Adventures in Imperfection

Teaching Our Children to be Humble and Kind–With Swagger

Imagine who you want your kids to become. Be that!

~~Source Unknown

A great quote, don’t you think?

A mantra, an action, a deed. Words that are striking and impressive on a page, a screen, in a notebook, on a bookmark, in a tweet, a Facebook post.

What’s the catch? The meaning? The beautiful metaphor? The brilliant capture? How will MamaMick gift wrap the concept and tie it up in a pretty bow?

Where’s the beef, Mick?

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If you’ve been reading for a while, you know what to expect. Sunshine, butterflies, humility, and awkward battles with perfectionism.

You know that I’ll start to dig into some emotional burrows, and then bail or make you giggle before we get too deep. Being nice, buttoning up my shirt, knowing my place, going out of my way to make you feel comfortable.

It’s who I am.

Humble and kind.

I wouldn’t want to make a scene.

Be too dramatic.

Cause a stir.

Voice my opinion.

It’s not ladylike, it’s unbecoming, it would make me look bad, all full of myself. Like I’m all that and a bag of chips. But, not just regular chips. Not Lay’s plain. But like my favorite salt and vinegar chips drenched in salty goodness leaving sweet grease on your fingers and lips.

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Yeah. That’s not me. It probably never will be. I hide, conceal, cover up. Deflect. Sit way in the back. There’s no yelling, no crying, no scene, no drama. Ever. It’s what I do, and I’m good at it.

Be nice. Kill them with kindness. I’m from the midwest, and we invented that lifestyle.

Is there a difference between being kind and being nice? It seems that being nice might be a subtle way to smooth over, submit, people-please, pretend, or ignore. I think the difference is that kindness exists within the intent. To see the other person, meet them where they are, understand their struggles, and not push them further down.

Are we nice, or are we kind?

Can a person be kind, practice humility and still make a mark, stand on their sacred ground, and be assertive? If you could see me writing now, you’d recognize facial lines filled with silent worry. It’s okay. I can handle my neuroses. But how do I make sure that my kids don’t inherit my worst trait(s), and still hold on to the best ones?

There is a new word I encountered while reading over the last few months: Badassery. I’m not sure if it’s even a real word, but reading it twice in different contexts makes me think it needs to be.

By definition, as noted by Shonda Rhimes in “Year of Yes.”

Badassery: (noun) 1. The practice of knowing one’s own accomplishments and gifts, accepting one’s own accomplishments of gifts; 2. (Noun) the practice of living life with swagger: SWAGGER (noun or verb) a state of being that involves loving oneself, waking up “like this” and not giving a crap what anyone else thinks about you. Term first coined by William Shakespeare.

I’ve never considered myself ultra-assertive, opinionated, or outspoken. I’m of the mindset to lead by quiescent example, pick only the jumbo battles, and wait to speak until I have something important to say. But what if my model has been wrong? How do I teach humility and kindness to my children without inferring it’s okay to be run over by the world? Doesn’t the nice guy always finish last? Am I doing my children a disservice with my humble and kind mantra?

In case you needed a dose of sunshine and butterflies.

Think of the people who have influenced your children; teachers, coaches, pastors, college advisors, grandparents, friends, parents of children’s friends, and spouses. I’m blessed and grateful to garner allies in each of these spaces. I rely heavy on my husband and each of these people to model skills and traits I don’t naturally possess. When I see their best characteristics in my children, I know I have chosen my spouse, my bestie, our school district, and our friends wisely.

I’ve witnessed my daughter spreading her wings beyond what my quiet influence could have ever inspired. Last summer, we celebrated her twenty-first birthday at a piano bar in Westport. It was Tanna, her best friend Lindsay, and my best friend Kelsey. Four hot girls out on the town, right? Except I was in full mom-mode, thinking it would be my job to protect the younger girls from the lecherous wolves at the bar. HA!

