School started yesterday and my first grader, Sweet P, is now a second grader and I am no longer allowed to walk her to the bus stop. But I can, I am told, stand at the bottom of the driveway and watch her ride by. I am also welcome to wave and she may wave back. Depending.
I miss her already. She's headed into another new adventure. And so I am I. Life is like that. Expansive, with new skills to develop, new lessons to learn.
Today I'm thinking about some of the lessons I am teaching my daughter.
These are the basics. They are my lessons, too.
Just the Basics
Lesson #1 -- Be kind, even when the other kid doesn't deserve it.
Kindness and compassion, Sweet P, can change the world and often it's the people who seem the least deserving who need both the most.
One day, when you were in preschool, I watched you through the narrow little window in the door to your classroom and saw a punk kid knock you over. Every cell in me wanted to bust through that door, leap over the little table, grab that kid by the back of his overalls and haul him off to juvie.
But, he was three and you were three and I thought, well, maybe a little push doesn't qualify as strike one in the criminal justice system's penal code. I'm also pretty sure I couldn't actually leap over the table. So, I let it go.
I'm learning to do that a lot in this life, to let go. It doesn't help to hang on to the hurt or judgment. It doesn't work to blame or criticize. Those approaches only serve to keep you stuck. But compassion is freeing. It uplifts both you and the person you are sharing it with. When you act with compassion you are living from your highest potential and connecting with your greatest self. The more you can do that, the better you'll feel in this life.
Lesson #2 -- Don't let others determine how you feel about your life.
When you are accountable for your life -- and all the actions and emotions and beliefs that come with it -- Sweet P, you get to create your experience. Sure, you're going to encounter snarky people and disappointing outcomes, but you always, always get to decide how you'll respond to those circumstances.
They don't have to be setbacks. Don't shy away from doing what you want to because you're afraid, or people are difficult, or it feels too hard. Instead, lead with compassion and then get busy creating the experience you want.
Your dreams aren't dependent on anyone else -- though many people will influence them along the way. Be open, but be determined. You get to decide how to live this moment and then the next. When you know this, anything is possible.
Lesson #3 -- Say "thank you." Slowly. Always.
Feel free to practice this lesson around the house. Try this:
"Thank you for dinner, Mama."
"Thank you for finding my coat behind the couch."
"Thank you for not wearing your pajamas to the bus stop, Mama."
When someone helps you out, stop, look them in the eye and say "thank you." This allows you to connect with the others. It will also remind you of all the good stuff you have in your life.
It's easy to get sidetracked and whiny about all the things going wrong, but thank you is a way of remembering all that is right.
We can have disappointment and sadness and still appreciate the beauty of the leaves. We can be angry and frustrated and be grateful for the people who love us. When you practice gratitude often, constantly, consistently, your days will be brighter.
Lesson #4 -- Be who you are, it is enough.
I would prefer that you not leave your clothes on the floor, and I'm tired of tripping over your stilts and could you please just put on your shoes?! And if you can't, if you never ever do any of these things again, know this: I love you totally. Always.
We all have things we want to improve upon. But, pick those things that will make life better or easier (I guarantee your life will be easier if I don't break my leg falling over your stilts) or more fun. Improve on the things that matter to you, that make a positive difference in the world.
Don't change because someone else tells you that you must somehow be different, thinner, better or prettier to be loved. You are worthy of love right now, no matter what you accomplish or how you behave. We are all worthy.
Second grade is going to have some messy moments, no doubt. No matter how old you get, you'll always have times when you feel inadequate. If you really want to dredge up the self-doubt, one day try parenting.
But if you show up, do your best and be who you are -- I promise you, it will be enough. You have all that you need to recover when your feelings are hurt, you have all the talent and imagination and intelligence you need to make a positive contribution -- you already do it every day. You are amazing. We all are. Look for that in yourself. And when you feel confused and hurt and can't see your own awesome -- come on home. I'll hold you and hug you. It really can be that simple.
It is powerful to sit with the ones who love you. Find those people. Care for them. Go to them and make room for them to come to you. Know that real love isn't meant to hurt. If someone tells you otherwise get outta there.
These are the basic lessons, Sweet P. When we stay close to them they help us find peace, joy and a harmony in life that carries far beyond second grade.
This piece also appeared on ImperfectSpirituality.com.
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