What if you can’t, or don’t want to, or you are faced with hostility and judgment that startles you into something other than kindness? What if that which plants itself right before your face is the antithesis of kind? And what if it starts to scratch at you? What then, my friends?

Kindness does not equate to blindness. Unkind is peppered all over and mixed in with peaceful, joyful, and beautiful. Hostility carries more weight, in the amygdala, than sweetness. It’s how we’re made, and so, we must work.

Really hard. My husband and I have planted the seeds, watered and nurtured the seeds, weeded like crazy, and replanted the uprooted seedlings again and again. We’re just getting started. Adolescence and its war cries aren’t even on the horizon yet.

Because I believe in the power of turning toward those in distress, I’ve taught that teasing is the little sister of bullying, and both are a lack of skill. From there, “Sometimes people don’t know how to get attention properly. What might you say next time?” “Sorry that happened. Sounds like someone was having a tough time finding their kindness. What can you do next time?”

“Sometimes we have to give space.”

“Be kind, and walk away.”

Try, “Hey, let’s play again another time.”

I can only hope they are able, one day, to reap what we are sowing. I don’t expect them to befriend every fellow they stumble across–though they ought not be mean.

Our expectations? Simply be “appropriate,” as in, prosocial; law abiding; peace-honoring. Safe. We’ve talked about how to push back, appropriately. Firmly. Maybe politely. And what if that does not work? What if…?

When, and how do we push back for ourselves? When do we get an adult? What do we do if an adult dismisses us? The “What Do We Do When” games are endless hilarity, and sometimes utterly soul-dampening, though I keep that part to myself.

All these tricks. All these strategies. And lately, it’s sounded like, “Yep, everyone is different, huh?” And even most recently, with hearty laughter, “Well, little girl, here’s the thing. You’ll be dealing with this the rest of your life. I’m forty and I still have trouble with that, so…” And, “This is how it feels to be a woman.” And, “Let’s talk it through.”

The pressure is mounting; each grade more complicated. The lessons are becoming more interesting; the empowerment more like a firm push from the nest. We are letting our little girl feel the turbulent winds of these lousy truths, while we are still right here, and it’s just around the corner for our little guy.

There are always social stories laying over the top of the truth. Our overlays differ, depending upon the roads we’ve traveled. The truth is so buried in obscurity sometimes, that I have questioned my own ability to sort delusion from reality. Haven’t we all?

Last night, out with friends, and laughing and carousing, I had a brief, awkward moment–one where I realized, from over my shoulder, someone was watching. Sudden awareness of my visibility startles me. I reflexively scanned the room, collecting a variety of perspective shifts before I could look away–my gift and a curse.

The impulse to shrink was almost unbearable. Being forty, the next to unfurl was great reluctance to give a shit. **I thank the curly haired young man, who watched us with joy, and may have been instrumental in my success.

For those who could see us in our laughter, the sparkle in our eyes, and the absolute and shameless camaraderie, I salute you. You are the reason I keep planting those seeds in my own sweet children. I see you, and I want that, for them. Curiosity, masterful coexistence, and the ability to feel grounded in one’s own excellence: #lifeskills.

In my tessellation from fear, to fullness, to compassion, to steadiness, I landed on gratitude. For the first time in a long time, I was able to understand it is a privilege to be part of a small, mighty gathering of people who can laugh louder than the din in a noisy room. And for those casting hostility, I salute you as well. Sometimes we just can’t find our kindness. I understand.

Please, yes, be kind when you can. Be kind when you mean it. Practice kindness when you are faced with that which makes you uncomfortable. Be kind, be kind, be kind, and when it’s not working–firmly, kindly, take no garbage from another into your heart, and know when to walk away.

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Tanya Beard is a recently retired psychiatric nurse practitioner, yoga teacher, and writer in Redmond, Oregon. Her blog is a heartfelt tribute to the nuance and universality of little human moment

 

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