When a guy hit on my bestie, she did what I would have done in that same situation.

She felt sorry for him, wasn’t rude, and tried to be nice. All while squirming and smiling uncomfortably.

After it was clear he wasn’t leaving, Tanna came across the table and got in his face, “You need to leave her alone. She’s married, and doesn’t want to talk to you.”

Then, she gave him a radiant smile and told him to sit down with his friends. Tanna didn’t yell, her voice was calm and even, and she wasn’t mean. The rejected guy went back to his chair while his buddy apologized to Kelsey.

A beautiful display of badassery.

What about my other child?

Having a son has given me a fantastic, first-row seat to manhood. The testosterone, mental maturity, assertiveness, awesome friends, and deep-seeded kindness make him a very cool dude. He’s brave enough to not become the world’s version of a what a guy should be. My tough linebacker/wrestler doles out unsolicited hugs to grandmas. He cares about his grades, voices his lean-to-the-right opinions, and listens to all sides of a story. He opens doors, scrapes the ice off of the girls’ windshields, and gives me hugs when I bake. He’s no dummy. Girls dig humble and kind.

Often times, we see our children as younger versions of ourselves. Perhaps we assume that how people see them is also how they view us or judge our parenting skills. It’s why we want our offspring to be perfect, well-behaved, reserved, admired. I screw up every single day, and they do, too.

They have hurt my feelings.

Made me yell.

Lose my cool.

Made me cry.

At times, they have been less than kind or humble. And so I have I.

They need to make mistakes, own imperfection.

Fall flat a few times.

Succeed.

Fail.

Fail big.

Try again and see what happens.

Maybe there’s a chance. For my kids. Maybe they can rise above the moments they’ve seen their uncomfortable mother dodge the hard stuff. The times they have witnessed me lie down like a hand-hooked rug and then flipped to the nubby side when it got too dirty, and the traffic path showed. But, there’s hope for me, too. An old dog, new tricks. You know how it goes.

I’m learning to bite my tongue.

To shut it.

(W.A.I.T.)

To fight the big battles.

Avoid the micromanage.

Not fix it.

To let them see me stand my ground when I need to, and hang back when I don’t.

I’ve got to admit it: I have great kids. Badass kids even. And me? Well, I guess that makes me a badass mom.  

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Special thanks to today’s editors, Scott and Christy. You helped me find the typos and right words. xo 

67 thoughts on “Teaching Our Children to be Humble and Kind–With Swagger

  1. I wonder sometimes how M is actually my child, he is such a calming influence and is able to radiate that to all around him in situations that are anything but. nothing like his mama, for sure! I guess it’s just “him” 🙂

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  2. You nailed it Michelle. I think that when we’re nice, we’re actually taking care of our own feelings in the guise of taking care of someone else’s. We’re protecting ourselves from feeling uncomfortable. But sometimes the kindest thing to do is meet someone right in the middle where things are messy. I love these stories and your beautiful children! I wonder if one of the purposes of parenthood is to bring ourselves back to the basics so that we can relearn some of the stuff we missed as kids. And, my sweet friend, you have swagger and badassery in spades! xxoo ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “we’re actually taking care of our own feelings in the guise of taking care of someone else’s.”
      YES! You are absolutely right. It’s why I couldn’t do this parenting thing alone…I’d be too busy fixing feelings.
      As for the swagger and badassery…takes one to know one 🙂 xo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well good for you! I alway speak my mind, and usually I’m the only one speaking out. It’s made some problems for me but I’ve learned to own it. On the other hand, I always try to think of others feelings. Does that make me kind or nice? I’m not sure but if I pass that down to me kids it might not be too bad. But then again, one can only hope, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I LOVE that you can speak your mind and that you own it! It was the premise for Shonda’s whole book.
      My husband speaks for both of us! I prefer it that way, because if it didn’t happen, the difficult conversations would’t occur. That said, my kids know that when I’m upset or opinionated on something…that it’s the real deal, and they better take cover.
      As for whether you are kind or nice? Dear friend, you have kindness in spades 🙂

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      1. You are more spot-on than you probably realize. I told him just last night that I’m so glad he’s there to have the difficult conversations. That said, I can pull my mom-card at any time and the kids know they don’t stand a chance.
        Power to you for being the bad ass Marissa!

