We’ve probably all read the beautiful, powerful, tear-jerking letter that Glennon Melton (of Momastery fame) wrote to her son Chase for the first day of school. The letter is several years old, but it always re-circulates in the newsfeed this time of year.
I love that letter. I shared it far and wide. I used it in a sermon. I read it and cried into my latte with the best of them.
But also, that letter is long. It is a special occasion letter, not something you are going to sit down and tearfully discuss with your kids on a daily basis. I know one mom who read that letter to her boys and said they were listening, but they just kept cracking up every time she called them “baby.” They are just not a baby family. I also have friends who say they try reading that letter to their kids and get so choked up that their kids wind up laughing at them instead of hearing what it has to say.
Let our kids laugh at us, I say. We are the one-woman, one-man entertainment-for-life known as mom and dad.
There is a time and a place for the emphatic “baby,” and the deeply emotional, heartfelt discussion about who we want to be in this world. But daily? If your house is like mine in the mornings…well, we are all just trying to find socks, pack vegetarian lunches, get ALL THE RIGHT PAPERS in ALL THE CORRECT FOLDERS, and mostly just make sure that nobody still has ketchup in their hair from dinner last night. (Note: they do). But that doesn’t mean we can’t get in a good word before everyone rushes out the door.
Here are 10 simple things you can say to your busy family as everyone leaves for the day, or as they bail out in the car line. The short-but-sweet ones, delivered on a daily basis, can add up to a lifetime of purpose, belonging and connectedness. No pressure–one per day will suffice!
- Be a good helper today. This is something I started saying in my son’s 2nd year of preschool. This child has loved to clean, cook, and put away groceries since he was about 18 months old. But suddenly, around the time he turned 5, he stopped helping with clean-up at school. His teachers said this is the age when kids start to get really social, so he was too busy talking to friends (Lord, that boy is a talker) and playing… so when they said “Clean up time,” he just kept rolling. We talked at home about how being in a family OR in a class means that we all help each other and we all have jobs to do. So every day when he hopped out of the car, I started saying “Please be a good clean-up helper today.”
Now that my kids are in Kindergarten and 2nd grade, I have morphed that to a simpler “be a good helper today,” which has broader implications. It might mean helping the teacher with a special job, helping a friend who has something to carry, or helping a new kid find the gym. Kids are pretty sharp, so we don’t have to over-explain what “helper” can mean in any given moment.