When kindness skips a g­eneration

If anyone asked my husband to describe me, he would try earnestly to make his wife sound like a normal person. “Demanding” and “difficult” would be replaced with “self-assured” and “feisty.” He would spin my near-mythical impatience into “Marianne knows what she likes.” And my inability to keep my verbal filter in place? Joe would simply say, “Marianne speaks her mind.”

I definitely married up.

In trying to check my flaws at the door, I often fall short. I am quick to anger, my grudges are legendary, and I expect too much from other people. These are all things I struggle to change. I want to be a kinder person. I want to give more than I receive. I want to calm the flip down.

My friends have suggested yoga.

And therapy.

And some prescription medications.

Instead, I look to my son Daniel for inspiration. In our tightly knit circle of friends and family, there are amazing children who face very real challenges: autism, Down syndrome, ADHD and MS. I watch as my son seeks out these kids and innately recognizes their unique needs. He understands to speak in a quieter tone to some. With others, he does not get offended or upset when toys are taken from his hands. He is far more gentle and loving than I ever thought possible for an 8-year-old boy.

I never contemplated how much I could learn from my kids. For years, I assumed it was my job to teach empathy and compassion. I figured I would set a near-perfect example of grace under fire. I would embrace all of God’s creatures with the perseverance and patience of a thousand Mother Teresas.

My husband laughed after reading this over my shoulder.

“Who are you kidding? You yell at the Comcast people. You told me you didn’t get your teaching certification because kids ANNOY you. You hate puppies. I mean…who hates PUPPIES?”

I have unexpectedly arrived at a new mile marker in this parenting journey. My boys are demonstrating qualities that surpass anything I can offer. Even 4-year-old Joey keeps better track of the grocery list as I get distracted in the wine aisle.

I do not deserve the lovely husband and children I call my own. I sometimes wonder if I accidentally got assigned the wrong ones. Surely my “real” kids are out there in the world, yelling at cable providers and kicking ponies. Yet no matter what, I must try to greet life with an open heart and gentle nature.

And if that doesn’t work, Downward-Facing Dog and I have a date with destiny.

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