“Mommy, can you go with me to the bed room? I’m scared,” she says.
It’s almost sleeping time and the girls are getting ready for bed. Kalia is about to get pajamas from her drawer but retreats when she sees the room is dark.
“Just open the light,” I say. “It’s gonna be fine.”
But she stays there right outside the door, waiting for me to take her hand and be the super brave mama she expects me to be, ready to fight the imaginary monsters that might suddenly break through the walls.
Note to self: Watching all eight episodes of a series like “Stranger Things” isn’t such a good idea. Especially for my imaginative little girl who remembers every detail. And even dreams about them, sometimes.
But too late now. We’ve been like this for a few days. She gets scared of the dark. And I try to teach her how to be brave.
We’ve tried flashlights. Magic superhero words. And praying, too. Sometimes they’d work and she’d be brave for a minute or two. But nothing has worked a hundred percent, just yet.
I see I have two choices here: I do not budge and let her learn the lesson. Or I help her one more time and find another way to to teach her.
One look at her pleading face and my choice was clear.
I switch on the lights and take her hand. We’ll have to put off “Bravery 101” for another day.
“Mommy, I need some help with these margins,” Jamaine says. “I still have six pages to write. I’m not sure how I can finish this!”
My big girl is in third grade now and brings home more homework than usual. Tonight it’s an essay about her most memorable experience so far. She has to edit her piece, write it neatly on sheets of bond paper lined with black margins, outline the words with color and submit tomorrow.
She painstakingly lines each bond paper with pencil, one on each side then eight lines across. Then she takes out her black marker and does the same thing over again.
I watch her like this for a few minutes before I intervene, “Hmm… okay, does teacher say you need to manually make your margins all the time?”
“No, but this is how we always do it.”
“How about lining the paper directly with your marker so you can save time?”
“But Mommy, I might make a mistake and this is how we always do it.”
Do I let her do it her way and teach her a lesson in persistence?
Or do I show her a shortcut and teach her a lesson about efficiency?
At the rate she’s going, I know she won’t finish within the next hour. And she hasn’t even gotten to the real homework yet.
So I grab one of her blank lined papers and run it through the photocopier. Ten copies in half a minute. Done.
I hand her the papers and she starts to protest.
But one look at the clock and her achy hands and she agrees, mommy knows best.
I decide she needs to learn what really matters. In this case, it’s spending her time writing than making margins.
It’s easy to do things the way you’ve always done. But when things get tough, there’s always another way.
I know she’s tired so I don’t explain it to her just yet. We’ll have to discuss the merits of persistence and efficiency another day.
“I have something to show you and I’m curious to know what you think,” I tell my girls as they bound indoors after a whole day at school.
“It’s a story about, Piper…”
The video plays and my girls are glued to the screen for a whole 5 minutes. I watch their faces intently and wonder if they like the story as well.
“Again! Again!” they chorus as the end credits roll.
When the video ends for the second time, I think the lessons I wanted to teach already hit home
“So, did you learn anything from Piper?” I ask.
“Be brave,” Kalia says.
“Always find another way,” Jamaine says.
It strikes me how the same story can affect each of them differently.
I remember reading about it before and I make a mental note for my teaching toolbox:
Humans, no matter what age, are wired to learn through stories.
It’s amazing how Piper doesn’t speak a single word but my girls still get it.
Sometimes, the stories you show can tell so much more than the words you say.