it is OK that we agree to disagree. The philosophy of ‘Live and let live’ is something that is ingrained in us and we are merely passing it along.
Perhaps we’ve started the process of communication earlier than we should – because now, Anya is all about that. Talk-talk-talk. Anya, the big talker.
But this talker is also a well-adjusted thinker with a big heart and sensitive soul. Comfortable with who she is, and who is not. OK with not being the best runner or all that amazing with math. But Anya also thinks that she knows how to be a good friend. And that she is ‘an expert at singing and Lego’. And holds the opinion that she needs to learn a language, and to cut cucumbers for a tea party. And believes that Santa has a key to our home because he dropped off gifts by the tree when she was in India. And that the Tooth Fairy has an email and lives in Seattle, because she actually met her.
And, oh – choosing the classroom job of a ‘telephone operator’ because the phone never rings! Lazy kid? May be. But the truth is, she is making choices, and she has reasons for those choices. This is good news.
We’ve also talked about what she wants to be when she grows up. This changes every day, week or month, and that’s okay. But our job has never been to pigeonhole her into a category she needs to be in. Instead, it has been about possibilities and dreams she wants to achieve. Because if you can believe, you can do it.
Cheesy parents as we are, she knows by rote – the R Kelly song ‘I believe I can fly…I believe I can touch the sky’. Anya’s mom actually believes this to be true.
Here’s the other thing. Mr. Kapoor and I worked really hard to be successful in this country. These are values we need her to learn. So – we often talk about hard work. Today, we met a lady whose job involved cleaning the elevator. Anya learned first-hand how finger and ‘paw’ prints that kids leave on the doors and windows are so hard to clean. Yes, a lesson in empathy.
Yesterday, on our way to school, we met someone who happened to be a physician. Immediately, Anya said: “My mom is a doctor too, but a different kind of doctor. When I grow up, I am going to be singer”. We continued the conversation in the car, where I probed on her decision to be a singer. And she said that school would be easier because ‘she was an expert at singing anyway’. This is when I emphasized values of hard work and persistence to be a successful singer – how other kids were experts too, and could play a few instruments as well – around competitive admissions and the importance of having good grades as well. Teaching moment. YASSS, I am totally that mom.
Over the last 6 months, we’ve also talked about self-reflection. Obviously not the way adults define it, but the way kids understand it. When Anya does something wrong, we ask her to go to her room, sit on her orange ‘thinking’ chair and think about how she would do it differently the next time around. Yep, same concept as ‘Lessons Learned’ that we as adults we should do after every project…that we don’t.
And, have you heard about the Lonely Bench?
Earlier this year, we shared the Lonely Bench concept. When a child is alone at lunch, s/he can go sit on the lonely bench. When we see a child sitting alone with no friends, we go sit right next to the child. We introduce ourselves and ask them about their favorite color and their favorite food. We never leave a child alone. We make friends. We give hugs. We always say hello. We look at them when they talk. We pay attention.
We build relationships and long-term friendships.
We be authentic.
Authentic. This word matters. I introduced it to my 7-year old – who listened with awe – the meaning behind the word – and the concept of the Lonely Bench.
Clearly, the values that we had taught her over the last few years have all being around authenticity. It was almost like that word summed it all up for me in my mind.
And hopefully in her mind too.