How to be kind

Today was kind of a wonderful day. We had our Ballet is for Everyone Christmas party. Lots of kids and parents and volunteers and friends came, and it was beautiful.

Ballet is for Everyone is a wee thing a friend and I and Twitter started that provides free ballet classes for children. It’s completely volunteer run and everything is paid for by donations. It feels like every single person who has donated or volunteered has a different reason for why they support it. Personally, I wanted to do something because my son wanted to wear a tutu and I couldn’t afford to put him in classes and I didn’t know if I even wanted him in traditional classes even if I could afford them and putting children who have or have had health problems into mainstream classes is really stressful anyway…(I wrote about it all here)

So, on a whim, we all decided to do this thing. And this thing, turned into a thing that took over my life for about six months or something. And today we had our final classes for the year.

And throughout the party everyone there just kind of kept catching looks across the dancing children and grinning and clasping hands and just thinking: Look at this! Look at all these happy kids!

For five or so months we’ve put on classes every single weekend and children have had free classes and free ballet gear and tutus and all of these things. But I think the thing that they love the most Balletis that they have all of these adults just totally invested in them as little people. They walk into the studio and the kids know it’s all about them. It’s like a birthday party – if it’s your birthday, you’re the special guest. But here, all of the kids are. Every Sunday. They know that nothing is expected of them. We – the adults – are here to assist them in just being the incredible little beings that they are. Actually, they don’t need any assistance here. We basically just give them water when they say they’re thirsty ha!

And I’ve come to realise, that this way of being around children is so life-affirming for them. So much of Eddie’s confidence I attribute to the ballet “lessons”. Our little discussions before bed on Sundays always involve talk of ballet and tonight was no different.

But he did ask an interesting question and his answer to his question sparked off so many thoughts for me, so here I am writing about them in a garbled, please forgive me it’s Sunday, type of way…

We were talking about ballet and how nice it was that we had so many different teachers today (we had can-can dancers, a hula dancer, contemporary dancers, and a belly dancer) and Eddie asked:

“Why did they come?”

And I thought it was a fairly straightforward question but then I couldn’t quite work out how to answer it. So I said: Why do you think they came? And he said:

“Because they love all of us?”

And I thought, well yes. Why not. And then before I could work out what I should say, he said:

“It’s nice they all love all of us because when they do love all of us it makes me feel kind”.

And I thought, well. Kids are pretty fucking smart. Because he basically just told me how to teach him something I’ve pondered since the day I got pregnant.

How do we teach our kids to be kind?

Of all of the traits I want my children to have – kindness is my number one. I don’t want Eddie to make a million dollars (though it would be nice), or be a champion athlete or award-winning author (though sure, it’d be nice) or to have great fame or accolades – I want him to be kind.

I have read many blog posts on how to encourage kindness. Gratitude. Empathy. So often it turns into a ‘how to have good manners’ post or it feels very complicated for something that seems like it shouldn’t be complicated.Babies

This evening, I kind of realised that it’s just like anything else – we make sure they feel safe and loved and we model behaviour. It’s pretty clear that when we are kind to all children, not just our children, when we let them just be the wonderful little freaks that they are – we are teaching kindness.

And of course this is the case. I mean, when I feel judged or belittled or when I am made to feel like I have to put on an act for others, I feel deeply resentful. When I feel excluded, or like I don’t belong, I struggle to have any feeling of warmth toward anyone. Community is so deeply entwined with kindness – it’s impossible to have one without the other. So of course – without community, without feeling unconditionally accepted, no wonder we struggle to be kind. Why should children be any different?

I know this is no great epiphany, but it made me have a lot of feelings. Those rare moments in parenting where you think – maybe I’m not screwing them up for life. Maybe I am on the right track. These are the moments that sustain you through the hard bits, the ‘how can I honestly be an adult right now and yet still be totally incapable of getting a fucking baby out of a fucking swaddle’ bits. When you stumble upon a parenting win, through no real effort on your part, it really does taste sweet.

So I’m feeling like I have had a win, my son feeling kind is one of those: yep, you’re doing OK moments for me. I’m feeling overwhelming gratitude for everyone who helps our kids feel kind too.

imageSo, to all of the people who treat children with respect and kindness and don’t expect things from them and instead just say: Go for gold you super little human! Thank you. Thank you for teaching kindness.

In a world where people are shooting up healthcare centres and concert halls – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by horribleness. It’s easy to say – what hope is there for a better whatever.

I think there is hope. (And to be fair – if there isn’t, that’s even more reason to be kind, but I digress). There’s hope in kids feeling kind and being kind. And then because someone made them feel special and loved and safe – they do the same for another. Little acts of kindness spreading like marmite on dimpled cheeks and baby teeth.

Happy Sunday x

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7 Comments on “How to be kind

  1. Thank you. I think you’re right on the money, and clearly doing a wonderful job modelling kindness to small people all around you. xx

  2. Emily, this is gold. And SO TRUE. We teach kindness by being kind our selves. We teach generosity by being generous ourselves. It’s not rocket science, in fact it’s so obvious that we usually overlook it. If I want my kids to be caring, I let them see me caring for people.
    Love it x

  3. What a wonderful post, thank you! And ‘wonderful little freaks’ is the best expression ever – I daily look at my kids and think “Wow you are nuts and God I love you you amazing little weirdos” 😉

  4. This resonated so much I’ve come back to read it again and comment. The last year and a bit has been a tough one for me, and therefore my family and my three year old. Sometimes when he acts out I try and read advice (Janet Lansbury I’m talking about you!), but all that ‘connecting’ doesn’t always work. I like your approach that it is all the ‘doing’ that matters. I can manage the ‘doing’!

  5. Gorgeous, thought-provoking and heart-warming. You have a special little dude right there. x