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  4. I love how you explained the difference between nice and kind. I definitely am always NICE…but not always kind. People can do really nice things while thinking bitter, not-so-nice thoughts about the service or person they are helping. As I read your amazing post, it made me realize that Kindness involves our actions and thoughts uniting in a single purpose to lift someone (or lots of someones). But actions and thoughts can clash when we’re being nice, and we don’t always feel so satisfied with our life when we live that way. Your kids are beautiful, and I can tell you’re an awesome mom by how you are always pondering your actions and trying to discover if they are in sync with your thoughts. What a good example you are. Thanks for helping me SEE something I hadn’t really contemplated before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Char! I loved your comment. Wow!
      Writing this post was eye-opening for me, too. This was a version of my brain out loud. I had never looked at the difference between kind and nice–it popped into my head during the second edit. I realized, like you have so beautifully pointed out, that while our outsides are helpful and polite, our insides are boiling with bitterness. I don’t know if I came to the correct conclusion, but when an awesome mama like you gleans insight and adds more, then maybe I’m on the right track. At least for today 😉

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    1. Oh, that book!!! I have passages circled and pages dog-eared in that book. Thank you for leading me to her, for giving this piece a fresh set of eyes, and for always being one of my biggest cheerleaders (nice gams, babe!)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautifully put! Thank you for so clearly spelling out why I’ve never been a fan of being nice. My husband would tell the kid, when he was little, to “be nice.” It always ate at me like sandpaper. Now I understand why: it’s not being authentic. Thank you!

    One of the things I’ve learned, having my son and watching him grow, is that he is so completely and absolutely not like me in so many ways (a big shocker), and that has made me grow exponentially. But in a few crucial ways, he is absolutely like me. It’s been a long road to understanding that he is his own individual being, with his own path to walk, but guiding him has been an extraordinary honor. And yes, it’s interesting how much we judge people as parents by their children. That said, your kids are fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Muah! You hit on some great themes, Susan. I started to “formulate” my little theory when I first read the article on Midwest Nice. Then, I kept my eyes open and saw evidence of it everywhere. That said, a person can definitely be kind AND nice!!
      I always love when you talk about your kiddo, your crystal dragon. You’re wise to see the awesome differences and be proud of the similarities. I think your son is fantastic, too! xoxoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love your questioning whether there is a difference between kind and nice, and I agree with you that there is. I think for many of us, the nice might outrank the kind when we’re young. We want to please and fit in, but we might be thinking more about ourselves than others. But as we get older, I think the kind starts to outrank the nice. We learn what it truly means to be kind to others while not feeling like we have to please by being ‘nice’ all the time. Unfortunately, there are those in whom neither kindness nor niceness takes hold. Wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Carrie, I love the perspective and hope your beautiful words convey. I absolutely agree with your assessment on age and something I’d not thought of. Imagine if the entire country/world adopted the notion of kindness as we aged. There’s hope!
      Thank you for always taking the time to read and comment. It makes me smile when I see your face come across my screen 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. And it all teaches you one thing Michelle, to finally understand who you are. To touch and bump all those places so that one day you realise that you are perfect EXACTLY how you are.
    Just by standing in the truth of your heart is being loving to yourself. Where you speak EXACTLY how you feel inside. No yelling or screaming, no afraid or gung ho…but speaking with an integrity…your integrity. Speaking in a way that allows others to see EXACTLY what is in your heart. Gently saying those words that are hard, but are a truth, those words that show your heart on your sleeve, but are also a truth, and even those words that you now know was a mistake, and now standing in that truth by admitting them.
    And in all those words we will see who you really are…and in them will be someone whom we can understand, because she spoke in belief of herself, trust, because she spoke truthfully, and love because she loved us by speaking from her heart.
    And because it is all done from that place within, you will be a beautiful mother, wife, partner, friend, gardener, runner and even a baseball fan 🙂
    And that is your journey, to trip, stumble, sing and dance. Each one will guide you to you, so that one day you will see that beauty inside truly, release all the worlds (and yours), expectations of you, and that beautiful heart will come out to play, on your sleeve, EXACTLY where it is supposed to be. Never again to be hidden, covered with a baseball cap or some other mask in our fears of this land we live in, to be seen for the beauty that you are.
    So, put your heart on your sleeve, go up to your children/husband, give them a humungous hug and kiss and say ‘I love you’. And those three little words will have more meaning to them and you, than anything else in this world could ever give 🙂
    Badass post Michelle, it takes a very big heart on your sleeve to put it ‘out there’, and put it out there you did 🙂 I’m impressed young lady, a bigger standing in your truth I could not find, at this rate I’ll be coming to you to seek guidance 😀

