On teaching ‘bad’ kids…

When I was eighteen or so, I use to teach swimming lessons to kids.

One of the worst kids I ever taught was a ten year old boy named Daniel. Daniel was a jerk. He interrupted me, he would splash, dunk, and hit other kids, he hardly listened to any instruction I gave him. One day Daniel was being exceptionally terrible. To handle Daniel, I put him on time out. While he was in time out, he started yelling and throwing things at us. I didn’t know what to do, so I just started yelling at him. My yelling stopped Daniel in his tracks. He completely froze. I remember wanting Daniel to feel terrible. I wanted him to stop acting like a jerk and start listening to me.

I still think about Daniel, and how small I must have made him feel. He was a kid, so he probably doesn’t remember some dumb teenager that kind of taught him how to swim. But I can’t help but wonder… does he remember me? If he does remember me, I wonder what he thinks. Does he remember how small I made him feel? Does he remember that I yelled at him when I didn’t have to? I don’t know why Daniel acted like a jerk, but I am guessing he had something going on in his life and he was just trying to find some way to let it out.

I have always regretted yelling at Daniel. I regret yelling at him not because he didn’t deserve it. I regret it because I remember wanting him to feel small. Ugh – what a crappy thing to do to another human being. Why do we want other people to feel small? Does it really add anything of value to our lives?

I recently had a ‘Daniel’ while teaching Kid’s Journey (our churches Sunday school). I had a kid that wouldn’t listen, was hitting another kid (his brother), and was just being difficult. If you have ever babysat, had a sibling, are a parent, or have taught a kid – you know it is frustrating to be around a kid that is having a hard time paying attention.

The thing is, I have changed. I am not eighteen years old, I’ve been doing this a little bit longer, and I have now encountered dozens of Daniels.

There was a part of me that wanted to yell at this kid. However, the part of me that wants other people to feel small – has somehow departed. I don’t know where that part of me went, but I am so happy it is gone.

When the kid interrupted me, I asked him to raise his hand.

When the kid hit his brother, I stepped in between them.

When the kid was saying terrible things about his family, I asked him to say more about his feelings.

I also tried to give the kid TONS of positive affirmation. When he cut out some paper, I told him ‘Great work!’, and when he helped clean up I said, ‘Nice job! You are so great!’

I am not sure what other people would have done. Honestly, I think other people probably would have been a little bit harsher. I am guessing other people would have put him on time out, or yelled at him, or talked to his mom about his behavior.

Teaching Kid’s Journey where I teach is different from teaching at school and it is different from parenting.

There are some kids I will only meet once, and then I will never seem them again. I don’t see these kids every single day of the week, or even multiple times a week. Some kids I meet don’t know me, and sometimes I will only get to know them for sixty minutes of one day of their entire life.

In this position, I need to ask myself, ‘What do I really want these kids to know?’

I once listened to a sixty year old woman tell people about her journey as a Christian. She said that her family never had the opportunity to go to church, and so she didn’t grow up in a Christian home. However, when the woman was five years old a preacher stopped by their house and a kind man told her ‘Jesus loves you very much.’

I don’t know where Daniel is. I hope he turned out to be awesome. If I met Daniel today, I would tell him I am sorry for sucking. If I never get the chance to do that, then moving forward, I want other Daniels to know that there is something better. No one comes to Jesus through me. People can only come to Christ, through Jesus. However, I am exceptionally lucky to be in the position where I can tell kids from all different backgrounds ‘Jesus loves you very much.’

That is what I want these kids to know. I want them to know, that in a world that can be super difficult and super shitty, that there is something they can cling to.

On waiting for permission…

I’ve mentioned this a few times, so I don’t want to harp on it. However, I use to be in an unhealthy marriage. The person I was married to was exceptionally controlling. I was not allowed to bake, attend church, visit friends, spend money, buy certain food, etc. etc. etc.. I am no longer in that relationship. Today, I am married to an amazing husband, and we have a great marriage.

Taking a tradition from our friends (thanks Paul & Kelly), my husband and I decided to make New Year’s resolutions for each other. We each decided to make three. For me, my husband resolved that I should: 3) Reduce my chronic neck pain from a 10 to something lower, 2) start a small group at church, and 1) do more creative stuff.

Since he gave me the resolutions, I have taken on being more creative.
-Last week I redecorated our spare bedroom. I made two paintings (I haven’t painted in years), got a new duvet cover, and found some cool decorations from Goodwill.
-I baked new desserts: an apple tart, raspberry & strawberry ice cream, and a pannekoeken.
-I cooked new dinners: chicken curry and Italian soup.

As I started, years of experimental creativity came flooding back to me. My mom was great at encouraging us to try new things. I use to draw all the time. My mom and I once spent too much money on card making supplies, and on a food dehydrator, and on so many other things. I dabbled in photography. I painted. I wrote. I baked. I made some thing – from other things.

One thought hit me as I was making soup, “Why the hell was I waiting for permission for this?”

Abusive relationships steal. Sometimes I don’t realize what was stolen, until it is returned to me. My ex-husband didn’t steal my creativity (no one could do that). What he did steal – was permission. I use to know it was OK to create, but he took that from me. Thankfully, my wonderful husband gave it back to me. My new husband gave me permission. And two days ago, I didn’t even realize it was gone.

Making my soup, a list of other things I want to create twirled in my brain. I want to get better at my job – by making fewer data errors. I want to create new charts in excel that are easier for people to understand. I want to re-decorate our bedroom (the old owners painted it tan. Why tan? Always tan!). I want to re-do our bathroom, and make it orange. I want to… I want to… I want to create.

I use to think I knew all of the things that were stolen from me. I am learning that I am not fully aware of all of the things that were taken. If the last few days are an indicator, I think I have learned that there is still more waiting to be returned.

Life is about progress, not perfection. I am not sure what is missing, but I know I will be made whole again.

God gave us a world that was perfect, but we have fallen from that. Bit-by-bit, we will make it better. We have to make it better, because the other option would just plain suck. Any why would you want to live as a person who steals, when you could live like my husband… and give permission.