La Chica runs over to me to tattle on her brother. She has deemed his table manners to be atrocious and is so offended by them, she insists I take immediate action. The Boy mutters, “Stay in your own lane.”
To which she screams, “Stop saying that! I’m not even on swim team!”
I have to give the points to the Boy on this one. I’ve been teaching the kids to Stay In Your Own Lane. Swimming lessons are for later this season. It’s time for Life Lessons right now. I am always barking at the kids that, “Words have meaning. Choose and use them wisely.” They are so tired of hearing me say this. But I feel the need to drill this into them. We must learn to use our words effectively if we are to have a remote chance of having our needs met. We must learn to express ourselves–who we are, and what we want, and what we need. Otherwise, you’re not effective in your life and work. Otherwise, your needs aren’t met. And the results of both are frustration and sadness.
When I was little, we were told to “Mind your own business,” which is a similar intent. But not quite the same. I don’t want to teach my kids to mind their own business. I want to teach them to mind everyone, and to care for everyone. We should pay attention to who is struggling, who might need help, who is marginalized, who is ostracized. We shouldn’t ignore those who need help, because one day it will be me or you who needs help. I promise you, this is true.
We should also pay attention to those who are effective in their boundaries and honoring who they are. We should pay attention to people who embody grace and mercy and kindness. Because we want to learn from those people. What are they choosing to say? What are they choosing to do, or to decline doing? How–in what tone? In what instances are they reaching out? In what instances are they reaching in?
I don’t want my kids to mind their own business. I want them to pay close attention to each and every one of us: to learn from each other; to seek fairness and justice and kindness, and when its lacking, to fill that void.
I do want them to stay in their own lane though. I don’t want them to see what someone is doing, and compare him or herself to that. I don’t want them to look at someone else’s life and cast judgments. I don’t want them to look over and criticize someone. I want them to focus on doing his or her own personal best. I want them to follow their own paths down their own lanes, to focus on that. Do their personal best, and let others be. Even if his table manners preclude any future dinner invitations.