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    1. LOL! I think we provide gentle guidance to each other.
      I’m always at a loss for words after I read your comments. You make me think, appreciate, and dig deep…then, go back and dig for more.
      Thank you so much for recognizing that it took a bit for me to formulate and share these thoughts. It seemed like the badass thing to do. xo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You spoke from your heart Michelle, a more beautiful thing cannot be found than the love that is created by that truth. Its actions are love. Anything else is guided by half truths, lies, fear and any other bit you can throw in. It is only by ‘feeling’ the words and where they come from that it can be seen.
        I ‘see’ you kind lady, and ‘feel’ your heart…in that, I thank you for the love that you share with me (and others of course 🙂 ), on here.
        If I could only be half as ‘badass’ I would be in nirvana 😀 xo

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  8. I’m guessing every mom (and maybe dad) has these feelings of worry that they’re not going to be the good example they need to be, or will somehow pass on the worst along with the best of them.

    Knowing the little I do of the content of your character, the characters of your children, and your CARE about being the best mom you can be, in spite of whatever negatives you might encounter or instill, I have every confidence that they’re going to grow up into pretty outstanding adults. ❤

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    1. Yesssss!! It’s my new favorite word, too! In fact, Brene Brown used the exact term in her new book, “Rising Strong.”
      Hope you’re doing well, Mark!! I always appreciate hearing from you.

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  9. A long time ago I heard that the difference between nice and kind was that kind is rooted in love and the idea of no-self, while nice is full of fear..self and ego.
    I think that’s true….we have to want to be kind, nice is an easy way to get what we want.
    it’s late,i’m tired and can’t think about this anymore….
    but lovely writing and insight, as always.
    thank you

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    1. Oh, you make me giggle! “It’s late, I’m tired and can’t think about this anymore…” I love you to pieces 🙂
      I love your assessment in the differences between nice and kind – makes perfect sense.
      Now, I’m off to open up my Day 5 meditation e-mail. Some cool chick encouraged me to try this for 28 days….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely! This morning was so perfect. I kept getting distracted and wandering off. And guess what…she was OKAY with that! I think it was the whole purpose of the long periods of silence, right? By the time I’d finished, I was finally only thinking about my breath. I’m gonna do Day 5 several times. Thank you for telling me about her.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I’d rather wallow in my own pathetic indignation than make a scene. I am nice on the surface, but good thing people can’t read minds. I hate it about myself (pathetic, weak) but I tell myself we can’t all be aggressive go-getters. The world needs dogs who roll over and show their belly. I love the words and style your daughter used to explain the situation to the guy at the bar. Your boy sounds wonderful too. You’re raising great kids, and I’m not the least bit surprised. P.s. have a copy of year of yes to pick up at the library. I’m thinking you wrote about it here earlier (?) and then Christy recently mentioned it. Can’t wait.

