It’s 7:06 am and in our precisely choreographed busy busy busy morning routine, that means my son has one minute to get out the door to catch the bus. In between my loading the dishwasher, taking out the garbage, organizing everyone’s lunches, and taking a last swig of coffee, my son thrusts a piece of paper at me. “Hey Mom, could you sign this?”
He tried to be nonchalant, but it came across as sheepish. Waiting for me to yell: “Why do you wait until the last minute? You’ve gotta give this stuff to me the night before! This is just another example of how disorganized and unplanful you are!” But I didn’t yell. I don’t like yelling. I hate it when I yell. I don’t think it helps. He just hides away more, avoiding my judgment. Besides, yelling at him upsets me. Because I love him so much. So, with one minute to spare, I take a breath and calmly look at the piece of paper.
10th Grade Health. Arguably the most important course he’s taking, except that schools should probably offer this course several years earlier with a more dynamic teacher. You know the course. It covers smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex. And last night’s little assignment.
“List your three top values.”
Okay. Sure. No big deal. Easy.
The clock is ticking.
What should I put down? What are my top 3 values anyway? What should I put that won’t embarrass a 15-year-old boy? Couldn’t he have given this to me last night? We could have had a family discussion. What can I impart of my 52 years of long and hard thinking about the meaning of life into 3 words in 60 seconds. Well, more like 50 seconds by now.
The clock is ticking.
Honesty. I can’t think of any other word. It just bubbles up unannounced. Hmmm. I didn’t know that honesty was my number one value. But there it is. Is that because I’ve spent most of my life chameleon-like pleasing other people, being someone I thought I should be? Now, nothing matters more than for me to be me. Is that because the number one reason I chose my husband is because he was him, the most honest person I had ever met? I write it down. Honesty. 40 seconds to go.
What’s #2? I reach for my yoga, my midlife wisdom. I discard what I might have said even just a few years ago: discipline, hard work, ambition, achievement. Done all that. I check in with my gut. So much wiser than my mind. Ah, there it is. Kindness. Be kind. Lead with the heart. It’s why I wear a heart necklace now. It’s not about me and my ego and my ambition. At least not any more. It’s about love and the people I love and being kind. I write it down. Kindness/Love. 30 seconds to go.
Ack! Now I’m stumped. What’s #3? The clock is ticking. Let’s face it. Smartness matters. I’m pretty determined to be the smartest person in the room. That’s gotta be it. Um, wait. Remember #2. How can I convey my appreciation for all the richness of the world without ego getting in the way? Education? Intelligence? Reading? How can I convey to my son that I want him to appreciate all the richness of the world in whatever way works for him? Ah, there it is. Curiosity. I write it down. 20 seconds.
I sign my name. Pen down! My son grabs his disorganized and jam-packed backpack, he’s ready to go. I look him in the eye, with honesty, kindness, and curiosity, and hand him the piece of paper.
Honesty. Kindness/Love. Curiosity. May he cherish these values, my values, as he finds his own.
He’s off! 10 seconds to spare. “Thanks Mom! Love you!”
I love you too.
P.S. We had the family discussion later that night over dinner. His #1 value? Family.