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    1. Kristen,
      You and I are sisters from other misters. I’m of the same mindset–not everyone can be aggressive go-getters! I’m in a family of alpha people – even the pooches! Somebody has to add the quiet calm, right? Sure is nice to know that I’m not alone. It’s why you and I have migrated toward each other from the start.
      You MUST read the Year of Yes. Christy turned me on to it, too. It’s funny, insightful, poignant and soooo honest. Shonda is my new favorite everything! I think we both just finished “Ongoingness”…that was amazing, too. Just like you!

      PS: You’re one of the most badass mamas I know. xoxoxo

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      1. We’re much more likely to get grief about being too nice than we are to give it to the alphas for being too aggressive. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that it takes all types, that there’s nothing inherently wrong about being passive or letting others lead on the outside. That being said, I am still working on assertiveness (at 42!). Slowly but surely 🙂 Yes, loved that book. If you like her style, you might enjoy “One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box: Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape, How the Water Feels to the Fishes, and Minor Robberies”. Not sure if it’s available digitally but my library had it.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. When my kids came along, they changed my perspective, like . . forever. You’re right on, there are few perfect days when it comes to parenting. I used to believe perfection was the goal, and then my kids taught me differently. They let me in on the fact that I wasn’t perfect and I was never going to be perfect.
    My kids became my most honest critics, they taught me that all the things I found so important before they came along? Weren’t that important. As much as I see myself in them, I see their imprint on me as well.
    And I always go with kind over nice.

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  12. I am no longer even qualified to comment on this, and almost didn’t even read it.

    I guess all I can say is at the end of the day, your children aren’t yours, they are theirs and theirs alone…and if they choose you, then you are not only lucky, but singled out as blessed by God.

    And if they don’t? As mine have not? I have no words to comment on that, because what could I even begin to say in the face of my own biggest failure?

    Just so sad…happy for you and all others who somehow managed not to be the scourge and cause of all their children’s problems

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    1. My dear friend,
      At the risk of sounding like I have answers, I’m going to attempt to respond to your honest and vulnerable comment.
      First of all, thank you for being here–I don’t see you here often and know your heart in this space.
      Secondly, your kiddos. Knowing you the way I do and who guides you, I have no doubt that you have been and are the best parent you can be.
      As you noted, our kids are their own people. We hope they make the right decisions, but that doesn’t always happen.
      I was I could fix this…you know I do.
      Sending you love and prayers, Charissa. Xo

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      1. Thanks Michelle, but I must say that at this point the phrase “…the best parent you can be…” is much more like a sentence and a curse rather than a blessing…

        It seems so manifestly evident by how things are there that I must be awful, and it confuses me so because it seems that my facility with all other children is on the order of extreme giftedness…so IDK

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  13. A badass blogger, too. LOL. That’s a good distinction you draw. It’s not that hard to be nice – with intentions that are in fact self-serving. Kindness is other-centered. You’re one of the kindest bloggers I’ve met, Mickey. (So stay outa trouble!) Beautiful kiddos.

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    1. Diana!! Takes one BA to know another, right? I love your assessment of kindness being “other-centered”…I try to teach that to my kiddos, too. It takes a village of moms and dads to spread the message. Thank you for sharing yours. xo

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  14. Great job on the kiddos mom! You have done good! We should be the people we want our kids to grow up to be because…like it or not, THAT is exactly who they grow up to be. And since I KNOW you are awesome, I know your kids are too!! Badassery… isn’t that also a Brene’ word? 😉
    I am like your friend Tanna! ha ha ha!

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    1. It’s totally a Brene’ word. In fact, I had her paragraph in there as well and it didn’t quite fit with Shonda’s version. YOU are an awesome badass, too. You know I love seeing you here. Hopping over to your place to see what you’ve been up to as well. Xo

      Liked by 1 person

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